This winter, Food Tank is highlighting 20 book to help you broaden your understanding of food and agriculture systems. In Barons, Austin Frerick focuses on the careers of seven corporate titans who altered the U.S. food system. Generation Dread offers a new perspective for readers grappling with climate anxiety. And What if CAFOs Were History? offers a vision of an agriculture system that is regenerative and free of factory farming systems. Whether you’re diving into the world of food systems for the first time or looking to stay up to date on the latest research, this list has a book for every reader.
Here are 20 books to add to your 2024 winter reading list.
When author Will Harris inherited his family’s farm, he also took on the conventional practices that came with it. But Harris found himself desiring an alternative way of producing food that works with nature, not against it. His book tells the story of this journey as he bets the farm and embraces a regenerative approach to agriculture. Described as memoir-meets-manifesto, A Bold Return to Giving a Damn urges readers to reconnect with the farmers who grow their food and the land they steward.
2. Barons: Money, Power, and the Corruption of America’s Food Industry by Austin Frerick
Barons follows the story of seven different corporate titans in their rise to power while exposing the deregulation of the food industry that enabled their financial success. Austin Frerick uses these examples to show how the concentration of power has harmed local communities in the United States. He also offers a different path that can lead to healthy and equitable food systems.
3. Food, Inc. 2: Inside the Quest for a Better Future for Food edited by Karl Weber
This collection of essays is the companion book to the new film Food, Inc. 2, the sequel to the 2008 award winning Food, Inc. Contributions explore the development in food systems since the first film’s release and the steps eaters can take to change food and agriculture for the better. Authors include author Michael Pollan, Senator Cory Booker, One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman, and Food Tank.
4. Food Waste, Food Insecurity, and the Globalization of Food Banks by Daniel N. Warshawsky
Daniel N. Warshawsky draws on 15 years of research conducted across four continents to unpack the proliferation of food banks around the world. In Food Waste, Food Insecurity, and the Globalization of Food Banks, he suggests that the food banking offers a limited solution and a reformulation of their model is needed. Warshawsky argues that if strategic changes are implemented, food banks can play a smaller but more targeted role in food systems.
5. Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis by Britt Wray
Britt Wray, Director of Stanford Medicine’s Special Initiative on Climate Change and Mental Health, believes people must connect with their climate emotions to become a steward of the planet. In Generation Dread, Wray brings together scientific research, insight from therapists, and personal experience to help readers connect with others, find purpose, and thrive during these times of a changing climate.
6. Globalisation and Livelihood Transformations in the Indonesian Seaweed Industry edited By Zannie Langford
This collection explores the exponential growth of seaweed production in Indonesia. Essays touch on the rural communities that have adapted to the growing industry, the role of women in the sector, and how Indonesia fits into the global seaweed market. Together, they highlight the interconnected social, environmental, and economic dynamics of seaweed production as well as opportunities to improve sustainable rural development.
7. Good Eats: 32 Writers on Eating Ethically edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldthwaite
Good Eats brings together 32 essays that cover topics from factory farming to labor practices in the chocolate industry to community gardens. The collection encourages readers to be more mindful of the food on their plates and think about the broader systems that they are a part of when they choose what to eat. Contributors include author Ross Gay; farmer, writer, and Co-Founder of Soul Fire Farm Leah Penniman; and Chef Thérèse Nelson.
8. How to Start a Farm Stop: A Pattern Language for Local Food Systems by Kathryn Barr
Farm stops are year-round markets that support small-scale farmers and strengthen local and regional food systems. In this open-access e-book, Kathryn Barr looks at The Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor, Michigan as a model that yields economic and cultural benefits and contributes to the resilience of producers and their communities. How to Start a Farm Stop also highlights best practices and resources to support the establishment of more Farm Stops around the country.
9. Invitation to a Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food by Fuchsia Dunlop
In Invitation to a Banquet, award-winning cook and writer Fuchsia Dunlop dives into the rich history, philosophy, and techniques of Chinese culinary culture. Dunlop draws on decades of on-the-ground research, integrated with descriptions of the dishes she has enjoyed along the way. Chapters highlight dishes from Cha Siu Pork and Mapo Tofu to Steamed Rice and Fish Stew, celebrating the diversity of the region’s foodways.
