The best books on the future of food

Richard Munson Author Of Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food
By Richard Munson

Who am I?

Innovators long have fascinated me. I helped launch a clean-energy startup and advance legislation promoting environmental entrepreneurs. I’ve written biographies of Nikola Tesla (who gave us electric motors, radio, and remote controls) Jacques Cousteau (inventor of the Aqua Lung and master of undersea filming) and George Fabyan (pioneer of modern cryptography and acoustics), as well as a history of electricity (From Edison to Enron). I love reading (and writing) about ingenious and industrious individuals striving to achieve their dreams. 


I wrote...

Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food

By Richard Munson,

Book cover of Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food

What is my book about?

Imagine eating a burger grown in a laboratory, a strawberry picked by a robot or a pastry created with a 3D printer. You would never taste the difference, but these technologies might just save your health and the planet’s. Today, landmark advances in sensors, computing, and engineering are driving solutions to the biggest problems created by industrialized food. Reinvention is desperately needed. Pollution, climate change, animal cruelty, hunger, and obesity have festered under Big Ag, and despite decades of effort, organic farming accounts for less than 1 percent of U.S. croplands.

My book offers profiles of 25 food and farm innovations, including supplements that lower the methane in cattle belches, drones that monitor irrigation levels in crops, urban warehouses that grow produce year-round without poisonous herbicides, and more. 

The books I picked & why

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The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World

By Amanda Little,

Book cover of The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World

Why this book?

What’s not to enjoy about a behind-the-scenes tour of an Army research center that takes increasingly detailed biometric data and devises ways to print, on-demand meals that meet that soldier’s total nutrient requirements. The Natick, Massachusetts, lab is only one of the captivating stops on Little’s worldwide search for food innovations. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of remote-controlled robots in Shanghai and vertical farms growing greens in shipping containers. While most environmentalists ignore farms and food, Little highlights the truth—that “ag contributes more than any other sector, including energy and transportation, to climate change.”


Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland

By Miriam Horn,

Book cover of Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland

Why this book?

I was inspired by Horn’s observation that many of the men and women doing today’s most consequential environmental work would not call themselves environmentalists. Debunking the pervasive myths that conservation innovators must be bicoastal, political activists, Horn profiles a Montana rancher, a Kansas farmer, a Mississippi riverman, a Louisiana shrimper, and a Gulf fisherman—all stewards of the land offering creative ways to restore soils and protect wildlife.


Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment

By Denis Hayes, Gail Boyer Hayes,

Book cover of Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment

Why this book?

When it comes to discussions about meat, wouldn’t you like something balanced rather than strident? Denis and Gail Hayes offer a well-researched and well-written look at the role of cows in our history and diets. The book’s appeal is that it is both too radical for most cowboys (except the couple hundred ranchers actually doing it right) and too honest about the important role animal protein played in human evolution for the vegans. Cowed also delivers an array of quotable facts, such as “Eating a pound of beef has a greater climate impact than burning a gallon of gasoline.” 


Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World

By Paul Shapiro,

Book cover of Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World

Why this book?

I first “met” Shapiro during one of his fascinating TEDx presentations. His book only adds to my fascination with the race among entrepreneurs to create and commercialize cleaner, safer, sustainable meat—without slaughtering animals. Shapiro offers a front-row seat to that race to create enough food for the world’s ever-growing, ever-hungry population. Meet the innovators offering clean meat—real, actual meat grown (or brewed) from animal cells. 


Billion Dollar Burger: Inside Big Tech's Race for the Future of Food

By Chase Purdy,

Book cover of Billion Dollar Burger: Inside Big Tech's Race for the Future of Food

Why this book?

Here’s another engaging tale of the entrepreneurs and renegades fighting to bring lab-grown, cell-cultured meat to the world. I appreciated Purdy’s description of this competition as an “edible space race,” and unlike my other highlighted book, Billion Dollar Burger highlights the “difficult regulatory landscape” concocted by Big Meat lobbyists trying to keep protein alternatives off the shelves. He outlines ways to overcome that opposition and create healthier, more sustainable, and more humane food options.


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