Our 2021 Food and Farming Holiday Book Gift Guide | Civil Eats

Our 2021 Food and Farming Holiday Book Gift Guide

We read, reviewed, and recommend more than 40 food and farming books for your gift-giving pleasure.

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, a collage of book covers

We believe in the power of the written word and take special pride in our book coverage at Civil Eats. All year long, our editors and contributors read dozens of books that we believe are timely, relevant, and important to deepening our knowledge of food and agriculture, and we are grateful to the many authors who take time to speak to us about their work.

As 2021 draws to a close, we’ve selected some of the best books to read and share as holiday gifts. We hope they carry you through the holiday season and into the new year with newfound wisdom and inspiration.

Books We Read

Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking, Grains, Beans, Seeds, And Legumes
By Abra Berens

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Grist by Abra BerensThis new cookbook from chef and former farmer Abra Berens is a delightful, useful guide to grains and legumes. Berens founded Bare Knuckle Farm in Northport, Michigan, where she farmed and cooked for eight years before eventually becoming the executive chef at Michigan’s Granor Farm. In Grist, she walks readers through how to use nearly 30 different grains, beans, and legumes. Part cookbook, part educational resource, and written like a love letter to those foods, Berens tells the story of the farmers behind the crops and offers up a practical guide to using lesser known ingredients such as amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, sorghum, and more. Berens also shares how these foods are farmed, their history, and their environmental impacts. Readers meet producers such as Carl Wagner, a farmer and seed cleaner in Niles, Michigan; Larry Gates, a wild rice forager in Cass Lake, Minnesota; and many others. With 125 recipes, there’s plenty to inspire at-home cooking—plus, Berens offers up easy ways to swap up flavor profiles like Pea Breakfast Fritters with Fried Eggs or Greens & Smoked Yogurt, which becomes a hearty lunch or dinner by swapping out ratatouille and basil for the eggs.
—Bree Shirvell

Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains
By Lucas Bessire

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Running Out by Lucas BessireIn 2016, anthropologist Lucas Bessire returned to his family’s farm in southwest Kansas and spent all night listening to the well pump 1,400 gallons of water per minute from the Ogallala aquifer deep below. The natural groundwater reservoir beneath the Great Plains—which supplies one-third of all the water used for irrigation in the U.S.—is running dry. Running Out is a chronicle of Bessire’s soul-searching journey to understand and preserve the aquifer. “Groundwater runs through my family lines like blood,” he writes. His great-grandfather, R.W., was one of the first to drill into the aquifer waters near the banks of the Cimarron River, and Bessire traces five generations of family history intertwined with the land’s “depletion.” He details the emptying of the Plains—bison, wildlife, Native people, shortgrass prairie, soil, and water—and the multibillion-dollar agribusinesses ordained “to pump the water until it’s gone.” And as he sees it, the region’s concentration of feedlots, meatpacking plants, and ethanol plants, all depend on the unregulated depletion of the water table. Like the Ogallala’s own sedimentary layers, Running Out overlays memoir with ecology, sociology, agronomy, and politics. It is also a reckoning with the profound and unsettling dimensions of the water crisis occurring in arid regions of the world from China to Chile, exacerbated by drought and climate change. A finalist for the National Book Award, Running Out is a concise and gripping depiction of the immense ecological, social, and personal costs of running out of water.
—Lynne Curry

Power Hungry: Women of the Black Panther Party and Freedom Summer and Their Fight to Feed a Movement
By Suzanne Cope

