Our Summer 2023 Food and Farming Book Guide | Civil Eats

Our Summer 2023 Food and Farming Book Guide

As summer kicks off, Civil Eats recommends 31 new food and farming books.

In preparation for the summer season, our writers, editors, and members have been busy reading. And we have a number of food and farming titles we’re excited to recommend, including memoirs, cookbooks, cultural histories, and journalistic endeavors. We hope summertime allows you to slow down and read—and that our list can help guide your literary journey.

If you want to suggest a book we missed, please let us know in the comments below or by email. Happy reading!

Appalachia on the Table: Representing Mountain Food and People
By Erica Abrams Locklear

Through textured storytelling and academic exploration, Erica Abrams Locklear uncovers Appalachia’s cultural food history in her new book Appalachia on the Table. A cookbook her grandmother created sets Abrams Locklear off on a quest to figure out where her own notions of Appalachian food traditions originated and why ideas about the region’s culinary inferiority proliferated. Appalachia has been stratified as a stand-alone region in the Southern United States since the founding of this country, and Appalachian mountain communities have often been branded as unsophisticated. Through deep investigations of historical records and texts, Abrams Locklear uncovers the source of the internalized shame that Appalachian people feel around their cultural stigma, and she challenges that preconceived attitude. In the end, we learn that Appalachian foodways are complex, delicious, and as diverse as the region itself.
—Jonnah Perkins 

What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories, and Personalities of Bees
By Stephen Buchmann

Pollinators have attracted a great deal of attention in recent years, with bees at the forefront. And while many of us have a basic understanding of what bees do, do we know who they are? It’s exactly this shift in perspective that Stephen Buchmann, an ecology professor at the University of Arizona, offers in his new book. As he informs his readers, not only can bees count to four (!), but they can also taste pollen with fine hairs on their legs and antennae. They also might dream when they’re asleep, they get anxious due to low levels of dopamine just like us, and they are capable of remembering events for days. Even though a bee’s brain houses just 1 million neurons, a small number compared to the 100 billion in the human brain, they have abilities that we don’t—like seeing patterns of ultraviolet light reflected on flowers or those of polarized light in what appears to us to be a uniformly blue sky. You may pick up the book for these and other facts about our buzzy pollinator friends, but you’ll want to keep reading for the fascinating way Buchmann challenges our core ideas about a bee’s place in the world.
—Cinnamon Janzer

Feeding Each Other: Shaping Change in Food Systems through Relationship
By Nicole Civita and Michelle Auerbach

Authors Nicole Civita and Michelle Auerbach assert that the global food ecosystem is broken—an especially troubling assertion given that the World Bank expects the world population to reach 10 billion by 2050. The beauty of the book, however, is that it not only points out the cracks in the system but provides case studies for solutions. It makes a case for relationship-based food systems, driven by individuals and local communities. A notable example is Belo Horizonte, a city in Brazil known for tackling hunger with a series of smart strategies. It has launched a Family Farm Food Purchase Program, wherein the municipality buys produce from local farmers, and that has directly resulted in initiatives such as Restaurante Popular, which feeds the community some 14,000 nutritious meals daily. As a result of this strategy, infant mortality and child hospitalizations there have significantly declined. This book is rich with examples of the ways relationship-driven food systems are both sustainable and a win-win for consumers and producers. The authors have a vision for a new paradigm, one where individuals and communities collaborate to create their own systems and structures for food production. It is a guidebook to change, or at the very least consider, what change might look like.
—Amy Wu

Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden
By Camille T. Dungy

Because the word “garden” is in the title, you might expect Camille T. Dungy’s focus to remain neatly enclosed within the bounds of her flower beds. And while Dungy does recount how she transformed her standard-issue suburban lawn in Fort Collins, Colorado, from a sod-smothered landscape into a biodiverse native plant oasis, her narrative goes much further. For Dungy, gardening isn’t simply plopping plants into soil, but an avenue to explore what it means to both connect with and confront community, place, and history. Through her thoughtful prose and well-placed poetry, Dungy takes us across the continent, tracing her ancestors’ history as they escaped racial violence, describing how early white explorers collected and named plants at the expense of Indigenous peoples, and questioning why environmental literature prioritizes “narratives of solitary men in the wilderness” without a human relationship in sight. Dungy gives the genre a reason to move past that convention by writing beautifully about the environment as a working Black mother. She also acknowledges the countless ways she is connected to the plant, animal, and human communities around her—and encourages us all to think about the complex ways we are a part of the greater-than-human world.
—Laura Candler

Resilient Kitchens: American Immigrant Cooking in a Time of Crisis
Edited by Philip Gleissner and Harry Eli Kashdan

Two friends and a teenager quarantined together in a small New York City apartment find a bright spot in the kitchen despite a cancer diagnosis. A hungry sourdough starter baby keeps a food writer company. A restaurant owner pivots until the word “pivot” makes her nauseous—but finds a way to comfort her community with meals. And vendors in Los Angeles feel the sting as the pandemic revives racism against street food. Each essay in the book paints an intimate portrait of how recent immigrants work out some of their toughest moments through food: eating it, preparing it, sharing it, shopping for it, writing about it, making shows about it, and even simply storing it in the pantry. In the early days of the pandemic, some found solace in the kitchen—a new routine in a topsy-turvy world, a familiar collection of the tastes and smells of faraway homes, and a way to comfort those who were struggling. At the same time, COVID pulled the rug out from under restaurant owners, chefs, food service workers, and food writers, presenting unprecedented dangers and obstacles. The stories of how a range of people overcame adversity (or didn’t) in the kitchen seem to be an allegory for immigrants’ experiences in this country. There’s always more work to do, this book suggests, so let’s bring a mix of flavors to the table and work together to make life delicious.
—Leorah Gavidor

Junk Food Politics: How Beverage and Fast Food Industries Are Reshaping Emerging Economies
By Eduardo J. Gómez 

Though diet-related illness in the U.S. has long been a serious concern, emerging economies are now ground zero for this complex public health challenge. In this rigorously researched book, Eduardo Gómez, the director of the Institute of Health Policy and Politics at the College of Health at Lehigh University, reveals how big names in the junk food industry—for instance, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi—have all strategically targeted countries where free trade and deregulation have allowed them to obtain a strong foothold. (One of their motivations for saturating these emerging markets is the fear that U.S. consumers will continue to shift toward healthier options, according to Gómez.) The book is laid out as case studies of Mexico, Brazil, India, China, Indonesia, and South Africa. Each section reveals the often-cozy relationship between industry and political leaders, and how that influences regulation and policies. The book also details how these industries attempt to prove themselves as allies. For instance, Nestlé has funded female empowerment and employment programs in Brazil and Mexico, and the companies often partner with governments for anti-hunger campaigns. Gómez argues these corporate responsibility efforts help industries gain stature and win over leaders who could pull the lever on junk food taxes or limits on advertising sugary foods to children, but often don’t enforce meaningful policies.
—Anne Marshall-Chalmers

Cracked: The Future of Dams in a Hot, Chaotic World
By Stephen Hawley

Stephen Hawley examines the history of damming rivers to explore the short and long implications of leveraging the power of water for urban, industrial, and agricultural expansion, as well as hydroelectric power. With the fervor and pace of an environmental essay and the granular research of a multicentury history textbook, this playbook for the future holds the reader in a striking balance between narrative suspense and a feeling of urgency to protect rivers, the communities they feed, and the biodiversity they support. Hawley investigates the impact of intensive irrigation in arid landscapes, which leads to selenium and other heavy metals contaminating surrounding watersheds. He also looks at land theft, water hoarding, and indigenous fishery habitat encroachment. Hawley details the rise of big dams and the political and financial mechanisms created to fund the harnessing of water, while tracking the false water accessibility promises made to small-scale agriculturalists to rationalize dam projects. With the Colorado River and the states that rely on its water at the center of civic debate, the book adds technical context to the water scarcity facing the West and explores what is at stake if we do not reconsider our current water infrastructure.
—Jonnah Perkins

