Introducing You to Friends These are Books that Have Changed My Life
My books have always been like friends to me. This is in part because some of my book reviews are quite literally written by friends—chefs and cookbook authors and journalists and activists I’ve met through the years—but just as many are books written by people I’ve long admired from afar. When I walk into my little study lined with bookcases, that is exactly how I feel: that I am surrounded by my friends, in dialogue with them as I flip through the pages.
All of the books on this list have formed the foundation of the books that I write. These are books that have changed my life. Nevertheless, there are scores of others that have been important to me through the years, and I know I am leaving out so many that have influenced me! Including books about the Slow Food Movement. But Slow Food is an overarching philosophy imparted in all of these books: that the food we eat should always be good, clean, and fair.
In this moment of isolation, books are a balm for me: a way to travel when there is no travel, a way to feel hope and passion when the world seems bleak, a way to converse when there is no exchange of ideas around the dinner table. I can think of nothing more important than this, right now.
I thought this inspiring and lyrical essay was something Wendell Berry had written recently, because it’s so precisely about the issues our world is struggling with right now. But he actually wrote it almost 50 years ago!
I read this book cover to cover. Fukuoka practiced a type of farming he referred to as “do-nothing farming;” I still can’t believe that it is possible to grow food in such a regenerative and effortless way.
Alice Waters had the good fortune to meet the legendary chef and author Edna Lewis early on, and she became a dear friend and mentor. This book opened her eyes to the tremendous biodiversity of Southern cooking.
I read this shortly after I started the Edible Schoolyard Project, and it made me think, “This is the entire reason we’re doing this project.” Eric is such an important and incisive muckraker, and his books should be required reading
A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein
This is about architecture and design and their deeper philosophies, asking profound questions about the ways we live our lives: How do you design a city? What does it mean to have a front porch, a window seat, natural light?
Maira has a way of talking about universal values with levity; she’s never preaches, but instead makes me see things from another angle–or makes me laugh at my own foolishness. And her drawings make her books such a joy to read
Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel
It is important that we think globally and act locally—but in order to do that, we need to really understand what’s happening around the globe. That’s something Raj can show us so vividly, thanks to his endless curiosity about the cultures of the world
In the late 1980s, Jonathan Kozol embedded himself in American public schools and painted a picture of a school system that is so undemocratic and often so cruel. He inspired my determination to help transform public schools
About the Author
Alice Waters is a chef, author, food activist, and the founder and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California (est. 1971). She has been a champion of local sustainable agriculture for over four decades. In 1995 she founded the Edible Schoolyard Project, which advocates for a free regenerative school lunch for all children and a sustainable food curriculum in every public school.
In 2015 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama, proving that eating is a political act, and that the table is a powerful means to social justice and positive change. Alice is the author of sixteen books including her critically acclaimed memoir Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook, the New York Times bestsellers The Art of Simple Food I & II, and The Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea.