100 books like Consulting the Genius of the Place

By Wes Jackson,

Here are 100 books that Consulting the Genius of the Place fans have personally recommended if you like Consulting the Genius of the Place. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America

Catherine Zabinski Author Of Amber Waves: The Extraordinary Biography of Wheat, from Wild Grass to World Megacrop

From my list on to contemplate food systems.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a plant and soil ecologist, and have spent my working life researching and teaching within the university system. I am also a reader of poetry and literature, and particularly drawn to authors who write so well that you are pulled into a topic that you didn’t know was of interest. I wrote a biography of wheat because I really like plants, and I thought that writing about one of our crop plants could attract readers who like to eat. Along the way, I got fascinated by the layered complexities of our food system. Reading about it is another way to reflect on our relationship with the planet. 

Catherine's book list on to contemplate food systems

Catherine Zabinski Why did Catherine love this book?

Part of a functioning food system is supporting the farmers who grow our crops. In Lentil Underground, Liz Carlisle introduces us to a network of farmers in Montana who made the decision to grow organic lentils and the work it took to make that economically viable. Carlisle’s writing has you sitting at the kitchen table with innovative members of the agricultural community.

By Liz Carlisle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A protégé of Michael Pollan shares the story of a little known group of renegade farmers who defied corporate agribusiness by launching a unique sustainable farm-to-table food movement.

The story of the Lentil Underground begins on a 280-acre homestead rooted in America’s Great Plains: the Oien family farm. Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness told small farmers like the Oiens to “get big or get out.” But twenty-seven-year-old David Oien decided to take a stand, becoming the first in his conservative Montana county to plant a radically different crop: organic lentils. Unlike the chemically dependent grains American farmers had been told…


Book cover of The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food

Janet Hubbard Author Of Champagne

From my list on modern day France containing food and wine.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went to Paris the first time when I was nineteen. I was sitting in a cheap restaurant when a man entered carrying a burlap sack filled with escargots, and put some on my plate (all very unsanitary) for me to taste. Delicious! I was in France in the 1970s when Robert Parker was discovering French wine. (We didn’t meet then, but did after my series was published many years later.)  Subsequent stays in Paris and other areas of France (Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy) afforded me a food and wine sensibility that over decades has permeated my lifestyle, my friendships—and my writing.

Janet's book list on modern day France containing food and wine

Janet Hubbard Why did Janet love this book?

Adam Gopnik’s book, The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food has it all: essays on the history of restaurants, followed by second on taste, then come the recipes (a stellar one on leg of lamb prepared with bacon and anchovies, saffron and cinnamon), and finally, in Chapter Ten, an essay on wine that is a far cry from the plethora of books on “how to taste.” It calls wine what it is, alcohol, and talks about why it makes us happy. I downloaded this book onto my Kindle a long time ago, and writing about it reminds me to purchase a hard copy of the book in order to place It on my shelf next to Gopnik’s book, Paris to the Moon, written way back in 1995, which is about the year he and his wife and infant son spent in Paris, with great stories…

By Adam Gopnik,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Table Comes First as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Never before have we cared so much about food. It preoccupies our popular culture, our fantasies, and even our moralizing—“You still eat meat?” With our top chefs as deities and finest restaurants as places of pilgrimage, we have made food the stuff of secular seeking and transcendence, finding heaven in a mouthful. But have we come any closer to discovering the true meaning of food in our lives?
 
With inimitable charm and learning, Adam Gopnik takes us on a beguiling journey in search of that meaning as he charts America’s recent and rapid evolution from commendably aware eaters to manic,…


Book cover of Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking

Catherine Zabinski Author Of Amber Waves: The Extraordinary Biography of Wheat, from Wild Grass to World Megacrop

From my list on to contemplate food systems.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a plant and soil ecologist, and have spent my working life researching and teaching within the university system. I am also a reader of poetry and literature, and particularly drawn to authors who write so well that you are pulled into a topic that you didn’t know was of interest. I wrote a biography of wheat because I really like plants, and I thought that writing about one of our crop plants could attract readers who like to eat. Along the way, I got fascinated by the layered complexities of our food system. Reading about it is another way to reflect on our relationship with the planet. 

