In honor of the beginning of summer, I’m posting some of my favorite books related to health and sustainability. I have read them all within the last four years, and I consider them to still be relevant and interesting in the context of today. Consider adding some of these to your summer reading list!
–No Impact Man: This book was an optional reading assignment in a global issues course I took in college. I opted out at the time in favor of reading another book, but after hearing other students present it in class, I decided to read it myself. And I’m so glad I did! This book took my enthusiasm for the environment to a whole other level. It is the story of a man, his family, and their quest to make no impact on the environment for an entire year. It is so interesting to read how the journey affected his life, and it’s full of facts that are presented in an interesting and memorable way.
–Skinny Bitch: I read this book on a trans-Atlantic flight; I got on the plane moderately passionate about food and nutrition and got off the plane seriously enamored by it. This book, in its blunt and abrasive way, provides eye-opening information about all the usual suspects: sugar, caffeine, meat, dairy, processed food, etc. While some of the advice is extreme, you can’t put down this book, and it is guaranteed to inspire you to make a few positive changes in your diet. Take the title and some of the language with a grain of salt.
–The Dirty Life: The story of a thirty-something New York writer who falls in love with a farmer and moves to a farm near Lake Champlain, this book makes you appreciate all the work that goes into growing and harvesting food. I also found this fascinating because I could so relate to this urban girl turned farmer – I’ve always secretly wanted to live on a farm. The author certainly doesn’t sugar coat farm life, but the mix of food, romance and rural life throughout the story kept me entertained the whole way through.
–Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: This book is another beautifully written account of farm life. Renowned author Barbara Kingsolver documents the year she and her family vowed to only eat what they could grow themselves or buy from neighbors. I loved reading about the family’s adventures with livestock, bad weather, surviving the winter and even throwing parties on the farm. I also really enjoyed the journalistic, informational sidebars written by Kingsolver’s husband and the recipes written by Kingsolver’s daughter. This book is multi-faceted and will absolutely grow your appreciation for and understanding of food.
–Food Rules: Hopefully you’ve heard of this one? Or at least its author? Michael Pollan is one of the most highly esteemed figures in the food revolution, agriculture, public health and the environment. Food Rules is his basic handbook for what and how we should eat. It is a quick read, and every point makes total sense. Stop worrying about fad diets and counting calories – buy this book and share it with your friends! Many of his tips are seemingly obvious, but he explains them well and back them up.
–The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Another Michael Pollan; this book is much more in depth than Food Rules, but if you’re interested in the food industry, the environment, agriculture, and how they connect, it’s worth your time. Pollan examines the primary food chains that sustain us today: industrial food, organic/alternative food, and food we can forage ourselves. He offers a deep, factual dive into the modern American diet and how our relationship with food evolved into what it is today.
–In Defense of Food: Last Michael Pollan book (for this post). In Defense of Food is somewhat of a response to The Omnivore’s Dilemma. While The Omnivore’s Dilemma details the current habits in Americans’ diets, In Defense of Food details how we can change those habits for the better. This book goes more into how we can enjoy healthy foods, how we can moderate our appetites, and how we can make more thoughtful choices about eating. This book makes the argument that our personal health is directly related to the food we eat and the health of our food systems. I think Pollan hits the nail on the head with this one!
–Eating Animals: I have actually not read this book in entirety, so I won’t give it a review here. It was summer reading at UNC-Chapel Hill several years ago, though, and since I am an alumna, I’d like to keep up! I’ve heard this is an eye-opening piece about factory farming, commercial fisheries, and modern day meat consumption. I’ll be back with my thoughts on this one later in the summer!
Overall, any and all of these books will teach you something useful, motiviting, inspiring or beneficial in terms of your treatment of the planet or your diet. I have taken away valuable lessons from each of these and hope you will enjoy them as much as I did!
Have you read any of the books on this list? Do you have any other suggestions to add?