Summer reading list for locavores, home cooks, and foodies of all types

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CC BY 2.0 Mattia Merlo

If you’ve got any extra time to catch up on reading this summer, here is a list of food-related titles to entertain and educate you. This list is far from comprehensive and does not attempt to include the fundamental classics of the local food movement. It’s mostly just good books that I’ve enjoyed immensely (or heard great things about) in recent months. Links to purchase online are located in the titles. We’d love to hear any of your suggestions in the comments below!

1. “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation” by Michael Pollan

Pollan’s latest work is a fascinating foray into what he sees as the four traditional ‘food transformations’ that correspond to the four elements. These are barbecuing, baking, braising, and fermenting. The book is a call to action in the kitchen, with the firm belief that cooking from scratch can save our health and the environment.

Read TreeHugger review here

2. “Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Food, not Food Products” by Jeannie Marshall

As a parent of two small children, I can relate to Marshall’s insistence on the importance of teaching kids how to eat a broad range of fresh, unprocessed foods. Pickiness is more than just an annoyance; it can be destructive to a child’s health, contributes to the loss of local food culture, and renders a child unable to appreciate good taste. Like Pollan, Marshall believes that all hope lies in the kitchen. (NB: In the U.S., this book is called "The Lost Art of Feeding Kids.")

Read TreeHugger review here

3. “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer

This book made a big impression on me. Foer embarks on a quest to understand the implications of eating animals, and what it means to kill certain animals – but not others – for human consumption. While he is a vegetarian, the book doesn’t feel skewed in that direction; Foer simply asks meat eaters to understand the implications of their food choices, from the way factory farming works, how chickens and cattle are slaughtered, and pigs are bred, to the contrasting idyllic family-run farms where heirloom breeds of poultry and grass-fed cattle are raised.

Read TreeHugger review here

4. “The Art of Simple Food II” by Alice Waters

Waters’ newest book came out last October and is a natural extension to her first, extremely popular book, “The Art of Simple Food.” This one focuses on the vegetable garden, and the importance of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. It’s arranged in alphabetical order, with truly simple and delicious recipes accompanying each vegetable. (I can’t get enough of her Eggplant Parmesan or kimchi!)

5. “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver

Although this book isn’t new (it came out in 2007), it will always be relevant and inspiring – a book that I think everyone should read. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Kingsolver and her family settle on a farm in rural Virginia to see if they can become completely self-sufficient in food for one year. They grow a huge garden, can their produce like crazy, raise temperamental meat birds, and battle overzealous zucchini plants. Unsurprisingly, Kingsolver makes a strong case for the importance of the kitchen and cooking food from scratch. (Anyone see a theme here?)

Read TreeHugger review here

6. “American Catch: The Fight for our Local Seafood” by Paul Greenberg

The U.S. is a big seafood producer, and yet it exports most of it, while importing cheap, farm-raised seafood from Asia to feed its own citizens. In his latest book, Greenberg points out how absurd this situation is, and how Americans need to reclaim their own seafood. The book focuses on three species that represent the past, present, and future battles facing domestic seafood production: Eastern oysters, Louisiana brown shrimp, and Alaskan sockeye salmon.

TreeHugger review coming soon!

7. “How to Be Vegan” by Elizabeth Castoria

This new book is a sort of “Vegan 101” crash course, explaining how to tackle the daunting task of eliminating animal products from one’s diet and life. It includes 50 recipes, infographics, and practical advice on items that extend beyond food: beauty products, clothes, décor, and social graces – basically, how to be a vegan “without feeling awkward or pissing off all your friends.”

Read TreeHugger review here

8. “Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet” by Sarah Elton

In her latest book, Elton travels the world to learn about a huge, yet largely unnoticed, global social movement of finding new ways to feed people that will be resilient to shockwaves created by climate change. We live in an increasingly turbulent world, and food security is a question raised in everyone’s minds. Elton offers a positive and hopeful account of how small communities are slowly and methodically dismantling Big Ag’s domination of our food chain.

Tags: Book Reviews | Books | Food Miles | Food Security | Local Food

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