Food Tank’s Spring Reading List offers models to address racial injustice and the climate crisis, recipes to improve the health of people and the planet, celebrations of culture and community, and educational resources to help readers better understand the workers and systems that feed them.
These 23 books will encourage readers to explore food and agriculture supply chains, cook with new flavors, and grow their own food.
1. A Recipe for Gentrification: Food, Power, and Resistance in the City, by Alison Hope Alkon, Yuki Kato, and Joshua Sbicca
A Recipe for Gentrification, published by New York University Press, explores the connection between food and gentrification in the United States. Editors Alison Hope Alkon, Yuki Kato, and Joshua Sbicca look to grocery stores, restaurants, community gardens, and farmers’ markets as case studies on the causes and effects of gentrification and encourage Americans to consider the implications behind the foods they grow, purchase, and eat.
2. Bee People and the Bugs They Love, by Frank Mortimer
Expert beekeeper Frank Mortimer offers a glimpse into the quirky world of beekeepers in his new memoir, Bee People and the Bugs They Love. Mortimer paints a humorous picture of his beekeeping peers and, with a non-beekeeper audience in mind, offers knowledge on the pollinators they keep. He speaks to the triumphs and mishaps of suburban beekeeping, and the struggle to protect an endangered species.
3. Bress ’n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer, by Matthew Raiford with Amy Paige Condon
Today, chef and farmer Matthew Raiford farms the land his great-great-great grandfather, a formerly enslaved man, purchased in 1874. Raiford pays homage to his heritage in his new cookbook, Bress ’n’ Nyam. The book illuminates the culinary history of the Gullah Geechee people: a community descended from enslaved Africans in the coastal South, who spoke the African Creole language Gullah Geechee. Raiford’s book features more than 100 traditional recipes, including Hot Buttermilk Biscuits, Sweet Potato Pie, Salmon Cakes on Pepper Rice, and Gullah Fish Stew.
Gero Leson, Vice President of Special Operations at Dr. Bronner’s, has helped the soap company build a fair trade, sustainable, and organic supply chain from the ground up. In his recent book, Leson details the history of the Bronner family and shares his experiences establishing sister companies in Sri Lanka, Samoa, and Ghana. Using Dr. Bronner’s as an example, Leson builds a case for constructive capitalism—the idea that companies can grow while still investing more in workers and raw materials.
Journalist Doug Bierend takes readers on a deep dive into the world of mushrooms in his new book, In Search of Mycotopia. Bierend highlights the work of growers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and mushroom enthusiasts as they passionately explore the untapped potential of fungi—to detoxify waterways, improve food insecurity, and more.
6. It’s Not Too Late: Crisis, Opportunity, and the Power of Hope, by Frances Moore Lappé and Small Planet Institute Team
Frances Moore Lappé is the co-author of 20 books on hunger, democracy, and the environment. In a recent e-book, Lappé and Small Planet Institute Team detail climate solutions already at work in cities, states, and farms across the United States and beyond. The team hopes the book will inspire readers to tackle the crisis on a greater scale. Small Planet Institute Team also plans to publish feedback on the book.
Agrarian and ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan reflects on how Jesus himself once interacted with farmers and fishers in his most recent book, Jesus for Farmers and Fishers. Drawing from Jesus’s parables, Nabhan urges readers to open their hearts to the plights of today’s food producers, who face climate disasters, tariff wars, constantly-evolving technology, and mounting debts. He incorporates the work of Middle Eastern naturalists, environmental historians, archeologists, and agro-ecologists to learn more about the workers who have sustained the world throughout history.
8. Jew-ish: A Cookbook: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch, by Jake Cohen
Food writer Jake Cohen sets out to reinvent classic Jewish recipes in his new cookbook, Jew-ish. Drawing inspiration from his Ashkenazi heritage, as well as his husband’s Persian-Iraqi roots, Cohen creates modern iterations of Ashkenazi staples, like Matzo Tiramisu, Pumpkin Spice Babka, Cacio e Pepe Rugelach, and Sabich Bagel Sandwiches. Cohen uses the book as a tool to reconcile ancient and modern traditions, as well as to celebrate rich histories and the blending of cultures.
9. Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution, by Roxana Jullapat (forthcoming, April 20, 2021)
Baker and owner of the Los Angeles bakery Friends & Family Roxana Jullapat centers her forthcoming cookbook around eight ancient grains: barley, buckwheat, corn, oat, rice, rye, sorghum, and wheat. Jullapat celebrates the taste and textures of local, sustainable flours through reimagined classics like Einkorn Shorrbeads, Halvah Croissants, Ricotta Cornmeal Pound Cake, and a mix of grainy soups and salads. Jullapat offers sourcing guides and storage tips, as well as a look at the historic lineages of ancient crops.
Lee Johnson sued Monsanto when he developed deadly non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being doused in the company’s herbicides. Johnson was the first person to levy a lawsuit against the biotech giant and won in 2018. Investigative journalist Carey Gillam exposes some of the corruption behind the historical trial in The Monsanto Papers, including Monsanto’s efforts to tamper with evidence.
Two prominent diets—the low-carb, high-fat paleo and plant-based vegan—are often pitted against one another, says Mark Hyman, MD. The twelve-time New York Times bestselling author makes a case for combining the two in his new cookbook, The Pegan Diet. The pegan lifestyle (short for paleo-vegan) calls for good fats, limited refined carbs, limited sugar, and a lot of fresh, healthy vegetables. Hyman’s book offers pegan recipes and advice designed with the health of readers’ brains, bodies, and the planet in mind.
