"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser was the book that launched me into a new way of shopping and eating. Although it’s a little dated, it’s a fine expose of the industrial food system in America and is worthy of its frequent comparison to Sinclair’s "Jungle." If you are new to the concept of eating locally and are wondering what the big deal is, this book would be a great place to start. I recommend it because it's accessible and is a fine piece of investigative journalism. Rating: 4 out of 5. Readers: Newly green.
The local foods movement has its heroes and certainly Kingsolver (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) and Alisa Smith (Plenty) are right near the top. My favorite, though, is Gary Paul Nabham and his "Coming Home to Eat." Like Kingsolver and Smith, Nabhan decided to eat locally for one year. Nabhan lives in the desert, but lucky for him, he’s an expert on native plants and has the additional advantage of having friends who are members of local Indian tribes. During his local year he feasted on saguaro cactus fruit, mesquite tortillas, sea turtles, and roadkill (no kidding!). He even served it to his girlfriend, who must be some kind of a saint. Nabhan is Lebanese and seems very much at home among his Native American friends. The book is peppered with information about politics and the state of our food supply. Some of it is pretty depressing, but there is hope, too. There’s something special about this book and I felt richer for having read it. I don't know anybody else who's read this book, so somebody please choose it! Rating: 5 out of 5. Readers: medium light green to dark green.
"Three Cups of Tea" is the story of Greg Mortensen, American mountain climber turned humanitarian worker in central Asia. Operating on a shoestring budget, he has accomplished more in the fight against terrorism than the entirety of the rest of America’s efforts, and he’s done it by building schools for kids.
I wish this book were required reading for everyone involved in foreign policy. (And I just learned yesterday that the Pentagon has ordered cases of the book!) Mortensen brings a face to moderate Muslims in Pakistan and a cultural understanding that is remarkable. I consider this book a "green read" because if we’re going to make it through the global challenges ahead, we’re going to have to really care about the people who live on the other side of the world. "Three Cups of Tea" is exciting, it’s relevant, it’s timely, and it’s inspirational. Rating: 7 stars out of 5. Readers: Everybody!
I didn’t intend to duplicate previous recommendations, but, like Green Bean, I just have to include the Little House books in my "Favorite Five." I’ll also add other writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House Cookbook, which gives detailed instructions on how to prepare foods from the books. I have read all of these too many times to count, and they have influenced my thinking and attitudes more than almost any other books. They are a delightful read and I can’t praise them enough. If you’ve ever played Oregon Trail, if you’ve ever wished you were a pioneer, you’ve just got to read this series. Rating: 5 out of 5. Readers: Everybody.
Last, but certainly not least, I recommend "Listening for Coyote," by William L. Sullivan. Years ago, I wanted to do some hiking in Oregon so I purchased a hiking book. I quickly realized that it was much more than a trail guide -- the author's writing style was exactly what I like! When I sent a fan letter and he actually wrote back, I had a new favorite author.
"Listening for Coyote" is a journal of Bill Sullivan's trek across Oregon in search of the meaning of "wilderness." It’s an adventure tale incorporating bits of natural history, folklore, ecology and encounters with all sorts of people who interpret wilderness in their own ways. Bill writes with a gentle sense of humor, and his style reminds me just a little of Mark Twain. I’ve read "Listening for Coyote" a half dozen times – it’s that good. If you like this book and want more, I recommend "Cabin Fever," which is a memoir of summers spent at the log cabin that Bill and his wife built by hand. It feeds my inner pioneer (do you sense a trend, here?). Rating: 5 out of 5. Readers: Everybody.
So what do you think? Has anybody read any of these or seen another cherry you'd like to pick?