Contributing Author: Katherine Walla
Every March, the United States’ National Reading Month encourages children to go on a quest to improve their reading skills and find a love for books. And kids and adults alike can follow Food Tank’s latest reading list to find books that satisfy their curiosity about the food system.
The books below cover topics from ocean pollution and sustainable farming to the theology and philosophy of eating. And using stories from the past, the books seek to inspire readers to act, work, and eat for a better future. For people who want to do more with their hands than just flip pages, the cookbooks featured below offer an interactive experience with whole-food and plant-based recipes.
Food Tank is highlighting 21 books on food, agriculture, and environment to inspire readers of all ages to get in on the National Reading Month celebrations in 2019.
1. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Across the United States, schools are starting off National Reading Month with classic reads from Dr. Seuss. The Lorax tells a tale about the risks corporate greed and inaction pose on nature. In the story, a boy named Ted visits the Once-ler who tells him about using Truffula trees to create and sell the Thneed—a wildly popular garment. Despite the Lorax’s attempts to stop the Once-ler’s expansions, the Once-ler cuts down the last tree and the Lorax—and all other enchanting wildlife—disappear. The book ends calling upon future environmental activists to take a stand for the health of the planet.
2. Can We Feed the World Without Destroying It? By Eric Holt-Gimenez
Holt-Gimenez pushes back against the world’s challenge to double food production in order to feed 10 billion people by 2050, calling the goal an environmental, ecological, and social catastrophe that would extend the planet and people beyond their limits. Instead, Can We Feed the World Without Destroying It? concludes in a resounding yes—with current technology, resources, and expertise, feeding a growing world is possible with a global food transformation that improves access to food and diminishes agriculture’s environmental impacts.
3. Coffee: From Bean to Barista by Robert W. Thurston
Thurston tells the history, cultivation, and culture of coffee as it intersects with and quarrels against globalization, climate change, and social justice. While Coffee covers traditional roasting and planting techniques, it also reports on the newest ideas in roasting, challenges in cultivation, and technology in brewing. Thurston also takes cultural phenomenons head on in his discussion of coffee, including the reported health benefits of the drink and debates over organic and conventional coffee agriculture.
4. Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey Into Regenerative Agriculture by Gabe Brown
After weather-related crop disasters, Brown and his wife began experimenting with regenerative agriculture to recreate a viable farm. In Dirt to Soil, Brown details the journey’s ups and down and introduces the solutions to worldwide agricultural challenges he garnered. Dirt to Soil seeks to transform the way readers think, moving away from the industrial agricultural model—which focuses on killing things—and toward a model that embraces life and diversity on the land.
5. Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food by Timothy A. Wise
Eating Tomorrow shows that the world is already equipped with all the tools it needs to produce enough food for the future, without dramatically expanding industrial agriculture. Whereas corporate and philanthropic leaders have been fueling leaders in industrial agriculture with investments, Wise argues that small-scale farmers feed most of the world—and therefore deserve more support. By visiting remote villages, Wise shows that these farmers are not only valuable for feeding the world, but with simple tools and ecologically sound practices, these farmers are also good for the planet.
6. Farming, Food, and Nature: Respecting Animals, People, and the Planet by Joyce D’Silva and Carol McKenna (editors)
D’Silva and McKenna collect contributions from international leaders uncovering the consequences of livestock production. Describing global problems relating to the planet’s finite resources, climate change, and the massive feed industry, D’Silva and McKenna call for an urgent push toward agroecological farming and reduced meat consumption. Featuring stories of the organizations, businesses, and communities driving change, the book is intended to inspire students, professionals, activists, and more to think about new solutions to support biodiversity and wildlife.
Farming for the Long Haul proposes solutions to build a viable small farm economy that can withstand the coming challenges of the rest of the century—limited and dwindling resources, political crises, and economic uncertainty. Foley invites the voices of farmers from communities around the world—indigenous agriculturalists, peasants, and traditional farmers—that have used, and prospered from, resilient agricultural practices. Through the book, readers can catch a glimpse of the techniques and tools that may support farmers today and into the future.
8. Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene by Alexandra Toland, Jay Stratton Noller, and Gerd Wessolek (editors)
Field to Palette brings the cultural meanings and representations of soil to the fore. In a crucial time of change for the planet, the book reflects on environmental problems—like biodiversity loss, groundwater pollution, and more—and their effects on the soil. The book concludes with the voices of over 100 internationally renowned researchers and experts with hopeful stories about forms of resilience in the face of these environmental problems.
9. Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating (Second Edition) by Norman Wirzba
In Food and Faith, Wirzba discusses the theology of eating from food production to consumption. Eating can be a way to connect people, people and animals, and people and the planet, and Wirzba seeks to outline how in hospitality, sacrifice, and even the afterlife, eating has profound significance. In Wirzba’s second edition, new chapters, research, and science places the significance of eating specifically in the context of the Anthropocene.
10. Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement by Monica White
Freedom Farmers reveals the roles of food and agriculture in black freedom movements and struggles. Whereas recent scholarship views agriculture as a form of oppression and exploitation, White highlights the ways that southern black farmers have used agriculture as a form of resistance and community support. Through transforming the historical narrative of black farmers, spotlighting their work, roles, and contributions, White hopes to add meaning to current food sovereignty movements in Detroit, Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, and more.
