The best books about the history and future of agriculture, food, and cooking

Who am I?

Since childhood I've been fascinated with the beauty of organic molecules. I pursued this passion in graduate school at Brown University and through a postdoctoral position at Stanford University. My professional career began at a startup pharmaceutical company in California, which evolved into research positions in agriculture and food ingredients. After 30 years I retired as a vice-president of research and development for a food ingredients company. I developed a passion for food and cooking and subsequently acquired a position as the science editor for America’s Test Kitchen, which I held for over 12 years. Today at the age of 80 I still write and publish scientific papers and books about food, cooking, and nutrition.


I wrote...

Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking

By Guy Crosby Ph.D,

Book cover of Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking

What is my book about?

It’s truly amazing when you think about it—of all the many thousands of species living on earth, only humans cook their food! Professor Richard Wrangham, one of the world’s leading anthropologists, believes that some of our earliest ancestors began using fire to cook food almost 2 million years ago, resulting in bigger brains and an evolutionary advantage over all other species. Cooking provided pleasure, better nutrition and health, safety, and an undeniable effect on social behavior. This startling concept provided the seed for my new book Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking.

Science-driven changes in the way we cook food will reduce the risk of developing a number of chronic diseases and increase the quality of life. 

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

Guy Crosby Ph.D Why did I love this book?

This book was the inspiration for my book and was written by a professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University. It sets out a convincing argument that cooking may have been started by the earliest humans about 2 million years ago, which is far earlier than most anthropologists believe. Much of Wrangham’s arguments are based on his own research that illustrates how cooking provided better nutrition resulting in the expansion of the human brain by 60% over thousands of years giving humans a head-start over all other living species. 

By Richard Wrangham,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Catching Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this stunningly original book, Richard Wrangham argues that it was cooking that caused the extraordinary transformation of our ancestors from apelike beings to Homo erectus. At the heart of Catching Fire lies an explosive new idea: The habit of eating cooked rather than raw food permitted the digestive tract to shrink and the human brain to grow, helped structure human society, and created the male-female division of labour. As our ancestors adapted to using fire, humans emerged as "the cooking apes".

Covering everything from food-labelling and overweight pets to raw-food faddists, Catching Fire offers a startlingly original argument about…


Book cover of The Ascent of Man

Guy Crosby Ph.D Why did I love this book?

A fascinating history about the evolution of human life by a renowned expert in the field. The book focuses on the technological developments that drove the evolution of humans from the very beginning. A beautifully illustrated book. The source of my favorite lines of poetry by William Blake:

“To see a World in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

By Jacob Bronowski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ascent of Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dr Jacob Bronowksi's The Ascent of Man traces the development of human society through our understanding of science.

First published in 1973 to accompany the groundbreaking BBC television series, it is considered one of the first works of 'popular science', illuminating the historical and social context of scientific development for a generation of readers. In his highly accessible style, Dr Bronowski discusses human invention from the flint tool to geometry, agriculture to genetics, and from alchemy to the theory of relativity, showing how they all are expressions of our ability to understand and control nature.

In this new paperback edition,…


Book cover of The Emergence of Agriculture

Guy Crosby Ph.D Why did I love this book?

Another beautifully illustrated book that traces the evolution of agriculture in seven different regions of the world starting approximately 10,000 years ago. Many anthropologists believe the evolution of agriculture was the single greatest technological development of all time as it transformed early humans from hunter-gathers to settled societies resulting in an explosion of the human population.

By Bruce D. Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Emergence of Agriculture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this text, the archaeologist, Bruce Smith, explores the initial emergence and early expansion of agriculture and the transformations in human society that made it possible. He charts the course of the agricultural revolution as it occurred in the Middle East, Europe, China, Africa and the Americas, showing how basic archaeological methods and modern technologies, such as plant analysis, radiocarbon dating and DNA sampling are used to investigate this event. Although in the agricultural mind, the agricultural revolution is often seen as a one-step transition from hunter-gatherer societies to farming ones, Smith shows how truly varied the patterns of animal…


Book cover of Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition

Guy Crosby Ph.D Why did I love this book?

An absolutely riveting account of the tragic attempt of Captain John Franklin of England to discover a northwest passage to Asia in 1845-1848. The account is told by a professor of Anthropology who discovered the frozen bodies of three sailors on the expedition that were literally frozen in time when their two ships were ice-bound 138 years ago. The two sunken ships were discovered only recently in 2014. It is now believed that food poisoning from improperly canned food may have been the cause of the tragic fate of the crew of 125 men.

By Owen Beattie, John Geiger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Frozen in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A remarkable piece of forensic deduction.”—Margaret Atwood 

The internationally-bestselling account of the Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition, and the thrilling scientific investigation that spurred the decades-long hunt for its recovery—now with a new afterword on the discovery of its lost ships: Erebus and Terror.

“Chilling . . . will keep you up nights turning pages.”—The Chicago Tribune

In 1845, Sir John Franklin and his men set out to “penetrate the icy fastness of the north, and to circumnavigate America.” And then they disappeared. The truth about what happened to Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition was shrouded in mystery for more than a…


Book cover of A History of Cooks and Cooking

Guy Crosby Ph.D Why did I love this book?

The book honors James Boswell’s intuition that defines humans as the “cooking animal,” as humans are the only species living on earth that cook their food. It is an interesting account of the world from a cook’s perspective. Symons maintains that to be truly human we need to become better cooks and to think of cooks as “sharers of food.” His account of the history of cooking is especially interesting and well researched

By Michael Symons,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of Cooks and Cooking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book explores the civilizing role that cooks and cooking have played in world history from Plato to Marx, from carnivores to vegetarians.


You might also like...

Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

Book cover of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

Alan Pearce Author Of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a journalist, I'm driven to find stories that have not been covered before and to make clear the incomprehensible. I like people, and I like asking questions. I've covered wars and disasters, and on any given day, I could expect to see people at their very worst and at their very best. With my book about comas, I've met some of the finest people of my career, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians who are fighting the system, and coma survivors who are simply fighting to get through each and every day. This is the story I am now driven to tell.

Alan's book list on consciousness that demonstrates there is more to life than we know

What is my book about?

What happens when a person is placed into a medically-induced coma?

The brain might be flatlining, but the mind is far from inactive: experiencing alternate lives rich in every detail that spans decades, visiting realms of stunning and majestic beauty, or plummeting to the very depths of Hell while defying all medical and scientific understanding.

Everything you think you know about coma is wrong. Doctors call it 'sleeping' when in reality, many are trapped on a hamster wheel of brain-damaging, nightmarish events that scar those that survive for life. Others are left to question whether they touched levels of existence previously confined to fantasy or whether they teetered on the brink of this life and the next. Coma is not what you think.

Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

What is this book about?

Explores the extraordinary states of expanded consciousness that arise during comas, both positive and negative

Every day around the world, thousands of people are placed in medically-induced comas. For some coma survivors, the experience is an utter blank. Others lay paralyzed, aware of everything around them but unable to move, speak, or even blink. Many experience alternate lives spanning decades, lives they grieve once awakened. Some encounter ultra-vivid nightmares, while others undergo a deep, spiritual oneness with the Universe or say they have glimpsed the Afterlife.

Examining the beautiful and disturbing experiences of those who have survived comas, Alan and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in agriculture, cooking, and explorers?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about agriculture, cooking, and explorers.

Agriculture Explore 67 books about agriculture
Cooking Explore 98 books about cooking
Explorers Explore 92 books about explorers