The Swine Republic: Struggles with the Truth about Agriculture and Water Quality
By Chris Jones

“How do we continue to give license to farmers to do whatever they want on their farms, and then ask taxpayers to pay for the environmental consequences?” That is the question at the heart of this new collection of essays by Chris Jones. A former lab supervisor at the Des Moines Water Works and a recently retired research engineer at the University of Iowa’s Institute of Hydraulic Research, Jones spent the bulk of his professional life studying the impacts of Iowa’s corn, soy, and hog farms on the state’s—and ultimately the nation’s—waterways. As Jones writes, Iowa is home to 4,700 hogs for every farmer and was covered with wetlands until farmers added a massive tile drainage system and stopped many of the waterways from meandering, which “allowed water [polluted with nitrogen and phosphorus] to rush off the landscape much faster.” The book is adapted from Jones’ blog, where he developed a following for his wry humor and cogent, well-researched analysis of an industry with very few other vocal critics. (The blog had been hosted by the university until this spring, when Jones says his supervisors received pressure from state legislators to take it down.) It’s an excellent primer for anyone interested in boning up on Iowa’s entrenched agricultural system, and its final list of solutions are all spot on. In the writing, Jones comes through like a cranky but lovable uncle who ultimately hopes to inspire his readers to defy convention and imagine what’s possible—all while keeping a clear eye on what is.
—Twilight Greenaway

No Meat Required: The Cultural History & Culinary Future of Plant-Based Eating
By Alicia Kennedy

In the final chapter of her book, author Alicia Kennedy makes a provocation: “Food media at large does not take climate change seriously.” The San Juan, Puerto Rico-based writer, who has grown a devoted following through her weekly newsletter, envisions a world of ethical gourmet eating, in which consuming food from agricultural systems that minimize their impact on the environment is part of the pleasure. The book combines three narrative threads: 1. Kennedy’s personal transformation from suburban omnivore to yogi vegan to, finally, locavore vegetarian; 2. Her reflection on the diversity and importance of vegan and vegetarian diets; and 3. A history of vegan and vegetarian subcultures in the U.S., traced through key texts and restaurants. Kennedy admires the weird and countercultural and guides readers to see plant-based eating through a culturally appropriate, justice-focused lens. For all its intellectual richness, however, the book left me wishing for more lush, sustained scenes that captured the sensory pleasures Kennedy has placed at the center of her life. Nevertheless, her invitation remains enticing: to follow her into plant-based eating as a way of unlearning monocultures and standardization in farming, eating, aesthetics, and the other routines in our lives.
—Caroline Tracey 

The Ark of Taste: Delicious and Distinctive Foods That Define the United States
By Giselle Kennedy Lord and David S. Shields

Maryland’s dark, juicy Fairfax strawberry. Connecticut’s thin-walled Jimmy Nardello pepper. Massachusetts’ Wellfleet oyster. What do these foods have in common? They’re all part of Slow Food USA’s The Ark of Taste, a catalog established in 1996 that features more than 6,000 heirloom varietals, shellfish, nuts, and even poultry, rabbits, and hogs that are delicious and unique—and that, sadly, face extinction due to the demands of our industrial food system. Just as Noah built an ark and boarded the animals two at a time, Slow Food “boards” seeds, animals, and traditional recipes and processes onto the figurative Ark of Taste. The project has now taken book form. Giselle Kennedy Lord and David S. Shields’ beautiful volume delivers a thorough primer on the distinctive foods that are grown or raised in the U.S. Interspersed between the history of South Carolina’s Carolina Gold rice, the Dakota Territory’s Hidatsa Red Bean, and Kansas’s Red Turkey Wheat are recipes, grower profiles, and beautiful illustrations by Claudia Pearson. Curious eater-activists will want to use this as a guide to help them seek out these foods, both to savor them and to promote lasting biodiversity in our food system.
—Hannah Wallace

White Burgers, Black Cash: Fast Food from Black Exclusion to Exploitation
By Naa Oyo A. Kwate

