With people like Bill Clinton and Ellen Degeneres, Paul McCartney, celebrity chefs like Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and countless other notable figures applauding the movement toward a plant-based future, vegetarianism and veganism are actually going mainstream. It's really happening. It's sort of unbelievable, isn't it? With all the buzz, more and more folks are starting to ask the why's that sometimes lead down the rabbit whole of information so many veggies already hold in their heads and hearts.
Fact: Convincing people to adopt any lifestyle change has to be done delicately, respectfully, lovingly, and completely sans judgement (I mean, when's the last time you wanted to really listen to an opposing point-of-view if that person made you feel judged from the beginning of the conversation?). So, how do we step down from the soapbox and begin looking fabulous, eternally helpful, and kind instead of preachy? Often times, loaning a book or two can help satiate someone's questions without you falling into all-to-familiar trenches of launching into a lecture. Er, excuse me, helpful explanation. Here's a wholeheartedly comprehensive list of veg reads that rely on either fact-based and/or non-judgemental approaches to telling it like it is or giving a narrative where there otherwise might not be one. Let these writers do the 'splainin from time to time, and just focus on cooking awesome food for the folks you love. You might just get 'em in the end.
Eating Animals: Jonathan Safran Foer's gorgeous, haunting (in a good way), and wonderfully heartfelt exploration of the cultural implications of the animals we eat will have you walking through the house looking for yet another scrap of paper on which to jot his quotable and beautiful revelations. Read it. Pass it on. It's almost too good. Pass this one on to the friend who reads in coffee shops.
Forks Over Knives: Gene Stone's undeniable explanation of how the Standard American Diet is leading to destruction and disease is an indispensable classic, particularly useful for those in your life who just refuse to believe that there's anything wrong with the way Westerners do lunch. Pass this one on to your old high school biology teacher.
The World Peace Diet: Dr. Will Tuttle's exploration of the spiritual aspect to a veg diet in this one is compelling and full of deep consciousness. Wasn't it Aristotle who said that "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all?" Well, this one's got plenty of that. While Dr. Tuttle most certainly references scientific proof of the environmental and physical suffering of animals, it's this book's look at how our humanity rests with the way we treat other living beings, that resonates the most deeply. Pass this one on to the friend who hates puppy mills and donates to The Humane Society. It'll resonate.
The Kind Diet: Alicia Silverstone for the win! This is the veg book I didn't really want to like. Don't ask me why. Perhaps it's my initial skepticism over anything trendy. After finally giving in, and cracking it post picking it up at a second hand book store, I fell so deeply in love. That's why I'm going for it. Are you ready? Here goes: Silverstone is totally not clueless in her approach to a plant-based diet. (Sure, you're rolling your eyes, but I feel better. I really do.) My favorite element of this book? It's just so easy to pick up and flip through and find some interesting tidbit on any given page. Silverstone pleads her case in a totally non-threatening way, easing folks into easing up on animal products by even giving them cute little monickers like "flirt", and "superhero." This one's for your friend who just doesn't have the time to read much, but tends to be swayed by the cool.
The China Study: Need I say more? This one has to live on every veg list from now until the end of time. Dr(s). Campbell rocked the most comprehensive nutritional study ever and lived to write a book about it? Classic. Give this to your "Show me the science!" friend.
Isa Does It: Look no further. I mean. Just. Don't. Isa Chandra Moskowitz has outdone her sassy, punk rock, soul-sister self this time. Isa Does It is the vegan cookbook to end all alt cookbooks. Once you get a copy of it in your hot little hands, you won't believe your eyes. It's literally the most breathtaking cook book I've ever seen aesthetically, and the food's so right on, I've personally made it a mission in life to cook my way through it's amazing selection of recipes. They're incredible. Big up to the Bistro Beet Burgers in particular, and don't skip the Zucchini Chocolate Cake. Your omnivore friends won't believe their tastebuds. Who's this one for? Forget your friends. This one is for you, man.
Dave Loves Chickens: Does it get any better than this when it comes to veg books for kids? No. While most kids books sort of major in a fear-based approach or a beat-you-over-the-head-with-pithy-explainations mantra, Dave Loves Chickens shoots straight for the awesome and elevates the animated. Following our main character Dave (who hails from a planet far, far away), through his first Earth experiences and steadfast newfound love for chickens, we learn fun facts about our animal friends which just sort of make it challenging to want to eat them. As a parent, I'm stoked that this is just the first in a series of Dave's adventures. More books are to come, featuring a variety of commonly-noshed-upon animals. This is for your MIA-and-currently-raising-a-toddler friend.
Diet for a Small Planet: Frances Moore Lappe's best seller never seems to lose it's touch. Lappe explores our food psyche in ways that are easy to digest (pun intended) and goes straight to a prescription for eating that's far more in line with what our finite planet can actually do for us as a species. This one's for your Mom.
Skinny Bitch: Rory Friedman and Kim Barnouin are so boss. Skinny Bitch is hilarious and oh-so-crafty in it's agenda to clue us all in on shrinking our waistlines, boosting our sexiness, and becoming fruit-and-veggie enthusiasts once and for all. You'll laugh, you'll gasp, you'll sometimes feel slightly uncomfortable and bossed around. This one's for your sassy Facebook friend.
Charlotte's Web: Oh, E.B. White, you Goddess after my own heart. You had me at Wilbur. It may be of a different time, but don't forget this one. Put a few copies on a shelf for gifting to the wee ones in your life from now until the end of time. Terrific, radiant, humble.