Summer Reading Lists for Food Anthropology

David Beriss

Here in North America, the academic year is winding down for most of us and we are planning our summer research, writing, and, hopefully, vacation schedules. Somewhere in there, you are probably hoping to do some reading. What are you reading? Is there some exciting book that you have been meaning to get to that you now will have time to read? Something serious and scholarly? Something fun?

I am surely not alone in having a large backlog of research-related scholarly books I want to read. But this particular blog entry was inspired not by that list, but by three items I encountered just this week. The first was a fascinating event I attended last night at the Garden District Book Shop here in New Orleans. John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, read from and discussed his new book, “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South” (Penguin, 2017). Brett Anderson, the restaurant critic for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, led the discussion at this well-attended event. Given the rather fraught context created by debates around Confederate monuments and American racial politics, the ongoing debates around cultural appropriation in food (especially here in the South), and the unending re-discovery of the South by food writers (which Brett, citing someone else, referred to as “the Northern gaze”), there was a lot to discuss. I am very much looking forward to reading this book almost immediately.

I also saw this reading list from Food Tank yesterday. They propose a rather varied collection of books for food activists. I don’t think I am ready for a book about “vermiculture and vermicomposting” but I think I know some people who would be eager to read that sort of thing. This is an inspiring list for all kinds of readers, but especially those who want their summer reading to motivate them to get more politically active, garden better, and eat in a way that will save the world. Also, those who want to think about their microbiome. Many of these are serious books that promise to make you a better person, which is probably more appealing in January than in June.

Sometimes you need to read something that is just pure fun and that won’t improve you at all. Although I enjoy my academic reading as much as the next professor, I am trying hard to get more fiction in my life. I am currently reading Lily King’s “Euphoria,” (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014) which is a novel based on the lives of Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson. But that is not about food, so I shall say no more here. I recently found this list from Katherine Sacks, on, of food-related novels that Sacks asserts could be the next “Sweetbitter.” I admit, I have not read “Sweetbitter,” (Vintage, 2016). I remember the New York Times review, which declared it “the ‘Kitchen Confidential’ of our time” (I naively thought “Kitchen Confidential” was the “Kitchen Confidential” of our time). By Stephanie Danler, it is the story of a young woman working as a back waiter (yeah, a busboy) in a New York restaurant that was very popular last summer. Should I put this on my reading list? Let me know. Meanwhile, Sacks’ new list of food related novels looks like fun.

What is on your summer reading list? FoodAnthropology readers want to know. I want to know. Send us ideas (, post comments (below). Maybe we can get some reviews of the latest food fiction up here on the blog. What should we be reading?

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