Why in the U.S. today are fast-food restaurants disproportionately found in neighborhoods with predominantly Black residents? In her new book, academic Naa Oyo A. Kwate answers that question with a thorough, compelling history of systemic racism in the fast-food industry. The public health crisis resulting from fast-food consumption cannot be attributed to individual choice, Kwate argues. “If we are concerned with diet, obesity, and chronic disease, the food environment must be interrogated,” she writes, “and for Black neighborhoods, that means a landscape where segregation quarantines disproportionate densities of fast food.” The book charts the evolution of fast food from the birth of the industry in the early 1900s to the present, primarily in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. In an important narrative that is rich with both Black historical figures and jarring, behind-the-scenes facts about the nation’s biggest fast-food chains, Kwate recounts a century of racism—from the initial exclusion of Black Americans from fast food under Jim Crow laws to the industry’s present-day targeting of urban Black communities. “The story of fast food’s relationship to Black folks is a story about America itself,” she writes.
—Anna Guth

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Perfectly Good Food: A Totally Achievable Zero Waste Approach to Home Cooking
By Margaret Li and Irene Li

Food waste is a global problem, accounting for up to 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and $400 billion in annual economic losses across the United States alone. But that doesn’t mean individual households are powerless to make a difference, argue Margaret and Irene Li. The sisters, who are cofounders of Boston-based Mei Mei Dumplings and the website Food Waste Feast, have put over a decade of professional experience into a “field guide” for transforming potential kitchen throwaways into delicious meals. With a strong focus on perishable fruits and vegetables, the book provides both heavily customizable “hero recipes”—templates like noodle soup, savory pancakes, pot pies, and sweet bread pudding that can accommodate a variety of unsightly but palatable produce—as well as ingredient-specific ideas. The design throughout is friendly and approachable, thanks in large part to playful yet easily followed illustrations by Iris Gottlieb. I’ve already been inspired to add an “eat me first” box of leftovers to my fridge, whip up a batch of apple-cheddar muffins with bruised fruit, and celebrate with a tomato-water martini.
—Daniel Walton

Spoiled: The Myth of Milk as Superfood
By Anne Mendelson

The quintessential American childhood beverage, a tall glass of pasteurized, homogenized milk still frosty from the refrigerator, is in fact a deeply weird phenomenon. That’s the biggest takeaway from the book, an exhaustively researched effort by culinary historian and freelance journalist Anne Mendelson. It traces milk’s winding path from a dietary staple of small-scale nomadic herders—almost always fermented to prevent unwanted bacterial growth and make its lactose digestible—to a mass-produced fresh commodity dependent on industrial sanitization and cold chains. The author admits that her tone is “polemical,” and she pulls few punches in her critiques of the Western medical and government experts that established milk as “a supposed daily necessity for children.” She’s particularly engaging in her accounts of how charismatic crusaders like Dr. George Cheyne and Nathan Straus created popular consensus around fresh milk’s universal value even as scientific backing for that view remained uncertain. With greater understanding of lactose intolerance and the safety of fermented foods, Mendelson suggests, modern societies might benefit from redefining their relationship with milk in light of its historical roots.
—Daniel Walton

Toxic Exposure: The True Story behind the Monsanto Trials and the Search for Justice
By Chadi Nabhan

I admit, at first, I was a bit put off by the sheer volume of detail the author shares in Toxic Exposure. Dr. Chadi Nabhan narrates his experience, almost minute by minute, as a key expert witness in three pivotal lawsuits brought by lymphoma patients against Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, doggedly laying out the background of the cases and the science behind the arguments. But the devil for Monsanto turned out to be in these details, and it was in part due to Nabhan’s dedication that the corporation was defeated in court. The author describes keeping his compassion for patients front and center despite tough grilling by Monsanto’s lawyers and sharpening his resolve by remembering that he was there to help ameliorate suffering. As an oncologist, he delved deep into the literature on the relationship of lymphoma to the ingredients in Roundup, racking up facts to block any attempts by Monsanto to shake his confidence. Readers are invited along for the ride: sweating on the witness stand, hanging on the lawyers’ every word, hoping for the truth to prevail. Though we already know the ending—all three cases resulted in decisive actions against Monsanto—this behind-the-scenes account shows us how much courage (and work!) it took to stand up to one of our era’s most powerful corporations.
—Leorah Gavidor

