Some people would consider any book they own something they’ve “read.” While I have not read On Food and Cooking cover to cover yet, I am about half way in. I am only providing those books that I would personally recommend because they have had an impact on me. I hope you enjoy the list!

Food Studies
Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé. The infamous 1971 argument that vegetarianism could end world poverty is still used today. In her book, Lappé unveils some of the first shocking statistics on grain and meat production and her complimentary protein theory, setting the tone for books like Peter Singer’s 1975 Animal Liberation.
The Ethics of What We Eat, Peter Singer. Singer’s 2007 study on the ethics of our food system is a more measured and approachable work than the 1975 Animal Liberation. If you want the meat scared out of you, go for the raw text of the latter (even better, read this one as a primer). If you want to learn about practical things like the ethics of your grocery list, I highly recommend his new work.
Food Matters, Mark Bittman. While I like Mark Bittman’s approach to eating less meat products and those of higher quality, I personally don’t care at all for his recipes. Nonetheless, the first 100 pages or so are a refreshing and simple read.
The Geography of Thought, Richard Nisbett. An utterly fascinating, if slightly dry scientific study on the cultural distinctions and principles between the East and West that have affected how we think. For anyone interested in different cultures, cognition, the nature vs. nurture argument, and especially any westerner or easterner transplanted across the world, this book is essential.
In the Devil’s Garden, Stewart Lee Allen. Thanks to Mark Kurlansky, the on-my-shelf reference book (cousin to the coffee table book) has turned its sights on food. What better a subject than the sinful and devilish history of the foods we’ve scorned and coveted with cult-like enthusiasm? What better indeed.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan. It’s now cliche to say something like “Michael Pollan made me think about food.” However overpraised this book has been, it was my gateway into the world of food. As such, I couldn’t really suggest to start anywhere else, now could I?
Slow Food Nation, Carlo Petrini. While he may not be as eloquent as Wendell Berry or as simplistic as Michael Pollan, Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food is the kind of grassroots advocacy that is acting, now. Slow Food’s advocacy of saving traditional foods, educating our youth, and building a more sustainable food system (one that is good, clean, and fair), is both respectful of the old but also embracing the new. Yes, I’m a Slow Food Member.
The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry. Berry argues that the abandonment of farms and rural areas has only alienated us from the land, from ourselves, and from each other. We venture into increasingly more specialized jobs in economies that don’t value human worth, nature, or community. You’ve probably heard the argument, but if not with Wendell Berry’s poetry and passion, you’re probably still doing it wrong.

Nutrition and Dieting
Ayurvedic Healing, Dr. David Frawley
Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford
The Raw Food Detox Diet, Natalia Rose
Real Food: What to Eat and Why, Nina Planck
Ultrametabolism, Mark M. D. Hyman
What to Eat, Marion Nestle

Arranging the Meal, Jean-Louis Flandrin
The Art of Cooking, Martino Di Como
Building a Meal, Professor Hervé This and Professor Malcolm DeBevoise
Eating Right in the Renaissance, Ken Albala
A History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman
Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky

Food Writing & Literature
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Natural History, Pliny the Elder
The Odyssey, Homer
The Physiology of Taste, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (Translated by M. F. K. Fisher)
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

Biography & Memoir
The Apprentice, Jacques Pepin
Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, Thomas McNamee
Heat, Bill Buford
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
The Soul of the Chef, Michael Ruhlman

On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee
Food Lover’s Companion, Sharon Tyler Herbst
Herbs & Spices, Jill Normal
Knife Skills Illustrated, Peter Hertzmann
The Produce Bible, Leanne Kitchen, Deborah Madison
Spices, Manisha Gambhir Harkins
The Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood
The Yoga of Herbs, Dr. Vasant Lad

The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters
The Cheese Plate, Max McCalman
Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters
Chinese Gastronomy, Hsiang-Ju Lin
Eggs, Michel Roux
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan
The Flexitarian Table, Peter Berley
The Gourmet Cookbook, Ruth Reichl
Heaven’s Banquet, Miriam Kasin Hospodar
The Improvisational Cook, Sally Schneider
Jamie at Home, Jamie Oliver
Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Yamuna Devi
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, Julia Child
Mediterranean Cooking, Paula Wolfert
Molto Italiano, Mario Batali
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon
Real Food, Nina Planck
Sunday Supper at Lucques, Suzanne Goin
William Sonoma’s Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker, Norman Kolpas
The Zuni Cafe, Judy Rodgers

