2021 Food Summer Reading List

by Leah Butz

Summer is here, and with it comes the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center’s 2021 Summer Reading List. Whether you’re looking to expand your culinary horizons, learn something new about the food system, or relax with a light beach read, the following list should have a book for everyone, all either published within the past twelve months or soon to be published this summer.

Acquired Tastes
Editors: Benjamin R. Cohen, Michael S. Kideckel and Anna Zeide
Published: Forthcoming August 17, 2021
Summary: “How modern food helped make modern society between 1870 and 1930: stories of power and food, from bananas and beer to bread and fake meat. The modern way of eating—our taste for food that is processed, packaged, and advertised—has its roots as far back as the 1870s. Many food writers trace our eating habits to World War II, but this book shows that our current food system began to coalesce much earlier. Modern food came from and helped to create a society based on racial hierarchies, colonization, and global integration. Acquired Tastes explores these themes through a series of moments in food history—stories of bread, beer, sugar, canned food, cereal, bananas, and more—that shaped how we think about food today.
Length: 290 pages

Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal
Author: Mark Bittman
Published: February 2, 2021
Summary: “In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, trusted food authority Mark Bittman offers a panoramic view of how the frenzy for food has driven human history to some of its most catastrophic moments, from slavery and colonialism to famine and genocide—and to our current moment, wherein Big Food exacerbates climate change, plunders our planet, and sickens its people. Even still, Bittman refuses to concede that the battle is lost, pointing to activists, workers, and governments around the world who are choosing well-being over corporate greed and gluttony, and fighting to free society from Big Food’s grip.”
Length: 384 pages

Around the World in 80 Plants
Author: Jonathan Drori
Published: April 20, 2021
Summary: “In his follow-up to the bestselling Around the World in 80 Trees, Jonathan Drori takes another trip across the globe, bringing to life the science of plants by revealing how their worlds are intricately entwined with our own history, culture and folklore. From the seemingly familiar tomato and dandelion to the eerie mandrake and Spanish “moss” of Louisiana, each of these stories is full of surprises. Some have a troubling past, while others have ignited human creativity or enabled whole civilizations to flourish. With a colorful cast of characters all brought to life by illustrator Lucille Clerc, this is a botanical journey of beauty and brilliance.”
Length: 216 pages

The Best American Food Writing 2020
Editor: J. Kenji López-Alt
Published: November 3, 2020
Summary: “This year’s Best American Food Writing captures the food industry at a critical moment in history — from the confrontation of abusive kitchen culture, to the disappearance of the supermarkets, to the rise and fall of celebrity chefs, to the revolution of baby food. Spanning from New York’s premier restaurants to the chile factories of New Mexico, this collection lifts a curtain on how food arrives on our plates, revealing extraordinary stories behind what we eat and how we live.”
Length: 272 pages

The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly
Author: Kate Lebo
Published: April 6, 2021
Summary: “In this work of unique invention, these and other difficult fruits serve as the central ingredients of twenty-six lyrical essays (and recipes!) that range from deeply personal to botanical, from culinary to medical, from humorous to philosophical. The entries are associative, often poetic, taking unexpected turns and giving sideways insights into life, relationships, self-care, modern medicine, and more.”
Length: 416 pages

Building Community Food Webs
Author: Ken Meter
Published: April 2021
Summary: “Our current food system has decimated rural communities and confined the choices of urban consumers. Even while America continues to ramp up farm production to astounding levels, net farm income is now lower than at the onset of the Great Depression, and one out of every eight Americans faces hunger. But a healthier and more equitable food system is possible. In Building Community Food Webs, Ken Meter shows how grassroots food and farming leaders across the U.S. are tackling these challenges by constructing civic networks. Overturning extractive economic structures, these inspired leaders are engaging low-income residents, farmers, and local organizations in their quest to build stronger communities.”
Length: 304 pages

Earth Detox: How and Why we Must Clean up Our Planet
Author: Julian Cribb
Published: Forthcoming August 2021.
Summary: “Every person on our home planet is affected by a worldwide deluge of man-made chemicals and pollutants – most of which have never been tested for safety. Our chemical emissions are six times larger than our total greenhouse gas emissions. They are in our food, our water, the air we breathe, our homes and workplaces, the things we use each day. This universal poisoning affects our minds, our bodies, our genes, our grandkids, and all life on Earth. Julian Cribb describes the full scale of the chemical catastrophe we have unleashed. He also maps an empowering and hopeful way forward, to rid our planet of these toxins and return Earth to the clean, healthy condition which our forebears enjoyed, and our grandchildren should too.”
Length: 300 pages

