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The Top 10 Foodie Books to Give as Gifts (Or Read Yourself)

by: Jill Richardson

Thu Dec 24, 2009 at 16:59:05 PM PST

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This is coming a little bit too late, even for you last minute shoppers. But maybe you can go hit the after Christmas sales, or exchange all of the Chia Pets and Snuggies you receive for some of the books on this list.

If you haven't read them:
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

These are the first two books ANYONE should read about food. They make so many points so clearly. It's not just about the information that is in them, but about how well they are written and how the reader feels as he or she reads them. These books make people "get it." If you're trying to "convert" a difficult relative who keeps serving you cranberry sauce out of a can at every holiday, buy them these. And if they aren't the reading type, get them a copy of Food, Inc. because that's kind of like these two books in one, except in movie form.

After someone has read those, here are the next 8 books that should be on their bookshelf:

3. The War on Bugs by Will Allen: Where did industrial ag come from, REALLY? And why DO we use pesticides? This book traces it all the way back to late medieval Europe, and then very carefully chronicles the rise of pesticide use in the U.S. Whereas other books (including my own) go back to World War 1 or 2, Allen goes back to the 1800's by reading farm journals from those times. Totally fascinating, and mandatory reading.

4. Teaming with Microbes: A Gardeners Guide to the Soil Food Web: Why does organics work? What is happening, from a scientific point of view, in the soil and above ground? This book tells it all in such a clear way that even non-scientists and non-gardeners can understand it. If you're giving a book as a gift, give this to a gardener. Non-gardeners really just need the Cliff's notes version of this info.

5. Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe: Want to understand seafood? Read this. The book was described to me as "The Omnivore's Dilemma of Fish" and it truly is. If you eat fish or shellfish AT ALL, read this book. It will make you mad though. It will also put a serious crimp in your ability to enjoy seafood.

6. Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel: Patel is one of my absolute favorite speakers and writers. He's been all over the world and he clearly shows what's going on not just in the U.S. but around the world. Why are a billion people starving and a billion people overweight? What's the cause of such inequality. That's what this book explains.

7. Appetite for Profit by Michele Simon: Read this one no matter what, but ESPECIALLY read it if you have kids. And give it as a gift to anyone you know who has kids. Simon tells exactly how marketers and food companies are screwing us while simultaneously trying to look like the good guys. Much of the book's content focuses on children, although the book is not exclusively about kids and marketing to kids.

8. The End of Overeating by David Kessler: Why would an intelligent adult who wants to be attractive and healthy binge on an entire pint of ice cream or bag of chips, despite a strong desire not to? Why do some of us just totally lose control around junk food? Kessler goes into the actual neuroscience behind this and then tells exactly how the food industry exploits that. Amazing!

9. Recipe for America by me: I can't help adding this to the list even though it's probably a taboo to do that. But the book will give you a basic understanding of the legal system that governs food and what is already happening (or isn't happening) to try and change it.

10... What do you recommend? Please add your own favorite foodie books in the comments!

Jill Richardson :: The Top 10 Foodie Books to Give as Gifts (Or Read Yourself)
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I highly, highly recommend... (4.00 / 2)
Recipe for America...


And seconding Michele Simon's Appetite for Profit.

For lighter reading (but still with a whole bunch o' learnin'...) I'd also throw in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

The one on your list that I want to read but haven't yet is Bottomfeeder...

I thought about including (4.00 / 2)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's kind of lighter reading that you can sucker Barbara Kingsolver fans who aren't foodies into reading :)  

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Possible additions to the list (4.00 / 3)
Kitchen Literacy by Ann Vileisis
Uncertain Peril by Claire Hope Cummings

I haven't read either but heard great things about both.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

Still haven't read... (4.00 / 2)
Kitchen Literacy yet, huh?

Tsk, tsk, Jill!


[ Parent ]
I KNOW! (4.00 / 2)
I can't bring myself to pay for a copy and I haven't asked for a review copy yet. I should get it from the library.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
I only have... (4.00 / 2)
...the e-version, otherwise I'd have sent it to you long ago!

[ Parent ]
Transitions (4.00 / 2)
One of my sons swore off beef and pork a few months ago, and now he's off poultry. He's still eating seafood, but intends to be giving that up as soon as he feels able. He's reticent about discussing what he's doing, so I don't know where he wants to end up, or why he's changing. I want to talk with him about which of these books he has read, and if he's interested in reading ones he doesn't have.

My son's reading (4.00 / 2)
Today his brother gave him

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance -- Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!
by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem.

[ Parent ]
Can't resist... (4.00 / 2)
Is Penn State football coach Joe Paterno a main character?

Hee hee...

[ Parent ]
Paterno (4.00 / 1)
It is not true that Paterno has been able to keep on keeping on for so many years because he is a zombie. He is short, and thus escapes the notice of zombie hunters and others of that ilk.

[ Parent ]
You think I'd get sued... (4.00 / 1)
...if I wrote a college football / zombie thriller featuring JoePa?

[ Parent ]
daughters a vegan at age 19 (4.00 / 3)
became a vegetarian at age 9. She decided God didn't intend her to eat anything with a face. At age 14 became a vegan. Now its probably more about the politics and keeping her carbon foot print small than anything else. She doesn't talk about it unless asked and if people who don't know her serve her something non veggie, she just says she's not hungry.

[ Parent ]
Thank you, Jill. (4.00 / 2)
My son says he does not have any of these books, and would be interested to read some of them. Thanks for the suggestions, everybody.

[ Parent ]
A few more... (4.00 / 3)
I second "Omnivore's Dilemma", and would also suggest his latest, "In Defense of Food". In the latter I especially like the awkward reminders of all the different food philosophies I've adopted over the years--he discusses most of them.

I second "Recipe for America" and "End of Overeating".

I'm currently reading "Just Food". I'm not sure I'll be recommending that one. It's kind of pissing me off right now.

Count, maybe you should give "The Vegetarian Myth" to your son as a gift, although it might cause a fight and ruin the holiday spirit.

Good night all, and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate.

And one more thing--for those leaving a snack out for Santa, I discovered he likes Jack Daniels more than milk and cookies.  

I thought Just Food (4.00 / 2)
was the biggest piece of shit and waste of dead trees I have ever seen.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
What are trhe chances... (4.00 / 3)
...we can see this quote as a blurb on the paperback version?


[ Parent ]
Eating Animals (4.00 / 3)
I recommend Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Everything is Illuminated). He is known best for his fiction which is good since he's brilliant with words. Foer set out to write this book because, as a new father, he wanted to make an informed decision about what to feed his son. This book is a series of stories, not just his, of farmers and animal rights activists alike, who make decisions about their food based on the stories they've been told and tell themselves. I am halfway done and so far I think it should be mandatory.

What a great review (4.00 / 2)
I'll check it out.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Gonna check it out... (4.00 / 2)
I had it in my hands at Powell's on Hawthorne a few days ago, but the bus was coming early and I was in a rush so I just flipped through it briefly.  I'll check it out again next time I get a chance, probably this weekend.

Thanks for the recommendation!

[ Parent ]
I just downloaded the sample from Amazon (4.00 / 2)
for kindle. Amazon now has free kindle software for PC and the Mac version is on its way if they don't have it up yet. I think your new laptop is a Mac?

Anyway, kindle books are less expensive than print (of course because it's on your computer if the thing dies you're up a creek till you get a new one), and even if you still intend to get the book in print the kindle editions have free samples you can download and peruse at your leisure.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
Just bought Jonathon's book (4.00 / 2)
I read a bit more than the sample and decided to buy the Kindle version. If the rest of the book is as good as the sample it should be a very interesting read.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
Kindle (4.00 / 1)
How is reading a document in Kindle software different or better from reading a document in pdf or Word format?

[ Parent ]
The only advantage is that this is the format (4.00 / 2)
that Amazon has the publications in. I'd love to have them in a PDF or Word format. Of course that'd mean that I could print a copy, which would be bad business for the publisher.

I like the Kindle option because I can get the book instantly, even on a dialup, it costs less for the book and there's no shipping charge. And now that Kindle for PC is available and the software is free, I don't have to pay for a Kindle machine, I think those are around $300? Essentially it's a little computer.

The disadvantage is that I have to read it on my laptop, more portable than my desktops, but still more bulky than a printed book. And if the computer ever takes a dive on me, I'll not be able to read the books.

Other than that, the Kindle format is very easy to use. The fonts and text size are very easy on the eyes, mine at least. Also, Kindle bookmarks your last page, so when you open that book on your next session, it automatically opens to the last page you read. Acrobat Reader and MS Word don't do that, or at least if they have that feature, I don't know about it.

I think that Kindle's proprietary software from Amazon, so it's a smart business move on their part if that's actually the case.  

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
just ordered the book...thanks for the review (4.00 / 3)
Everything Illuminated is also a great read and the movie really does the book justice.

[ Parent ]
I finished reading the book yesterday (4.00 / 2)
I too agree that it's a valuable book in that Jonathan looks at animals from a slightly different perspective than most people I hear talk about animals and animal ag activism.

I place it on my recomended reading list, regardless of whether a person wants to be an omnivore, a vegetarian or even a vegan.

I'm thinking about writing a review or article on his book. My perspective on the animal world and working with animals is somewhat different from just about everyone I know and have read and I think I can contribute something to the whole animal agriculture discussion that is a bit different than what I've been hearing, seeing and reading for the past couple of years.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
gave my copy of Recipe to America (4.00 / 3)
to my daughters college friend who is a food activist She got snowed in and came home with my daughter from Swarthmore College last Sat(Swarthmore has finals on Sat!) . I'll be buying another one..

My friend Aliza Greens' Bean book. It's my go to book on beans cooked in imaginative and tasty ways

Joel Salatin's Everything I Want To Do is Illegal (4.00 / 3)
I really enjoyed his sense of humor in dealing with the problems of delivering locally produced chicken and beef.

Also, Wendell Berry has a book of poetry that just came out (Leavings?). I heard him reading some of it; I'm not a poetry fan, but I enjoyed what I heard. He has such a great voice.

I would definately recomend this book (4.00 / 2)
to anyone interested in getting into agriculture, especially animal ag, and especially animal ag on a small scale and selling meat, eggs, dairy, etc.

It's very enlightening and I especially love his approach to dealing with officials and regulations.

If you've never been involved with animal ag or farming, his book is an eye opener and reading it may help a new farmer avoid some pitfalls when dealing with the regulatory framework in this country.

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
I've got a copy on my shelf (4.00 / 1)
still haven't read it all.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Real Food and Queen of Fats (4.00 / 4)
are the ones that resonated for me.  Have to get them both back from the library and sic them on the kiddo for nutrition study (homeschool)

ohhhhh the queen of fats (4.00 / 1)
LOVED that one!!!! Good call! Haven't read Real Food. Is that Nina Planck?

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
3 more (4.00 / 2)
I've read almost all the ones mentioned here and liked almost all of them, but have three more:

Christopher Cook, Diet for a Dead Planet
Bill Buford, Heat

and last, but not least, since it'll change your life:

Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating.

Domestic food security (0.00 / 0)
Hey all,

I would add All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America? by Joel Berg.

It is a tremendously smart treatment of domestic food security and what we can do to increase the ability of American families to afford the food that they want to be eating.

(And I'm not just saying this because Joel is my boss, either!)

My best,

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