To celebrate Spring, here are 20 books from Food Tank to cultivate new ideas about eating, growing, and learning about food and agriculture. Dan Saladino’s Eating to Extinction highlights foods and traditions at risk of extinction. In Healing Grounds, read how communities of color revived ancestral farming practices to restore soil health and cultural connections to land. Turn it The Blue Revolution by Nicholas Sullivan for background on the sustainable seafood movement. And environmentalists seeking a practical guide to advocacy should read No Farms, No Food by Don Stuart for the history of the American Farmland Trust.
These 20 titles will broaden readers’ conceptions of a sustainable food system.
1. A Blue New Dealby Chris Armstrong
In A Blue New Deal, Armstrong, a professor of political theory, brings equality, democracy, and sustainability to the forefront of ocean politics. He discusses how environmental destruction and inequality determine the state of the ocean today. He argues that existing governing institutions are failing to address these challenges and declares a new kind of ocean conservation.
2. Bright Green Future by Gregory Schwartz and Trevor Decker Cohen
Written to provide young people with a deep understanding of sustainability thinking, Bright Green Future showcases community-led climate solutions. The book features more 50 global changemakers including a Lakota community designing the future of American towns and cities and a Guatemalan farmer drawing on the wisdom of rainforest ecosystems to revolutionize agriculture. Each chapter also includes questions to help readers develop lessons and activities around the book’s themes.
3. Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them by Dan Saladino
Dan Saladino, a food journalist and producer of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) podcast, The Food Program, makes a compelling case for biodiversity in Eating to Extinction. Traveling to the Sea Islands of Georgia for Geechee red peas and northern Tanzania for the Hadza people and their wild honey, Saladino shares about the people and traditions behind foods at risk of extinction.
4. Ferment: Slow Down, Make Food to Last by Mark Diacono
Ferment walks readers through the basics of fermentation. In this book, Mark Diacono offers recipes for kombucha, kimchi, shrub cocktails, and pickles made from scratch, so home cookies can experience the wonders of fermentation. Diacono is an award-winning food-writer and grower at Otter Farm in England where he grows unusual and forgotten foods.
5. Gender, Food and COVID-19: Global Stories of Harm and Hope edited By Paige Castellanos, Carolyn E. Sachs, Ann R. Tickamyer
Written by three professors at Pennsylvania State University, this book is a powerful tool for students, scholars, and practitioners working to address the impact of COVID-19 on gender, agriculture, and food systems. The book offers personal accounts from scholars, practitioners, and community members for readers to gain a deep understanding of topics such as food insecurity and intersectional inequalities in the food system.
6. Foodtopia: Communities in Pursuit of Peace, Love & Homegrown Food by Margot Anne Kelley (forthcoming July 8, 2022)
Learn about five back-to-the-land movements in Foodtopia. Kelley takes readers from 1840 to present day, where utopian-minded people forgo urban living and seek rural lifestyles. Through these stories, readers discover that these people sought more than a less consumerist lifestyle or a connection to the natural world. Back-to-the-land movements were also about fighting racial injustice, promoting community health, and countering mainstream agriculture.
7. Freekeh, Wild Wheat & Ancient Grains by Ruth Nieman
Shortlisted for the André Simon Award 2021, Freekeh, Wild Wheat & Ancient Grains reconnects readers with grains including freekeh, barley, emmer, rye, sorghum wheat, and spelt. Author Ruth Nieman shares her expertise in the cultural, historical, and biblical background of these grains by tracing their history to the Israelites. Throughout the book, Nieman provides modern adaptations of recipes, from emmer wheat to sourdough.
8. Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming by Liz Carlisle
In Healing Grounds, readers learn that regenerative agriculture is about more than carbon sequestration. Liz Carlisle tells the stories of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and Asian American farmers who revived ancestral farming practices to restore native prairies, promote microbial growth, and enrich soil health. Along the way, these farmers reconnected their communities with cultural ties to land, demonstrating that true regenerative agriculture restores diversity in plants and in people.
9. Healthy Soil for Healthy Communities – An Introduction to Soil Health Practices for Africa by Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) and Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI)
Published by AFSA and SKI, Healthy Soil for Healthy Communities is the product of the Healthy Soil Healthy Food (HSHF), a group of 15 soil regeneration organizations working with African smallholder farmers. The book aims to shift people’s mindsets around soil and help farmers transition to practices that prioritize soil health.
10. How We Eat: The Brave New World of Food and Drink by Paco Underhill
Paco Underhill is an environmental psychologist, author, and founder of Envirosell, a behavioral research and consulting firm. In How We Eat, Underhill offers a perspective on the future of food with examples of urban farmer’s markets, rooftop farms, and the transformation of parking lots into community spaces. Underhill offers his expertise in consumer habits to illustrate the political, environmental, economic, and racial implications of daily food choices.
