The best books about the science of food

Who am I?

I’m a novelist and a teacher of writing. My books are fueled by curiosity above all else. I have no expertise in science, so I stand in wonder at complicated systems that remain mostly hidden to me. My interest in food is similarly recreational. I’m married to a great chef and cookbook author, so I’ve learned a lot by osmosis. But when I think back on the process of writing One Potato, I have to give a lot of credit to my students. They seem to be part of a generation that’s genuinely passionate about eating in healthy, equitable, and sustainable ways. Much of my book was sparked by conversations in the classroom.


I wrote...

One Potato

By Tyler Mcmahon,

Book cover of One Potato

What is my book about?

A satire set within the biotech industry, One Potato features a bumbling but well-intentioned food scientist forced to walk a crooked line between nature and technology. Eddie Morales is quite happy as a lowly R&D man at a Boise-based biotech firm called Tuberware. His aspirations don’t reach far beyond processed foods and a simple life in Idaho. It comes as a shock when the company’s head calls Eddie into the office to discuss a situation in Puerto Malogrado—a tiny but tumultuous country in South America—where lax regulations allow Tuberware to market experimental crops. Eddie—not an expert on GMOs or PR—is dispatched to the Andes to help avert a media circus.  

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Omnivore's Dilemma

Tyler Mcmahon Why did I love this book?

I don’t think my book would exist without Michael Pollan’s work. It’s the book that got me thinking about these issues in detail, and the one that I return to often. In fact, as I went further down the GMO rabbit hole, my respect for this book only grew. So much literature and media on this topic are hyperbolic. Pollan is a lot more balanced and thoughtful than the rest of the conversation.

By Michael Pollan,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Omnivore's Dilemma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller that's changing America's diet is now perfect for younger readers

"What's for dinner?" seemed like a simple question-until journalist and supermarket detective Michael Pollan delved behind the scenes. From fast food and big organic to small farms and old-fashioned hunting and gathering, this young readers' adaptation of Pollan's famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global health implications of their food choices.

In a smart, compelling format with updated facts, plenty of photos, graphs, and visuals, as well as a new afterword and backmatter, The Omnivore's Dilemma serves up a bold message…


Book cover of My Year of Meats

Tyler Mcmahon Why did I love this book?

I owe a huge debt to Ozeki–in particular to her first two novels. They are both so ahead of their time. This book’s playful, curious, hilarious take on contemporary food culture is something that’s stuck with me for decades. The send-up of reality TV and nonfiction media is another thing that informed my work. As great as it’s been to watch all the success of Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, I remain a loyal fan of My Year of Meats and All Over Creation. If you liked my book, you should run right out and read both of them.

By Ruth Ozeki,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My Year of Meats as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*PRE-ORDER RUTH OZEKI'S NEW NOVEL, THE BOOK OF FORM AND EMPTINESS, TODAY*

In a single eye-opening year, two women, worlds apart, experience parallel awakenings.

In New York, Jane Takagi-Little has landed a job producing Japanese docu-soap My American Wife! But as she researches the consumption of meat in the American home, she begins to realize that her ruthless search for a story is deeply compromising her morals.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, housewife Akiko Ueno diligently prepares the recipes from Jane's programme. Struggling to please her husband, she increasingly doubts her commitment to the life she has fallen into.

As Jane and…


Book cover of Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley's Mission to Change What We Eat

Tyler Mcmahon Why did I love this book?

This is the newest book on my list, and it reads like a glimpse into the future. Zimberoff investigates big tech’s scramble to create eggs without chickens, milk without cows, and meat without animals. It’s remarkable in both its breadth and its access to key players. I mentioned my character’s struggle to balance nature and technology earlier. In this arena, the line is even finer. If there’s ever a sequel to my own book, it will surely explore alternative proteins.

By Larissa Zimberoff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Technically Food as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The full inside story of the technology paradigm shift transforming the food we eat and who is making it

Ultra-processed and secretly produced foods are roaring back into vogue, cheered by consumers and investors because they are plant-based-often vegan-and help address societal issues. And as our food system leaps ahead to a sterilized lab of the future, we think we know more about our food than we ever did, but because so much is happening so rapidly, we actually know less. In Technically Food, investigative reporter Larissa Zimberoff pokes holes in the marketing mania behind today's changing food landscape and…


Book cover of Hunger

Tyler Mcmahon Why did I love this book?

Set during Hitler’s siege of Leningrad, the story centers on a group of botanists at a Russian institute that collects rare seeds. The scientists are forced to choose between preserving the wealth of genetic diversity in their collection or eating the seeds to survive. As starvation sets in, their consensus breaks down. It’s a heartbreaking account of the struggle between ideals and appetites. 

By Elise Blackwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Scouring the world's most remote fields and valleys, a dedicated Soviet scientist has spent his life collecting rare plants for his country's premiere botanical institute in Leningrad. From Northern Africa to Afghanistan, from South America to Abyssinia, he has sought and saved seeds that could be traced back to the most ancient civilizations. And the adventure has set deep in him. Even at home with the wife he loves, the memories of his travels return him to the beautiful women and strange foods he has known in exotic regions. When German troops surround Leningrad in the fall of 1941, he…


Book cover of The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People

Tyler Mcmahon Why did I love this book?

There’s a minor thread in my novel about the Irish Potato Famine, and this book was a major resource. It was sobering to learn that there was enough food to feed the Irish peasantry, but it was not distributed according to need. (Much of it was exported.) Worse still, it was a cultural moment in which the wealthy found ways to absolve themselves of the poverty of their neighbors. But I was most shocked to learn about the scientific implications. Essentially, the potato variety that failed was a monoculture. And the solution to the blight involved returning to the Andes, with its vast genetic diversity, and finding a resistant strain. 

By John Kelly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It started in 1845 and lasted six years. Before it was over, more than one million men, women, and children starved to death and another million fled the country. Measured in terms of mortality, the Great Irish Potato Famine was one of the worst disasters in the nineteenth century - it claimed twice as many lives as the American Civil War. A perfect storm of bacterial infection, political greed, and religious intolerance sparked this catastrophe. But even more extraordinary than its scope were its political underpinnings, and "The Graves Are Walking" provides fresh material and analysis on the role that…


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Quick Bright Things

By Michael Golding,

Book cover of Quick Bright Things

Michael Golding Author Of A Poet of the Invisible World

New book alert!

Who am I?

It took me awhile to understand that I was on a spiritual path. I started out as an actor, and working in the theater brought me joy. But as time passed, and I turned to writing novels, the same questions kept emerging: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” I began to see that I was on a spiritual journey. With A Poet of the Invisible World, I finally felt ready to write about that journey. Nouri’s adventures chart the twists and turns—as well as the deep rewards—of the spiritual path. It’s a book that’s very close to my heart.

Michael's book list on accompanying you on your spiritual journey

What is my book about?

This delightful fable about the Golden Age of Broadway unfolds the warm story of Artie, a young rehearsal pianist, Joe, a visionary director, and Carrie, his crackerjack Girl Friday, as they shepherd a production of a musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream towards opening night. 

Drawn from the personal experiences of its author, it's a glittering love letter to the Great White Wayand all the crazy, gifted people who keep it humming.

Quick Bright Things

By Michael Golding,

What is this book about?

This is a delightful fable about the Golden Age of Broadway. It follows Artie, a young rehearsal pianist, Joe, a visionary director, and Carrie, his crackerjack Girl Friday, as they shepherd a production of a musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream towards opening night.

Drawn from the personal experiences of its author, this is a glittering love letter to the Great White Way, and all the crazy, gifted people who keep it humming.


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