87 books like Uncommon Grounds

By Mark Pendergrast,

Here are 87 books that Uncommon Grounds fans have personally recommended if you like Uncommon Grounds. 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 Potato: A Global History

John Gaudet Author Of Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars

From my list on plants that changed the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a writer, lecturer, biologist, ecologist, and two-time Fulbright Scholar (to India and Malaysia). I'm now a fiction writer, but basically I’ve always been a storyteller who writes in a historical framework. While I feel an almost compulsive obligation to keep faith with the facts, my main objective is to tell a story—as dramatically and suspensefully and entertainingly as I can. My first non-fiction book, Papyrus: the Plant that Changed the World, tells the story of a plant that still evokes the mysteries of the ancient world while holding the key to the world’s wetlands and atmospheric stability. It changed the world as did all five of the plants on my list below. 

John's book list on plants that changed the world

John Gaudet Why did John love this book?

Potatoes began as a main food staple in the Andes then spread to the rest of the world and especially Ireland where the dependence of the people on it created havoc that lasted generations, and served humanity as an example never to be forgotten. 

This book explains how the potato brought about changes good and bad until today it is difficult to imagine life without it. A Big Mac with no fries is like a latte with no milk. It was introduced into China in the 1600s and by 2006 China’s potato production at 74 million tons is the largest in the world. The Chinese now consume 88 lb (40 kg) per person annually. 

As to its eatability, what more proof do we need than the movie, Martian in which Matt Damon shows us how he happily survived months on it in space. And he did all that without leaving…

By Andrew F. Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From its obscure Pre-Columbian beginnings in South America to its global popularity today, the story of the potato is one of rags to riches. In Potato, esteemed culinary historian Andrew F. Smith reveals the captivating story of a once lowly vegetable that has changed - and continues to change - the world. First domesticated by prehistoric people in the Andes, the potato has since been adopted by cultures all over the globe. After its discovery by Europeans, goverments and monarchs encouraged the people to farm it because it was so nutritious and easy to grow, but its new position as…


Book cover of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World

Eran Pichersky Author Of Plants and Human Conflict

From my list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history.

Why am I passionate about this?

After serving in the military for several years, I pursued a scientific career as a plant biologist. It was during my military service in a unit that spent most of our time in the wilderness that I discovered plants, and particularly their smells. One cannot help it–if you step or crawl on a plant, you will smell it. As a military history buff, I also learned that many wars were fought over plants, and so I decided to write a book that combines the two–explaining what these plants do, why they are so important to people, and, therefore, how plants basically drive human behavior, often to violence. 

Eran's book list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history

Eran Pichersky Why did Eran love this book?

In my youth I actually worked in banana groves, cutting old stems to make room for new ones. But I never gave much thought to how one plant could cause so much war and political mayhem.

This book makes it easy to follow the convoluted political history of the banana plant. I now know what the term Banana Republic means–and that I live in one.

By Dan Koeppel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the vein of Mark Kurlansky's bestselling Salt and Cod, a gripping chronicle of the myth, mystery, and uncertain fate of the world's most popular fruit

In this fascinating and surprising exploration of the banana's history, cultural significance, and endangered future, award-winning journalist Dan Koeppel gives readers plenty of food for thought. Fast-paced and highly entertaining, Banana takes us from jungle to supermarket, from corporate boardrooms to kitchen tables around the world. We begin in the Garden of Eden-examining scholars' belief that Eve's "apple" was actually a banana- and travel to early-twentieth-century Central America, where aptly named "banana republics" rose…


Book cover of A World History of Rubber: Empire, Industry, and the Everyday

John Gaudet Author Of Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars

From my list on plants that changed the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a writer, lecturer, biologist, ecologist, and two-time Fulbright Scholar (to India and Malaysia). I'm now a fiction writer, but basically I’ve always been a storyteller who writes in a historical framework. While I feel an almost compulsive obligation to keep faith with the facts, my main objective is to tell a story—as dramatically and suspensefully and entertainingly as I can. My first non-fiction book, Papyrus: the Plant that Changed the World, tells the story of a plant that still evokes the mysteries of the ancient world while holding the key to the world’s wetlands and atmospheric stability. It changed the world as did all five of the plants on my list below. 

John's book list on plants that changed the world

John Gaudet Why did John love this book?

As Harp says, “…confronting the realities of the past will make us wiser, better-informed global citizens in the future.”

