20 Good Food Reads

by Alexina Cather, MPH

By Alexina Cather, MPH

The New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College has created a list of 20 good food reads that are sure to whet your appetite. If you are looking for a textbook or a cookbook, look no further. Our list spans topics from food waste to the politics of soda to cooking on a budget of four dollars a day.

American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood  

Author: Paul Greenberg

Year: 2014

From the publisher: “In American Catch, award-winning author Paul Greenberg takes the same skills that won him acclaim in Four Fish to uncover the tragic unraveling of the nation’s seafood supply—telling the surprising story of why Americans stopped eating from their own waters.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Penguin Random House

American Organic: A Cultural History of Farming, Gardening, Shopping, and Eating

Author: Robin O’Sullivan

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “In American Organic we see how organic growing and consumption has been everything from a practical decision, lifestyle choice, and status marker to a political deed, subversive effort, and social philosophy—and how organic production and consumption are entrenched in the lives of all Americans, whether they eat organic food or not.”

Website: https://kuecprd.ku.edu/~upress/cgi-bin/978-0-7006-2133-0.html

Where to purchase: Amazon, University Press of Kansas

Cities and Agriculture 

Author: Henk de Zeeuw and Pay Drechsel

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “The book provides urban planners, local policy makers and urban development practitioners with an overview of crucial aspects of urban food systems based on an up to date review of research results and practical experiences in both developed and developing countries. By doing so, the international team of authors provides a balanced textbook for students of the growing number of courses on sustainable agriculture, food and urban studies, as well as a solid basis for well-informed policy making, planning and implementation regarding the development of sustainable, resilient and just urban food systems.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Powell’s, Routledge

Cooked by Michael Pollan

Author: Michael Pollan

Year: 2013

From the publisher: “In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth— to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books Inc., IndieBound, Powell’s

The Color of Food

Author: Natasha Bowens

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “The Color of Food teaches us that the food and farm movement is about more than buying local and protecting our soil. It is about preserving culture and community, digging deeply into the places we’ve overlooked, and honoring those who have come before us. Blending storytelling, photography, oral history, and unique insight, these pages remind us that true food sovereignty means a place at the table for everyone.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, New Society Publishers

Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace by Vandana Shiva

Author: Vandana Shiva

Year: 2005

From the publisher: “A leading voice in the environmental movement, Vandana Shiva has played a key role in bringing the struggles for social and ecological justice to international attention. Earth Democracy remains one of her key works, in which she addresses some of the most pressing issues of our age – the privatization of our natural resources, the looming environmental crisis, and the rising tide of fundamentalism and violence against women.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Zed Books

The Evolving Sphere of Food Security by Rosamond Naylor

Author: Rosamond Naylor

Year: 2014

From the publisher: “Hundreds of millions of people still suffer from chronic hunger and food insecurity despite sufficient levels of global food production. The poor’s inability to afford adequate diets remains the biggest constraint to solving hunger, but the dynamics of global food insecurity are complex and demand analysis that extends beyond the traditional domains of economics and agriculture. How do the policies used to promote food security in one country affect nutrition, food access, natural resources, and national security in other countries? How do the priorities and challenges of achieving food security change over time as countries develop economically? The Evolving Sphere of Food Security seeks to answer these two important questions and others by exploring the interconnections of food security to security of many kinds: energy, water, health, climate, the environment, and national security.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Oxford University Press

Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All

Author: Oran B. Hesterman

Year: 2011

From the publisher: “Longtime good food pioneer Oran Hesterman knows that we can’t fix the broken system simply by changing what’s on our own plates: the answer lies beyond the kitchen. In Fair Food he shares an inspiring and practical vision for changing not only what we eat, but how food is grown, packaged, delivered, marketed, and sold. He introduces people and organizations across the country who are already doing this work in a number of creative ways, and provides a wealth of practical information for readers who want to get more involved.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, IndieBound

The Food Activist Handbook

Author: Ali Berlow

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “One person really can make a difference. From starting neighborhood kitchens to connecting food pantries with local family farms, Ali Berlow offers a variety of simple and practical strategies for improving your community’s food quality and security. Learn how your actions can keep money in the local economy, reduce the carbon footprint associated with food transportation, and preserve local landscapes. The Food Activist Handbook gives you the know-how and inspiration to create a better world, one meal at a time.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day 

Author: Leanne Brown

Year: 2013

From the publisher: “Good and Cheap is a cookbook for people with very tight budgets, particularly those on SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. The PDF is free and has been downloaded more than 925,000 times.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Powell’s

Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America

Author: Liz Carlisle

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “Set in the farm belt of red state America, far from the farmer’s markets and haute cuisine of coastal cities, Lentil Underground confronts the global food system in one of the little known rural communities that will determine its fate. From the heart of Big Sky Country comes this inspiring story of a handful of colorful pioneers who have successfully bucked the chemically-based food chain and the entrenched power of agribusiness’s one percent, by stubbornly banding together. Unearthing the deep roots of this movement, Lentil Underground introduces readers to a memorable cast of characters, from gun-toting libertarians and Christian homesteaders to peace-sign-waving environmental activists.  Journalist and native Montanan Liz Carlisle weaves an eye-opening and richly reported narrative that will be welcomed by readers of food and farm memoirs, as well as everyone concerned with the future of American agriculture and natural food in an increasingly uncertain world.”


