Reads for Eaters

By · Friday, February 12th, 2010

There has been an explosion of food and nutrition related books over the past few years. People ask me all the time what books to read to get up to speed with food. Not to overwhelm you, I taken my top 100 favorite books on the subject and cooked that list down to just 7. These are not cookbooks or nutrition texts, but you’ll learn lots about both from reading them.

1. Animal, Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, this book tells the story of how one family was changed by a year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where they live. Kingsolver, a well known writer of fiction, poetry and creative non fiction whose works include The Poisonwood Bible has a way with words that will inspire you

2. Every eater could benefit from reading some Michael Pollan, this journalism professor has been telling the story of America’s food system for many years now.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Guide is his most recent best selling book. Short, sweet and to the point, it was written at the request of a doctor who wanted a simple book to hand to his patients. I’ve used it with 4th year medical students to get them up to speed.

Want to read more by Pollan? Your next step would be to check out  In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto which came out last year. A more in depth read than Food Rules but equally compelling.

If you’re up for an epic read, then grab a copy of  The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals a deeper exploration of our food system.  A new children’s version came out this year which is aimed at the middle school level.

Pollan’s pieces in the NY Times have provoked many conversations. You can grab all of them online with a simple google search. You’ll find Mr. Pollan all over the Internet these days including this provocative interview on Democracy Now

3. Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of three novels. Becoming a dad and owning a dog caused him to re-think his food choices and write a book about it. His book, Eating Animals makes a good case case for decreasing your meat consumption as he shares the dark realities of more than 90% of animal agriculture in America.

4. Joan Gussow, a professor at Columbia Teachers College, has been way ahead of her time for many years. Her PhD thesis revolved around counting calories: how many calories it took to ship a tomato from California to NY. When I first met her back in the late 90′s she completely transformed my mindset about food. This Organic Life remains one of my most favorite books on the topic. Like Kingsolver, her book is sprinkled with recipes and the story of her life that builds your Food IQ in a very digestible way.

5. Science writer Susan Allport wrote a book about fat that reads like a nutritional detective story. The Queen of Fats will teach you all about  the Omega 3  fats that  have become the latest health food nutrient much like oat bran was in the 90’s. Read this for some important information about fats, one of the most misunderstood macronutrients.

6. Nina Planck is a food writer and farmer’s market entrepreneur who grew up on a farm. Her  well researched books will surprise you as she explains why butter and lard are good for you and corn oil and soy milk are not.Real Food: What to Eat and Why and her most recent book, Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby’s First Foods are great reads and will cause you to re-think the role of traditional foods in your diet.

7. Last but not least on my list of 7 is a small but powerful book written by  Buddhist monk and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. His book,  The World We Have links his concerns of environmental destruction to the Buddhist teachings of interconnectedness and the impermanence of all things. I guess the reason I’m including this one is you’ll need a strategy to reduce any anxiety that may arise from reading  the other books. Its an eloquent little book that includes a chapter entitled Diet for a Mindful Planet.

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