This summer, Food Tank is highlighting 25 books to help educate and entertain. The world is witnessing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security, the fallout of the evolving climate crisis, and social justice movements. But there is also real hope as activists fight for race and social justice, technological advancements offer new options, and movements for local, sustainable, food systems continue to grow. These books are responding to these rapid changes by calling for action, outlining next steps, and sharing community-based solutions. Each author shares their knowledge and experience to guide readers toward a better future for everyone.
These 25 books celebrate food while also showing how everyone can jump in and take action.
1. Black, White, and Green: Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy by Alison Hope Alkon
Farmers markets are recognized by many as essential to the food movement, helping consumers to reconnect with farmers and vote with their forks. But in Black, White, and Green, Alison Hope Alkon takes a closer look at the nuanced politics of these spaces. Focusing on two Bay Area markets — one in the primarily white neighborhood of North Berkeley and the other in the predominantly Black West Oakland — Alkon explores dimensions of race and class as they relate to farmers markets and the green economy.
2. Building Community Food Webs by Ken Meter
Food system analyst Ken Meter has over 50 years of experience in building equitable food systems. In Building Community Food Webs, Meter applies this knowledge to explain how the current system has decimated rural communities, separated farmers from consumers, and prioritized commodity farming. But he also shines a light on the ways food webs can build resilience, empower farmers, promote local food systems, and pave the way for the next generation of food systems leaders.
3. Can Fixing Dinner Fix the Planet? by Jessica Fanzo, Ph.D
In this book, Dr. Jessica Fanzo explores the interactions of diet, human health, and the climate crisis to understand how the world can reverse the damage caused by the food system. Drawing on decades of international research, Fanzo lays out new ideas, programs, and policies that can guide food systems to evolve to promote sustainable, equitable, and healthy diets. Ultimately, Fanzo hopes to help consumers, policymakers, and other institutions effect positive change through their actions.
4. Decolonizing the Diet: Nutrition, Immunity, and the Warning from Early America by Gideon Mailer & Nicola Hale
Gideon Mailer and Nicola Hale challenge the common claim that diseases carried by European colonizers destroyed Native American communities due to soil ecology. The authors dive into the latest nutrition, immunology, and evolutionary genetics research to promote the idea that humans can recover from epidemics. But, Mailer and Hale argue, this can only happen if a community has the ability to hunt, gather and farm nutritionally dense plants and animals. Decolonizing the Diet makes for a relevant read at a time when food production, nutritional accessibility, and ecology have only grown more important.
5. Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader edited by Robert Ji-Song Ku, Martin F. Manalansan and Anita Mannur
American pop-culture has deep connections with Asian Americans and Asian food, the editors of Eating Asian America argue. But this can often mask the forces of class, racial, ethnic, sexual and gender inequalities found in Asian American culinary practices, ideas, and images. This anthology brings together 20 scholars from different disciplines who look at the ways culinary practices shape people’s understanding of Asian American identity. It is the first collection to showcase Asian American immigrant histories and connect them to public ideas of Asian American foods.
6. Eating Identities: Reading Food in Asian American Literature by Wenying Xu
According to author Wenying Xu, food is an identity shaped by what people choose to eat, what is available to eat, and how they prepare it. Working at the intersection of culture and politics, Xu analyzes the writing of Asian American authors including John Okada, Joy Kogawa, Frank Chin. In doing so, she reveals how cooking, eating, and the ingredients themselves affect Asian American identities in terms of race and ethnicity, gender, class, and sexuality.
7. Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stories of Food, Identity, and Resilience by Enrique Salmón
“Eating is not only a political act, it is also a cultural act that reaffirms one’s identity and worldview,” ethnobotanist Enrique Salmón writes. Taking readers on a journey through the southwest United States and northern Mexico, Salmón weaves together stories of Indigenous farmers who uphold traditional agricultural practices, environmental stewardship, and ecological knowledge. These themes, he argues, could be the keys to sustaining food sources for generations to come.
8. For the Love of Soil: Strategies To Regenerate Our Food Production Systems by Nicole Masters
Nearly one third of arable land worldwide has been lost to degradation and erosion over the past 40 years. But agroecologist Nicole Masters believes regenerative agricultural systems can fix this. Masters’ book centers soil systems and outlines how their proper management can restore natural cycles, build resilience and biodiversity, and replenish the basic foundations of the food system.
9. Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems: Insights on Sustainability and Resilience from the Front Line of Climate Change by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT
The third volume in a series, this e-book raises awareness of Indigenous people’s food systems, which provide a livelihood for 476 million Indigenous inhabitants around the world. Published by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems include case studies from Finland, Cameroon, Mali, and India. Readers will learn about the ways Indigenous communities are sustainably managing their land, accessing markets, and adapting to the changes brought by climate change.
10. Our Changing Menu: Climate Change and the Foods We Love and Need by Michael P. Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle L. Eiseman
Our Changing Menu shines a light on the effects of climate change on the global food system and what appears on the dinner plate. The authors explain how the rising temperatures, worsening pest problems, and more will affect the taste, price, and availability of common foods. But they also believe that there is still time to act, and they call on readers to think deeply about how their dietary choices impact the environment.
11. Root: Small Vegetable Plates, A Little Meat On The Side by Rob Howell
With a focus on sustainability and the highest-quality ingredients, Rob Howell showcases more than 100 inventive recipes from his award-winning Bristol waterfront restaurant, Root. Small vegetable plates are the main star here, with meat acting as a supporting role. With a focus on small plates and fresh produce, there is a little something for everyone in this plant-based recipe book.
12. Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat by Larissa Zimberoff
As technology-based food companies see a rise in popularity, food journalist Larissa Zimberoff educates readers on the promises and perils of the industry. On one hand, new advancements offer hope for eaters looking for healthy and environmentally-sound options. But companies also risk relying on the familiar industrialized manufacturing systems, monocrops, and investors that have led to unhealthy diets in the past. While sustainable food solutions are much needed, Zimberoff cautions against recreating the same problems as before. She successfully breaks down scientific concepts so all readers can understand the nuances of this emerging field.
Carbon farming is a system of agricultural practices that sequester carbon in the soil. In The Carbon Farming Solution, Eric Toensmeier argues that this strategy, in conjunction with reducing overall carbon emissions, can plausibly reverse climate change. He also provides readers a toolkit, a comprehensive collection of climate-friendly crops and practices currently available.
14. The Economics of Sustainable Food: Smart Policies for Health and the Planet edited by Nicoletta Batini
Industrialized food production is leading to massive, global economic losses due to malnutrition, diseases, and environmental degradation. That price is not reflected on tags in the grocery aisles, but The Economics of Sustainable Food is here to set the record straight. The book’s authors detail the true cost of the food system and outline smart, macroeconomic policies that can lead to more regenerative, just, planet-friendly, and healthy diets.
Minnesota-based chef, Alan Bergo, takes a holistic approach to cooking with all parts of the plants from all stages of growth. He shares his knowledge in this book to help home cooks use every part of an ingredient and cut down on food waste. Readers will learn about the different properties and growing phases of roots, stems, leaves, and seeds and the lesser-used parts of vegetables to introduce new flavors and textures into their cooking.
16. The Future of Nutrition: An Insider’s Look at the Science, Why We Keep Getting It Wrong, and How to Start Getting It Right by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D
Following his best selling book, The China Study, Dr. T. Colin Campbell tries to help eaters understand the confusing and sometimes contradictory nutrition tips they encounter. Campbell explains where nutrition information comes from and reveals the relationship between nutrition public policy and corporations. With every chapter, he drives home the point that public nutrition literacy can prevent and treat illness.
17. The Perennial Kitchen: Simple Recipes for a Delicious Future by Beth Dooley
In this cookbook, James Beard Award-winning author Beth Dooley hopes to help consumers understand the connection between the food they cook and the environment. Her recipes call for ingredients that can retain topsoil, sequester carbon, return nutrients to the soil, nurture pollinators, rebuild rural economies, and protect clean water. Each plant- and planet-forward recipe paves the way toward a more thoughtful, sustainable kitchen.
18. The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid by Lawrence Wright
Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Lawrence Wright, takes a thorough look into the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Touching on internal conversations at the Centers for Disease Control, a White House Advisor’s unanswered alarm, hospital COVID wards, and the anti-vaccination movement, Wright tries to understand how the pandemic emerged and its effects on society. The Plague Year dives in head-first to decipher the mass of misinformation and highlight the medical professionals and heroes fighting against the pandemic.
19. The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
In The Premonition, New York Times-bestselling author, Michael Lewis, brings to light a new story on COVID-19 pandemic. His work follows the different stories of a 13-year-old girl whose science project models transmission of an airborne pathogen, a public health officer, and a secret team of infectious disease doctors. By weaving these threads together, Lewis unearths the heroes who fought to control the virus in the U.S. and the vulnerabilities of the public health system.
20. The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman
The award-winning cookbook, The Sioux Chef showcases indigenous fruits and vegetables, wild and foraged ingredients, game and fish. Using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and nose-to-tail cooking, Oglala Lakota chef and founder of the The Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman counters stereotypes of Native American cooking. And in doing so, he celebrates the culinary traditions and stories of the Dakota and Minnesota territories.
The planet’s soil has lost up to 80 percent of carbon from years of industrialized farming techniques, leading to rising temperatures. But Kristin Ohlson knows there are solutions that can restore the soil and save the environment. In The Soil Will Save Us, she follows visionary scientists, farmers, eaters, ranchers, and landscapers. Together, they help explain the dynamics of the soil, its billions of microorganisms, and the ecosystems that can turn atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon.
22. True Cost Accounting for Food: Balancing the Scale edited by Barbara Gemmill-Herren, Lauren E. Baker, Paula A. Daniels
True cost accounting (TCA) is a holistic food system assessment tool that measures the effects of the food system on human and environmental health. In True Cost Accounting for Food, the authors suggest that if the hidden costs of food appeared on price tags, the food system would be forced to improve. Intended for anyone looking to reform the food system, the book argues that TCA can help center human wellbeing over profit.
23. We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto by Alice Waters
In her latest book, chef and food activist, Alice Waters draws on her decades of experiences with regional farmers, farm workers, and hungry customers. She shares what she has learned about seasonal farming, cooking, and eating as well as how geography and seasonal fluctuations affect diets. She also helps readers understand how pesticide use, environmental degradation, and economic disparity relate to the food system. Waters argues that eating the slow food mentality can change the system and create a better future for biodiversity and the food system as a whole.
24. What’s Good? A Memoir in Fourteen Ingredients by Peter Hoffman
In his memoir What’s Good? chef Peter Hoffman considers the makings of a chef, a restaurant, and a dish. He recounts the defining moments of his childhood, the training he received, and his professional kitchen experiences. But he also explores the cultural and historical backstories of some of nature’s most delicious foods and, in doing so, heightens readers’ appreciation of the foods on their plates.
25. Zero Waste Chef by Anne-Marie Bonneau
According to Anne-Marie Bonneau, a sustainable lifestyle starts in the kitchen. In Zero Waste Chef, Bonneau motivates readers to cut down on food waste by showcasing simple, easy, and often free changes anyone can make. Suggestions range from plastic wrap substitutes to recipes for an old loaf of bread headed for the trash. With each page, readers will learn new tips for saving money and the planet.
Photo courtesy of Alfons Morales, Unsplash