Recommended Reading
October 4, 2010

Q: Gena, where were you all weekend?

A: Mad busy!

But I missed you all so much, and it feels great to be online again. Thanks to any and everyone who chimed in on my last post. What a smart and nuanced collection of musings on the value of raw foods and raw foodism! I wanted to mention that the blogger who wrote the post that originally inspired mine also wrote a smart and thorough response to me this morning. In it, she details some of why she attempted the “cleans,” and mentions (this is significant) that she was under advisement from a coach/counselor. If you were involved in this dialogue and want to read more to fill in some of the gaps, I encourage you to check out the post!

Since I did virtually no cooking or uncooking this weekend, I figured I’d devote a few moments today to answering a question I hear no less than several times weekly:

“Gena, is there a book you recommend for people who are new to raw foods?”

To answer this question, it’s worth finding out a little more about the inquirer’s motives and needs. Are you looking for a cookbook? A lifestyle guide? Nutrition information? Are you vegan already, and looking to explore raw, or are you an omnivore eating cooked food who wants to flirt with veganism? I don’t think that one shoe fits all of these various scenarios. So I’ve divided my recommendations into a few categories, below. I hope that all of the suggestions are useful!

The Ethical Foundations of a Plant Based Diet:

Of course you all expect me to begin and end this list with cookbooks, but it would be wrong of me to begin anyplace but here: ethics. These are the books that have most influenced my ideological understanding of a vegan life. I have a prolific cookbook collection, yes, and the food porn it affords me is fantastic, but cookbooks aren’t the titles that keep me geared up about being vegan. These titles do.

Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer

Without a doubt, my favorite piece of writing about veganism. It does what so many other animal rights titles do not: rather than merely cataloging the atrocities of factory farming (which it does, if you’re new to veganism and need to hear it), it makes a calm, elegant, and unassailably sensible case for veganism as an ethical imperative. Singer draws subtle and brilliant comparisons between the animal rights movement and other movements–such as feminism–that put equality for all living beings at their ideological center. He is calm, cool, collected, and stunningly persuasive. This is the animal rights book to give any intelligent skeptic: do it, and watch them squirm as they come bumping against Singer’s rational polemics.

Eating Animals,by Jonathan Safran Foer

This is a nice starting point for those who haven’t got the patience for Singer’s philosophizing, but who nevertheless need to hear a good argument against animal consumption. Comprehensive, well-written, and energetic.

The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol J. Adams

To say that this book is either accessible or neatly argued would be a lie. It’s passionate and opinionated and a bit of a rhetorical labyrinth, and it’s likely to frighten away many a well-intentioned man. But the feminist in me loves Adams’ insightful parallels between sexism and speciesism, not to mention her analysis of how women have been commidifed like butchered meat. Summon up your imagination and your moxie, and read it.

The Nutritional Foundations of a Plant Based Diet:

The China Study, Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Thrive, by Brendan Brazier

Food for Life, Dr. Neal Barnard

Diet for a New America, John Robbins

Each and every one of these titles gives a clear explanation of what I consider the nutritional foundations of a plant-based diet: acidity and alkalinity, basic advice on how to modify one’s diet to include sufficient protein, iron, and calcium, as well as some recipes.

For the Newly Vegan:


Becoming Vegan, Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis

Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis are personal heroes of mine, and this book (along with its sister volume, Becoming Raw) is a thorough, well researched, and solid primer in how to eat a well rounded and healthy vegan diet. Highly recommended.


Eat Drink, and Be Vegan, The Everyday Vegan, and Vive le Vegan, all by Dreena Burton

If ever I have a family, I’ll first want to be re-born as Dreena Burton (or as Mama Pea, whose own book is soon to join Ms. Burton’s ranks). She is a kitchen genius who churns out consistently tasty, comforting, and nutritionally balanced food, and I’ve yet to dislike one of her recipes. The kid friendly angle is good for mothers, but I’d recommend her books to anyone.

Vegan Express, by Nava Atlas

Nava Atlas is a genius! This book features 160 recipes that are ready in the drop of a hat. Time is always a major concern for me, and so this book has become an invaluable part of my routine.

Vegonomicon / Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Isa Chandra Moskowitz may well be the Julia Child of vegan cooking. Vegan with a Vengeance (VwaV, as bloggers affectionately call it) was my first ever vegan cookbook, and to this day I thank it for teaching so many basics of vegan cookery: how to replace eggs in baking, how to make tempeh bacon, how to scramble tofu. Veganomicon, Moskowitz’s second title, is veritably encyclopedic!

The 30-Minute Vegan, Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray

An excellent and all around useful vegan cookbook that’s quick and accessible — and has a high number of raw recipes, to boot!

