Food books that teach and inspire

Here is a selection of educational, thought-provoking, and inspiring books for eaters, farmers, chefs, and policymakers who are craving more information about food and agriculture.

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Customer Ravi O'Connor drinks coffee while reading in Books and Brews, in Hurricane W.Va.

Food Tank is thrilled to highlight a selection of educational, thought-provoking, and inspiring books for eaters, farmers, chefs, and policymakers who are craving more information about food and agriculture.

You can also check out our past reading lists: Summer 2016Spring 2016Winter 2016Fall 2015Summer 2015, and Spring 2015.

Agriculture: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Brassley and Richard Soffe

Part of the Very Short Introductions series by Oxford University Press, this new pocketbook provides a crash course on agriculture. The authors look at the profession of farming, the natural resources involved, the different types of agriculture practiced worldwide, and the plants and animals raised on farms.

Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City by Kristin Reynolds and Nevin Cohen

Action researchers and public scholars Kristin Reynolds and Nevin Cohen challenge readers to look beyond the celebrated benefits of urban agriculture projects and consider how power, privilege, and politics influence how food is grown in cities. For lasting positive change, the authors say, farmers, policymakers, funders, and all those involved in urban agriculture must address deep-seated structural inequities that exist in the food system. The book also highlights several urban farming groups and programs whose work has helped to increase food and environmental justice.

Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science by Rob Wallace

Evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace traces the links between infectious diseases, market economics, and a highly capitalist agricultural system. Wallace tries to show how various pathogens and diseases have their origins in factory farms where animals are raised on drugs and growth hormones in overcrowded conditions. Wallace casts light on the question of who bears the costs of these dangerous new pathogens. He also suggests alternatives that include farming cooperatives and mixed crop-livestock systems.

Cooking Technology: Transformations in Culinary Practice in Mexico and Latin America edited by Steffan Igor Ayora-Diaz

This book highlights how culinary traditions and physical kitchen spaces are impacted by changing socio-economic, political, and technological conditions. Based on anthropological, archeological, and historical perspectives, this volume is an analysis of how these changes influence food habits and preferences, food preparation practices, and the equipment and appliances found in domestic or restaurant kitchens. Using 12 case studies from Mexico and Latin American countries, the authors examine how traditional and modern culinary values are constantly being renegotiated in these kitchens.

Ethnobiology for the Future: Linking Cultural and Ecological Diversity edited by Gary Paul Nabhan

In the face of shrinking ecological, cultural, and linguistic diversity, the field of ethnobiology strives to celebrate and conserve unique knowledge, values, and traditions that exist throughout the world. This anthology of essays, edited by agrarian activist and ethnobiologist Gary Paul Nabhan, draws out the principles of ethnobiology and provides tools and methodologies to address big questions in the ethnobiosphere.

Food, Families and Work by Rebecca O’Connell and Julia Brannen

Authors Rebecca O’Connell and Julia Brannen study what food cultures and practices look like in the modern family unit when both parents work. Using the United Kingdom as a case study, they discuss questions of gender division, the relation of income to diet, family meal traditions, and children’s choices and power over what they eat. Their findings are placed within the global context of socio-economic changes and shifting patterns of family life.

Food Forensics: The Hidden Toxins Lurking in Your Food and How You Can Avoid Them for Lifelong Health by Mike Adams

Award-winning investigative journalist and clean food activist Mike Adams researches groceries, fast foods, dietary supplements, spices, and protein powders for the presence of heavy metals and other harmful toxins. In the book, Adams details his findings for more than 800 foods and reports on toxic ingredients like polysorbate 80, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrite, and glyphosate.

Miraculous Abundance: One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World by Perrine Hervé-Gruyer and Charles Hervé-Gruyer

Authors Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer take readers on their journey of creating Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin, a farm in a village of Normandy, France, that is now a widely-recognized model of innovative ecological agriculture in Europe. Initially, a farm meant to provide just for their family, Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin becomes the couple’s experiment in producing the most amount of food possible in the most ecologically harmonious way possible, and in cultivating a model of food production fit for a post-carbon, post-oil future.

More Than Just Food: Food Justice and Community Change by Garrett Broad

This book critiques the romanticization of community-based gardening and nutrition education projects that are out of touch with larger systemic barriers to food justice. Author Garrett Broad argues that the alternative food movement has the power to make change, but it must acknowledge long-standing issues of racial, economic, and environmental discrimination that remain entrenched in the food system. Broad urges readers to critically evaluate community-based food programs in this light. He also discusses a number of community activists and groups who confront and work to challenge systemic barriers.

Nourishing Millions: Stories of Change in Nutrition edited by Stuart Gillespie, Judith Hodge, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch

This collection of stories is part of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Nourishing Millions: Stories of Change in Nutrition project. It highlights various approaches to improving nutrition from around the world. They focus on community-based programs, government efforts and nutrition-sensitive policies, and individual leaders and nutrition champions. The book discusses successes and challenges at different levels in an attempt to offer guidance to development practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and others trying to combat malnutrition. The book can be downloaded here.

