When I first became vegan, I was overwhelmed with the veritable mountain of information that existed around eating a plant-based diet and living a compassionate lifestyle. Some resources were helpful, while others were tremendously misleading. I discovered websites propounding a correlation between veganism and weight loss; I gawked at the towering shelves of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks in the store; I watched provocative movies like Forks Over Knives and Earthlings, which only served to reinforce my commitment to my new lifestyle. With so many statistics, erroneous claims, and biased sources, it can be difficult–and sometimes intimidating–to realize one’s aspirations. Thankfully, you don’t have to look any further: for newly branded vegans (and seasoned vegans looking to expand their literary repertoire), I recommend these 5 essential books to add to your collection:
1. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD
Heralded by The New York Times as “the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease,” The China Study is a fantastic primer into the politics surrounding federal health regulations and the preponderance of cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Dr. Campbell, a professor at Cornell University, presents the results of a 20-year study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine, which examined morality rates from chronic diseases across 65 counties in China. Importantly, the book maintains that a distinct correlation exists between increased blood cholesterol levels and the prevalence of “Western” diseases within the country. This book is perfect for anyone who is looking for empirical evidence in favor of a plant-based diet.
2. Animal Liberation by Peter Singer
A stark contrast to The China Study, Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation explores the maltreatment of animals from a utilitarian perspective. According to Singer, the concept of suffering is not something that impinges on humans alone; animals are equally capable of experiencing pain and psychological distress. To this end, the author argues that animals should be afforded the same rights as humans. Animal Liberation is often seen as the impetus for the modern animal rights movement, and it is still referenced today as required material for individuals interested in utilitarian animal rights principles. On a personal note, I recently attended a lecture by Peter Singer at Harvard–while I found the content very basic, it would be a perfect introduction for the newly vegan.
3. Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
Often regarded as the vegan bible, the brainchild of superstar team Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero is not to be missed. This tome features 250 tantalizing vegan recipes, in addition to full color photos and accessible meal plans. And really, who wouldn’t pick up this book when its recipes include Blueberry Corn Pancakes, Chickpea Cutlets (a personal favorite!), Autumn Latkes, Asparagus and Lemongrass Risotto, and Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti? For vegans with addition dietary restrictions, Veganomicon has you covered: the cookbook includes soy-free, gluten-free, and low-fat options. So, whether you’re hosting an elegant soirée or crafting an impressive Valentine’s dinner for that special someone, this book will fit all your needs.
4. Vegan for Life by Jack Norris, RD and Virginia Messina, MPH, RD
It’s never easy to make a drastic lifestyle change, but when that change involves one’s health and well being, it becomes critical that he or she be informed. Vegan for Life is a comprehensive plant-based nutrition guide that includes descriptions of essential vitamins and nutrients, debunks common myths, and discusses which foods are optimal for obtaining protein and calcium. The book also offers a six-step nutrition plan for persons new to a vegan diet. If you are a woman, you might also be interested in purchasing Messina’s most recent book titled Vegan for Her, which addresses all things specific to women’s health and maintaining a vegan diet.
5. Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier
Have you ever received the ‘ole “I could never be vegan because all vegans are skinny, and I don’t want to lose my muscles” excuse? Let Brendan Brazier disabuse that argument. A former professional Ironman triathlete and two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion, Brazier is at the forefront of all things related to plant-based fuel. In his book, Brazier highlights whole foods that contribute to maximum energy and efficient athletic performance. Thrive also features a 12-week meal plan, over 100 allergen-free recipes, an exercise plan, and a guide to making your own energy gels, sports drinks, and recovery foods. No more need for Gatorade and Clif shots!
What books are essential in your vegan library?
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Photo Essay: Vegan Dining in Arizona
Photo: Erik Ferdinand via Flickr