Where to purchase: Amazon

Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix: More Than 700 Simple Recipes and Techniques to Mix and Match for Endless Possibilities 

Author: Mark Bittman

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “In Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix, Mark’s matrices come together to create a collection of over 400 flexible recipes covering vegetables, fruits, meats and chicken, and even desserts.  Whether you’re cooking up soup (creamy, brothy, earthy, or hearty), freezing ice pops (in fruity, savory, creamy, or boozy varieties), or preparing asparagus (steamed, roasted, stir-fried, or grilled), following Mark’s approach to culinary improvisation will deliver stand-out results.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Penguin Random House

The Myths of Safe Pesticides by Andre Leu

Author: Andre Leu

Year: 2014

From the publisher: “The chemical-based conventional agriculture industry claims that the synthesized concoctions they sell as pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides are safe when used as directed, but does the scientific evidence truly support their assertions? Organic agriculturist and lecturer André Leu delves into a wealth of respected scientific journals to present the peer-reviewed evidence that proves the claims of chemical companies and pesticide regulators are not all they seem. Leu translates technical jargon into laymans terms to break down the five most-repeated myths about pesticide safety, refuting them using scientific data. The pesticide industry argues that agriculture, and the global population itself, cannot survive without its products, but Leu warns that we are at risk unless we break free of their toxic hold and turn to more natural methods of pest and weed regulation.”


Where to purchase: Amazon

Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat

Author: Barry Estabrook

Year: 2014

From the publisher: “Barry Estabrook, author of the New York Times bestseller Tomatoland and a writer of “great skill and compassion” (Eric Schlosser), now explores the dark side of the American pork industry. Drawing on his personal experiences raising pigs as well as his keen investigative reporting, Estabrook shows how these immensely intelligent creatures are too often subjected to lives of suffering, sustained on a drug-laced diet just long enough to reach slaughter weight, then killed on mechanized disassembly lines. It doesn’t have to be this way, and Pig Tales presents a lively portrait of those farmers who are taking an alternative approach, proving that it is possible to raise pigs responsibly and respectfully in a way that is good for producers, consumers, and some of the top chefs in America. Provocative and richly informed, Pig Tales is bound to generate conversation at dinner tables across America.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, IndieBound, Powell’s

Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate

Author: Laura Lengnick

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “Resilient Agriculture recognizes the critical role that sustainable agriculture will play in the coming decades and beyond. The latest science on climate risk, resilience and climate change adaptation is blended with the personal experience of farmers and ranchers to explore:

  • The “strange changes” in weather recorded over the last decade
  • The associated shifts in crop and livestock behavior
  • The actions producers have taken to maintain productivity in a changing climate.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, New Society Publishers

Soda Politics 

Author: Marion Nestle

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “In Soda Politics, Dr. Marion Nestle answers this question by detailing all of the ways that the soft drink industry works overtime to make drinking soda as common and accepted as drinking water, for adults and children. Dr. Nestle, a renowned food and nutrition policy expert and public health advocate, shows how sodas are principally miracles of advertising; Coca-Cola and PepsiCo spend billions of dollars each year to promote their sale to children, minorities, and low-income populations, in developing as well as industrialized nations. And once they have stimulated that demand, they leave no stone unturned to protect profits. That includes lobbying to prevent any measures that would discourage soda sales, strategically donating money to health organizations and researchers who can make the science about sodas appear confusing, and engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to create goodwill and silence critics. Soda Politics follows the money trail wherever it leads, revealing how hard Big Soda works to sell as much of their products as possible to an increasingly obese world.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Oxford University Press

That Sugar Book: The Essential Companion to the Feature Documentary That Will Change the Way You Think About Healthy Food 

Author: Damon Gameau

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “When filmmaker and actor Damon Gameau set out to uncover the truth about the sugars hidden in the foods we commonly perceive as healthy, he came up with a novel experiment: he would eat 40 teaspoons of sugar every day for 60 days-but he would consume only “healthy” foods like energy bars, low-fat yogurts, fruit snacks, juices, and smoothies. Damon captured his experience in the riveting and eye-opening documentary, That Sugar Film.

Now, That Sugar Book expands on Damon’s journey, blowing the lid on the food industry, featuring in-depth interviews with health experts, and offering sensible advice on kicking the sugar habit.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Macmillan Publishers

Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Read Food by Megan Kimble

Author: Megan Kimble

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “In January of 2012, Megan Kimble was a twenty-six-year-old living in a small apartment without even a garden plot to her name. But she cared about where food came from, how it was made, and what it did to her body: so she decided to go an entire year without eating processed foods. Unprocessed is the narrative of Megan’s extraordinary year, in which she milled wheat, extracted salt from the sea, milked a goat, slaughtered a sheep, and more—all while earning an income that fell well below the federal poverty line.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Harper Collins Publishers, IndieBound

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

Author: Dana Gunders

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “Despite a growing awareness of food waste, many well-intentioned home cooks lack the tools to change their habits. This handbook—packed with engaging checklists, simple recipes, practical strategies, and educational infographics—is the ultimate tool for reducing food waste. From a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council come these everyday techniques that call for minimal adjustments of habit, from shopping, portioning, and using a refrigerator properly to simple preservation methods including freezing, pickling, and cellaring. At once a good read and a go-to reference, this handy guide is chock-full of helpful facts and tips, including 20 “use-it-up” recipes and a substantial directory of common foods.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

World Hunger: 10 Myths 

Author: Frances More Lappé and Joseph Collins

Year: 2015

From the publisher: “From best-selling authors Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins comes the 21st century’s definitive book on world hunger. Driven by the question, “Why hunger despite an abundance of food?” Lappé and Collins refute the myths that prevent us from addressing the root causes of hunger across the globe. World Hunger: Ten Myths draws on extensive new research to offer fresh, often startling, insights about tough questions—from climate change and population growth to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the role of U.S. foreign aid, and more.”


Where to purchase: Amazon, Harvard Book Store



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