He tells us about rubber tree seeds stolen from trees in Brazil that allowed British rubber plantations to thrive in the Far East where they provided a British monopoly of rubber during WWI when rubber made its mark as a ‘must have’ for the war machine.

Rubber collected in the wild in Brazil and the Congo set the stage for the early development of this miracle substance that would eventually waterproof the world. Then in 1904 an international campaign exposed the brutal abuses in rubber collection in the Congo Free State, a colony solely owned by Belgian King Leopold II. 

A slump in production after WWI hit the United States, which by then consumed 70-80 percent of the world’s supply, most of it going to a gigantic automobile industry. This encouraged…

By Stephen L. Harp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A World History of Rubber helps readers understand and gain new insights into the social and cultural contexts of global production and consumption, from the nineteenth century to today, through the fascinating story of one commodity.

Divides the coverage into themes of race, migration, and labor; gender on plantations and in factories; demand and everyday consumption; World Wars and nationalism; and resistance and independence Highlights the interrelatedness of our world long before the age of globalization and the global social inequalities that persist today Discusses key concepts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including imperialism, industrialization, racism, and inequality, through…


Book cover of Quinine: Malaria and the Quest for a Cure That Changed the World

John Gaudet Author Of Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars

From my list on plants that changed the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a writer, lecturer, biologist, ecologist, and two-time Fulbright Scholar (to India and Malaysia). I'm now a fiction writer, but basically I’ve always been a storyteller who writes in a historical framework. While I feel an almost compulsive obligation to keep faith with the facts, my main objective is to tell a story—as dramatically and suspensefully and entertainingly as I can. My first non-fiction book, Papyrus: the Plant that Changed the World, tells the story of a plant that still evokes the mysteries of the ancient world while holding the key to the world’s wetlands and atmospheric stability. It changed the world as did all five of the plants on my list below. 

John's book list on plants that changed the world

John Gaudet Why did John love this book?

Rocco is the great-granddaughter of Phillipe Bunau-Varilla, a soldier, engineer, and former Panamanian ambassador to the United States.

A genius in the art of lobbyist statecraft, he has been referred to as the “Inventor of Panama.” He, like Rocco, survived malaria, so she knows about malaria and quinine from street level. From its discovery in the 17th Cent. by Jesuit missionaries in Peru to its use by expanding European colonial powers and its role in the development of modern anti-malaria pills, quinine proves to be a real factor in the history of the modern world.

The Jesuits learned of the bark of the cinchona tree, which was used by Andean natives to cure shivering, at a time when malaria, then known as Roman ague or marsh fever, was devastating southern Europe. They eagerly began the distribution of the curative bark, which also helped European explorers and missionaries survive the disease…

By Fiammetta Rocco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Quinine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The fascinating story of the intensive search to discover and possess quininethe only known cure for malaria Malaria kills someone every 12 minutes in Africa. Now known mostly as a disease of the tropics, malaria led to the demise of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago and ravaged Europe for years afterwards. At the start of the 17th century, Jesuit priests developed quinine, an alkaloid made out of the bitter red bark of the cinchona tree from the Andes. When quinine arrived in Europe, the Protestant powers resisted the medicine fearing that it was a Popish poison. Quinines reputation improved,…


Book cover of God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee

James Hoffmann Author Of How To Make The Best Coffee At Home

From my list on coffee lovers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been working in coffee for nearly 20 years, and teaching people about coffee for most of that. I love sharing how interesting, diverse, and fun the world of coffee is, and I want people to enjoy and value the coffee they drink a little more. It is a passion and a career that’s taken me around the world, and continues to reinforce the idea that just a little effort or interest in your morning coffee has surprisingly large rewards. The books on this list inspired my own passion for coffee and I hope they do the same for you.

James' book list on coffee lovers

James Hoffmann Why did James love this book?

The speciality coffee industry is now a mature global part of coffee culture, but this book captures the early excitement around it as it burst onto the global stage. How coffee companies sought out and bought coffee was completely rewritten during this time, and this book makes for a fascinating read.