11. Grain by Grain: A Quest to Revive Ancient Wheat, Rural Jobs, and Healthy Food by Bob Quinn and Liz Carlisle
In Grain by Grain, Carlisle helps Quinn tell his story experimenting with organic wheat. In the beginning, growing an ancient wheat grain gave Quinn the opportunity to make a living: but beginning to experiment with organics and traditional agricultural practices, Quinn also started producing fruits, vegetables, renewable energy—in addition to greater yields of inflammation-battling wheat. Ultimately, Grain by Grain shows how regenerative organic agriculture can help not only rebuild farms, but also rural communities.
12. I Think, Therefore I Eat: The World’s Greatest Minds Tackle the Food Question by Martin Cohen
Cohen sorts through conflicting diet and nutrition advice from doctors, celebrities, and scientists—with philosophical ethics and reasoning. Analyzing the bizarre eating rules and practices of Great Philosophers, Cohen points out that both some of the greatest thinkers and contemporary food specialists can be misled: and consumers need to be equipped to sort nutrition facts from myths for their own health.
Dunn brings nature indoors to show readers the nearly 200,000 species living alongside us, from camel crickets in the basement to Egyptian meal moths in cupboards. And while readers may struggle to evict these species from their homes, Dunn notes that creating a “sterile” space is actually perfect evolution ground for these species—transforming friendly and helpful organisms into dangerous housemates. Never Home Alone’s revelations seek to unravel the way readers understand their homes.
14. Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution by Michiel Roscam Abbing
Plastic Soup is a window into the reality of humanity’s plastic pollution crisis. By some estimates, oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050—using images, photos, and graphics, Abbing provides readers with the information and inspiration needed to reverse the world’s trajectory toward this fate. Rounding out the book with surveys of plastic’s impact on wildlife and people and hopeful stories of initiatives tackling the plastic problem, Abbing makes an urgent call for change in both plastic-using industries and consumer lives.
15. Spice by Stuart Farrimond
Spice is a cookbook for adventurers, curious cooks, and die-hard spice fans. Farrimond’s cookbook includes more than just recipes—including how to make your own spice mixes, why some spices taste stronger than others, a periodic table of spices, and more to create a complete spice guide. Flavor maps and recipes from around the world introduce readers to spices and flavors they might not have noticed before.
The End of Animal Farming is a reaction to past literary works outlining the disturbing realities of factory farming—Reese continues the conversation by setting forth a roadmap for humane, ethical, and efficient livestock raising. With powerful food technologies creating cultured meats and plant-based protein, Reese notes that progress toward the downfall of animal agriculture is possible, even for dedicated carnivores. The End of Animal Farming considers the moral power of humans in the food system, exploring how humankind can extend respect and kindness to animals.
17. The Grand Food Bargain: and the Mindless Drive for More by Kevin D. Walker
The food system relies on boasting more food, greater yield, and faster production for a smaller price: Kevin Walker uncovers the consequences of this system in The Grand Food Bargain, with stories that show the food system is pushing the planet and its people to their limits. Walker’s literary journey includes features on Costa Rica plantation growing bananas exceptionally vulnerable to disease and on his hometown, where agribusiness polluted waterways and undercut opportunity. In the end, Walker shows that what we eat affects more than just our bodies, but also the environment, healthcare system, labor conditions, and more.
18. The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution by Andrew Mefferd
Mefferd’s new manual for a profitable, efficient, carbon-sequestering, and healthy farm introduces no-till practices for natural and small-scale farmers. With a glimpse into the history of tilling—a dominant paradigm of agriculture that kills soil life and releases carbon dioxide—Mefferd hopes to expose farmers to the time and resources they waste. In this new manual, farmers can learn more about a customized approach to no-till farming and steps to transition.
19. The Whole Foods Cookbook: 120 Delicious and Healthy Plant-Centered Recipes by Alona Pulde, John E. Mackey, and Matthew Lederman
CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market Mackey joins nutritional experts Pulde and Lederman in a new cookbook to change habits around eating and preparing food. The cookbook includes not only 120 recipes but also essential tips and guides on basic food principles like the essential foods to eat, how to set up a stress-free kitchen, cooking beans and grains, and more. As lives become busier, The Whole Foods Cookbook sorts through complicated diets to show that simple cooking is easy, healthy, and delicious.
20. The Worm Farmer’s Handbook by Rhonda Sherman
The Worm Farmer’s Handbook praises worms for their fastidious role in composting: by providing Vermicast—a nutrient-rich mix of earthworm castings and decomposed organic matter—worms can hike the price of compost from US$30 to US$400 or more a cubic yard. And while Sherman hails worms for adding value to compost, she also shows that it is a sustainable solution for organic waste management, and when in compost, improves crop yields, suppresses plant diseases, and more. The handbook’s how-to approach equips small and large-scale operations—including farms, restaurants, colleges, military bases, and prisons—with the tips they need to start their own operations
21. Wildly Successful Farming: Sustainability and the New Agricultural Land Ethic by Brian DeVore
DeVore collects the stories of American farmers using innovative techniques and strategies to embrace environmental stewardship on their farming operations. Embracing the “wild,” the next-generation farmers measure their success according to on-farm biodiversity and biological activity, instead of profits. Wildly Successful Farming not only tells their stories, but also suggests ways all readers can support farmers using regenerative methods.