Catherine's book list on to contemplate food systems

Catherine Zabinski Why did Catherine love this book?

Buford recounts his story of what originally was supposed to be a year in France, learning to cook, French style, through an apprenticeship in Lyon. While the whole story is engaging, maybe the most interesting part for me was the tale that runs throughout about Bob, the boulanger, and his quest to make bread from the flour with a specific terroir, because the soils and climate were essential to the quality of his baguettes. 

By Bill Buford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“You can almost taste the food in Bill Buford’s Dirt, an engrossing, beautifully written memoir about his life as a cook in France.” —The Wall Street Journal

What does it take to master French cooking? This is the question that drives Bill Buford to abandon his perfectly happy life in New York City and pack up and (with a wife and three-year-old twin sons in tow) move to Lyon, the so-called gastronomic capital of France. But what was meant to be six months in a new and very foreign city turns into a wild five-year digression from normal life, as…


Book cover of On Immunity: An Inoculation

Sara Jensen Carr Author Of The Topography of Wellness: How Health and Disease Shaped the American Landscape

From my list on creating, building, and thinking about healthier places.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of architecture, urbanism, and landscape at Northeastern University in Boston, as well as a licensed architect and urban designer. I’ve always been fascinated by the ways the design of the world affects our decision-making, health, and opportunities, from the early days of my career designing hospitals to my current work researching and designing for green space equity and considering how we design in the age of pandemics and climate change. I hope these books, as well as my own writing and work, empower people to understand, ask for, and co-design healthier environments wherever they live, work, and play.

Sara's book list on creating, building, and thinking about healthier places

Sara Jensen Carr Why did Sara love this book?

Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag was an incredibly formative piece of writing for me, especially when I was thinking about how fears of tuberculosis and cancer shaped early and mid-20th-century design. I think this book picks up where that one left off, a piece of writing that not only writes a medical history but frames how we think about health, disease, and fear in discussions about vaccination, but with a great deal of empathy. This is a crucial read to understand how we bridge divisions and move forward in our pandemic age.

By Eula Biss,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked On Immunity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Best Seller
A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
A Facebook "Year of Books" Selection

One of the Best Books of the Year
* National Book Critics Circle Award finalist * The New York Times Book Review (Top 10) * Entertainment Weekly (Top 10) * New York Magazine (Top 10)* Chicago Tribune (Top 10) * Publishers Weekly (Top 10) * Time Out New York (Top 10) * Los Angeles Times * Kirkus * Booklist * NPR's Science Friday * Newsday * Slate * Refinery…


Book cover of The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability

Max Wilbert Author Of Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do about It

From my list on on environmental books.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a wilderness guide, community organizer, and writer focused on stopping the destruction of the planet. My work, which has appeared in The New York Times and been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, has taken me to the Siberian Arctic to document climate change research, to the Philippines to work with grassroots communities defending tropical rainforests, and to Nevada where I began a protest movement against an open-pit lithium mine.

Max's book list on on environmental books

Max Wilbert Why did Max love this book?

The importance of this book is less about human diets, and more about the food system itself. Keith explains in great detail that agriculture — the growing of annual monocrops — is the single most destructive activity humans have ever undertaken. Much of the planet’s surface, formerly teeming with wildlife, has now been cleared, drained, plowed, fertilized, and dedicated to one species: humans.

This doesn’t mean all food production is destructive; Keith distinguishes between agriculture and other methods of growing food, like horticulture, wild-tending, and pastoralism. But the conclusion is simple. We’re in overshoot, and agriculture is a big part of the problem.

By Lierre Keith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Part memoir, nutritional primer, and political manifesto, this controversial examination exposes the destructive history of agriculture—causing the devastation of prairies and forests, driving countless species extinct, altering the climate, and destroying the topsoil—and asserts that, in order to save the planet, food must come from within living communities. In order for this to happen, the argument champions eating locally and sustainably and encourages those with the resources to grow their own food. Further examining the question of what to eat from the perspective of both human and environmental health, the account goes beyond health choices and discusses potential moral issues…


Book cover of The Agricultural Dilemma: How Not to Feed the World

Chris Smaje Author Of Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future: The Case For an Ecological Food System and Against Manufactured Foods

From my list on why we must adopt low-impact local food systems.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started my career as an academic social scientist and seem set to end it as a gardener, small-scale farmer, and accidental ecological activist. I’ve learned a lot of things along the way from these different parts of my life that I channel in my writing. I don’t claim much expertise. In fact, I think claims to expert knowledge that can ‘solve’ modern problems are a big part of our modern problems. I’ve always been interested in how people and communities try to figure things out for themselves, often by picking up the pieces when big ideas have failed them. My writing arises out of that.