By Michaele Weissman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Can a cup of coffee reveal the face of God? Can it become the holy grail of modern-day knights errant who brave hardship and peril in a relentless quest for perfection? Can it change the world? These questions are not rhetorical. When highly prized coffee beans sell at auction for $50, $100, or $150 a pound wholesale (and potentially twice that at retail), anything can happen. In God in a Cup, journalist and late-blooming adventurer Michaele Weissman treks into an exotic and paradoxical realm of specialty coffee where the successful traveler must be part passionate coffee connoisseur, part ambitious entrepreneur,…


Book cover of Black Gold: The Dark History of Coffee

Annabel Townsend Author Of It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Ten Years of Misadventures in Coffee

From my list on wannabe coffee shop owners.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been going by the handle ‘Dr. Coffee’ online for over a decade now. I really do have a PhD. in coffee! In 2007 I embarked on a doctorate and wrote my thesis on ideas of quality in the coffee industry. The inevitable question is then, ‘what do you do with a PhD in coffee?’ and my answer was to open coffee shops, first in the UK and then in Canada. In recent years, I've switched from owning a coffee shop with books in it to a bookshop with coffee in it, but it still manages to satisfy both passions. I firmly believe there is no better combination than hot coffee and good books.  

Annabel's book list on wannabe coffee shop owners

Annabel Townsend Why did Annabel love this book?

Another book that served my research well, this one is both compelling, disturbing, and thought-provoking but still compulsively readable. It covers virtually every aspect of coffee’s 500-year history in Europe while also drawing on even older information from coffee-producing countries. The sections that captured my attention most were about the marketing of coffee—fascinating stuff! This book makes it possible to enjoy your favourite drink even more, all the while being aware of its history of exploitation and colonialism and often unsustainable means of production. It will make you seek out ethical, environmentally-friendly coffee without being preachy. Thoroughly worth reading. 

By Antony Wild,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Your morning flat-white helped shape the modern world

'Elegantly written, witty and so wide in scope, so rich in detail and so thought provoking' Joanna Blythman

It may seem like just a drink, but coffee's dark journey from the highlands of Ethiopia to the highstreets of every town in the country links alchemy and anthropology, poetry and politics, science and slavery. Plots have been hatched, blood spilled and governments toppled to keep your mug filled with fresh espresso.

In this thought-provoking expose, Antony Wild, coffee trader and historian, explores coffee's dismal colonial past, its perilous corporate present, and the environmental…


Book cover of Coffee: Production, Quality and Chemistry

Shawn Steiman Author Of The Little Coffee Know-It-All: A Miscellany for Growing, Roasting, and Brewing, Uncompromising and Unapologetic

From my list on coffee books by academics that anyone can understand.

Why am I passionate about this?

Coffee was a hobby that went off the rails. I moved to Hawai‘i to study coffee horticulture in graduate school and became a generalist coffee scientist by the end of it. My coffee library contains over 100 books, and it is incomplete! I approach coffee as an academic, but I’ve owned some retail companies that have taught me to talk and think about coffee in a way that doesn’t scare people off. Coffee is what I love, and I love talking about it with other people.

Shawn's book list on coffee books by academics that anyone can understand

Shawn Steiman Why did Shawn love this book?

These two volumes are some 1400 pages of coffee science goodness! Yes, there are chemical structures, lists, tables, and unfamiliar words. However, those typically help make things clearer (though it won’t always be the case).

The range of topics is immense, written by experts from around the world. I love that I can start almost any research quest with these books, and I’ll walk away with a good foundation on the topic.

By Adriana Farah (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world but how does the production influence chemistry and quality? This book covers coffee production, quality and chemistry from the plant to the cup. Written by an international collection of contributors in the field who concentrate on coffee research, it is edited expertly to ensure quality of content, consistency and organization across the chapters.

Aimed at advanced undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers and accompanied by a sister volume covering how health is influenced by the consumption of coffee, these titles provide an impactful and accessible guide to the current research in…


Book cover of The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing -- Coffees Explored, Explained and Enjoyed

Annabel Townsend Author Of It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Ten Years of Misadventures in Coffee

From my list on wannabe coffee shop owners.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been going by the handle ‘Dr. Coffee’ online for over a decade now. I really do have a PhD. in coffee! In 2007 I embarked on a doctorate and wrote my thesis on ideas of quality in the coffee industry. The inevitable question is then, ‘what do you do with a PhD in coffee?’ and my answer was to open coffee shops, first in the UK and then in Canada. In recent years, I've switched from owning a coffee shop with books in it to a bookshop with coffee in it, but it still manages to satisfy both passions. I firmly believe there is no better combination than hot coffee and good books.  

Annabel's book list on wannabe coffee shop owners

Annabel Townsend Why did Annabel love this book?

