The New York City Food Policy Center’s Summer Reading List

by Alexina Cather, MPH

By Lani Furbank

Keeping up with the latest and best books out of the plethora of food policy-related literature is not an easy feat, so the New York City Food Policy Center has compiled a list of notable new releases you should have on your radar. They cover topics ranging from oil crops in the tropics to the history of sugar in America. Here are 15 titles that should be on your bookshelf right now.


All the Boats on the Ocean: How Government Subsidies Led to Global Overfishing

Author: Carmel Finley

Release date: February 2017

Topic: Seafood Industry Subsidies

From the publisher: “Most current fishing practices are neither economically nor biologically sustainable. Every year, the world spends $80 billion buying fish that cost $105 billion to catch, even as heavy fishing places growing pressure on stocks that are already struggling with warmer, more acidic oceans. How have we developed an industry that is so wasteful, and why has it been so difficult to alter the trajectory toward species extinction?

In this transnational, interdisciplinary history, Carmel Finley answers these questions and more as she explores how government subsidies propelled the expansion of fishing from a coastal, in-shore activity into a global industry. While nation states struggling for ocean supremacy have long used fishing as an imperial strategy, the Cold War brought a new emphasis: fishing became a means for nations to make distinct territorial claims. A network of trade policies and tariffs allowed cod from Iceland and tuna canned in Japan into the American market, destabilizing fisheries in New England and Southern California. With the subsequent establishment of tuna canneries in American Samoa and Puerto Rico, Japanese and American tuna boats moved from the Pacific into the Atlantic and Indian Oceans after bluefin. At the same time, government subsidies in nations such as Spain and the Soviet Union fueled fishery expansion on an industrial scale, with the Soviet fleet utterly depleting the stock of rosefish (or Pacific ocean perch) and other groundfish from British Columbia to California. This massive global explosion in fishing power led nations to expand their territorial limits in the 1970s, forever changing the seas.

Looking across politics, economics, and biology, All the Boats on the Ocean casts a wide net to reveal how the subsidy-driven expansion of fisheries in the Pacific during the Cold War led to the growth of fisheries science and the creation of international fisheries management. Nevertheless, the seas are far from calm: in a world where this technologically advanced industry has enabled nations to colonize the oceans, fish literally have no place left to hide, and the future of the seas and their fish stocks is uncertain.”

Why you should read it: This book provides a unique look at fishing practices and regulations on a global scale and illuminates what caused the challenges the industry faces today.

Where to purchase: The University of Chicago Press, Amazon



Building the Agricultural City: A Handbook for Rural Renewal

Author: Robert Patterson Wolf

Release date: January 2017

Topic: Agriculture in Rural America

From the publisher: “The centralized economy doesn’t work for most Americans, particularly rural Americans. Building the Agricultural City demonstrates the need for rural Americans to work cooperatively to create self-reliant, decentralized economies. It describes tools for self-reliance and sustainability that exist across the U.S. and can be assembled within any region to transform service economies into productive economies.

Here are a few of the tools that can effect the transformation: Community development banks, whose mandate is to serve the under-served, would focus on small business start-ups. What kind of businesses? Ideally, worker-owned cooperatives that would democratize the economy. Closed-loop aquaponic systems that raised fish and vegetables to provide locally grown, fresh food year round. Municipal owned utilities powered by renewable energy.

Rural Americans now understand that they must be self-reliant, that regionalism is the only counter to globalism. Building the Agricultural City promote the idea of a democratic, decentralized economy.

Many rural Americans are conservative, distrustful of change. Many cannot see alternatives to the present system, even when they know their towns are dying. Others have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. Those of us involved in this project have no illusions about winning everyone over, or that building a cooperative regional economy will take a few years. It will be a long, arduous process. But we have no alternative but to try. And there are enough creative people who have pledged to work on the project’s behalf that we know we can build a successful model in the Driftless region of the Upper Midwest that will that will serve as a beacon to others‚ urban and rural.”

Why you should read it: This book provides tools and strategies to create a sustainable local economy based on agriculture in rural areas.

Where to purchase: Amazon



Food Fights & Culture Wars: A Secret History of Taste

Author: Tom Nealon

Release date: March 2017

Topic: Food History

From the publisher: “Revolution! Conflict! Gluttony! The gloriously illustrated history of food, including mythical origin stories, unusual recipes and more!

In this eclectic book of food history, Tom Nealon takes on such overlooked themes as carp and the Crusades, brown sauce and Byron, and chillies and cannibalism, and suggests that hunger and taste are the twin forces that secretly defined the course of civilization. Through war and plague, revolution and migration, people have always had to eat. What and how they ate provoked culinary upheaval around the world as ingredients were traded and fought over, and populations desperately walked the line between satiety and starvation.

Parallel to the history books, a second, more obscure history was also being recorded in the cookbooks of the time, which charted the evolution of meals and the transmission of ingredients around the world. Food Fights and Culture Wars: A Secret History of Taste explores the mysteries at the intersection of food and society, and attempts to make sense of the curious area between fact and fiction.

Beautifully illustrated with material from the collection of the British Library, this wide-ranging book addresses some of the fascinating, forgotten stories behind everyday dishes and processes. Among many conspiracies and controversies, the author meditates on the connections between the French Revolution and table settings, food thickness and colonialism, and lemonade and the Black Plague.”

Why you should read it: This book will inform readers about the lesser known food stories throughout history.

Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound



Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants

Author: Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis

Release date: February 2017

Topic: Unexpected Uses for Ordinary Garden Plants

From the publisher: “A beautifully photographed, gift-worthy guide to growing, harvesting, and utilizing 47 unexpected garden plants to make organic pantry staples, fragrances, floral arrangements, beverages, cocktails, beauty products, bridal gifts, and more.

Every garden—not just vegetable plots—can produce a bountiful harvest! This practical, inspirational, and seasonal guide will help make any garden more productive and enjoyable with a variety of projects using unexpected and often common garden plants, some of which may already be growing in your backyard.

Discover the surprising usefulness of petals and leaves, roots, seeds, and fruit: turn tumeric root into a natural dye and calamintha into lip balm. Make anise hyssop into a refreshing iced tea and turn apricots into a facial mask. Crabapple branches can be used to create stunning floral arrangements, oregano flowers to infuse vinegar, and edible chrysanthemum to liven up a salad. With the remarkable, multi-purpose plants in Harvest, there is always something for gardeners to harvest from one growing season to the next.”

Why you should read it: This book will inspire gardeners, cooks, and crafters to find alternative uses for everyday plants.

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



Letter to a Young Farmer: How to Live Richly without Wealth on the New Garden Farm

Author: Gene Logsdon

Release date: January 2017

Topic: Garden Farming Advice

From the publisher: “For more than four decades, the self-described “contrary farmer” and writer Gene Logsdon has commented on the state of American agriculture. In Letter to a Young Farmer, his final book of essays, Logsdon addresses the next generation—young people who are moving back to the land to enjoy a better way of life as small-scale “garden farmers.” It’s a lifestyle that isn’t defined by accumulating wealth or by the “get big or get out” agribusiness mindset. Instead, it’s one that recognizes the beauty of nature, cherishes the land, respects our fellow creatures, and values rural traditions. It’s one that also looks forward and embraces “right technologies,” including new and innovative ways of working smarter, not harder, and avoiding premature burnout.

Completed only a few weeks before the author’s death, Letter to a Young Farmer is a remarkable testament to the life and wisdom of one of the greatest rural philosophers and writers of our time. Gene’s earthy wit and sometimes irreverent humor combines with his valuable perspectives on many wide-ranging subjects—everything from how to show a ram who’s boss to enjoying the almost churchlike calmness of a well-built livestock barn.

Reading this book is like sitting down on the porch with a neighbor who has learned the ways of farming through years of long observation and practice. Someone, in short, who has “seen it all” and has much to say, and much to teach us, if we only take the time to listen and learn. And Gene Logsdon was the best kind of teacher: equal parts storyteller, idealist, and rabble-rouser. His vision of a nation filled with garden farmers, based in cities, towns, and countrysides, will resonate with many people, both young and old, who long to create a more sustainable, meaningful life for themselves and a better world for all of us.”

Why you should read it: This book provides advice, guidance, and encouragement for those interested in a life as a “garden farmer.”

Where to purchase: Chelsea Green Publishing, Amazon



MeatLess: Transform the Way You Eat and Live—One Meal at a Time

Author: Kristie Middleton

Release date: March 2017

Topic: Reducing Meat Consumption

From the publisher: “Countless people are now cutting back on meat by enjoying more plant-based meals-to look and feel better, have a lighter eco-footprint, or to help animals. If you want to eat less meat and dairy without giving them up entirely, MeatLess offers concrete rationale and easy steps for reducing animal products. Kristie Middleton, senior food policy director for The Humane Society of the United States, shares inspirational stories from people who’ve lost weight, reached their health goals, helped animals, and improved their environmental footprint through plant-based eating. Along with its delicious, satisfying recipes that anyone can make, MeatLess offers tips and tricks for overcoming common barriers to diet change and how to make a better lifestyle stick-such as easy food swaps, where to dine out, and how to set and meet your goals. Whether you’re a passionate meat lover or vegan-curious, MeatLess is the roadmap for a healthier life and a better you.”

Why you should read it: This book will help individuals shrink their meat consumption to improve their health, reduce their impact on the environment, and protect animals.

Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others



Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future

Author: Rob Dunn

Release date: March 2017

Topic: Challenges of Modern Food Production

From the publisher: “The bananas we eat today aren’t your parents’ bananas: We eat a recognizable, consistent breakfast fruit that was standardized in the 1960s from dozens into one basic banana. But because of that, the banana we love is dangerously susceptible to a pathogen that might wipe them out.

That’s the story of our food today: Modern science has brought us produce in perpetual abundance—once-rare fruits are seemingly never out of season, and we breed and clone the hardiest, best-tasting varieties of the crops we rely on most. As a result, a smaller proportion of people on earth go hungry today than at any other moment in the last thousand years, and the streamlining of our food supply guarantees that the food we buy, from bananas to coffee to wheat, tastes the same every single time.

Our corporate food system has nearly perfected the process of turning sunlight, water and nutrients into food. But our crops themselves remain susceptible to the nature’s fury. And nature always wins.

Authoritative, urgent, and filled with fascinating heroes and villains from around the world, Never Out of Season is the story of the crops we depend on most and the scientists racing to preserve the diversity of life, in order to save our food supply, and us.”

Why you should read it: This book will enlighten readers about the problems that have arisen from modern habits, certain scientific advancements in agriculture, and corporate food structures.

Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others



Scraps, Wilt & Weeds: Turning Wasted Food into Plenty

Author: Mads Refslund and Tama Matsuoka Wong

Release date: March 2017

Topic: Combatting Food Waste in the Kitchen

From the publisher: “Inventive and delicious food, made from what most people throw away, by the co-founder of the celebrated Danish restaurant, Noma.

SCRAPS, WILT & WEEDS features 100 recipes by Mads Refslund, one of the initial partners at Noma, the world-renowned Danish restaurant, using local ingredients in a sustainable, no-waste fashion. Using scraps from vegetables, fruits and animal proteins—food that would normally go to waste—Refslund creates beautiful and accessible recipes for the home cook without sacrificing anything to flavor. He uses 100% of the ingredient or as close as possible, including potato peels, cauliflower stems, or fish skins, but also ingredients that are passed over as too young, like green strawberries, or too old, like stale bread, wrinkly potatoes or bolted herbs.

Refslund shares easy-to-follow recipes like: Carrot Tops Pesto, Roasted Cauliflower Stalks with Mushrooms and Brie, Pork Ribs Glazed with Overripe Pear Sauce, Crispy Salmon Skin Puffs with Horseradish-Buttermilk Dip, and Beer and Bread porridge with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. In addition to delicious ingredient-focused recipes, the book contains informational sidebars and stories, insight into the parts of food we often waste, and a section on how to use leftovers, plus 100 beautiful photographs that express Refslund’ passion and respect for ingredients, nature and the land.”

