Contributing Author: Katherine Walla
Food Tank has gathered 29 books to add to every summer reading list. These newest titles in food will inspire farmers to adopt better agricultural practices, eaters to select more ethically grown foods, city designers to incorporate more equitable green space, policymakers to support indigenous food sovereignty, and much more. Whether destined for a vacation across the world or simply tucked away at home for the season, any reader can delve into familiar and new topics surrounding the food system with these books.
Instead of “getting away from it all” this season, readers can take the plunge into a commitment for a summer of change through food justice, sustainability, reduced plastic usage, or better health choices with the help of these 29 inspiring reads.
1. Anthony Bourdain Remembered by CNN
Anthony Bourdain Remembered brings together quotes, memories, and images to celebrate the life and achievements of Anthony Bourdain. Comments from chefs, journalists, filmmakers, musicians, writers, and more portray the impact of Bourdain’s love for travel and philosophy that in this small world, people are more alike than they are different.
2. By Any Greens Necessary by Tracye Lynn McQuirter
McQuirter’s guide to a vegan lifestyle is the first guide geared specifically to African American women. As more African American women face health crises like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes more often than women of other races, McQuirter assembles recipes, photos, advice, and further resources to help women control their health without sacrificing great food and gorgeous curves. The guide shows that fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are pivotal not only for health, but happiness as well.
3. Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End by Kevin Alexander (forthcoming July 2019)
Alexander collects the stories of chefs, bartenders, activists, restaurants, and communities during the “gold rush” of American culinary creativity across the country in 2006. Cities across the United States transformed to include globalized and inventive styles of cuisine, star chefs became celebrities, and media companies expanded to cater to the developing food scene. Telling this story of the revolution of American eating and drinking, Alexander argues that the time is both an end and a beginning, to yield future transformation in the food system.
4. Climate Action Planning: A Guide to Creating Low-Carbon Resilient Communities by Michael R. Boswell, Adrienne I. Greve, and Tammy L. Seale (forthcoming July 2019)
Climate Action Planning is a tool to help planners, municipal officials, and citizens working at local levels to design their communities in a way that curbs greenhouse gas emissions and boosts resilience against climate change effects. While discussing climate action plans, policy, and planning instruments, Boswell, Greve, and Seale also consider equity and communication in communities to bring all voices to the table. Stories not only celebrate progress in the movement for climate action, but also challenges communities must grapple with for change.
5. Community-Scale Composting Systems by James McSweeney
Community-Scale Composting Systems places together the two things the planet needs most—composting and community. As a resource for farmers, designers, service providers, and entrepreneurs, the book sets out to prove that the new interest in composting worldwide has the capability to change the food system for good. And with a focus on micro- to medium-scale ventures and infrastructure, McSweeney hopes his experiences with composters can inspire and enable communities to take part in the movement.
6. Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler (forthcoming June 2019)
Drive-Thru Dreams explores the ways fast food became integral to American life and identity over the past century. Revealing the unknown about the food industry through anecdotes, trivia, and interviews, author Chandler uncovers the decades between which White Castle became the first fast-food chain in 1921 and a teenager’s plea for a year’s supply of Wendy’s chicken nuggets in 2017. Chandler’s road trip through American drive-thrus documents the country’s beginnings, innovations, identities, and international impact through food.
Throughout a memoir describing his life on the seas—working aboard commercial fishing trawlers, pioneering new forms of ocean farming, and exploring the food movement—Smith describes his vision for the future. By eating like a fish, or enjoying delicious and locally grown ocean vegetables like seaweed, Smith argues the world can not only protect the planet, but also create new jobs and food sources. Eat Like a Fish’s bold statement about the food system includes Smith’s humor and late-night storytelling style.
8. F**k Plastic by Rodale Sustainability
Rodale Sustainability provides a handbook with 101 ways to avoid single-use plastics and help reduce plastic’s impact on the world. From carrying around your own cutlery to avoiding packaged foods, the tips provide simple solutions to help readers participate in the war on plastics. And the 101 simple ways are nudges to reduce plastic in fun ways—like getting ice cream in a cone instead of a cup or buying loose doughnuts or pastries for snacks.
9. Growing A Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life by David R. Montgomery
Montgomery gathers his stories from around the world to demonstrate that there exists an alternative to the conventional agriculture that strips the land of its health. Through Montgomery’s experiences, farmers restoring soil health from Kansas to Ghana demonstrate that the alternative to conventional agriculture can also feed the world, cool the planet, reduce pollution, and increase incomes for farmers.