Chris' book list on why we must adopt low-impact local food systems

Chris Smaje Why did Chris love this book?

I’ve been reading, thinking about, and doing food and farming for a long time, but I still found this book an eye-opener in its rigorous understanding of how we’re getting the food system so wrong globally.

We’ve been spun a line that modern petrochemical-intensive agriculture, with its supposedly scientific and efficient methods, holds the line against poverty and hunger in our populous modern world. In scholarly but readable prose, Stone’s book demolishes this idea, showing how modern industrial farming makes too many of us ill, poor, and vulnerable.

Breathing new life into the much-maligned model of the labour-intensive small ‘peasant’ or family farm, he points the way to more local and human-scale agriculture for the future. 

By Glenn Davis Stone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

provides a new analysis of population and agricultural growth. argues that we can't make sense of population and food production without recognizing the drivers of three fundamentally different types of agriculture: Malthusian (expansion), industrialization (external-input-dependent) and intensification (labour-based). upends entrenched misconceptions such as that we are running out of land for food production and that our only hope is development of new agricultural technologies written in an engaging style, containing vignettes, short histories and global case studies will not only be of interest to students and scholars of agriculture, land management and development, but also those more widely interested in…


Book cover of Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, a New Earth

Courtney White Author Of Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country

From my list on and for learning about regenerative agriculture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and former environmental activist who dropped out of the ‘conflict industry’ in 1997 to start the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a radical center among ranchers, environmentalists, scientists, and others around practices that improve resilience in working landscapes. For two decades, I worked on the front lines of collaborative conservation and regenerative agriculture, sharing innovative, land-based solutions to food, water, and climate challenges. I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Courtney's book list on and for learning about regenerative agriculture

Courtney White Why did Courtney love this book?

In this book, Australian farmer Charles Massey takes a ‘big picture’ view of regenerative agriculture. It’s full of personal stories but it also goes deep into the history of industrial agriculture, the damage it continues to do, and how we can heal the planet. Massey lays out an inspiring vision for a new agriculture and the vital connections between our soil and our health. It’s a story of how a grassroots revolution can help turn climate change around and build healthy communities, pivoting on our relationship with growing and consuming food. 

By Charles Massy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Call of the Reed Warbler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part lyrical nature writing, part storytelling, part solid scientific evidence, part scholarly research, part memoir, the book is an elegant manifesto, an urgent call to stop trashing the Earth and start healing it. the Guardian

Perfect for readers of Wilding, Dirt to Soil and English Pastoral!

Call of the Reed Warbler is a clarion call for the global transformation of agriculture, and an in-depth look at the visionary farmers who are revolutionising the way we grow, eat, and think about food.

Using his personal experience as a touchstone, starting as a chemical-dependent farmer with dead soils, he recounts his journey…


Book cover of Foodtopia: Communities in Pursuit of Peace, Love, & Homegrown Food

A. Whitney Sanford Author Of Living Sustainably: What Intentional Communities Can Teach Us about Democracy, Simplicity, and Nonviolence

From my list on the industrialization of and fight for the future of food.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated by the intersection of food, sustainable agriculture, and culture when I moved to Iowa. I had long been an environmentalist, but moving to the land of big corn forced me to rethink food production. I wrote a book that explored agricultural narratives in India (Growing Stores from India) and developed a class on Religion and Food. I then became curious about how people and communities translate their values of sustainability into practice. For example, how do you decide what to eat, and who gets to decide? These books helped me think about links between food, sustainability, and culture and the power to decide what to eat.

A. Whitney's book list on the industrialization of and fight for the future of food

A. Whitney Sanford Why did A. Whitney love this book?

Foodtopia tells us about people and communities who taking control of their own food production.