Artisan Baking, Maggie Glezer
Baking Illustrated, Cook’s Illustrated
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Peter Reinhart
Home Baking, Jeffrey Alford
Whole Grain Baking, King Arthur Flour
William Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking, Cathy Burgett

Rational Fasting, Arnold Ehret

Wilderness Skills, Foraging and Identification
EMERGENCY: This Book Will Save Your Life, Neil Strauss This is the newest section to the list, and I can credit Neil Strauss’ incredibly readable, if not totally practical survivalist makeover to single-handedly inspiring (and frightening) me to take control and bug out of NYC.
Tom Brown’s Science and Art of Tracking, Tom Brown
Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: The Classic Guide to Building Wilderness Shelters, D. C. Beard
Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Lawrence Newcomb
The Wild Gourmets, Guy Grieve and Thomasina Miers

  1. Alisa wrote:

    I love lists! And I have to say I like what you have put together here.I’m copying this list and hopefully before the end of next year I get to read/have most if not all of them. Your site is soooo much fun!

    November 28th, 2009 at 8:32 am
  2. Anjuli wrote:

    Alisa: I love reading and cannot get enough food books.

    November 28th, 2009 at 1:22 pm
  3. Michael O'Neill wrote:

    I am an old, retired chef and former restaurant owner. I read yr list with envy as I could never buy these books now, not on my social security. You see, when I was cheffing from the early 60s to the beginning of this century, it was very rare that a restaurant paid its kitchen on the books, unless yours was a national chain or a corporate establishment.

    As a young fool, that was fine with me as it put more cash immediately in my pocket, without thought about tomorrow, which is today. It was not just foolishness to be fair to my ego, it was also little choice. You either worked off the books or you could work elsewhere. You see, it really benefited the owner.

    That is why today, I have little patience with the yahoos screeching their anti-immigrant venom of “they don’t pay taxes,” “they cheat,” “they live off the largess of the welfare state,” etc. It is not the incrediably hard working immigrant washing dishe, or prep or line cook who is cheating, it is only the owner, if you could possibly imagine a red-blooded, white, blue American cheating the Federales on their taxes, certainly not in the “greatest country in the world.” But I digress.

    It is immediately noticeable that yr food education seems to begin at the turn of this century. There is not one book of the 20th C American food scene. It was not just fuddy duddies either with their salads with marshmallows & jello, with its Good Housekeeping seal of approval. One of the most influential and seminal writers on all matters food not mentioned is Craig Claiborne. In his food column and many books, he opened the eyes of many people with the possibilities of adventures in exotic, foreign foods. His autobiography in food is quite revealing for a courtly Southerner turned cosmopolitan. He tells of reaching puberty with his father fucking him and living with an impoverished mother after his father’s death who turned their home into a boarding home for single men, who would carry on the paternal education.

    It was Craig Claiborne who opened up Julia Child’s eyes to the possibilities of carving out a career in food, who brought Jacques Perrier to his American audience. He introduced Paul Bocuse, the Troigros brothers, Freddy , et al. He was influential in the lives of many writers and chefs in both America and Europe. Upon his retirement, the French Tourist Industry put on a gala celebration in recognition of his accomplishment of making France a necessary stop on the American itinerary abroad with a party that was a 3-day sumptuous affaire with chefs and foods flown in from all over the world, no expense spared. He introduced all the important French chefs with their nouvelle cuisine not only to France, but here that turned around American cooking by showing how one could depart from the canon of French bourgeoise cuisine to experiment, reduce, expand or combine all sorts of possibilities of ingredients, styles, national traditions to make not just beautiful plates, but also healthy meals.

    I must go, but I recommend to you Fanny Farmer, Irma Brombeck, Jane Grigson, MFK Fisher, James Beard, Marcella Hazan, among many others, to continue your culinary understanding of American cuisine. Bittman, Pollan and Bataliam wonderful as they are, only stepped in 5 mins ago.

    February 27th, 2010 at 11:30 am
  4. PAGE wrote:

    Cant believe what i’m reading.i am in foodie heaven.oh yeah i’m brave,giving the ghee a go today! It is so, there are others out there who actually read and collect cookbooks! yippie! I hail from New orleans so a fusion of cultures influence our cooking pot.we are truely blessed and home cooks here are top notch. we lack in the Indian influence so I am greatful to have found this site.It Rocks!Get back with everyone on my first time out making Ghee! Love the pic’s so helpful.

    May 25th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

What do you think?