Why you should read it: This book will provide tips and recipes to reduce waste in the kitchen by using items that would normally be considered trash.

Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble



Something Old, Something New: Classic Recipes Reinvented

Author: Tamar Adler

Release date: Will be available on August, 22, 2017

Topic: Modern Takes on Classic Recipes

From the publisher: “The award-winning, bestselling author of An Everlasting Meal revives and improves classic recipes in a gorgeously illustrated cookbook.

With An Everlasting Meal, Tamar Adler advocated for the pleasures of leftovers and the myriad uses of flavorful scraps, providing culinary tips for using food you might ordinarily throw away. In her new cookbook, Something Old, Something New, Adler continues her preservative quest by rekindling classic recipes. There were times past when cooking was careful, important, economical, inspired. Other than occasional kitschy throwbacks, however, like Deviled Eggs or Oysters Rockefeller, many dishes that first excited our palates have disappeared. Beneath their fussy garnishes, gratuitous sauces, and outmoded techniques, Adler unearthed good recipes worth reviving. In Something Old, Something New she presents the dishes she loves best.

From Caviar Pie and Steak Diane to Petits Pois a la Francais and Peach Melba, Adler enlivens culinary classics with ample use of acid and herbs, simplified techniques, and contemporary ways of serving. Seasonal menus, complete with wine pairings suggested by sommelier Juliette Pope, gorgeous watercolor drawings by artist Mindy Dubin, and a foreword by influential food critic Mimi Sheraton, round out the beautiful package. Something Old, Something New is a unique culinary history, filled with delicious recipes and Adler’s smart, witty prose, a perfect Mother’s Day or aptly titled wedding gift; a book worth keeping.”

Why you should read it: This book provides a history and background for classic recipes, while helping bring them into the modern era.

Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more



Sustainable Diets: How Ecological Nutrition Can Transform Consumption and the Food System

Author: Pamela Mason and Tim Lang

Release date: March 2017

Topic: Sustainable Food Production and Consumption

From the publisher: “How can huge populations be fed healthily, equitably and affordably while maintaining the ecosystems on which life depends? The evidence of diet’s impact on public health and the environment has grown in recent decades, yet changing food supply, consumer habits and economic aspirations proves hard.

This book explores what is meant by sustainable diets and why this has to be the goal for the Anthropocene, the current era in which human activities are driving the mismatch of humans and the planet. Food production and consumption are key drivers of transitions already underway, yet policy makers hesitate to reshape public eating habits and tackle the unsustainability of the global food system.

The authors propose a multi-criteria approach to sustainable diets, giving equal weight to nutrition and public health, the environment, socio-cultural issues, food quality, economics and governance. This six-pronged approach to sustainable diets brings order and rationality to what either is seen as too complex to handle or is addressed simplistically and ineffectually. The book provides a major overview of this vibrant issue of interdisciplinary and public interest. It outlines the reasons for concern and how actors throughout the food system (governments, producers, civil society and consumers) must engage with (un)sustainable diets.”

Why you should read it: This book explains the importance of sustainability in how we produce food and what we eat on a global level, and also provides recommendations to creating sustainable diets.

Where to purchase: Routledge, Amazon



The Case Against Sugar

Author: Gary Taubes

Release date: December 2016

Topic: Sugar’s Influence in America

From the publisher: “From the best-selling author of Why We Get Fat, a groundbreaking, eye-opening exposé that makes the convincing case that sugar is the tobacco of the new millennium: backed by powerful lobbies, entrenched in our lives, and making us very sick.

Among Americans, diabetes is more prevalent today than ever; obesity is at epidemic proportions; nearly 10% of children are thought to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And sugar is at the root of these, and other, critical society-wide, health-related problems. With his signature command of both science and straight talk, Gary Taubes delves into Americans’ history with sugar: its uses as a preservative, as an additive in cigarettes, the contemporary overuse of high-fructose corn syrup. He explains what research has shown about our addiction to sweets. He clarifies the arguments against sugar, corrects misconceptions about the relationship between sugar and weight loss; and provides the perspective necessary to make informed decisions about sugar as individuals and as a society.”

