Did your hometown have a public library? Mine did, and one of the highlights of my summer vacations growing up was signing up for the library’s summer reading challenge. (Nerd alert if there ever was one!) The details of it changed as you advanced in grade, getting a little less whimsical and involving fewer crayons along the way, but the key was to tally up as many books as you could in the eight or so weeks you were given permission to take a break from learning. Usually, there were prizes for milestones like five or ten books, but I set my goals higher: something like twenty, or more than a book a week. But for me, the real prize was the feeling that I had added so much more knowledge, so many more interesting people and places, to my brain through books. Because my family wasn’t big on travel or vacations, it allowed me to expand my horizons intellectually, as well as firmly support my introversion status as I dangled my legs in the pool, hunched over a book, not talking to anyone…
Now that I’m much older and I don’t have the incentive of seeing my book-tally increase faster than my peers at the library, or winning a cool plastic coin purse as my prize, summer reading can seem like more of an actual challenge. I read all year long—it’s actually my job as an editor and writer!—so why make a special effort when the period of warm weather and longer days is so finite? This year, however, summer intersects with my goal of embracing a more sustainable lifestyle with a Year of No New Things, which seems to call for some good old-fashioned book-learning. Thankfully, the masses have expressed a similar interest, and more and more vegan-centric books are available than ever.
These are the titles topping my #TBR list, the voices and experts who will join me on my summer travels—whether I’m in my apartment or in another state—and in the process make me more aware of my impact on the world, animals, and people around me, and hopefully a more compassionate person once the biting winds of fall start to blow.
6 Books to Veganize Your Summer Reading List
How to Change Your Mind
Michael Pollan is the go-to guy for all discussions about the moral repercussions of our diets. Now, he’s turning that focus to psychology in this new, intimate book that chronicles his experiments with psychedelics to treat depression. I’m intrigued to see how his analysis of suffering fits into his general stance about quality of life, and how what we put into our bodies can affect our entire person—in this sense, not just food but also chemical substances. As we work toward greater transparency around mental health, considering the side effects of veganism, namely greater compassion and sense of connection with those around us, it seems as if the two are part of a key equation for our overall well-being.
The Blue Zones
It’s fairly common knowledge these days that the secret of longevity lies somewhere in the blue waters of the Mediterranean. The reason for that is Dan Buettner’s book, where he coined the term “blue zones” to describe the areas of the world where people live the longest; these include not only the Mediterranean but Japan, Costa Rica, and Southern California. While the book doesn’t specifically advocate for veganism—the term is only mentioned a few times—the practice of living in harmony with nature and prioritizing local, seasonal plants in one’s diet is certainly on track. Even if I’m not planning to move to any of these places, I feel that adopting some of their clearly effective lifestyle choices can translate to any zip code.
The China Study
T. Colin Campbell, Thomas M. Campbell II
This father-son team of doctors is also interested in longevity, but they take a more scientific approach. Their groundbreaking nutritional research has lent serious chops to veganism not only from a health standpoint but also from an environmental one. Although the book is fairly dense, its accompanying cookbook puts the arguments into practice with healthful and flavorful recipes that will also make you feel like you’re on vacation in these exotic places.
Seeing the original publication date of 1975 on this vegan classic is pretty shocking—Peter Singer started an animal-love revolution over forty years ago, and it’s hard to believe we haven’t made more progress as a species to overcome our “speciesism,” the main tenet of his polemic. In the spirit of bringing our generation up to speed, and having recently heard several new vegans cite this book as the turning point for them, I’m eager to see for myself how the original arguments for living cruelty-free were articulated, and how they might (or might not) need revising for 2018.
There’s no better time than summer to let the most colorful foods grace your table—including unnatural pastels and neons! Unicorn Food, the social media phenomenon started by Kat Odell in 2015, comes to us here in an all-vegan version “to nurture your magical beast.” I am not 100% sure that living off of this book will be super-healthy, or even that tasty with all those sweets, but hey, when you’re a unicorn anything goes!
Sweet Potato Soul
This Southern-comfort-food themed vegan cookbook was just given a big nod in The New York Times, which to me means it passed a test of quality and accessibility. Since sweet potatoes are among my favorite foods, and most comforting to my constitution all year long, I’m excited to see how I can spice up my usual, super-exciting way of eating them: baked whole in the oven. These 100 recipes will surely pique my creativity, and also promise to offer some exciting VBQ (vegan barbecue!) dishes to
convert please my family and friends.
What books are on your summer reading list?
Also by Jennifer: Guess What, Your Gut Affects Your Personality–& Other Facts About Your Insides
Related: Best Vegan Cookbooks That No Self-Loving Foodie Should Be Without
Ready To Turn Your Life Around? Let These 5 Mindfulness Books Be Your Guide
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