10. Happy Pigs Taste Better by Alice Percy
With experience running the largest organic hog operation in Maine, Percy seeks to help readers understand what it takes to ethically manage pigs: understanding pigs’ natural mannerisms, including their love of wallowing in the mud. Percy’s guidance not only advises on pasturing and feeding hogs organically, but also marketing and distributing organic, pasture-fed, and gourmet meat. While farmers can use this book to inspire their own practices, any reader will learn about the lives of farmers using better practices.
11. Holistic Management Handbook, Third Edition: Regenerating Your Land and Growing Profits by Jody Butterfield, Sam Bingham, and Allan Savory
Holistic management is an approach developed by Savory to minimize the damaging effects of desertification and climate change on people and the planet. By reading the third edition of Holistic Management Handbook, Butterfield, Bingham, and Savory hope to equip those managing land with the tools to establish a sustainable livelihood and restore the world’s soil and land health. With instructions for better ranch or farm management, the authors hope to shift the blame for climate change and desertification from livestock to human mismanagement of resources.
12. How Not to Die by Michael Greger with Gene Stone
How Not to Die collects the scientific evidence behind a diet that prevents chronic disease better than doctors can. Greger examines the 15 top causes of premature death in America—like heart disease, cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and high blood pressure—and offers advice on lifestyle changes and diet choices that can help people stave off these causes of death. Backed by science, Greger composes both a long-term diet that helps extend lives and short-term or daily goals to help people stay on track.
13. Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States edited by Devon A. Mihesuah and Elizabeth Hoover (forthcoming August 2019)
Through contributions from scholar-activists in ethnobotany, history, anthropology, nutrition, biology, and more, Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States explores the meaning and importance of food sovereignty for Native peoples. The collection identifies successes and challenges in aspects of indigenous food sovereignty including traditional ways of hunting, gathering, and seed saving. The book also asks how food sovereignty can be achieved and sustained in the presence of racism, treaty abrogation, tribal sociopolitical factionalism, and more.
14. Legacies of Dust: Land Use and Labor on the Colorado Plains by Douglas Sheflin
Legacies of Dust discovers how a natural disaster can influence every aspect of human life through the lens of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s in the United States. When the land dried up, farmers in the Colorado plains had to adapt to keep their farms and federal political offices had to scramble to support the local broken agricultural system. While the story extends from 1929 to 1962, the catastrophe of the Dust Bowl shows that natural disasters can transform agricultural economies—and unite people in order to save them.
15. Making Love While Farming: A Field Guide to a Life of Passion and Purpose by Ricky Baruch and Deb Habib
Making Love While Farming includes over fifty essays and stories depicting the life of the couple—Baruch and Habib—who shaped a self-created life while growing a loving relationship and family. In its entirety, the book details thousands of miles walked on pilgrimage from Auschwitz to Hiroshima, sixty combined years farming, and the start of Seeds of Solidarity Farm and Education Center: a solar-powered farm that hosts workshops teaching people to “Grow Food Everywhere.” Baruch and Habib’s inspiring words, interspersed with DIY ideas, contemplative practices, and seasonal recipes, aim to inspire readers to cultivate resilient and vibrant lives.
16. Milk! A 10,000-Year Food Fracas by Mark Kurlansky
Historian Kurlansky tells the global story of milk. Covering Greek creation myths, the industrial revolution, mass production, and medical modernization, Kurlansky shows that milk has played varying parts in history—but consistently plays a role in cultural evolutions, religion, nutrition, politics, and economics. This story of milk, including recipes, marks Kurlansky’s first global food history since his bestselling Cod and Salt.
17. Protecting Pollinators: How to Save the Creatures that Feed Our World by Jodi Helmer
In Protecting Pollinators, Helmer explores the latest science on environmental threats to pollinators like birds, bats, insects, and more. In order to save the crops we eat, Helmer details the conservation initiatives reversing the threats like farmers reducing pesticides, cities creating butterfly highways, volunteers ripping up invasive plants, and scientists monitoring migration. While sharing the inspiring stories of success and lessons learned from failed initiatives, Helmer also provides tips to help readers get involved.
18. Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America by Joshua Specht
Red Meat Republic explores the stories of the people behind the beef industry during the nineteenth century’s beef industrialization. Americans came to expect high-quality fresh beef, big cattle ranchers replaced small-scale, localized ranchers, and meatpackers created a radically new kind of industrialized slaughterhouse. Specht shows how the industrialization thrived because meatpackers convinced a hungry population to prefer their products, changing American meat forever.
19. Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
Save Me the Plums documents Reichl’s life as she evolved into a food writer, restaurant critic, and editor in chief of Gourmet. Complete with recipes and cameos from legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, Reichl’s story provides a writer and insider’s look at a time when the farm-to-table movement changed the way people eat and restaurants became an important part of popular culture. Along the way, the personal journey explores the process of Reichl following her passion and taking charge in unexpected ways.
20. Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint by Douglas McMaster (forthcoming August 2019)
As the founder of SILO, the first zero food-waste restaurant, McMaster’s mind constantly innovates for a better future food system. Silo joins McMaster’s kitchen know-how and philosophy for a mat to cook efficiently and de-industrialize the food system so that people worldwide begin making the most of nature’s resources. Readers will also learn about the potential of closed-loop systems, radical suppliers, off-grid ingredients, waste-free prep, and clean farming.
21. The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smaller World by Amanda Little
Little gathers stories from the global sustainable food revolution to explore how to feed a growing population. From experiences on apple orchards in Wisconsin, fish farms in Norway, famine-stricken regions in Ethiopia, and organic farms in Shanghai, Little concludes that the world must solve the problems arising from industrial agriculture while also preparing for challenges ahead. Meeting with farmers, scientists, activists, executives, and engineers, Little realizes that innovation charts the way forward.
22. The Food Explorer by Daniel Stone
The Food Explorer follows the true adventures of David Fairchild, a nineteenth-century food explorer and botanist who transformed the American plate. Fairchild helped American meals surmount simple subsistence and become enjoyable by introducing new flavors: kale from Croatia, peaches from China, avocados from Chile, and more. Readers will learn about Fairchild’s culinary ambition that helped the United States create an incredibly diverse food system.
23. The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris by Mark Honigsbaum
In The Pandemic Century, Honigsbaum details the last century of the battle between science and deadly contagious diseases. Sorting through infamous scares like recent SARS, Ebola, and Zika epidemics and lesser-known outbreaks, to remind readers of the limits of scientific knowledge and the role that human decisions and innovations play in disease resistance and spreading.
24. The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson
The Way We Eat Now explores changes in the ways the world eats over the last two generations—the good and the bad. Wilson explains that globalization has created new ways of borderless eating, while modernization has created processed foods that caused upticks in diet-related disease. And these trends have changed more than the food people eat—but also the ways people organize their social lives, impact the world, and understand the joys and confusions of eating.
25. The Whole Okra by Chris Smith
The Whole Okra gathers recipes, history, lore, projects, and growing advice centered around okra. Sourced from some of the South’s best-known chefs, the advice includes not only classic recipes such as fried okra pods, but also instructions to make paper out of the crop. Smith also includes ways to process the plant from tip-to-tail in his dedication to okra and its legacy.
26. Urban Food Sharing: Rules, Tools, and Networks by Anna R. Davies
Using case studies and empirical data, Davies explores the history of food sharing as a pillar of sustainable city planning. While patterns of production and consumption in cities struggle to become more sustainable, Davies shows people experiment with food sharing—from shared growing, cooking, eating, and redistributing. In arguing that urban food systems are the optimal arena for sustainability experimentation, Davies issues an urgent call for further research and action for food sharing from innovators, policymakers, and scientists.
27. Vacant to Vibrant: Creating Successful Green Infrastructure Networks by Sandra Albro
While many see vacant lots as a sign of neighborhood struggle, Albro sees them as the best opportunity for green infrastructure. As manufacturing cities find themselves with abundant vacant land, Albro documents the journey of her five-year Vacant to Vibrant project, which creates green infrastructure, to show that going green can provide neighborhood amenities and reduce stormwater runoff and pollution. Urban planners and landscape architects will learn how to create equitable access to green spaces.
28. Vegetables Unleashed: A Cookbook by José Andrés and Matt Goulding
In their newest cookbook, Andrés and Goulding push cooks to free vegetables from their limits as sides during meals—rather, the possibilities cooking vegetables are limitless. Vegetables Unleashed showcases not only Andrés’s love for simple culinary wonders, but also his borderless cooking style and vision for a changed food system. Through tips, recipes, and tricks trusted by Andrés himself, the cookbook will leave cooks approaching vegetable meals in a different way.
29. What I Stand On: The Collected Essays of Wendell Berry 1969-2017 by Wendell Berry
In a collection of essays, Berry speaks up for the welfare of rural communities, the value of sustainable farming, and cultures of stewardship and husbandry. Among the full texts of The Unsettling of America and Life Is a Miracle, selections from more than a dozen other volumes expose Berry’s thoughts about farming, environmental health, advocacy, and American identity. Although written over the course of his life, Berry’s essays remind readers that change for the sake of the climate and food system is more urgent than ever.