Agave Spirits: The Past, Present, and Future of Mezcals
By Gary Nabhan and David Suro Piñera

Agave spirits, the alcohol made from the distillation of agave hearts, now dominate not only the market in Mexico, but also here in the U.S. But what do we really know about the plants behind the behemoth tequila industry and the now rapidly growing mezcal category? Gary Nabhan and David Suro Piñera argue that the enormous rise in popularity of these spirits has come at a cost to land, people, and communities in Mexico. The book takes readers on a beautiful journey that tells the story of the agave plant, from its ancient history, to a description of the people who have built their lives around it, to what makes it, and the spirits made from it, so unique. Nabhan, an ethnobotanist, and Suro Piñera, the founder of Tequila Interchange Project, have worked together to create a book that is anything but a dry, academic read. It’s deeply entertaining and utterly engaging, with a strong “we” voice and an undertone of urgency about the future of agave. The pair describe agave reproduction as, “Suicidal reproduction! Yes, agaves literally kill themselves trying to reproduce. They deplete all the reserves of their lifetime just to have one season of sex that is literally to die for.” Added bonus: There is a glossary of terms, a breakdown of the production regions and the varieties of agaves used in spirit production, and a call to arms with a Mezcal Manifesto and its 10-point action plan.
—Susan Coss

Black Earth Wisdom: Soulful Conversations with Black Environmentalists
By Leah Penniman

In her new book, Soul Fire Farm founder Leah Penniman names forces of white supremacy, runaway consumption, and corporate insatiability as the root of today’s environmental crisis. And she turns to Black and brown “Earth listeners”—people who have “cultivated the skill of listening to the lessons that Earth has whispered to them”—for their wisdom on how to reverse planetary calamity. “Ecological humility is part of the cultural heritage of Black people,” Penniman writes. “The people whose skin is the color of earth have long advocated for the well-being of our beloved Mother.” This collection of edited interviews with 38 Black environmentalists and justice workers—including Savi Horne, adrienne maree brown, Greg Watson, and Alice Walker—addresses a number of themes, including spirituality, wild spaces, land and soil, environmental racism, and artistic creation. Penniman’s conversations with the luminaries, who are each living out the earth’s instructions in their own ways, are wide-ranging and insightful. When she asks each what they hear the planet saying, she receives responses that are tragic, sorrowful, moving, and hopeful—and that center kinship, connection, generosity, and gratitude. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned with racial or environmental justice, and we would all be better off if we followed its lead.
—Christina Cooke

The New Fish: The Truth about Farmed Salmon and the Consequences We Can No Longer Ignore
By Simen Sætre and Kjetil Østli

The New Fish is a devastating yet slyly humorous account of the harms caused by 50 years of salmon farming, especially in Norway, where it all began. Tipped off to the fact that salmon researchers were losing funding or their careers when their research countered industry claims, Norwegian journalists Simen Sætre and Kjetil Østli set out to investigate why, and to map the industry’s evolution as a way to figure out how to improve it. Published last year in Norway, the book is a bestseller there. The clothing company Patagonia translated it into English for U.S. release in July, and it’s an engaging, fast read. Each chapter is its own mini-story exploring the problems with open-water salmon farming—such as sea lice and the pesticides used to treat them and the many illnesses suffered by penned fish. It also looks at how the disappearance of wild salmon impacts Indigenous populations and rural fishing villages and the ways salmon farming decimates other fisheries. Woven together, the stories create a disturbing narrative about open-water salmon farming, as well as Norway’s outsized role in shaping today’s global industry. It’s a good entry point for readers unfamiliar with the problems associated with salmon farming, but it also sheds new light on animal welfare concerns and the silencing of researchers. The book’s in-depth chronicling of Norway’s quest to create a “new oil industry” covers important new ground—and touches briefly on potential reforms.
—Meg Wilcox

Kings of Their Own Ocean: Tuna, Obsession, and the Future of Our Seas
By Karen Pinchin