The Economics of Sustainable Food
Author: Nicoletta Batini 
Published: June 8, 2021
Summary: “Producing food industrially like we do today causes tremendous global economic losses in terms of malnutrition, diseases, and environmental degradation. But because the food industry does not bear those costs and the price tag for these losses does not show up at the grocery store, it is too often ignored by economists and policymakers. The Economics of Sustainable Food details the true cost of food for people and the planet. It illustrates how to transform our broken system, alleviating its severe financial and human burden. The key is smart macroeconomic policy that moves us toward methods that protect the environment like regenerative land and sea farming, low-impact urban farming, and alternative protein farming, and toward healthy diets. The book’s multidisciplinary team of authors lay out detailed fiscal and trade policies, as well as structural reforms, to achieve those goals.”
Length: 320 pages

The Emperor’s Feast: A History of China in Twelve Meals
Author: Jonathan Clements
Published: February 11, 2021
Summary: “Author and presenter Jonathan Clements serves up the history of China – not according to emperors or battles, but according to its food and drink. Stretching over 5,000 years and several continents, The Emperor’s Feast tracks different ingredients, dishes and eating habits across both time and geography, shaped by China’s political, cultural and technological evolution and remarkable entrance onto the world stage. We see the influence of invaders such as the Mongols and the Manchus, and discover how food – like the fiery cuisine of Sichuan or the hardy dishes of the north – often became a stand-in for regional and national identities. We follow Chinese flavours to the shores of Europe and America, where enterprising chefs and home cooks created new traditions and dishes unheard of in the homeland.” 
Length: 320 pages

Everybody Eats: Communication and the Paths to Food Justice
Author: Marianne LeGreco and Niesha Douglas
Published: Forthcoming August 2021
Summary:Everybody Eats tells the story of food justice in Greensboro, North Carolina—a midsize city in the southern United States. The city’s residents found themselves in the middle of conversations about food insecurity and justice when they reached the top of the Food Research and Action Center’s list of major cities experiencing food hardship. Greensboro’s local food communities chose to confront these high rates of food insecurity by engaging neighborhood voices, mobilizing creative resources at the community level, and sustaining conversations across the local food system. Within three years of reaching the peak of FRAC’s list, Greensboro saw an 8 percent drop in its food hardship rate and moved from first to fourteenth in FRAC’s list. Using eight case studies of food justice activism, from urban farms to mobile farmers markets, shared kitchens to food policy councils, Everybody Eats highlights the importance of communication—and communicating social justice specifically—in building the kinds of infrastructure needed to create secure and just food systems.”
Length: 307 pages

Farm (and Other F Words): The Rise and Fall of the Small Family Farm 
Authors: Sarah K. Mock
Published: April 26th, 2021
Summary: “We love The American Farmer. We trust them to grow our food, to be part of children’s nursery rhymes, to provide the economic backbone of rural communities, and to embody a version of the American dream. At the same time, we know that “corporate farms” are disrupting the agrarian way of life that we so admire, and that we’ve got to do something to stop it. So what’s our plan for saving the farms we love? In Farm (and Other F Words), Sarah K.Mock dismantles misconceptions about American farms and discovers what makes small family farms work, or why they don’t. While exploring the intersection of farming and wealth, Mock offers an alternative perspective on American agricultural history, and outlines a path to a more equitable food system moving forward.”
Length: 268 pages

From Farms to Incubators: Women Innovators Revolutionizing How Our Food Is Grown
Author: Amy Wu
Published: May 4, 2021
Summary:From Farms to Incubators presents inspiring stories and practical case studies of how women entrepreneurs from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds are leading the agtech revolution. Each agribusiness leader profiled in From Farms to Incubators tells her own story of how she used agtech innovation to solve specific business problems and succeed. The women profiled speak frankly on the advantages and drawbacks of technological solutions to agriculture and offer lessons in making technology productive in real work. These business cases demonstrate the influence of female innovation, the new technologies applied to agribusiness problems, and the career opportunities young women can find in agribusiness.”
Length: 230 pages

