Alice Waters book recommendations – Book Room Reviews

Photo by Claire Kelley


Introducing You to Friends
These are Books that Have Changed My Life

My books have always been like friends to me. This is in part because some of my book reviews are quite literally written by friends—chefs and cookbook authors and journalists and activists I’ve met through the years—but just as many are books written by people I’ve long admired from afar. When I walk into my little study lined with bookcases, that is exactly how I feel: that I am surrounded by my friends, in dialogue with them as I flip through the pages.

All of the books on this list have formed the foundation of the books that I write. These are books that have changed my life. Nevertheless, there are scores of others that have been important to me through the years, and I know I am leaving out so many that have influenced me! Including books about the Slow Food Movement. But Slow Food is an overarching philosophy imparted in all of these books: that the food we eat should always be good, clean, and fair.

In this moment of isolation, books are a balm for me: a way to travel when there is no travel, a way to feel hope and passion when the world seems bleak, a way to converse when there is no exchange of ideas around the dinner table. I can think of nothing more important than this, right now.

—Alice Waters


Think Little
by Wendell Berry

Wendell BerryI thought this inspiring and lyrical essay was something Wendell Berry had written recently, because it’s so precisely about the issues our world is struggling with right now. But he actually wrote it almost 50 years ago!


The One-Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

I read this book cover to cover. Fukuoka practiced a type of farming heOne straw revolution referred to as “do-nothing farming;” I still can’t believe that it is possible to grow food in such a regenerative and effortless way.

Second Nature
by Michael Pollan

Second NatureNo one writes as evocatively and engrossingly as Michael Pollan. I love that in order to write this book, he himself became a gardener. He doesn’t merely observe from the outside, he immerses himself.





The Taste of
Country Cooking

by Edna Lewis

Alice Waters had the good fortune to meet the legendary chef and author Edna Lewis early on, and she became a dear friend and mentor. This book openedEdna Lewis
her eyes to the tremendous biodiversity of Southern cooking.

Fast Food NationFast Food Nation
by Eric Schlosser

I read this shortly after I started the Edible Schoolyard Project, and it made me think, “This is the entire reason we’re doing this project.” Eric is such an important and incisive muckraker, and his books should be required reading

A Pattern Language
by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray SilversteinA Pattern Language

This is about architecture and design and their deeper philosophies, asking profound questions about the ways we live our lives: How do you design a city? What does it mean to have a front porch, a window seat, natural light?

The Man who Plated TreesThe Man Who
Planted Trees

by Jean Giono

This simple little book is a beautiful parable for our time:

a burnt-out landscape that can be brought to life again by individuals who plant seeds
every day

And The Pursuit of Happiness
by Maira Kalman

And the Persuit of HappinessMaira has a way of talking about universal values with levity; she’s never preaches, but instead makes me see things from another angle–or makes me laugh at my own foolishness. And her drawings make her books such a joy to read



Stuffed and Starved 
by Raj Patel

It is important that we think globally and act locally—but in order to do that, we need to really understand what’s happening around the globe. That’s something Raj can show us so vividly, thanks to his endless curiosity about the cultures of the world

Savage InequalitiesSavage Inequalities
by Jonathan Kozol

In the late 1980s, Jonathan Kozol embedded himself in American public schools and painted a picture of a school system that is so undemocratic and often so cruel. He inspired my determination to help transform public schools


About the Author

Alice Waters is a chef, author, food activist, and the founder and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California (est. 1971). She has been a champion of local sustainable agriculture for over four decades. In 1995 she founded the Edible Schoolyard Project, which advocates for a free regenerative school lunch for all children and a sustainable food curriculum in every public school.

In 2015 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama, proving that eating is a political act, and that the table is a powerful means to social justice and positive change. Alice is the author of sixteen books including her critically acclaimed memoir Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook, the New York Times bestsellers The Art of Simple Food I & II, and The Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea.Alice WatersAlice Waters

Alice Waters

Alice Waters

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