The Students go Vegan Cookbook, by Carole Raymond

Many of my readers are college students, which means that they have a special set of needs: they’re looking for recipes that are cheap, fast, easy, and that don’t demand fancy equipment. This book features recipes that fill all of those criteria, which makes it ideal for budding vegans on college campuses everywhere — or for busy men and women who are looking for dozens of ten minute dinners.

For the Newly Rawcurious:


Becoming Raw

There are many raw lifestyle guides (or cookbooks that double as lifestyle guides) for aspiring raw eaters. I don’t wholeheartedly recommend any of them, with one exception: Becoming Raw. It is balanced, informative, and free of the magic talk that plagues many raw lifestyle guides. The authors are both experts in raw cookery and registered dietitians with excellent credentials. If you’re going to be eating raw more often, I truly recommend referring to this book for useful and sound information.


Raw Foods Made Easy for One or Two People, by Jennifer Cornbleet

This isn’t the most extensive, fancy, or aesthetic raw cookbook, but it was the one I needed most as I began my own raw journey. It’s virtually free of dehydrator recipes, and a Vita-Mix is not mandatory, so it’s perfect for a rawcurious eater who isn’t yet sure whether or not the fancy gadgets will be worthwhile. (For those of you who don’t know, I was raw for over a year with nothing but a food processor, so this book was vital to my kitchen progress).

It won’t suit anyone who’s already practiced in uncookery, nor is it for the foodies among you, but it’s a great beginner title.

Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen and Ani’s Raw Food Essentials, by Ani Phyo

Of all the chefs in raw-dom, Ani Phyo is, I must confess, my personal favorite. Her recipes are unfailingly flavorful and hearty, and she works hard to keep prep and work to a bare minimum. From crackers to pastas to entrees, she’s my go-to for reliable and easy raw food inspiration. In fact, as we speak, I’m munching on a slice of her zucchini bread (from Raw Food Essentials).

More than this, I adore Ani’s whole ethos: eco-conscious, nature loving, and 100% vegan. Rock on, Ani.

Raw Food, Real World, by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis

I’d never claim to use this book regularly–the recipes are simply too complicated for me–but I’ll never get tired of leering at the photographs. And when it’s time to make a really special meal–such as my first raw Christmas dinner for my family–I’ll nearly always make the heirloom tomato lasagna or beet ravioli.

And there you have it: my top picks for vegan and raw reading. Of course there are many other cookbooks that were left out of this list, which I do my best to mention from time to time. But these are the pillars of my own library.

What about you guys? Favorite books on animal rights? Veganism? Raw foods? What’s the first book you’d recommend to someone making a vegan transition?

(And, happy Monday.)


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  1. Why viewers still use to read news papers when in this technological world the whole thing is presented on net?

  2. Gena, You are great! I can’t stay off this blog..I love reading it so much. Thanks!

  3. Gena a thousand thank yous for writing this list! I don’t follow a raw food or vegan diet, but as a nutritionist in training and someone who’s wildly interested in all sorts of ‘diets’ and their sociological impacts, I love reading books like the ones you’ve mentioned.

    I am currently reading Diet for a New America and I have to say that even though I love how Robbins debunks the protein myth and shows us a lot of the dangers of eating so much animal fats and proteins, I sometimes can’t help but think to myself that some of the research, since it’s from the 70S, is a little outdated by now. The lipid hypothesis was really big in that time, while in modern days there’s been countless research that’s suggesting saturated fats aren’t necessarily the culprit; processed foods containing refined sugars and trans fats supposedly are a greater risk to overall health.

    Do you agree it takes away a little from the accuracy of the book, reading it today?

    love, sabine

  4. Diet for a “New America” and “The China Study” are on my Amazon wish list. I fear though that I will get lost amongst all the data and medical jargon. I will read it someday.
    I went to Veggie Fest in my area and saw Sarah Taylor. She wrote a book called “Vegan in 30 days”. As a speaker she was fantastic; enthusiastic, energetic, and motivating. However, her message about becoming a vegan and the reasons behind it was awful. I personally am neither vegan or vegetarian, but I love to learn and gain knowledge. Made me sad 🙁 I have not read her book, but was wondering if you have read or heard of it?
    I much prefer reading the information you have to share 🙂

  5. Vegan with a Vengeance was also my first vegan cookbook. And my only one, as of right now (though I did deplete the library’s supply of them for a couple weeks ;] )

    I think once I get a second bookshelf I am going to stock up on a few of the books you have listed here. I hear about The China Study probably every day and I haven’t looked into it yet! Shame on me, right? 😛

  6. I purchased Natalia Rose’s Raw Food Diet book after reading about her on your website and I thought it was extremely approachable, especially if you’re looking for a food combining primer.

    Also love Mark Bittman’s how to cook everything vegetarian, and Veganimocon.

