Whether you live to eat or eat to live, food is essential. That said, it can be argued that our relationship with food is out of balance, and our food system is in peril. Across America, people are suffering from more food-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes than ever before, the environment is being damaged by unsustainable agriculture, and devastating food contamination recalls are on the rise. The following books offer a range of insights, ideas and inspiration for transforming our relationship with food, whether it means cutting out wheat, demanding changes to the way our food system is run, or simply trying a new recipe. Whether you prefer memoirs, cookbooks, or hard, cold science, these five titles offer something for everyone to sink their teeth into.


"My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family and Togetherness"

By Gwyneth Paltrow
Publisher: Grand Central Life & Style

If following her blog, GOOP, is more than you’ve been willing or able to stomach, you might surprised by Gwyneth Paltrow’s new(ish) book, “My Father’s Daughter.” Written partly in homage to her late father, Bruce Paltrow, whom she credits with inspiring her to cook, “My Father’s Daughter” offers a slew of (mostly) healthy recipes intended to bring family and friends together at the table. But what, you might wonder, can a privileged, slender actress possibly tell you about cooking good food? Believe it or not, reviewers across the board have generally agreed that Paltrow’s recipes are pretty darn good. LA Weekly describes Paltrow’s recipes as “easy to follow even if you have to tweak them to fit the contours of your pantry, and readily adaptable to vegan or vegetarian diets,” and The Atlantic declares that “My Father's Daughter” reveals Paltrow as "someone who really does love food." This is neither a vegetarian nor macrobiotic cookbook, although those sorts of recipes stand right alongside more mainstream offerings such as classic chicken and dumplings, brisket, and macaroni and cheese.


"Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health"

By William Davis, MD
Publisher: Rodale

It’s fair to say that the gluten-free craze tipped a while back, driven partly by growing awareness of wheat allergies and celiac disease, and also by the celebrity-fueled desire to be thinner. Can cutting wheat out of your diet really help you drop pounds and improve your health, though? Renowned cardiologist Dr. William Davis, founder of the TrackYourPlaque program and a vocal advocate of self-empowering strategies to reduce risk of heart disease, says it can. In his forthcoming book, “Wheat Belly,” Davis explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can prevent fat storage, shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse myriad health problems. The book, which will be published by Rodale in August, “will provide, in excruciating detail, the discussion of how wheat was transformed from innocent wild grass to incredible genetically altered Frankengrain and why it has become such a health nuisance.” Additionally, readers will find a user-friendly, step-by-step plan to navigate a new, wheat-free lifestyle, complete with cutting-edge science and inspiring case studies.


"Making Supper Safe: One Man’s Quest to Learn the Truth About Food Safety"

By Ben Hewitt

Publisher: Rodale

From the moment you start reading Ben Hewitt’s latest book, “Making Supper Safe,” you’re drawn in by his adventurous spirit and conversational tone. The book begins with a feast of chevre-crusted venison loin roast (read: road kill and Dumpster-foraged cheese), and if the idea of eating food picked up from the side of the road or fished out of Dumpsters strikes you as disgusting, you’re in for a treat. Hewitt, who runs a small-scale, diversified hill farm with his wife and two sons, quickly goes on to expose the vulnerabilities inherent to the U.S. food industry, where the majority of our processing facilities are inspected only once every seven years, and where government agencies lack the necessary resources to act on early warning signs. From GMOs to E. coli, Hewitt plows through the untold story of food safety with humor and good-natured skepticism.


"The Compassionate Diet: How What You Eat Can Change Your Life and Save the Planet"

By Arran Stephens

Published by Rodale

If you don’t recognize Arran Stephens, you may recognize his cereal box. Along with his wife, Ratana, Stephens is the co-founder and owner of Nature’s Path Organic, North America’s largest organic and independent breakfast food company. Now Stephens, who has been at the leading edge of the organic food movement for decades and a vegetarian his entire adult life, has penned the charming, primer-like book “The Compassionate Diet,” which distills the history, philosophy and core benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle in a completely approachable and nonjudgmental fashion. This is easy reading, full of interesting, digestible facts, and quotes from the likes of Gandhi and Einstein. Warm up with Stephens, then move on to Pollan.


"Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life"

By Kim Severson

Publisher: Riverhead

Now out in paperback, Kim Severson’s memoir, “Spoon Fed,” imparts the lessons she gleaned from a generation of female cooks including Marion Cunningham, Alice Waters, Ruth Reichl, Rachael Ray and Marcella Hazan. Severson, who has been the Atlanta bureau chief for the The New York Times since November 2010 and was a dining writer for The New York Times before that, looks to food, and this motley crew of women known for making it, as her guide toward achieving wholeness. After struggling to come to terms with both her alcoholism and her lesbianism, she found her way to sobriety, love, and even motherhood. Somewhere along a road rough with insecurities and anxieties, Severson recognized that her love of food and admiration for various personalities in the culinary world were a lifeline. “Spoon Fed” weaves Severson’s own tale of finding the courage to be her authentic self with interviews and recipes.

Green book roundup: Wheat Belly, eating with compassion, Gwyneth Paltrow's family recipes and more
Five satisfying books that offer serious food for thought.