Serious Reads

Reviews of food-themed memoirs, beach reads, and histories.

Serious Reads: 4 Food Books We're Loving

1. Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land, by Gary Nabhan

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Climate change is impacting agricultural practices around the world. Some farmers must deal with flooding; others with drought. In Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons From Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty, Gary Paul Nabhan distills the collective knowledge of several farmers into practical tips for growing food in harsher weather conditions. This book contains the stories of families and communities continuing to grow food in the face of threatening climate change, as well as checklists and strategic guides for readers who want to incorporate the book's philosophy into their own growing practices.

2. Cows Save the Planet, by Judith Schwartz

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This book's title might make you think it's about meat, but Judith Schwartz takes a different approach in Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth. She explores the importance of soil to maintaining environmental balance and sustainability, and talks about how soil degradation has happened over the last several decades. Schwartz discusses how pastured cows—as well as cover crops, nitrogen/carbon balance, and turning dirt—can help restore depleted soil. From trees to weeds to large bovines, much of the earth's biodiversity depends on healthy soil, making it well worth a book-length examination.

3. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, by Seth Holmes

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It's widely known that migrant laborers occupy many of the most difficult and underpaid agricultural jobs in the U.S. What's less visible, however, is the dangerous journey many these workers make across the Mexican-American border in search of those jobs. Seth Holmes, an anthropologist who spent five years conducting participant observation and fieldwork in Mexican migrant communities, provides a compelling and frightening account of the lives of these workers in Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. His tales of crossing the border, doing backbreaking work in the fields, and exploring relationships with these dislocated and largely invisible workers is well worth a read.

4. Sugar Has 56 Names, by Robert H. Lustig, M.D.

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This is the first e-book I've reviewed on this site, but it's worth a mention for its practicality. Sugar Has 56 Names by Robert H. Lustig is a quick and dirty guide to avoiding sugary processed foods at the grocery store. Lustig is a pediatrician and outspoken advocate of consuming less sugar. He believes strongly that "a calorie is not a calorie," and that consuming excess sweeteners can contribute to weight gain. In this short e-book, Lustig summarizes his health claims and their scientific backing, and provides lists of foods to buy and to avoid at your local supermarket.

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @leahjdouglas.

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