  7. Great list, thanks for putting it together and my Amazon wishlist just grew considerably. 🙂 I have not read any vegan activist, animal rights books yet though I’ve been meaning to starting with Eating Animals – think I’ll go ahead and order it now. One of my first raw books was Jennifer Cornbleet’s Raw Food Made Easy and while the recipes aren’t that detailed or elaborate, they were simple, quick and basic enough for me to dive into without feeling overwhelmed.

  8. Thanks for putting together not only a great list of “must reads” but also, your informative comments on each book. I was going through my library today and found the 1971 edition of Diet For a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe (which has been revised) — there is no magic to good health — only education and a desire to live in balance and harmony. Your blog ROCKS!

  9. ya know…i really love Jonathan Safran Foer as an author and even though i’m not vegan i was/continue to be super tempted by this book. it’s been recommended to me by many people so i might have to put it on my bday wish list for the end of this month 🙂

  10. Oh I love the review! I will add my .02 and echo everything you said on the books we share the same on…

    With the exception of ED & BV. Great in theory, but for a GF person, her recipes just arent quite there. Wheat free, but not GF many of them. And too much cooked dishes. Just not my go to but I want to love it.

    Sarma’s books…as you said, just not practical for real life, too complicated, dehyding things for 24 hrs, planning ahead like that…not my lifestyle. But, for food inspiration and Food as Artwork, those are the books.

    Jenny Cornbleet, not complicated, not the most “amazing” recipes but she’s practical and i like the book.

    Ani Phyo
    Little Dessert book- amazing
    1st regular book -wonderful
    most current book – perhaps the best raw/vegan “cookbook” out there.

    you’re right, it depends on WHAT and WHY a person wants a cookbook. Do you wnat to make fussy but beautiful sophisticated food, do you want to make great raw desserts, do you want hearty cooked vegan dishes…it all depends.

    God I love this post and agree with all your thoughts!


  11. Hey Gena, i have been reading your blog for quite a while now~ Thanks for the book list! It is going to be so useful for me! I’m just starting to be a vegan and your blog has really inspired me:)
    I became a vegetarian after reading “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer, i agree that this is a really great book! I am so inspired by it!

  12. I have read The China Study, Diet for a New America, and Eating Animals, and would highly recommend them to others. I have read some excerpts of Peter Singer’s work but not his full book. I’m really not a cookbook person at all. I like a lot of the recipes in RFDD but less so the ideology. I primarily use blogs for recipes- I prefer having more pictures, commentary, and flexibility than a traditional cookbook. Another book in the ethical eating category that I love is Jane Goodall’s Reason for Hope. It’s a book about cautious hope for the environment and spirituality in a world of destruction. Diet isn’t Goodall’s focus, but she does discuss a vegetarian diet as a compassionate and ethical choice.

    • Oh, and look at that (just googled her books)- she has also written Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating! I guess that’s going on my list!

  13. Oh, and by “she” I mean Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. For anyone reading this who is interested, Google her. She’s amazing.

  14. Great list! I have read most, but there are a few I think I’ll check out.

    As for adding to it, I’d add Making a Killing by Bob Torres for the ethical foundations (and probably only for those who think they are open to an abolitionist message). And don’t even get me started on cookbooks 😉

    The resource I recommend to everyone is the Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast. I listened to all of the archived episodes and she is hands down my favourite vegan advocate. Her way of speaking, her passion, her compassion…it just gives me chills. Her cookbooks are also good for those who can’t create recipes off the top of their head or think that vegan cooking is complicated or requires strange ingredients. Very simple, whole foods.

  15. i love your recs. i have a few on that list that i still havent tackled. also, you should check out “The Engine 2 Diet” (i have heard its a good one about a guy who puts his entire firefighter fleet on a plant based diet…needless to say, i gather the results speak for themselves)

  16. Thank you so much for this – I’ve just convinced my mom to go vegan and she’s really embracing it – but just yesterday asked about cookbooks and resources. This is wonderful! (I just finished Becoming Raw, but it was so dense with information I think i need to start back at the beginning now!)

  17. I would recommend ED&BV hands-down to anyone going vegan. Dreena taught me how to cook, really. I bought that book the summer between sophomore and junior year, and I fell in love with every recipe.

  18. Great book list Gena! The one book that opened my heart chakra to becoming vegan was ‘The World Peace Diet’ by Will Tuttle, especially the chapter on eating seafood/fish. For years I considered myself a vegetarian who ate occasional seafood and I felt ok about my lifestyle. Reading Will’s book helped me to become a congruent vegan and realise that what is being done to the ocean’s supply of animal life is just as damaging as factory farming animals. Adopting a vegan diet/lifestyle lifted a psychic weight off my shoulders. Thank you for highlighting animal rights to your readers.

  19. Fantastic post…although my husband may kill me for adding about four more things to our already overflowing Amazon cart.

    I am so flattered for the mention, truly. So thank you.