A cinematic triumph of narrative journalism, Kings of Their Own Ocean tells the story of a bluefin tuna named Amelia who was marked with a plastic fish tag off the coast of New England in 2004. Not long after Amelia crosses the Atlantic Ocean to her untimely, stunning death, investigative journalist Karen Pinchin embarks on a similar cross-ocean journey to unravel this scientific mystery. Pinchin begins with the question of why the doomed tuna crossed known migratory borders, propelling a deeply researched quest into the spawn of the massive tuna industry, climate change’s rising threats to migratory fish, and the life of an iron-willed fisherman. “This story drew me in, spun me around, and spat me out, encapsulating the incomprehensible scale and small cruelties of our modern existence on this planet,” wrote Pinchin. Come for the most vivid descriptions of fish I’ve ever read; stay for the perilous story of human obsession at the edge of scientific knowledge. Rendered with gorgeous, forensic precision, the book is a masterpiece of journalism and storytelling.
—Grey Moran

Food Power Politics: The Food Story of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement
By Bobby J. Smith II

For Black Americans, food has always represented both weapon and shield. Slave owners used food to coerce and punish, and during Jim Crow, white governments controlled food access to maintain their dominance. But Black communities always found ways to resist, whether it was the gardens cultivated out of sight of their slave owners, or the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast programs that ensured their children were fed. Bobby J. Smith II, an assistant professor of African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, explores food’s complicated history as both weapon and shield in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. He highlights four distinct events to illustrate how sustenance (or the lack thereof) played a key role in the civil rights movement, including the Greenwood Food Blockade in 1962, when food was leveraged as a form of voter suppression, and the work of the North Bolivar County Farm Cooperative, which created economic opportunities for sharecroppers and food security in the Delta. Smith also shows how the struggles of the region’s Black communities laid the groundwork for the modern food justice movement. Sadly, access to fresh, unprocessed meals still elude many Black Americans today, but this little-known narrative reconstructed by Smith offers key lessons that could inform the current challenges.
—Tilde Herrera

This Is What I Eat: Fun Activities for Mindful Eating
By Aliza J. Sokolow

This coloring and activity book from award-winning food stylist Aliza J. Sokolow, illustrated by Lauren Lowen, is intended to please a segment of notoriously picky eaters: 3- to 7-year-olds. The book kicks off with an opportunity for young readers to customize it by filling in their names and addresses. Then it moves into questions about favorite colors and color-corresponding fruits and veggies and asks them what they love most about food and who they like to share it with. Chock full of more than 30 activities that range from drawing icky faces for foods the reader doesn’t like to “perfect-looking” and “wacky-looking” fruits and veggies, the idea behind the book is to get kids interested in and excited about the wide world of healthy eating. But it doesn’t stop with getting young readers to explore and chart their dietary preferences. This Is What I Eat also connects food to community, humanity, and the planet by drawing connections to food production, water use, and more. Ultimately the book offers young readers a broad, global perspective on the food system.
—Cinnamon Janzer

Good Catch: A Guide to Sustainable Fish and Seafood with Recipes from the World’s Oceans
By Valentine Thomas

These days, a cookbook has to be more than a collection of recipes. To justify a hardcover book price, not to mention a spot in the limited shelf space of my kitchen, I have come to expect a lot—beautiful art, colorful stories, and yes, recipes for dishes that are not only delicious but also realistic to cook. Good Catch by Valentine Thomas has earned one of those rare spots. Thomas has traveled the world as a spearfisher, diver, and chef. In this book, she distills her experience into a joyous celebration of fish. Before the first recipe, the reader is shown how to choose a sustainably harvested fish and how to clean and prepare it using every part, including the eyes and scales. (I can’t wait to try her ingenious use.) The recipes themselves range from three-ingredient starters to elevated masterpieces. Stories of Thomas’s underwater adventures enliven the text, but what will bring me back to it time and again is its accessibility for the amateur seafood buyer and cook. It is a 285-page love letter, with every recipe, story, and gorgeous photograph serving its central message: Fish is great. Eat more, and eat it sustainably.
—Ian Rose