Healthy at Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses
Author: Eric Adams
Published: October 13, 2020
Summary: “Armed with the hard science and real-life stories of those who have transformed their bodies by changing their diet, Adams shares the key steps for a healthy, active life. With this book, he shows readers how to avoid processed foods, cut down on salt, get more fiber, and substitute beef, chicken, pork, and dairy with delicious plant-based alternatives. In the process he explores the origins of soul food-a cuisine deeply important to the Black community, but also one rooted in the horrors of slavery-and how it can be reimagined with healthy alternatives.”
Length: 224 pages

Oil Palm: A Global History
Author: Jonathan E. Robins
Published: June 8, 2021
Summary: “By telling the story of the oil palm across multiple centuries and continents, Robins demonstrates how the fruits of an African palm tree became a key commodity in the story of global capitalism, beginning in the eras of slavery and imperialism, persisting through decolonization, and stretching to the present day.”
Length: 432 pages

Our Changing Menu
Authors: Michael P. Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr and Danielle L. Eiseman
Published: April 15, 2021
Summary:Our Changing Menu unpacks the increasingly complex relationships between food and climate change. Whether you’re a chef, baker, distiller, restaurateur, or someone who simply enjoys a good pizza or drink, it’s time to come to terms with how climate change is affecting our diverse and interwoven food system.”
Length: 264 pages

Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything—And Endangered the World
Author: Jocelyn C. Zuckerman
Published: May 13, 2021
Summary: “Over the past few decades, palm oil has seeped into every corner of our lives. Worldwide, palm oil production has nearly doubled in just the last decade: oil palm plantations now cover an area nearly the size of New Zealand, and some form of the commodity lurks in half the products on U.S. grocery shelves. But the palm oil revolution has been built on stolen land and slave labor; it’s swept away cultures and so devastated the landscapes of Southeast Asia that iconic animals now teeter on the brink of extinction. Fires lit to clear the way for plantations spew carbon emissions to rival those of industrialized nations.”
Length: 352 pages

Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries: New Tools to End Hunger
Author: Katie S. Martin
Published: March 9, 2021
Summary: “In Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries, Katie Martin argues that if handing out more and more food was the answer, we would have solved the problem of hunger decades ago. Martin instead presents a new model for charitable food, one where success is measured not by pounds of food distributed but by lives changed. The key is to focus on the root causes of hunger. When we shift our attention to strategies that build empathy, equity, and political will, we can implement real solutions.”
Length: 280 pages

Resetting the Table: Straight Talk about the Food We Grow and Eat
Author: Robert Paarlberg
Published: February 2, 2021
Summary: “A bold, science-based corrective to the groundswell of misinformation about food and how it’s produced, examining in detail local and organic food, food companies, nutrition labeling, ethical treatment of animals, environmental impact, and every other aspect from farm to table.”
Length: 368 pages

The Secret History of Home Economics
Author: Danielle Dreilinger
Published: May 4, 2021
Summary: “In the surprising, often fiercely feminist and always fascinating The Secret History of Home Economics, Danielle Dreilinger traces the field’s history from Black colleges to Eleanor Roosevelt to Okinawa, from a Betty Crocker brigade to DIY techies. These women—and they were mostly women—became chemists and marketers, studied nutrition, health, and exercise, tested parachutes, created astronaut food, and took bold steps in childhood development and education.”
Length: 368 pages

The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket
Author: Benjamin Lorr
Published: September 8, 2020
Summary: “This book is an investigation into the human lives at the heart of the American grocery store. What does it take to run the American supermarket? How do products get to shelves? Who sets the price? And who suffers the consequences of increased convenience and efficiency? In this exposé, author Benjamin Lorr pulls back the curtain on this highly secretive industry. Combining deep sourcing and immersive reporting, Lorr leads a wild investigation in which we learn the secrets of Trader Joe’s success from Trader Joe himself, why truckers call their job ‘sharecropping on wheels,’ what it takes for a product to earn certification labels like ‘organic’ and ‘fair trade,’ the struggles entrepreneurs face as they fight for shelf space, including essential tips, tricks, and traps for any new food business, the truth behind the alarming slave trade in the shrimp industry and much more.”
Length: 328 pages

Slow Food: The Economy and Politics of a Global Movement
Author: Valeria Siniscalchi
Published: Forthcoming July 29, 2021
Summary: “Written by one of the leading experts on food activism, this is the only independent, full-length study of the Slow Food movement. Slow Food is a grassroots organization that embraces a slow way of life, linking the love of food with community and environmental support. Based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork inside Slow Food’s international headquarters in Italy, Valeria Siniscalchi reveals what really goes on behind the scenes of this enigmatic organization. Observing daily meetings, decision-making processes, and major events, she explores the contradictions, complexities, and ambiguities of the movement – as well as the passionate commitment of its employees, members, and leaders.”
Length: 256 pages