11. Life on the Rocks by Juli Berwald (forthcoming April 5, 2022)
Life on the Rocks is about more than saving coral reefs. Juli Berwald, who holds a PhD in Ocean Science, participated in rescue missions to rebuild reefs and protect marine ecosystems. Throughout the book, she offers an appreciation of marine scientists’ work and shares her experience supporting her daughter’s struggles with mental health. Weaving these stories together, she conveys what it is like to fight battles with uncertain outcomes.
12. No Farms, No Food: Uniting Farmers and Environmentalists to Transform American Agriculture by Don Stuart
In No Farms, No Food, Don Stuart tells the history of the American Farmland Trust (AFT) and how it brought farmers and environmentalists together despite conflicting viewpoints. Learn about the AFT’s successes, from creating the first conservation title in the history of the US Farm bill to the development of agriculture conservation easement programs throughout the US The book can serve as a practical guide to effective advocacy for a more sustainable food system.
13. Making Shift Happen: Designing for Successful Environmental Behavior Change by Nya Van Leuvan, Rod Fujita, Lauren Highleyman, and Ashleigh Kellerman
Making Shift Happen draws on decades of behavior change research. The authors offer environmental lawyers clear instructions on how to change people’s behavior, with advice on how they can choose the right audience and uncover what drives others’ actions. The book will be helpful to individuals in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors hoping to design successful campaigns that promote sustainability.
14. Mango and Peppercorns: a Memoir of Food, an Unlikely Family, and the American Dream by Tung Nguyen, Lyn Nguyen, and Katherine Manning
Selected as Slow Food’s March 2022 Book of the Month, Mango and Peppercorns is a memoir written by the three chefs behind the award-winning Hy Vong Vietnamese restaurant in Miami. Tung Ngyugen, a pregnant refugee from Saigon, ends up in the home of Katherine Manning. Their friendship turns into a business partnership, leading them to open Hy Vong. Featuring 20 Vietnamese recipes that mirror their story, Nguyen and Manning tell an inspiring story about resilience, friendship, family, and food.
15. The Blue Revolution: Hunting, Harvesting, and Farming Seafood in the Information Age by Nicholas Sullivan
The Blue Revolution is a hopeful read about recent positive transformations in the fishing industry. Nicholas Sullivan profiles the people, policies, and technologies promoting sustainable seafood, from shellfish farms restoring coastal ecosystems to the growing kelp market. In the final chapters, Sullivan underscores these stories with a discussion on the challenges to ocean conservation. This book will inspire readers to continue exploring the blue-green economy.
16. The Ocean Cookbook: Fish for Tonight, and for Tomorrow by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
MSC is a non-profit organization that sets a standard for sustainable seafood. Their recent cookbook features eighteen international recipes created by chefs who use MSC certified seafood. While learning the recipes for South African hake fish cakes, Japanese tuna donburi, and North Sea haddock, readers can also learn about the fishers who deliver sustainable seafood to consumers around the world.
17. Paradise Falls: The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe by Keith O’Brien (forthcoming April 12, 2022)
In Paradise Falls, Keith O’Brien, an award-winning journalist and contributor to National Public Radio, tells the story of the infamous Hooker Chemical Company in Niagara Falls, New York. In the 1970s, Hooker Chemical was responsible for one of America’s superfund sites in the Love Canal neighborhood. Fighting to save their community and resist corporate pollution, a powerful team of mothers exposed to the company’s secrets.
18. The Regenerative Garden: 80 Practical Projects for Creating a Self-sustaining Garden Ecosystem by Stephanie Rose
The Regenerative Garden offers 80 do it yourself projects to integrate permaculture into home gardens. Rose, the founder of Garden Therapy, breaks down permaculture design into digestible tidbits so that readers can reduce their workload, conserve water, promote biodiversity, and practice creativity, and create a home garden that sustains itself.
19. To Boldly Grow by Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel is a columnist for the Washington Post and winner of the 2015 James Beard Award. In To Boldly Grow, she shares her experience growing food without reliance on technical expertise. In the process, she learns to rely on her own ingenuity. Through trial and error, Haspel gains confidence and competence and proves to readers that they too can grow their own food.
20. Urban Foraging: Find, Gather, and Cook 50 Wild Plants by Lisa M. Rose
In Urban Foraging, Lisa Rose, an expert forager, teaches readers how to find, identify, harvest, and cook with 50 common wild plants. In the book, Rose shares foraging basics including clear photos and tips on ethical and safe gathering and culinary inspiration, so readers can forage on their own. Urban Foraging demonstrates that even in urban settings, plants like chickweed, dandelion, echinacea, honeysuckle, red clover, and pine can be found and put to culinary use.
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Photo courtesy of Asal Lofti, Unsplash