10. My Side of the River: An Alaska Native Story by Elias Kelly
My Side of the River looks at the practice of traditional Native subsistence hunting that often goes unrecognized by government regulations. Author Elias Kelly weaves personal stories of friends, family, and community members into the narrative, as he writes of the legal attempts to assimilate Native Alaskans into white U.S. fishing and hunting culture. And throughout the book, Kelly underscores the effects of policy on traditional life and resource conservation.
In Saying NO to a Farm Free Future, farmer and academic Chris Smaje presents an argument in defense of small-scale farming. The book offers a response to George Monbiot of The Guardian, whose vision is for an urban and industrialized future. Smaje presents an alternative that is grounded in local communities.
José Tenorio’s book looks at how food corporations have prioritized their gains over the wellbeing of communities, and the implication this has for the preparation, sale, and consumption of school food in Mexico. Through an analysis of obesity politics, Tenorio argues that the concept of healthy lifestyles places too much blame on individuals while downplaying the structural forces shaping human health.
13. The Preserving Garden by Jo Turner
The Preserving Garden offers guidance to help eaters create a garden that will provide food year round. The book profiles 43 different plants, which are featured alongside recipes to make the most of the ingredients and beautiful color illustrations. Jo Turner also offers techniques to help preserve their bounty through drying, bottling, fermenting, and more.
14. TOXIC: From Factory to Food Bowl, Pet Food Is a Risky Business by Phyllis Entis
Phyllis Entis’s scrutiny of the world of pet food covers some of the most scandalous stories from the industry over the last 100 years. TOXIC sheds light on the contaminants from pentobarbital to Salmonella that have been found in canned food, kibble, and more. And the book offers advice for pet owners looking to protect their pets and nourish them safely.
15. Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn’t Food by Chris van Tulleken
In Ultra-Processed People, Chris van Tulleken reveals the governments, scientists, and medical professionals who have altered the food supply and contributed to the rise in diet-related diseases. Tulleken argues that the solutions that move eaters away from ultra-processed foods are not rooted in individual action, but in the global systems that have made them so prevalent in many contemporary diets.
16. Unbottled: The Fight against Plastic Water and for Water Justice by Daniel Jaffee
Sociologist Daniel Jaffee opens readers’ eyes to the bottled water industry, representing a US$300 billion market. Unbottled examines what the growth of the market means for social inequality and sustainability, the growing crisis of plastic waste, and the movements in North America and around the world that are working toward water justice for all communities.
17. University Engagement with Farming Communities in Africa: Community Action Research Platforms edited by Anthony Egeru, Megan Lindow, and Kay Muir Leresche
University Engagement with Farming Communities in Africa explores how African universities can strengthen partnerships with farming communities to address real world challenges. The essays draw on experiences and lessons learned from 21 projects in countries from Benin to Malawi to Zimbabwe, offering solutions that increase productivity, address the climate crisis, and contribute to the resilience of rural communities.
18. What We Sow: On the Personal, Ecological, and Cultural Significance of Seeds by Jennifer Jewell
What We Sow comes from gardener, writer, educator, and advocate Jennifer Jewell, who since 2016 has hosted the award winning radio program and podcast Cultivating Place. Her book takes readers on a journey of the seed, helping readers understand the link between seeds, history, and culture; the influence of agribusiness on the seeds the world relies on; and the advocates working to reclaim seeds stolen from their communities.
Written by Leo Horrigan of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, What if CAFOs Were History? is an e-book that presents a vision for a transition from industrial to regenerative farming. Horrigan breaks down the harmful effects of CAFOs—concentrated animal feeding operation—on the environment, equality, and economies. And he shows how a regenerative approach to agriculture can counteract the damage they have done.
20. Wild, Tamed, Lost, Revived: The Surprising Story of Apples in the South by Diane Flynt
In the southern United States, from Virginia to Mississippi, producers have cultivated over 2,000 apple varieties. Wild, Tamed, Lost, Revived tells the story of the apple and how it changed the South and the country as a whole. Author Diane Flint shows how the fruit’s history intersects with that of the Oregon Trail, slavery, and the theft of Indigenous Land, while also sharing her own journey as a farmer in the southern Appalachians.
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