Share your food systems book recommendations

At TABLE, we feature new food sustainability books in our Fodder newsletter and Research Library.

Please do share your recommendations of books on food systems and food sustainability below:

  • Which new and forthcoming books are you excited about?
  • Which books have informed your understanding of food systems?
  • Which classic texts would you recommend to someone new to the field?

I believe I’ve been reading more books about other topics than food recently, and I know there are many good ones, but here are some recommendations:

I also want to read

And - but I’m not sure if that counts as a book about food systems and food sustainability?

There are so many to choose from, and I’ll resist the temptation to list every good book I’ve ever read on the subject of food!

If I had to choose a “popular” (non-academic) book to recommend to someone unfamiliar with the field, I think I’d go with Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: the Search for a Perfect Meal in a Fast-Food World. A lot of thought-provoking content presented in a readable, interesting and accessible way. Structured into three parts, “Corn”, “Grass”, Forest"; a nice way of exploring (respectively) the industrial, pastoral, and personal dimensions of the food system. Cocktail of science, history, ethics, and more personal/journalistic accounts. Even as someone with a reasonable pre-existing knowledge of the subjects covered, I learned a lot of horrifying things (e.g. about organic agriculture – I knew some of it, but not the full extent) and was prompted to further interrogate my own opinions (e.g. around eating meat – an ongoing internal debate for me).
He starts with a rather lovely quotation from William Ralph Inge, which I’d like to share: “The whole of nature is a conjugation of the verb to eat, in the active and the passive.”

On the more academic side of things, I am glad I invested in Pamela Mason and Tim Lang’s Sustainable Diets: How Ecological Nutrition Can Transform the Food System early on in my forays into this area – gave me a good grounding, and is something I refer back to. I also recently read, and would highly recommend, Tim Lang’s Feeding Britain: Our Food Problems and How to Fix Them (aimed at a more general audience). He talks about Britain’s colonial attitude to food supply – assuming others will feed us – which I found extremely thought-provoking, and I absolutely agree on the need for more UK horticulture.

Chris Smaje’s A Small Farm Future: Making the Case for a Society Built Around Local Economies, Self-Provisioning, Agricultural Diversity, and a Shared Earth is not the kind of nostalgic “let’s all go back to growing our own veg and baking our own bread and living in happy little villages” waffle that one might perhaps fear from the title. He makes a strong case for his “small farm future” vision as the most viable solution to the various crises we face (climate, water, land/biodiversity, consumerism, health, economy etc.), whilst remaining alert to the possible dangers (e.g. exploitation of particular marginalised groups, who might lose out under such a model & how to avoid this) and the fact that it’s no utopia (small farms = hard work!). Ranges far beyond farming & food – politics, culture, etc.

As for my reading list – I might have a go at Bee Wilson’s The Way We Eat Now soon, since it’s available in my local library. I would very much like to read Dan Saladino’s Eating to Extinction: The World’s Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them, but I’ll have to wait for that one as it currently only exists as a £20 hardback…

On a side note: Walter, I cannot recommend Entangled Life enough! I wouldn’t classify it as a food book (though of course not wholly unrelated) but absolutely definitely worth a read.


This book brings together important reflections on agri-food systems, food supply and the role of the State in policy decisions, on a field of study whose relevance is made explicit by the link it establishes between health, nutrition, sustainability and social justice. It is the result of collaborative work between committed people
with transformation processes that contribute to solving historical problems
of poverty, hunger and deterioration of the natural resources of
diferent countries of Latin America an Germany. The chapters are in portuguese and spanish.

One of our main references to prepare this publication was the work led by Tara Garnett from FCRN and TABLE.

We hope you enjoy it!

Ebook_Sustentabilidade, 2022.pdf (3.6 MB)

Sustentabilidade, circuitos curtos de abastecimento e compras públicas de alimentos

Two books come to mind.

Food is Climate A Response to Al Gore, Bill Gates and Pawl Hawkin & the Conversational Response to Climate Change is an easy to read short book explaining the connections in simple terms. It included recipes. Author Glen Merzer shows a good sense of humor.

Also, Plows, Plagues and Petroleum
How Humans Took Control of the Climate by Paleoclimatologist William Ruddiman is really worth the read, also.