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Power Hungry by Suzanne CopeTo students of the civil rights movement, the decade-long struggle that culminated in the landmark passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was fought by men: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Congressman John Lewis. But in Power Hungry, journalist and New York University professor Suzanne Cope re-centers this history on the unsung women who powered the movement. The first is Aylene “Mama” Quin, a restaurateur, beauty shop owner, and occasional bootlegger in McCombs, Mississippi, who fed the parade of protesters, organizers, and activists that passed through her doors. She did not back down even after her home was bombed with 14 sticks of dynamite thrown by local Ku Klux Klan members. The second is Cleo Silvers, an activist who became an important member of the Harlem branch of the Black Panther Party, running its office and the organization’s free breakfasts and Black history lessons for hungry school kids. Women like Quin and Silvers were “bridge leaders,” who made the movement accessible to their people, and they followed in the long tradition of Black women as community spiritual leaders, Cope writes. And it was the very ordinariness of their “activist mothering” (a term coined by Dr. Françoise Hamlin) that allowed their subversive work to fly beneath the radar of law enforcement. This was no small feat, since the FBI director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover, was obsessed with destroying the Panthers through any means necessary—a vendetta that Cope describes in detail. Many other notable women activists make appearances in the book, including Fannie Lou Hamer, whose fiery speech in support of Black voting rights at the 1964 Democratic National Convention catapulted her into the spotlight and set the stage for her food sovereignty work and the launch of the Freedom Farm Cooperative.
—Nancy Matsumoto

The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis
By Amitav Ghosh

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of The Nutmeg's Curse by Amitav GhoshAmitav Ghosh’s comprehensive book begins with the Dutch East India Company’s near-total destruction of the Banda islands in modern-day Indonesia in 1621, a move meant to ensure the company’s monopoly over an item easily found in any supermarket today: nutmeg. Ghosh chose this moment as the starting point for his story because he sees numerous versions of this conflict throughout history as colonial powers moved across the world, decimating Indigenous populations in order to control edible plants they saw simply as commodities. The Nutmeg’s Curse contrasts colonial ideas of extraction—which connect to today’s numerous environmental crises—with Indigenous stories about foods such as nutmeg, sugarcane, and cloves. In the Indigenous view, humanity is completely intertwined with, indeed related to, these products of nature rather than separate from them. After reading Ghosh’s extensively-researched and engaging book, his readers will likely find it difficult to go back to seeing spices like nutmeg as simple flavorings. Instead, we are reminded that food and plants can either lock us into a battle for control or connect us more intimately to the earth.
—Stephanie Parker

Plenty: A Memoir of Food and Family
By Hannah Howard

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Plenty by Hannah HowardIn Plenty, Hannah Howard writes: “My love for food was profound and profoundly complicated”—a simple sentence that’s also instantly relatable to women everywhere. The book examines women and food from all angles, meditating on everything from anorexia and miscarriage to female chefs striving for success in a misogynistic industry. Howard’s readers encounter a range of characters, to her pesto-obsessed coworker and her own mother, to a chef who helps refugees make traditional meals from their home countries. The book wanders at times, with some hard-to-track stories taking place across the globe, but Howard’s vivid storytelling remains constant throughout. (Reader be warned: Her descriptions of food will leave your stomach growling.) Ultimately, Howard produces an ode to women in the food industry while uncovering a new way to appreciate food, her body, and the role both play in her quest for a healthy and nourished life.
—Cinnamon Janzer

Rebugging the Planet: The Remarkable Things that Insects (and Other Invertebrates) Do—And Why We Need to Love Them More
By Vicki Hird

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Rebugging the Planet by Vicki HirdFrom the way common seed treatments threaten pollinators to the fact that various pesticides harm earthworms and beetles that help build healthy soil, it is becoming increasingly clear that the planet’s bug population is under threat. Rebugging the Planet is insect-lover Vicki Hird’s call to action. While the subject matter extends far beyond food, Hird dedicates a chapter to how insects are both integral to ecosystems that our food production depends on and threatened by current farm practices and food choices. In fascinating snapshots, she describes how the sea strider, the world’s only ocean-dwelling insect, provides a food source for certain fish, and how the apple snail’s South American habitat is being destroyed to clear space for cattle and soy production. The book aims to inspire reverence for bugs while compelling more of us to protect them, and offers plentiful recommendations for how every person can “rebug” on a personal, political, and economic level—such as by eating less meat that relies on corn and soybeans produced in monocultures that destroy insect habitat.
—Lisa Held