Our Stories, One Journey: Empowering Rural Women in Asia on Food Sovereignty by Sarojeni V. Rengam, Danica Zita M. Castillo, and Kerima Acosta

This short booklet is produced in collaboration with the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition, and Oxfam’s Grow Campaign in Asia. Part of the Women’s Travelling Journal on Food Sovereignty project, it tells the stories of 50 rural women from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Philippines. It chronicles their struggles and leadership in securing access to land, resources, and social services, and dealing with climate change. The book can be found here.

Pollination Services to Agriculture: Sustaining and Enhancing a Key Ecosystem Service edited by Barbara Gemmill-Herren

There is growing global awareness about the important role that pollinators, including bees, play in providing food security to millions of people around the globe. This book describes specific measures and practices that land managers can implement to foster agroecosystems that support and conserve animal pollinators by drawing on case studies from Brazil, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Africa.

Pulses: Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future by the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations

Full of photographs, infographics, illustrations, and recipes, this publication by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is a celebration of pulses. It educates on the importance of pulses to the future of global food and emphasizes their importance to nutrition, the environment and biodiversity, and food security. The book also offers guides on growing, buying, and cooking pulses. Leaders are introduced to ten renowned chefs from around the world as they share 30 recipes relevant to their cultural and regional settings. The book can be found here.

Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault by Cary Fowler

The Global Seed Vault is an international collaboration by renowned scientist, conservationist, and biodiversity advocate Cary Fowler in an effort to preserve the past and future of agriculture. Nestled in a remote Norwegian archipelago, it is a global, 130-meter-long seed bank carved from solid stone. It contains more than a half billion seeds, making it the largest and most diverse seed collection ever created. In Seeds on Ice, Fowler tells the story of how her vision of a safeguard from world starvation became reality, using photography to take readers through the vault as well as the surrounding community of Longyearbyen. 

The Economics of Chocolate edited by Mara P. Squicciarini and Johan Swinnen

This book covers a host of topics related to chocolate to produce the first comprehensive analysis of the economics of this globally cherished food item. It delves into areas like the history of chocolate from the times of the Mayans, the production and consumption of chocolate, and related nutritional and psychological effects. It also discusses political regulations and international trade surrounding chocolate, and the sustainability of the chocolate industry.    

The Food Forest Handbook: Design and Manage a Home-Scale Perennial Polyculture Garden by Darrell Frey and Michelle Czolba

Food forests are productive landscapes founded on permaculture principles that grow a combination of fruit and nut trees, shrubs, vines, and perennial herbs and vegetables. This handbook is meant to be a practical manual for cultivating home-scale food forests, which help to increase biodiversity, conserve natural habitats for insects, and support food security and resilience. 

The Great Climate Robbery: How the Food System Drives Climate Change and What We Can Do About It by GRAIN, edited by Henk Hobbelink

As a sequel to internationally recognized nonprofit GRAIN’s The Great Food Robbery: How corporations control food, grab land and destroy the climate, this book seeks to inform readers on how the corporate-controlled industrial food system causes climate change. It also discusses what actions are being taken and can be taken by people around the globe to reverse the damage.

The Nature of California: Race, Citizenship, and Farming since the Dust Bowl by Sarah D. Wald

This book highlights at how citizenship, race relations, labor, landownership, immigrant rights, farmers and farmworkers rights, and recent food justice movements have influenced agriculture in California. Author Sarah D. Wald explores how these issues have been portrayed in popular culture and provides new insights on questions of national belonging.

The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook: Fresh-from-the-Garden Recipes for Gatherings Large and Small by The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and Olivia Rathbone

This illustrated cookbook by California-based farm and eco-think tank The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center features 200 vegetarian recipes that involve weeds, flowers, herbs, nuts, fruits, mushrooms, and various other ingredients that are available and can be grown in one’s garden.

The Rise of Women Farmers and Sustainable Agriculture by Carolyn E. Sachs, Mary E. Barbercheck, Kathryn Brasier, Nancy Ellen Kiernan, and Anna Rachel Terman

Based on more than a decade of research, this book analyzes the changing landscape of women in agriculture to offer new understandings of gender and sustainability. It tells stories of women who are affirming their identities as farmers, challenging sexism, and overcoming obstacles in building successful farm businesses. The authors present the feminist agrifood systems theory (FAST) which values women's knowledge and work in agriculture, while also emphasizing personal, economic, and environmental sustainability. FAST also places importance on creating connections, collaborations, and peer-to-peer education.

Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money By Wasting Less Food by Dana Gunders

Dana Gunders, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, has produced a guide and reference book offering tools, tips, and practical strategies to help readers curb food waste through shopping, meal-planning, cooking, and storing habits. This handbook is full of checklists, simple recipes, and educational infographics to help eliminate waste at home.

Who Really Feeds the World? The Failures of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology by Vandana Shiva

Environmental activist Vandana Shiva highlights how industrial agriculture, along with its strategies of large-scale monocropping and genetic modification, are not needed to feed the world. According to Shiva, they are in fact responsible for the hunger crisis. Shiva argues that environmental stewardship and a healthy food system are interrelated. Based on her research and experience of the last three decades, Shiva writes about the networks of people and processes that really feed the world and makes a case for agroecology as an alternative to the industrial food system.

This article originally appeared on Food Tank.

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