Why you should read it: This book will inform readers about the dangers of sugar and why it has remained so prevalent throughout history.

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



The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs: History, Botany, Cuisine

Author: Deborah Madison

Release date: January 2017

Topic: Plant History and Uses

From the publisher: “From roots and shoots, almonds to zucchini, field and forest to the family table-this delectable guide reveals the intriguing stories of the world’s favorite food plants. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs covers every edible plant you can imagine. It invites us on a gorgeously illustrated tour through the world garden to discover the origins, traditions, and contemporary culture of more than 450 fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, herbs, and spices. It’s the explorative home cook’s best friend in the kitchen, an edible guide for the vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike. Splashed with hundreds of appetizing images and written by top culinary and horticultural experts, it also tells individual stories in an extensive directory of species which lists geographical origins, botanical facts, traditional uses, and culinary tips for hundreds of plants.

Throughout the lively narrative, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs tempts us with layers of information:

The little-known geopolitical role of food plants-how agriculture caused cities to blossom, and how the taste for spices drove global exploration and conquest. Our endeavors towards a ‘green future,’ viewed in light of the need to feed the world’s burgeoning population. Legends and lore of natural remedies, with an update on a plant whose medicinal claims have been made for centuries. The lineage of regional classics such as Italian tomatoes, Irish potatoes, Hawaiian pineapples, and Hungarian paprika; all are ‘exports’ from the lands that made them famous. Kitchen tidbits galore-how to prepare tasty Asian greens, where to store berries, what type of peppercorn to choose for various dishes, and more.

Take this bounty of knowledge… combine with 500 mouthwatering photographs… and savor a scrumptious resource for useful information and fascinating reading.”

Why you should read it: This book provides detailed descriptions and histories of a variety of food plants.

Where to purchase: Quarto Knows, Amazon, Barnes & Noble



The Permaculture Promise: What Permaculture Is and How It Can Help Us Reverse Climate Change, Build a More Resilient Future on Earth, and Revitalize Our Communities

Author: Jono Neiger

Release date: November 2016

Topic: Benefits of Permaculture

From the publisher: “Permaculture is a sustainability buzzword, but many people wonder what it actually means and why it is relevant. Originally coined by combining the words permanent and agriculture, permaculture has evolved into an optimistic approach connecting all the systems of human life: gardening, housing, transportation, energy, and how we structure our communities.

The Permaculture Promise explains in simple terms why permaculture may be the key to unlocking a livable future on our planet. Author Jono Neiger asserts that humans can thrive while simultaneously making Earth healthier and not destroying it. The book shows 22 ways that permaculture can create a better future for all living things. Profiles of people and communities — including an urban dweller who tore up her driveway to create a vegetable garden and a California housing development that dedicates a third of its land to parks, orchards, and gardens — will inspire you to incorporate permaculture principles into your life today.”

Why you should read it: This book provides an overview of the concept of permaculture and its role in improving the planet and human health.

Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others



The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South

Author: John T. Edge

Release date: May 2017

Topic: Food History

From the publisher: “A people’s history of Southern food that reveals how the region came to be at the forefront of American culinary culture and how issues of race have shaped Southern cuisine over the last six decades

THE POTLIKKER PAPERS tells the story of food and politics in the South over the last half century. Beginning with the pivotal role of cooks in the Civil Rights movement, noted authority John T. Edge narrates the South’s journey from racist backwater to a hotbed of American immigration. In so doing, he traces how the food of the poorest Southerners has become the signature trend of modern American haute cuisine. This is a people’s history of the modern South told through the lens of food.

Food was a battleground in the Civil Rights movement. Access to food and ownership of culinary tradition was a central part of the long march to racial equality. THE POTLIKKER PAPERS begins in 1955 as black cooks and maids fed and supported the Montgomery Bus Boycott and it concludes in 2015 as a Newer South came to be, enriched by the arrival of immigrants from Lebanon to Vietnam to all points in between.