One Fair Wage: Ending Subminimum Pay in America
By Saru Jayaraman

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of One Fair Wage by Saru JayaramanSaru Jayaraman’s One Fair Wage examines how the subminimum wage —federally set at just $2.13 for tipped workers (but higher in a number of states)—perpetuates racial, gender, and economic injustices. Drawing on government data, more than 500 interviews with workers across industries, and more than 10,000 surveys of restaurant workers, Jayaraman builds a critically important and comprehensive case for abolishing the subminimum wage, which she sees as a legacy of slavery that dehumanizes many immigrants, women, and people of color. President of the advocacy group also called One Fair Wage and director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, Jayaraman has spent the last 20 years advocating to raise workers’ wages and has penned two prior books on restaurant labor. Building on the group’s organizing, One Fair Wage tells the stories of the many workers, including nail salon technicians and gig workers, who struggle with low, unpredictable wages in working conditions that are often unsafe. And while the book aims to get readers thinking beyond their own actions to affect policy, one immediate takeaway from this book may be to tip extremely well this holiday season, since tips represent the bulk of many workers’ incomes.
—Greta Moran

The $16 Taco: Contested Geographies of Food, Ethnicity, and Gentrification
By Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of The $16 Taco bo Pascale Joassart-MarcelliIf you live in a city, or visit one regularly, you know that “the hottest new neighborhoods” are often defined by their food scenes. For Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, a professor of geography at San Diego State University, the lure of unusual or well-considered food is also an early step on the path to gentrification and all the social ills that come with it. In The $16 Taco, Joassart-Marcelli explores high-level theories about race, ethnicity, economics, systemic racism, and other factors that shape the food system, and then situates those theories within the city of San Diego. The author looks at three “hot” or “up-and-coming” neighborhoods—currently among the most diverse neighborhoods in the city—and explores their evolution over the past 120-plus years, while also detailing the lives of the people who live and work in these rapidly changing communities today. Joassart-Marcelli weaves together social, economic, and political forces to paint a picture of “gastrodevelopment”—a term she coined to describe the way “urban elites [are] shaping their city’s food scene in an effort to attract the creative class.” The goal of this development, however, is not typically to support the food industry or its marginalized workers, but “to promote urban growth and capital accumulation.” And part of the power of this book comes from the reality that every city is home to the same kinds of stories that Joassart-Marcelli uncovered in San Diego. Although it is at times heavy on the academic terminology and theory, The $16 Taco might have you looking at the menu of the latest trendy restaurant with a new perspective.
—Matthew Wheeland

Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Journeys: Recipes, Techniques & Traditions from Around the World
By Sandor Katz

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Fermentation Journeys by Sandor Katz There is perhaps nobody more broadly knowledgeable and contagiously curious about the world’s fermentation traditions than the effervescent Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and the James Beard Award-winning The Art of Fermentation. Of course, his knowledge didn’t arise out of thin air; as we learn in his new book, Fermentation Journeys, it’s the result of years of learning from experts who have carried on unique intergenerational relationships with the microbial world. Here, Katz offers a peek into the staggering array of resourceful and imaginative fermentation practices around the globe through spirited stories about his travels and recipes generously shared by people who have invited Katz into their kitchens. The recipes are so approachable that you might find yourself experimenting with everything from natto to pulque to pao cai—or even dig into your family’s culture for recipes to revive. As Fermentation Journeys makes clear, travel is welcomed but not required to enjoy the best fermented food and drink.
—Kayla Frost

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake
By Tiya Miles

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of All that She Carried by Tiya MilesAll That She Carried is a sobering study of a single object. At the center of the story is a cloth sack that was traced to South Carolina, where in the 1850s it was made to hold pecans or seeds. An enslaved woman named Rose filled the artifact with three handfuls of pecans and a braid of her hair to give to her daughter Ashley on the eve of her sale, shortly after the death of the family’s owner. In All That She Carried, a recent winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction, Miles explores the broader history surrounding this family memento and helps frame the 19th-century foundations of contemporary eating. The ways in which enslaved people and the crops they tended were treated as commodities—and the food circumstances of enslavement—reveal painful truths. Underfed enslaved people, for example, had to routinely forage for pecans, like those Rose placed in Ashley’s sack, to supplement their diets. Pecans—the largest nuts native to America—were difficult to tame into marketability, but an enslaved man only remembered as Antoine was the first to successfully work with the trees to make them more uniform. This skilled cultivator grafted pecans for the trees that would become the Centennial variety, after winning awards in the 1876 Exposition held in Philadelphia. Antoine’s innovation underscores the hidden labor involved in the standardization of plants, which led to the mechanization of farming and the food system we have today. While the book is not written through an agricultural or foodie lens, the way it opens up history beyond dominant narratives lends great insights to readers who have food and farming at the front of their minds.
—Amy Halloran