Toxic Legacy
Author: Stephanie Seneff 
Published: July 1, 2021
Summary: From an MIT scientist, mounting evidence that the active ingredient in the world’s most commonly used weedkiller is responsible for debilitating chronic diseases, including cancer, liver disease, and more. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the most commonly used weed killer in the world. Nearly 300 million pounds of glyphosate-based herbicide are sprayed on farms—and food—every year. Agrochemical companies claim that glyphosate is safe for humans, animals, and the environment. But emerging scientific research on glyphosate’s deadly disruption of the gut microbiome, its crippling effect on protein synthesis, and its impact on the body’s ability to use and transport sulfur—not to mention several landmark legal cases— tells a very different story. In Toxic Legacy, senior research scientist Stephanie Seneff, PhD, delivers compelling evidence based on countless published, peer-reviewed studies—all in frank, illuminating, and always accessible language.
Length: 272 pages

True Cost Accounting for Food: Balancing the Scale
Editors: Barbara Gemmill-Herren, Lauren E. Baker and Paula A. Daniels
Published: June 23, 2021
Summary: “This book explains how True Cost Accounting is an effective tool we can use to address the pervasive imbalance in our food system…This volume is essential reading for professionals and policymakers involved in developing and reforming the food system, as well as students and scholars working on food policy, food systems and sustainability.”
Length: 316 pages

We Are Each Other’s Harvest
Author: Natalie Baszile
Published: April 6, 2021
Summary: “In this impressive anthology, Natalie Baszile brings together essays, poems, photographs, quotes, conversations, and first-person stories to examine black people’s connection to the American land from Emancipation to today. In the 1920s, there were over one million black farmers; today there are just 45,000. Baszile explores this crisis, through the farmers’ personal experiences. In their own words, middle aged and elderly black farmers explain why they continue to farm despite systemic discrimination and land loss. The “Returning Generation”—young farmers, who are building upon the legacy of their ancestors, talk about the challenges they face as they seek to redress issues of food justice, food sovereignty, and reparations.”
Length: 368 pages

We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto
Author: Alice Waters
Published: June 1, 2021
Summary: “In We Are What We Eat, Alice Waters urges us to take up the mantle of slow food culture, the philosophy at the core of her life’s work. When Waters first opened Chez Panisse in 1971, she did so with the intention of feeding people good food during a time of political turmoil. Customers responded to the locally sourced organic ingredients, to the dishes made by hand, and to the welcoming hospitality that infused the small space–human qualities that were disappearing from a country increasingly seduced by takeout, frozen dinners, and prepackaged ingredients. Waters came to see that the phenomenon of fast food culture, which prioritized cheapness, availability, and speed, was not only ruining our health, but also dehumanizing the ways we live and relate to one another.”
Length: 208 pages

Why Food Matters: Critical Debates in Food Studies
Author: Melissa Caldwell
Published: March 25, 2021
Summary: “What is food and why does it matter? Bringing together the most innovative, cutting-edge scholarship and debates, this reader provides an excellent introduction to the rapidly growing discipline of food studies. Covering a wide range of theoretical perspectives and disciplinary approaches, it challenges common ideas about food and identifies emerging trends which will define the field for years to come.”
Length: 360 pages

Why Smart People Make Bad Food Choices: The Invisible Influences that Guide Our Thinking
Author: Jack Bobo
Published: May 11, 2021
Summary: “Elusive healthy lifestyle. We have access to more nutrition facts and diet plans now than ever before. Consumers have never known more about nutrition and yet, have never been more overweight. For most Americans, maintaining a balanced diet is more difficult than doing their taxes. What are we doing wrong? Learn to eat better. Jack Bobo reveals how the psychology of food has been invisibly controlling us all along, in the grocery aisles, at restaurants, in front of the refrigerator, and in every other place we make crucial food choices.”
Length: 244 pages

World on Fire: Humans, Animals, and the Future of the Planet 
Author: Mark Rowlands
Published: June 4, 2021
Summary: “Mark Rowlands presents a novel analysis of three epoch-defining environmental problems: climate, extinction, and pestilence…all three problems are consequences of choices we have made about energy, which can be divided into two major forms: fuel and food. Focusing on food choices as far more central to the issue than commonly recognized, he argues that the solution is breaking our collective habit of eating animals.”
Length: 256 pages

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