The Book of Difficult Fruit

Out now from Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the US and Picador in the UK.

Order from Indiebound

“[A] dazzling, thorny new essay collection”
—Samin Nosrat, The New York Times

“Delightfully unexpected…. Eloquent, well-researched, and thoughtfully conceived and organized, this genre-defying book will appeal to foodies as well as those who appreciate both fine writing and the pleasures of domestic arts and crafts. A one-of-a-kind reading experience.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred

“Witty…. Unusual and piquant, this… will hit the spot with readers hungry for something a little different.” —Publishers Weekly, starred

“Darkly funny . . . often fascinating, sometimes juicy, rarely dry . . . The Book of Difficult Fruit is brimming with obscure knowledge that’s going to loom over every gin martini I drink for the next decade, and there are fantastic recipes too . . . Delicious and meaningful.”
—Alex Beggs, The New York Times Book Review

“Weaving botanical and medicinal histories, relationships between people and land, and the idea of nourishment, this book (which includes recipes) is inventive and charming, but it’s also profound and deeply felt. The connection between food and land is never forgotten, and the writing is superb.”
—Sarah Neilson, Buzzfeed

Inspired by twenty-six fruits, the essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends natural, culinary, medical, and personal history. 

A is for Aronia, berry member of the apple family, clothes-stainer, superfruit with reputed healing power. D is for Durian, endowed with a dramatic rind and a shifting odor—peaches, old garlic. M is for Medlar, name-checked by Shakespeare for its crude shape, beloved by gardeners for its flowers. Q is for Quince, which, fresh, gives off the scent of “roses and citrus and rich women’s perfume” but if eaten raw is so astringent it wicks the juice from one’s mouth.

In this work of unique invention, these and other difficult fruits serve as the central ingredients of twenty-six lyrical essays (and recipes!) that range from deeply personal to botanical, from culinary to medical, from humorous to philosophical. The entries are associative, often poetic, taking unexpected turns and giving sideways insights into life, relationships, self-care, modern medicine, and more. What if the primary way you show love is to bake, but your partner suffers from celiac disease? Why leave in the pits for Willa Cather’s Plum Jam? How can we rely on bodies as fragile as the fruits that nourish them?

Lebo’s unquenchable curiosity leads us to intimate, sensuous, enlightening contemplations. The Book of Difficult Fruit is the very best of food writing: graceful, surprising, and ecstatic. 

Includes black and white illustrations.

Winner of the 2022 Washington State Book Award for Creative Nonfiction

Finalist for the 2022 PNBA Award

Selected by Spokane is Reading for the 2022 all-city read

Named a Best Book of the Year by New York magazine, NPRThe Globe and MailElectric Literature, and The Atlantic.