Throughout US history, many groups have sought alternatives to the dominant food culture, including Thgoreau, the Nearings, and, more recently, millennials. While many of us would like to have food alternatives, it can be difficult to figure out how to do this.

Kelley’s book provides details and descriptions of how these back to the land movements worked against the grain and the choices they made in doing so. These stories and examples help us see that there are alternatives to existing food systems, then and now. 

By Margot Anne Kelley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Insightful...empathetic...a thoughtful consideration of a topic that will have a substantial impact on our future."-Booklist

Readable Feast, 2022 Book Award Finalist

Ever wonder if there's a better way to live, work, and eat? You're not alone. Here is the story of five back-to-the-land movements, from 1840 to present day, when large numbers of utopian-minded people in the United States took action to establish small-scale farming as an alternative to mainstream agriculture. Then and now, it's the story of people striving to live freely and fight injustice, to make the food on their table a little healthier, and to leave the…


Book cover of The Coming Famine: The Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do to Avoid It

Roger RB Leakey Author Of Living with the Trees of Life: Towards the Transformation of Tropical Agriculture

From my list on making a healthier, fairer, and better planet.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a research scientist who has worked on the interface of many biological, environmental, social, and economic disciplines seeking more sustainable and yet productive forms of agriculture in the tropics and subtropics. With numerous colleagues, I've tried to find ways to right many of the wrongs that have affected the critical food and non-food needs of the world’s poorest and marginalized farmers. This also has the potential to heal much of the environmental degradation and social deprivation in our troubled and dysfunctional world. Along the way, I've had an unusual and privileged research career travelling in remote corners of the world and meeting the people most in need of help from international decision makers.

Roger's book list on making a healthier, fairer, and better planet

Roger RB Leakey Why did Roger love this book?

This ‘wake-up’ call to society about the food crisis already affecting one billion people provides both information and guidance about what needs to be done to avert disaster.

It is also full of important philosophy, such as “There can be no peace until people have enough to eat.” The book goes on to offer important insights into what needs to be done for humanity to live sustainably.

The task is enormous, but there is hope if we wake from our slumbers. 

By Julian Cribb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In "The Coming Famine", Julian Cribb lays out a vivid picture of impending planetary crisis - a global food shortage that threatens to hit by mid-century - that would dwarf any in our previous experience. Cribb's comprehensive assessment describes a dangerous confluence of shortages - of water, land, energy, technology, and knowledge - combined with the increased demand created by population and economic growth. Writing in brisk, accessible prose, Cribb explains how the food system interacts with the environment and with armed conflict, poverty, and other societal factors. He shows how high food prices and regional shortages are already sending…


Book cover of Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food

Kenden Alfond Author Of Kosher Macros: 63 Recipes for Eating Everything (Kosher) for Physical Health and Emotional Balance

From my list on reset your mindset and enjoy eating in balance.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Kenden, I’m a psychotherapist and executive coach who focuses on Enneagram personality assessment and financial psychology and behavior. I have a side passion for writing Jewish cookbooks and creating modern minimalist Judica. I grew up in Maine, USA, and have since lived and worked in Afghanistan, India, DR Congo, Switzerland, and Cambodia. Nowadays I live in Paris. 

Kenden's book list on reset your mindset and enjoy eating in balance

Kenden Alfond Why did Kenden love this book?

I first read Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (published in 1977) in high school.

In Bringing It to the Table, Berry shares excerpts of his essays exploring what has shaped farming and food in the last four decades: the declining state of American agriculture, the dangers of industrialized food farming, and the importance of farming to the human community – for body, mind, and soul.

This book cuts deep into food, one of the most important issues of our century because it impacts climate change, resource depletion, financial insecurity, and health issues created by poor food choices. 

By Wendell Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bringing It to the Table as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Only a farmer could delve so deeply into the origins of food, and only a writer of Wendell Berry’s caliber could convey it with such conviction and eloquence. A progenitor of the slow food movement, Wendell Berry reminds us all to take the time to understand the basics of what we ingest. “Eating is an agriculture act,” he writes. Indeed, we are all players in the food economy. For the last five decades, Berry has embodied mindful eating through his land practices and his writing. In recognition of that influence, Michael Pollan here offers an introduction to this wonderful collection…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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