Serious Reads: Four Books We're Loving This Month

Serious Reads

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

1. The Mushroom Hunters, by Langdon Cook


Ever wonder how there came to be half an aisle of mushroom varieties at the local gourmet supermarket? In The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, Langdon Cook, a foraging guru, takes us on the mushroom hunt. From those who recreationally forage to the elite who make their living off the land, Cook introduces a cast of characters who spend their days digging in the earth. He also provides interesting historical context for how and why particular kinds of mushrooms became popular when they did. Because amazing as it may seem, Americans weren't always convinced that fungi were truly delicious when sauteed in a little butter.

2. A Thousand Hills to Heaven, by Josh Ruxin


Josh Ruxin moved to Rwanda with his new wife and many years of international development under his belt, expecting to implement a few life-changing projects with relative ease. But the legacy of genocide and continued extreme poverty in that country proved more challenging than he'd anticipated. In A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda, Ruxin details his experience opening a cafe in his new homeland of Rwanda. While at times Ruxin adopts a slightly condescending tone, the book shares important narratives from many Rwandans struggling to find their way years after the genocide took their families and friends. At its core, A Thousand Years is a story of hope, not desperation.

3. Real Dirt, by Harry Stoddart


Harry Stoddart's Real Dirt: An Ex-Industrial Farmer's Guide to Sustainable Eating is just that—a practical guide. Dense with information about soil constitution and animal husbandry, Stoddart's part-memoir, part-manual is a great resource for growers looking to improve their organic methods. My favorite part of the book is the very end, where Stoddart includes a number of practical steps any consumer can take to have a more "planet-regenerating" diet. He includes a list of questions to ask your farmer in order to better understand their philosophy and growing practices, and then goes on to answer the questions about his own farm. This slim book is informative and handy.

4. To the Bone, by Paul Liebrandt and Andrew Friedman


Paul Liebrandt is a culinary superstar, and Andrew Friedman has written over 20 books about food and cooking. So naturally, their joint project is stunning. To the Bone shares Liebrandt's journey from his far-from-foodie upbringing in London, through the ranks of some of the best kitchens in the world, and to a three-star rating from the New York Times and two Michelin stars for his restaurant, Corton. Liebrandt grew up idolizing the rough kitchen demeanor of Marco Pierre White, but his refined food indicates a real commitment to control and precision in his work. The book includes dozens of beautiful portraits of Liebrandt's deconstructed dishes, plus a few recipes at the end (if you dare).

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.