Meatpacking America: How Migration, Work, and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland
By Kristy Nabhan-Warren

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Meat Packing America by Kristy Nabhan WarrenAs immigrants acclimate to their new lives in Iowa and the native-born see their towns grow more diverse, no one in rural America seems to feel completely at home. In Meatpacking America: How Migration, Work, and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland, author Kristy Nabhan-Warren argues that if we are to understand rural and middle-class America—as well as the immigrant experience—we need to study the meatpacking industry. “We must walk in their shoes—in this case, steel-toed, company-issued rubber boots,” she writes. “We need to get a little bloody.” Nabhan-Warren, a professor in the departments of religious studies and gender, women’s, and sexuality studies at the University of Iowa, gives readers a look at a day in the life of meatpacking plant workers who are universally driven to work hard for their families. Many find comfort in their religious faiths, which are simultaneously tested in workplaces where animals are slaughtered and processed for sale. Based on interviews with more than 100 native Iowans and immigrants from nations including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Honduras, Nabhan-Warren presents a nuanced view of citizen–immigrant relations that challenges the common narrative and prompts readers to consider a more complex perspective.
—Tilde Herrera

Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World
By Scott Reynolds Nelson

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As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Oceans of Grain by Scott Reynolds NelsonIn the vein of other groundbreaking historical revisionist books, Oceans of Grain runs a fine-toothed comb through history to tell an unexpected tale of what caused some empires to crumble while others survived and thrived: grain. Within its 368 print pages, historian Scott Reynolds Nelson analyzes the power of wheat on a global scale to tell the story of how it—and, eventually, the American variety in particular—influenced some of the most significant events of the 19th century, from wars and revolutions to the century’s signature industrialization. The book threads the impact of grain from the Roman Empire through the Russian Revolution and the U.S. Civil War to our deeply inequitable modern world, offering a new layer of insight into how we got to where we are. With political context woven in, readers gain a new understanding of deeply entrenched historic figureheads such as Abraham Lincoln and Vladimir Lenin. At the same time, much as he does in his previous book, Steel Drivin’ Man, Reynolds Nelson introduces new key actors that shed important light on the story. A quick read despite its length, Oceans of Grain’s reinterpretation of a humble commodity’s history makes a case that wheat has had as much of an impact on our country and our planet as cotton—and that the fight for the power of grain is far from over. (Publishes February 2022; available to pre-order.)
—Cinnamon Janzer

Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them
By Dan Saladino

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Eating to Extinction by Dan SaladinoOver the course of history, humans have eaten around 6,000 different species of plants. Now, however, we eat only nine, and three of those—rice, wheat, and maize—make up about half of our calories. Additionally, the seeds for most of what we consume are produced by only four corporations. Disturbed by the consolidation of the food industry and the resulting loss of biodiversity, Dan Saladino, a veteran food journalist for BBC Radio, spent a decade traveling the world, visiting and documenting the world’s vanishing foods and the people still engaged with them. In Eating to Extinction, he shares the stories of 34 at-risk foods. In Tanzania, he accompanies the hunter-gatherers of the Hadza tribe as they harvest honey from the top of a baobab tree aided by a bird evolved to lead them to bees’ nests; in Bolivia, he climbs an Andean peak with a shaman to harvest a nutrient-packed tuber called oca; and in Denmark, he wades with a local fisherman into frigid, waist-high sea water to harvest endangered flat oysters in one of the few places they remain. Saladino explains the life-giving benefit and cultural significance of the foods he documents and lays out both the threats to their existence and the work of those fighting to protect them. The book is a satisfying combination of first-hand experience and deep research, and while heartbreaking at times, it also offers reason for hope. “These foods represent more than sustenance,” Saladino writes. “They are history, identity, pleasure, culture, geography, genetics, science, creativity, and craft. And our future.” (Publishes January 2022; available to pre-order.)
—Christina Cooke

Eat Like a Human: Nourishing Foods and Ancient Ways of Cooking to Revolutionize Your Health
By Bill Schindler

As part of our holiday food and farming book roundup, the cover of Eat Like a Human by Bill SchindlerSince paleo jumpstarted the trend, ancestral diets have become a popular avenue for those looking to optimize their health. Eat Like a Human digs deeper into the topic while serving up an armchair eating adventure. Schindler is a hard-core yet friendly guide to prehistoric foodways: An experimental archeologist, he is best known for his reality TV survival challenges on The National Geographic series, “The Great Human Race.” In a similar globe-trotting fashion, Eat Like a Human follows Schindler on his quest to eat the most nutrient-dense foods available, complete with 75 recipes. It is not for the squeamish. In the introduction, where he shares his first swallow of fresh milk with cow’s blood in Kenya (warm, dense, and satisfying), Schindler writes, “. . . in this book I will ask you to consider pushing your concepts and boundaries of what constitutes food.” In chapters organized by ingredient—from plants, animals, and grains to dairy, bugs, and earth—he challenges some of our most basic nutritional and cultural understandings. In addition, he details the detrimental effects of many common foods, including nuts and corn. But beneath the shock value, Schindler is also generous with ideas about the most bioavailable alternatives to everyday foods, such as sprouted grains, sourdough, sauerkraut, and whole animal eating (“less meat, more animal”). Although the book lacks any supporting references, Eating Like a Human is an informative and entertaining examination of our relationship to food and how it came to be, rich with takeaways for any health-seeking, modern hunter-gatherer.
—Lynne Curry

The Steger Homestead Kitchen: Simple Recipes for an Abundant Life
By Will Steger and Rita Mae Steger with Beth Dooley

As part of our holiday book roundup, the cover of The Steger Homestead KitchenRenowned Arctic explorer Will Steger founded the Steger Wilderness Center in Ely, Minnesota, with the belief that wilderness experiences can spark community, leadership, and innovative solutions to the world’s problems—particularly climate change. Steger, who has lived off the grid for over 50 years in the beautiful Northwoods of his native Minnesota, has been sounding the alarm about various crises for years, and his message and life experiences shine in The Steger Homestead Kitchen. The book easily weaves stories of Steger’s legendary explorations and charming, folksy anecdotes from the center together with healthful, nourishing, and sophisticated recipes such as Spatchcock Chicken with Blueberry Maple Glaze. Communing around the table at mealtime is an integral part of the center’s experience. And so Steger Homestead Kitchen is not simply a cookbook, but also a primer on living simply, sustainably, and in concert with nature. This inspiring book illustrates how to live with intention—a clear and important reminder to us all. (Publishes February 2022; available to pre-order.)
—Liz Susman Karp

Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora
By Bryant Terry, editor

As part of our holiday book roundup, the cover of Black Food by Bryant TerryBlack Food is a communal shrine to the shared culinary histories of the African Diaspora.” So begins this extraordinary collection of recipes, essays, and poems that is part literary cookbook, part history book, and part love story about the power and breadth of the Black culinary tradition. Edited and curated by Bryant Terry—a noted chef, cookbook author, and food justice advocate—the book gathers the contributions of renowned Black chefs, artists, activists, scholars, and writers. Together, they reflect on their communities’ sacred foodways and ancestral bloodlines, honor their spiritual guides, and transform the food to fit our modern times. The recipes they share exude a sense of home; some were passed on by parents, grandparents, and other ancestors, while others were developed especially for the cookbook. They include Nana’s sweet potato pie, buttermilk fried chicken, green banana chowder, peach hand pies, and charred okra tamales. Black Food takes readers through collective stories and individual journeys across themed chapters that explore migration, spirituality, the power of Black women and food, the significance of land and food as resistance, new spaces for Black queer food, and radical self-care. Rich visual art adds another layer to the exploration of what it means to be a Black food creative, a Black cook, and a Black eater. A literary and culinary feat, this book serves an invitation to learn about and to honor multiple generations of brilliant food inventors and cooks.
—Gosia Wozniacka

The Farmer’s Lawyer: The North Dakota Nine and the Fight to Save the Family Farm
By Sarah Vogel