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Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind the Food That Isn’t Food
By Chris van Tulleken

British broadcaster Chris van Tulleken applies a scientific perspective and a straightforward sensibility to a compelling examination of ultra-processed food—or UPF—as a public health issue. A physician with a Ph.D. in molecular virology, van Tulleken highlights his own self-experiment and the latest research in the field, tackling common questions about the connection between the rise of UPF and increasing rates of diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Does UPF trick us into eating more? Has it simply displaced healthier whole foods in our diets? Or is UPF fundamentally different from whole and less processed foods in ways that cause it to wreak unprecedented havoc on our bodies? A good portion of the material will be familiar to those who follow the topic, especially readers of previous books like Michael Moss’ Hooked. But van Tulleken’s scope and approach are unique. Toward the end, he details how UPF companies are destroying traditional diets and critiques industrial food arguments around inefficiency, pointing to a massive flow of money “driving ever-increasing complexity of processing.” Van Tulleken keeps the focus on public health and avoids diet-book territory. In the last two pages, when he touches on what to do if you want to stop eating UPF, his advice is matter-of-fact. A diet free of UPF will cost you plenty of time and money, and cooking everything will be a hassle, he says, “but one that connects you to a long chain of time-hassled humans who survived long enough to make you.”
—Lisa Held

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Under the Henfluence: Inside the World of Backyard Chickens and the People Who Love Them
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In this book, a blend of memoir and culture reporting, the author discusses chicken-related topics including her ongoing fascination with chickens and the challenge of reconciling the backyard trend with today’s industrial practices.

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Author Kristin Ohlson challenges the notion that humans are meant to dominate and control their environment and invites readers to see themselves as partners with nature instead.

Crip Up the Kitchen: Tools, Tips, and Recipes for the Disabled Cook
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Recommendations From Civil Eats Members
We recently asked Civil Eats members for their book recommendations and are highlighting some of their suggestions here. Civil Eats members are part of a growing community that receive opportunities to share their voices with us and help fuel our nonprofit journalism. Consider joining the Civil Eats community by becoming a member today!

Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen
By Rebecca May Johnson

Small Fires: An epic in the Kitchen - book coverThis radical book was published in the U.K. last August and landed in America in early June. Rebecca May Johnson began by asking herself a question: “What if I thought about cooking the way I think about thinking?” Not a common inquiry in food media. Johnson invites us to meet two parts of her mind: The intellectual and  the everyday person caring for her body through cooking and eating. She carries us close as she learns to cook and brings other learnings into the quotidian, uniting domestic and academic acts. In one instance, she documents her fury at the narrow corridors we force food to walk through by writing a poem to Mrs. Beeton, a British journalist whose 1861 cookbook is foundational in culinary history. While food and farming justice are not front and center here, the topics pepper the book; her viral essay, “I Dream of Canteens,” which focuses on equity in eating, informs Small Fires. I think Civil Eats readers would like to know about this short book as they consider the kitchen and everything they bring to it.
—Amy H.

Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard
By Douglas Tallamy

Nature's Best Hope book coverI thought this book was fantastic because it explains in scientific—but still very engaging—detail the extent to which our entire ecology depends on the plants we choose to include in our private landscapes. We can’t just set aside land for national parks and assume that’s everything needed for “conservation.” The caterpillars that feed the birds (and on up the food chain) depend on the plants we’re choosing for our yards as well as spaces such as office parks. The book inspired me to commit to adding many more native plants to my yard. While the book is not specifically about food and agriculture, Douglas Tallamy makes clear that revising our approach to landscapes is needed if we’re going to be able to grow food in the future.
—Anna B.

U.S. History in 15 Foods
By Anna Zeide

US History in 15 FoodsAnna Zeide won a James Beard Award for an earlier book, Canned, and published this new book just this winter. It is a fun and captivating history that does at least two things: It introduces U.S. history through the lens of foods and agriculture (love it), and it explores themes of immigration, justice, environmentalism, economics, and health in a well-written 15-chapter story.
—Ben C.

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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