In the world of Speciality Coffee, James Hoffmann is the OG celebrity, and no list of coffee books is complete without this one. I met Hoffmann many years ago and he actually gave me barista training for my first Real coffee job. A year later, he won the World Barista Championship and founded Square Mile coffee roasters in London. The book contains absolutely everything a barista (or enthusiast) ever needs to know about coffee, complete with gorgeous pictures from around the world, and plenty of brewing tips too. Like me, Hoffmann is unashamedly geeky about coffee, and his humour, expertise, and passion for the little beans shine through this book. 

By James Hoffmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The worldwide bestseller - 1/4 million copies sold

'Written by a World Barista Champion and co-founder of the great Square Mile roasters in London, this had a lot to live up to and it certainly does. Highly recommended for anyone into their coffee and interested in finding out more about how it's grown, processed and roasted.' (Amazon customer)

'Whether you are an industry professional, a home enthusiast or anything in between, I truly believe this is a MUST read.' (Amazon customer)

'Informative, well-written and well presented. Coffee table and reference book - a winner' (Amazon customer)

'Very impressive. It's amazing…


Book cover of The Various Flavors of Coffee: A Novel

Robert W. Thurston Author Of Coffee: From Bean to Barista

From my list on US, China, Britain, France, and Nicaragua coffee.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have found coffee, or in fact just about any aspect of it, from pour-over to espresso, to be endlessly challenging and rewarding. My first visit to coffee farms was in 2004, to Ethiopia and Kenya. Since then I’ve been to dozens of farms in nine or ten countries. There is something about coffee people; they are wondrously generous about sharing their expertise, if they think you care and if you know the right questions to ask. Before going deeply into coffee, I was a professor of history, and I've continued to publish on topics as diverse as Stalin, the witch hunts in Europe and North America, and the body in the Anglosphere, 1880-1920.

Robert's book list on US, China, Britain, France, and Nicaragua coffee

Robert W. Thurston Why did Robert love this book?

Coffee, sex, travel, exotic locales, romance, and at long last love. This novel has it all, made vivid through the story of a more or less ordinary Englishman in the late 1890s who finds that he has a remarkable talent for discovering and describing the flavors and the problems in brewed coffee. He goes to Ethiopia to learn more about coffee. There his adventures become, shall we say, quite vivid, and some remarkable twists appear. Nicely written by an international best-selling author. Used copies are really cheap. You will have fun reading this with a great cup of coffee.

By Anthony Capella,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is 1895. Robert Wallis, would-be poet, bohemian and impoverished dandy, accepts a commission from coffee merchant Samuel Pinker to categorise the different tastes of coffee - and encounters Pinker's free-thinking daughters, Philomenia, Ada and Emily. As romance blossoms with Emily, Robert realises that the muse and marriage may not be incompatible after all.

Sent to Abyssinia to make his fortune in the coffee trade, he becomes obsessed with slave girl, Fikre. He decides to use the money he has saved to buy her from her owner - a decision that will change not only his own life, but the…


Book cover of The Craft and Science of Coffee

Shawn Steiman Author Of The Little Coffee Know-It-All: A Miscellany for Growing, Roasting, and Brewing, Uncompromising and Unapologetic

From my list on coffee books by academics that anyone can understand.

Why am I passionate about this?

Coffee was a hobby that went off the rails. I moved to Hawai‘i to study coffee horticulture in graduate school and became a generalist coffee scientist by the end of it. My coffee library contains over 100 books, and it is incomplete! I approach coffee as an academic, but I’ve owned some retail companies that have taught me to talk and think about coffee in a way that doesn’t scare people off. Coffee is what I love, and I love talking about it with other people.

Shawn's book list on coffee books by academics that anyone can understand

Shawn Steiman Why did Shawn love this book?

If I only had one science-y book that focuses on coffee quality, it might be this one. I love it because it covers topics that consumers, baristas, and roasters want to know about. It isn’t too big and, thankfully, not too expensive.  

I also love that it includes some chapters on sustainability, economics, and markets. So, it isn’t just hard sciences that are discussed, but practical information on the coffee industry at large, as well.

By Britta Folmer (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Craft and Science of Coffee follows the coffee plant from its origins in East Africa to its current role as a global product that influences millions of lives though sustainable development, economics, and consumer desire.

For most, coffee is a beloved beverage. However, for some it is also an object of scientifically study, and for others it is approached as a craft, both building on skills and experience. By combining the research and insights of the scientific community and expertise of the crafts people, this unique book brings readers into a sustained and inclusive conversation, one where academic and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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