While agrarian social movements have made great strides in advancing food sovereignty, author David Meek argues that many members of the movement rely on unsustainable farming techniques. Drawing from seven years of field experience, Meek examines the 17 de Abril settlement, a community that emerged following a massacre of landless workers in Brazil. Through this analysis, he argues food systems education is integral to the survival of agrarian movements.
13. The ScrapsBook, by Ikea
A collection of recipes assembled by Ikea builds upon ingredients that would otherwise end up in the trash, like banana peels, radish tops, and chicken bones. The book was written with the help of 50 chefs across North America, including Trevor Bird, Christa Bruneau-Guenther, Andrea Carlson, and Justin Cournoyer. Upcycled recipes include Don’t-Throw-Out-A-Thing Dumpling Soup, Sweet and Scrappy Meatballs, Forgotten Vegetable Stew, Stalk Tacos, and more. The ScrapsBook is available in print and as a free PDF.
14. Tiny Victory Gardens: Growing Food Without A Yard, by Acadia Tucker with Emily Castle
As home gardening continues to climb in response to COVID-19, farmer and environmentalist Acadia Tucker proves that readers do not need a backyard to grow their own food. In her new book, Tiny Victory Gardens, Tucker offers tips for growing 21 different crops on patios, stoops, and windowsills year-round. She teaches readers how to find the right pots and places for their gardens, attract pollinators, ditch pesticides and fertilizers, and foster microbe-rich soil.
15. Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries: New Tools to End Hunger, by Katie S. Martin
Despite the work of more than 60,000 hunger-relief organizations, from food pantries to meal programs, tens of millions of Americans are still hungry. Public health researcher Katie Martin, Ph.D., says handing out more food is not enough and proposes a new metric of success: lives changed instead of pounds of food distributed. Pointing to success stories and scientific research, Martin recommends a list of short and long-term solutions to address the root causes of hunger, like giving clients more choices, redesigning waiting rooms, offering job training programs, and advocating for living wages and social safety nets.
16. Resilience Matters: Reimagining the Future in a Tumultuous Year, by Urban Resilience Project, edited by Laurie Mazur
Resilience Matters comes in response to a year marked by a global pandemic, recession, political strife, reckoning with systemic wildfires, weather disasters, and a worsening climate crisis. The free e-book published by the Urban Resilience Project reflects on lessons learned throughout 2020 and offers alternate models for a more equitable and sustainable future. The book pulls together some of the organization’s most influential essays about race, health, climate change, politics, and more, written by leaders like Angie Schmitt, Daniel Parolek, Mustafa Santiago Ali, and Calvin Gladney.
17. Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower: How to Cook With Vegetables and Other Plants, by Gill Miller
“Changing the way we eat is one way to do some good in a world crying out for help,” writes chef and author Gill Miller in the forward of Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower. The book, first published in the United Kingdom last year and now available in the U.S., celebrates local, seasonal, organic produce. Miller’s vegetarian recipes, indexed by season, include a Nettle and Wild Garlic Tart; Sea Kale with Capers, Rosemary, Parsley, and Cream; and New Potatoes with Elderflower and Lemon Thyme.
18. The First-time Gardener: Growing Vegetables, by Jessica Sowards
Host of the YouTube show “Roots and Refuge Farm” Jessica Sowards starts with the basics in her beginner’s guide to gardening: what, where, and how to plant your first vegetable garden. Sowards offers tips on growing eco-friendly, seasonal produce, and maximizing gardeners’ space and time. Soward hopes readers will not just find success, but also have fun gardening.
19. To Know the World: A New Vision for Environmental Learning, by Mitchell Thomashow
Writer and educator Mitchell Thomashow presents a new paradigm for thinking about the environment in To Know the World. Environmental learning, he argues, requires understanding the connections between migration, race, inequity, climate justice, democracy—and the biosphere. His book, which combines memoir, theory, and storytelling, speaks to the need to connect the social and ecological spheres.
20. Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, by Elizabeth Kolbert
Environmental journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert urges readers to think critically about the state of the environment and how humans often create new challenges while trying to solve others. In her first example, Kolbert speaks with scientists attempting to control the invasive Asian carp in America—once intentionally introduced to abate the growth of aquatic weeds. Kolbert interviews engineers, geologists, fishers, and more about their conservation efforts.
21. What’s Good: A Memoir in Fourteen Ingredients, by Peter Hoffman (forthcoming, June 8, 2021)
Locavore Peter Hoffman traces ingredients to the source in his forthcoming book, What’s Good? A Memoir in Fourteen Ingredients. Hoffman shares his personal story as both a chef and shopper and offers political and historical insights into 14 foods he cooks with. He speaks with farmers and vendors along the way to learn about maple sap, winter vegetables, and more.
22. Why Food Matters, by Melissa L. Caldwell
A textbook by University of California, Santa Cruz professor Melissa L. Caldwell sets out to answer two heavy questions: what is food and why does it matter? Caldwell highlights recent research and critical debates in four parts: Revaluing Food in a Global Economy; The Power of Food: From Politics to Microbiopolitics; New Bodily Realities in a Techno-Science World; and More than Human, More than Food. Why Food Matters tackles topics like molecular gastronomy, lab-grown meat and futurist foods, healthism, ethics, animal welfare, and fair trade.
23. Why We Cook: Women on Food, Identity, and Connection, by Lindsay Gardner
Why We Cook tells the stories of women in food through 112 essays, interviews, and recipes. The book—written, curated, and colorfully illustrated by Lindsay Gardener—includes profiles on Soul Fire Farm owner and activist Leah Penniman and New York Times columnist Dorrie Greenspan; recipes by food writers Priya Krishna and Abra Berens; and essays by La Cocina’s Leticia Landa and Charter Oak Restaurant’s Katianna Hong.
Photo Courtesy of Jessica Ruscello, Unsplash