Top 10 Sustainable Food Books

Top 10 Sustainable Food Books

Alisa Opar
Published: 03/16/2011

New books about sustainable food are coming out all the time, making selecting one or two to read a potentially overwhelming process. So we turned to the experts for suggestions. Michael Pollan, Anna Lappé, Dan Barber, and other influential activists and authors share their favorite books. Check out our special March-April Food Issue for more on sustainable cuisine, from farm (or sea) to table.


Photo: Andrew Hetherington

Dan Barber, Executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill restaurant
Recommends: Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal, by Margaret Visser

Margaret Visser’s Much Depends on Dinner isn’t a cookbook (at least not in the traditional sense); it’s an anatomy of the American dinner table. Visser looks at ingredients from every angle—historical, philosophical, and gastronomical—providing not just a context, but a culture, for our food. Required reading for anyone who eats.


Photo: Lou Manna

Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health,
New York University, and author of What to Eat.
Recommends: Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global
, by Brian Halweil

Halweil was way ahead of the curve in writing this book, which predates the many books on eating locally that soon followed. His book does not index the word "sustainability," but sustainability is what it is about. His argument is simple: eating locally is better for health, farmers, and the planet. The book provides plenty of evidence to support that statement. The book is distinguished by clear writing and an extensive review of data demonstrating the waste and harm of the present industrialized food system. Halweil presents many examples—international as well as domestic—of alternative farming methods, along with ideas for policies and personal actions to achieve a more sustainable food system.


Photo: Alia Malley

Michael Pollan, journalist and author of seven books, including Food Rules: An Eater’s Guide
Recommends: Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System, by Raj Patel

Stuffed and Starved is a terrific book that looks at the food question as a global rather than national issue, brilliantly connecting the dots between overweight in the West and hunger elsewhere.


Photo: Bart Nagel

Anna Lappé, author, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It
Recommends: Silent Spring, by Rachel Carlson

First published in 1962, Carson’s book is still one of the most persuasive calls to rethink our relationship to chemicals. So powerful, in fact, that the chemical industry launched a smear campaign against her and the book, including a Monsanto-published parody called "The Desolate Year" that detailed the famines that would be unleashed if Carson’s message was heeded. Whether you read the book years ago or will be reading it for the first time, Carson’s visionary writing, reverence for nature, and poetic passion is buoying in this dark time.

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