Along the way, THE POTLIKKER PAPERS tracks many different evolutions of Southern identity –first in the 1970s, from the back-to-the-land movement that began in the Tennessee hills to the rise of fast and convenience foods modeled on Southern staples. Edge narrates the gentrification that gained traction in North Carolina and Louisiana restaurants of the 1980s and the artisanal renaissance that reconnected farmers and cooks in the 1990s and in the 00s. He profiles some of the most extraordinary and fascinating figures in Southern food, including Fannie Lou Hamer, Colonel Sanders, Edna Lewis, Paul Prudhomme, Craig Claiborne, Sean Brock, and many others.

Like many great provincial dishes around the world, potlikker is a salvage food. During the antebellum era, masters ate the greens from the pot and set aside the left-over potlikker broth for their slaves, unaware that the broth, not the greens, was nutrient-rich. After slavery, potlikker sustained the working poor, black and white. In the rapidly gentrifying South of today, potlikker has taken on new meanings as chefs have reclaimed the dish.

Over the last two generations, wrenching changes have transformed the South. THE POTLIKKER PAPERS tells the story of that change–and reveals how Southern food has become a shared culinary language for the nation.”

Why you should read it: This book provides an in-depth look at the culinary culture and history in the South since 1955.

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



The Power of a Plant: A Teacher’s Odyssey to Grow Healthy Minds and Schools

Author: Stephen Ritz and Suzie Boss

Release date: May 2017

Topic: School Gardens

From the publisher: “In The Power of a Plant, globally acclaimed teacher and self-proclaimed CEO (Chief Eternal Optimist) Stephen Ritz shows you how, in one of the nation’s poorest communities, his students thrive in school and in life by growing, cooking, eating, and sharing the bounty of their green classroom.

What if we taught students that they have as much potential as a seed? That in the right conditions, they can grow into something great?

These are the questions that Stephen Ritz—who became a teacher more than 30 years ago—sought to answer in 2004 in a South Bronx high school plagued by rampant crime and a dismal graduation rate. After what can only be defined as a cosmic experience when a flower broke up a fight in his classroom, he saw a way to start tackling his school’s problems: plants. He flipped his curriculum to integrate gardening as an entry point for all learning and inadvertently created an international phenomenon. As Ritz likes to say, “Fifty thousand pounds of vegetables later, my favorite crop is organically grown citizens who are growing and eating themselves into good health and amazing opportunities.”

The Power of a Plant tells the story of a green teacher from the Bronx who let one idea germinate into a movement and changed his students’ lives by learning alongside them. Since greening his curriculum, Ritz has seen near-perfect attendance and graduation rates, dramatically increased passing rates on state exams, and behavioral incidents slashed in half. In the poorest congressional district in America, he has helped create 2,200 local jobs and built farms and gardens while changing landscapes and mindsets for residents, students, and colleagues. Along the way, Ritz lost more than 100 pounds by eating the food that he and his students grow in school. The Power of a Plant is his story of hope, resilience, regeneration, and optimism.”

Why you should read it: This book will illustrate the profound power of school gardens and agricultural education.

Where to purchase: AmazonBarnes & Noble, and others



The Tropical Oil Crop Revolution: Food, Feed, Fuel, and Forests

Author: Derek Byerlee, Walter P. Falcon, and Rosamond L. Naylor

Release date: October 2016

Topic: Oil Crops in the Tropics

From the publisher:

  • “Examines the world’s most dynamic agricultural sector in recent decades
  • Explains the drivers of rapid growth from both the demand and supply side and gives informed guesses on the future of the industry
  • Explores a major source of land use change and deforestation in the tropics
  • Provides a balanced view of the economic, social, and environmental benefits and costs of the oil crops revolution”

Why you should read it: This book will inform readers about the pros and cons of the oil crop industry in the tropics.

Where to purchase: Oxford University Press


Related Articles

Subscribe To Weekly NYC Food Policy Watch Newsletter
Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter today to receive updates on the latest news, reports and event information
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.