    As much as I hate to admit it, Skinny Bitch was the first book I read on veganism and really did open a door for me. Okay, they kicked it open with their stilletos and rocked me to the core. It isn’t my favorite book on veganism, I much prefer Eating Animals, The Kind Diet, Diet for a New America as well as Dreena and Isa’s books for recipe inspiration.

    I only wish there was a Gena book to add to the list (hint, hint…)!

  20. Thank you! These are all (the ones I haven’t read) going on my to-read list. I’ve only read a few vegan books, but I loved the China Study. The fact that Dr. Campbell’s research inspired him to become vegan (more or less) is really influential, and the scientific basis of his diet really speaks to that idea the veganism is a healthy, sustainable, and viable diet.

  21. My first vegan cookbook was How it all Vegan! by Sarah Kramer. She is a genius! I would recommend that book and her other 2 books to people just starting out. It’s witty, contains easy recipes, and simple ingredients.

  22. Great list. When I started eating vegan I read a lot of blogs trying to find books to read. This was the list I needed! I’ll admit that I was looking for nutrition information, primarily. It was after reading many, many blogs (and tweets!) that I started to seriously understand the ethics of being vegan. It was then that I read “Eating Animals” and it sort of sealed the deal. (even though he doesn’t come to the conclusion that vegan in the only way to eat)

    My additions, because I’m a reluctant cook and easier is always better (for me) “The Simple Little Vegan Slow Cooker” by Michelle Rivera and “Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food” by Alicia Simpson

  23. What serendipitous timing! I was halfway through writing an email to say “Gena, what books would you recommend for somebody new to raw food who wants to become more knowledgeable about nutrition?” And here you go with that recommendation and more. Outstanding (even if my list of books to find did just get several new additions)!

  24. Thank you Gena! Even if you’re dedicated to being vegan and mostly raw, it really helps to be reminded why you do it. I love those reminders. Looking forward to this reading! 🙂

  25. My bible is “Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition” (3rd Edition)by Paul Pitchford.

    I would also add your friend Brendan Brazier’s book “Thrive” as a great resource for vegan athletes.
    Also, Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Diet” as a great beginner’s resource for vegan eating, especially those who enjoy a less intellectual explanation of diet.
    I would include John Robbins’ “Food Revolution” as well. Robbins’ writing is very accessible.

    As an aside: I went to Santa Monica’s “Planet Raw” a few months back after flipping through a friend’s copy of Juliano’s Raw cookbook. The food was horrible (and I usually like raw cuisine and am on a med-high whole food diet myself)…we both walked home from the restaurant huddled over in similar cramping pains. We also met Juliano there. He sat with us for a bit. He was the oddest person, talking about “partying in NYC”. My friend, not realizing he was the owner, mentioned that the food not sitting well with her. To which he accused her of not being used to it because of all the processed stuff she put in her body. Saying it was “just plants”. I live in San Francisco and am spoiled by Cafe Gratitude. This restaurant’s meal was beyond inferior. I have yet to try Juliano’s cookbook recipes though. I’m sure they’re good. He has quite a following. Has anyone tried his raw cookbook recipes?

    Another aside: It’s funny how many people, upon hearing I’m vegan, mention their reading of Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma”, as if Mr. Pollan is somehow an advocate of vegetarianism (he is not). Does this happen to anyone else?

    • I personally haven’t heard of anyone mention it in that sense, and I think it is clear that he does not advocate vegan/vegetarianism, but I think it is better this way.

      His work sets a lot of guidelines that EVERYONE should follow (like avoiding processed foods like the plague), in fact especially omnivores should consider this since it is more likely they consume less veggies/nutrient rich foods. I think that in not being a vegan or vegan advocate he avoids frightening those vegan-phobic readers.

    • People definitely talk to me about Pollan as if he’s pro veg*n, and he’s definitely not. It bothers me to no end, though there are parts of his work that I admire.

  26. I totally agree with all these books! Love, love, love, Gena!

    The only one I would add is a fairly new one I tend to use a lot “Clean Food” by Terry Walters. It’s all vegan, though it doesn’t expressly say so on the outside. I highly recommend it:)

  27. I agree I agree I agree on all those here which I have read, the rest I want to read. The only book I miss here is Bryant Terry’s “Vegan Soul Kitchen”. I’m a b i g fan.

  28. Great recommendations! I still haven’t read “Animal Liberation,” but I did read “The Ethics of What We Eat,” which Singer co-authored. I’ll have to check out “AL” very soon!

    One book I’d add to your informational book list is “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins. It’s amazing!! I am currently (finally) reading “Diet For a New America,” but “Food Rev” was the first John Robbins book I read, so it’s near & dear to my heart.

    And “Vegan with a Vengeance” was MY first ever vegan cookbook, too! It’s still my favorite. 🙂

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