As part of our holiday book roundup, the cover of The Farmer's Lawyer by Sarah VogelIn a true-life David and Goliath fight, lawyer and former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel won a remarkable victory in the class action lawsuit she brought against the federal government on behalf of struggling North Dakota farmers facing foreclosure in the 1980s. Amid high interest rates and low crop prices, farmers were experiencing the worst crisis since the Great Depression, and many who had borrowed money through the federal Farmers Home Administration faced foreclosure. In her new memoir, The Farmer’s Lawyer, Vogel recounts the story of the hard-won battle. Her first-ever trial was fought despite much personal hardship—Vogel was a single mother who faced foreclosure of her own home and, serving financially struggling farmers, she was often paid in baked goods and frozen fish. Nevertheless, the trial drew national attention to the farm crisis, and Vogel’s striking success shaped her career. After she won, she became assistant attorney general, and later, North Dakota’s agriculture commissioner, the first woman elected to the office in the nation. Vogel’s inspiring legal battle is a call to action to fight for the injustices faced by many American farmers, and it also ensures her legacy: Congress later passed a law enacting some of the reforms she and the farmers she represented sought, including fairer appeal procedures.
—Naomi Starkman

Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide
By Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras

As part of our holiday book roundup, the cover of Gastro Obscura by Cecily Wong and Dylan ThurasIf the pandemic has you feeling cooped up, antsy, and hungry, Gastro Obscura may be your answer. The book, written by the staff of the online magazine and travel company Atlas Obscura, is a guide to hundreds of little-known culinary adventures around the world. Spanning seven continents and 120 countries, it includes unique dishes and ingredients such as butter aged in an Irish bog, Cyprus’ hallucination-triggering porgy fish, Afghan teapot soup, Libya’s sand-baked bread, and a caterpillar fungus found only on the Tibetan Plateau that is more expensive than truffles. Culinary traditions are also featured: Ukraine’s pancake week, complete with the burning of winter’s effigy; watermelon skiing at Australia’s melon festival; feeding an exquisite fruit banquet to macaques at the Monkey Buffet Festival in Thailand; and the whitefish sculpture and running competition at the Sashimi Festival of Siberia. But the book goes beyond a mere collection of exotic foods and odd festivals. Gastro Obscura also explores how colonialism has led people to combine cuisines, examines food crime, and dishes out culinary histories on the rise of Egyptian mud egg ovens, the fate of a coconut cult in Australia, and the development of the Inca Empire’s food supply chain. And it’s not only focused on far-flung locales: The U.S. and Canada have a sizable presence, including treasures such as Berkeley’s pop-up food market at a Thai temple and Texas’ pecan pie vending machine. This book is a whirlwind of diversity, reminding us of how ingenious humans can be when it comes to food. “How to try it” advice, is included, but be warned: once you can travel again, not everything in this book should be eaten.
—Gosia Wozniacka

Our 2021 Book Coverage

How the Other Half Eats: The Untold Story of Food and Inequality in America
In her new book, the sociologists talks about how nourishing children has become “an anxiety-provoking and high-stakes endeavor” and positions food access as part of a larger constellation of hardship.
—Matthew Wheeland

A Good Drink: In Pursuit of Sustainable Spirits
By Shanna Farrell
A cocktail historian makes a case for why the spirits industry needs a “grain to glass” revolution, laying out the unsustainable secrets of the liquor industry and explaining how some small-scale distillers may be pointing a way forward.
—Shoshi Parks

The cover of Required Reading, edited and published by the NDN CollectiveRequired Reading: Climate Justice, Adaptation and Investing in Indigenous Power
By the NDN Collective Climate Justice Campaign
Advocates for #LANDBACK reforms and climate justice, the authors provide a roadmap for supporting Indigenous communities and their allies in healing the planet and moving forward to a post-oil future.
—Gosia Wozniacka

Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America
By Mayukh Sen
In his new book, the food writer profiles seven remarkable immigrant women who have shaped the American palate—and levels criticism at the country’s mainstream food establishment.
—Nadra Nittle

Bet the Farm: The Dollars and Sense of Growing Food in America
By Beth Hoffman
A journalist-turned-Iowa-cattle-farmer talks about the impossible math of starting a farm, the myriad challenges facing beginning farmers, and what she’s doing to prepare for climate change.
—Twilight Greenaway

diet for a small planet coverDiet for a Small Planet
By Frances Moore Lappé
On the 50th anniversary of the book’s first edition, the author collaborated with her daughter Anna Lappé to rethink and expand it for 2021, addressing 50 years of climate change, corporate consolidation in farming and food production, pesticide proliferation, topsoil erosion, and water pollution.
—Jonathan Kauffman

In the Struggle: Scholars and the Fight Against Industrial Agribusiness in California
By Daniel O’Connell and Scott J. Peters
This book chronicle of the origins of California’s food justice movement outlines the century-long effort by eight scholar-activists to push back against Big Ag at land grant universities.
—Nancy Matsumoto

FARM (And Other F Words): The Rise and Fall of the Small Family Farm
By Sarah Mock
The self-described ‘ag policy wonk’ argues that today’s small farm isn’t a working model and is drafting a blueprint for a more sustainable system she calls ‘Big Team Farm.’
—Lynne Curry

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The Living Soil Handbook: The No-Till Growers Guide to Ecological Market Gardening
By Jesse Frost
The owner of Rough Draft Farm in Kentucky dives deep into the how, the why, and the philosophy behind his no-till produce farm.
—Twilight Greenaway

Not On My Watch: How a Renegade Biologist Took on Governments and Industry to Save Wild Salmon
By Alexandra Morton
The biologist-turned-activist chronicles her fight to save wild salmon—not by working with government or industry, but by partnering with Indigenous groups, which hold treaty rights and maintain reverence for the natural world.
—Cinnamon Janzer

cover of planet palm by jocelyn c. zuckermanPlanet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything—and Endangered the World
By Jocelyn Zuckerman
A veteran journalist investigates the devastating environmental, health, and human costs of the global palm oil industry.
—Gosia Wozniacka

Building Community Food Webs
By Ken Meter
Industrial farming drained wealth from rural America. In his book, Meter says community food systems can repair the damage.
—Nancy Matsumoto

Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution
By Roxana Jullapat
In this inventive cookbook, a Los Angeles baker urges her readers to champion lesser-used grains such as rye, sorghum, barley, buckwheat—and issues a call for more biodiversity in the food system.
—Hilary Macht

The Monsanto Papers: Deadly Secrets, Corporate Corruption, and One Man’s Search for Justice
By Carey Gillam
Long-time journalist Carey Gillam discusses the implications of her research, the future of the herbicide glyphosate, and how Bayer plans to keep selling Roundup.
—Anna Lappé

Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions
By Michael Moss
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s book talks about how marketing, food additives, and our own biological weaknesses all combine to cause the perfect storm of processed foods addiction.
—Bettina Elias Siegel

reinventing food banks coverReinventing Food Banks and Pantries: New Tools to End Hunger
By Katie S. Martin
Martin explores the charitable food system and what it will take to shift its focus to nutritional quality and effective distribution.
—Liesl Schwabe

In Search of Mycotopia: Citizen Science, Fungi Fanatics, and the Untapped Potential of Mushrooms
By Doug Bierend
Bierend’s book explores fungi’s role in nutrition, food security, ecological healing, and medicinal sovereignty and takes readers on a tour of mushroom-inspired subcultures.
—Gosia Wozniacka

Other New and Notable Food and Farming Books

Growing and Eating Sustainably Agroecology in Action
By Evan Bowness and Dana James

Taming Fruit: How Orchards Have Transformed the Land, Offered Sanctuary, and Inspired Creativity
By Bernd Brunner

The Spirit of Soul Food: Race, Faith, and Food Justice
By Christopher Carter

Gathering Basket Multimedia Cookbook
By the I-Collective

Growing Life: Regenerating Farming and Ranching
By André Leu

Bress ‘n’ Nyam: Gullah Geechee Recipes from a Sixth-Generation Farmer
By Matthew Raiford with Amy Paige Condon

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Granor Farm.

Since 2009, the Civil Eats editorial team has published award-winning and groundbreaking news and commentary about the American food system, and worked to make complicated, underreported stories—on climate change, the environment, social justice, animal welfare, policy, health, nutrition, and the farm bill— more accessible to a mainstream audience. Read more >

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