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20 books to read about food this summer

Be My Guest a Book on Food  Community and the Meaning of GenerosityThe world as we know it is changing due to the coronavirus pandemic. But as it exposes inequities in the health and food systems, many people hope that the pandemic offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

To understand what it will take to move forward, the Food Tank has compiled its summer reading list to examine the issues that affect the country's food system today. These 20 books provide insight into food access and justice in black communities, food relief and school nutrition programs, the effects of technology on global food supply chains, the relationship between climate change and food production, and more:

  1. "Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity" by Priya Basil. Forthcoming November 2020

Priya Basil explores the meaning of hospitality within a variety of cultural, linguistic, and sociopolitical contexts. Basil uses her cross-cultural experience to illustrate how food amplifies discourse within families and touches on the hospitality and the lack thereof that migrants and refugees experience.

  1. "Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition: A New Agenda for Sustainable Food Systems" by Danny Hunter, Teresa Borelli, and Eliot Gee

Professionals from Bioversity International examine the positive impacts of biodiversity on nutrition and sustainability. The book highlights agrobiodiversity initiatives in Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, featuring research from the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.

    3. "Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C." by Ashanté M. Reese

Ashanté Reese draws on her fieldwork to highlight unequal food access. Focusing on a majority-black neighborhood in Washington, D.C., Reese explores issues of racism, gentrification, and urban food access.

  1. "Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice" edited by Hanna Garth and Ashanté M. Reese. Forthcoming October 2020.

Access, equity, justice, and privilege are the central themes in this collection of essays. The food justice movement often ignores the voices of black communities, and white food norms shape the notions of healthy food.

    5. "Diners Dudes & Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture" by Emily J.H. Contois. Forthcoming November 2020.

Emily Contois looks at media’s influence on eating habits and gendered perceptions of food. Focusing on the concept of dude foods, the book follows the evolution of food marketing for men. Contois shows how industries used masculine stereotypes to sell diet and weight loss products to a new demographic.

  1. "Feeding the Crisis: Care and Abandonment in America’s Food Safety Net" by Maggie Dickinson

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is essential for individuals who don't have enough food on a daily basis. However, the program fails to reach many, including those who are unemployed, underemployed, or undocumented. "Feeding the Crisis" provides a historical overview of SNAP’s expansion and traces the lives of eight families who use SNAP benefits.

  1. "Feeding the Other: Whiteness, Privilege, and Neoliberal Stigma in Food Pantries" by Rebecca T. de Souza

Rebecca de Souza explores the relationship between food pantries and people dependent on their services. She describes the structural failures that contribute to hunger and poverty, the racial dynamics within pantries, and the charged idea of a handout. 

  1. "Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato" by Rebecca Earle

Rebecca Earle tells the story of the potato and its journey from an unknown crop to a staple in modern diets around the world. Earle highlights the importance of the potato during famines and war, and she explains the politics behind consumers’ embrace of this food.

  1. "Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal" by Hanna Garth

Hanna Garth looks at food security and food sovereignty in Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Garth defines a decent meal as one that is culturally appropriate and of high quality. And through stories about families’ sociopolitical barriers to food access, Garth shows how ideas of food and moral character become linked.

  1. "Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America" by Marcia Chatelain

Marcia Chatelain provides insight into the ways fast food restaurants expanded throughout black communities. Chatelain traces their growth during the 20th century and their intersection with black capitalists and the civil rights movement.

  1. "Honey And Venom: Confessions of an Urban Beekeeper" by Andrew Coté

Coté provides a history of beekeeping while taking the reader through his own experiences in the industry. A manager of more than 100 beehives, Coté raises colonies across New York City, on the rooftops of churches, schools, and other buildings.

  1. "Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont" by Teresa M. Mares

Teresa Mares writes about Latinx immigrants working near the northern border. She describes their work in Vermont’s dairy industry while they advocate for themselves and navigate life as undocumented workers.

  1. "Meals Matter: A Radical Economics Through Gastronomy" by Michael Symons

Michael Symons argues that economics used to be about feeding the world but now has become fixated with the pursuit of money. Symons looks at how large corporations gained control of the market and challenges readers to rethink their understanding of food economics.

  1. "No One is Too Small to Make a Difference" by Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations at the 2019 U.N. Climate Action Summit and has since been a global symbol of environmental activism. The book contains Thunberg’s speeches, including her 2019 address to the U.N.

  1. "Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It" by Tom Philpott. Forthcoming August 2020.

Tom Philpott analyzes the centralized food system in the U.S. and argues that it's headed for disaster unless it sees some much-needed changes. Philpot argues that actors within the U.S. food system are prioritizing themselves over the nation’s wellbeing.

  1. "Plucked: Chicken, Antibiotics, and How Big Business Changed the Way the World Eats" by Maryn McKenna

Maryn McKenna explains the role antibiotics played in making chicken a global commodity. McKenna describes how consumers’ desire for meat, especially chicken, has impacted human health. She outlines ways that stakeholders can make food safer again.

  1. "Stirrings: How Activist New Yorkers Ignited a Movement for Food Justice" by Lana Dee Povitz

Between 1970 and 2000, food activists in New York City pushed to improve public school lunches, provide meals to those impacted by the AIDS epidemic, and established food co-ops. Lana Dee Povitz draws on oral histories and archives to recount the stories of individuals who led these efforts.

  1. "The New American Farmer: Immigration, Race, and the Struggle for Sustainability" by Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern

Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern looks at farm labor in the U.S. Although most farm owners are white Americans, farm workers are overwhelmingly immigrants and people of color. Minkoff-Zern describes the experiences of farm laborers who are becoming farm owners and the barriers they need to overcome.

  1. "The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here" by Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren explains how greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of natural resources in developed nations exacerbate climate change and outlines the consequences of these actions. She also provides a variety of everyday actions, such as decreasing meat consumption, that consumers can take to make a difference.

  1. "Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes" by Bryant Terry

Bryant Terry provides readers with more than a 100 recipes to create flavorful vegan dishes, without relying on meat alternatives. It begins with a list of recommended tools, is organized by ingredients, and includes a music playlist.


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I suggest a much older book, "Coming Home to Eat, The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods" by Gary Paul Nabhan, a "avid gardener, an ethnobotanist who preserves seed diversity and an activist devoted to recovering native food traditions in the Southwest. The organization was founded in 1983 and still exists, has a seed bank with seeds of 1800 plant varieties.
Maybe people would like to know how to build successful organizations for furthering their environmental and/or social justices goals. It's what Gary Nabhan & others have tried to do, perhaps are doing, since 1983.


I liked the book Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert
after I read the book, I began to treat myself differently. It's amazing energy.

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