Do you have a craving for knowledge, wisdom, and different viewpoints? These books about veganism (that aren’t cookbooks!) will:

  • help you broaden your perspective,
  • arm you with facts and arguments,
  • but also emotional support

as you continue on your journey towards gentler, healthier, and more compassionate eating.

Many of us feel that we don’t have much impact on the world around us or capacity to influence events on a global stage. We are, after all, but one person out of 8 billion! Yet, three times a day, we make choices about how to feed ourselves, and those choices add up. Our actions ripple out to influence our family and friends, the businesses in our neighborhood, our country’s policies, and the global climate. Pick one of these books and prepared to be energized!

All the basic facts in one accessible book:
Should We All Be Vegan: A Primer for the 21st Century (Molly Watson)

Should We All Be Vegan Molly Watson

I love the kind of book that I can pick up for even just two minutes and learn something from, and Molly Watson’s Should We All Be Vegan? A primer for the 21st century (published 2019) is a perfect example of that. With a creative layout that emphasizes the main ideas and dozens of illustrations, Should We All Be Vegan? explores the many reasons why, as individuals and collectives, we would benefit from embracing a diet that is richer in plants and less heavy on animal products. The book is nuanced and does consider the cultural dimensions of our food choices with care. It’s worth noting that the author is not vegan, yet she answers the book title’s question by saying that “all evidence points to a qualified ‘yes’.”

A good book to display on the coffee table to trigger conversations.

A thorough scientific review of the evidence:
Should We Eat Meat? Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory (Vaclav Smil)

Books about veganism - Should We Eat Meat Vaclav Smil

Vaclav Smil is a prolific expert on all matters related to energy and the environment, and decidedly not a vegan. Still, in this 2013 book Should We Eat Meat? where he exposes a dizzying array of facts and data including anthropological studies, an analysis of the energy and protein conversion efficiency of animal feed, and a hard look at the cruelty of meat mass-production practices, he comes to the conclusion that we eat far too much of it for our own good – and the planet’s.

I don’t always agree with Smil’s interpretation of the research, especially when he ventures into the nutritional and health aspects that aren’t his specialty. Additionally, some of the data could use an update since it was published over a decade ago. Nevertheless, this deep-dive into the primary driver of human action – the food we eat – is a must-read for anyone who craves a hard-nosed look at this tough question.

Answers to all the questions you’ll get asked, and more:
Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? And Other Questions People Ask Vegans (Sherry F. Colb)

Books about veganism - Mind if I order the cheeseburger

A great sadness washed upon me when I heard of Sherry F. Colb’s passing in 2022. Her 2013 book Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? had deeply touched and supported me – and made me laugh! – at the challenging time in my life when I seemingly ran into daily conflict due to my desire to avoid eating foods that contradicted my values. Colb, a law scholar and a vegan, uses clear thinking, plain language, and a broad range of sources to tackle the big, sometimes tricky questions that those wishing to avoid harming other-than-human animals encounter every time they share a meal with non-vegans: don’t plants feel pain too? aren’t we going to be overrun by cows if we stop eating them? didn’t God give us dominion over animals? what about Indigenous people’s diets? Perhaps more importantly, she also raises a question we ask ourselves in the face of social resistance: why bother?

Worth reading and re-reading for wisdom and comfort as we continue our life-long journey “away from violence against the weak and vulnerable sentient beings who share our world.”

For when you’re feeling all alone in your effort to eat better:
Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook (Carol J. Adams)

Living Among Meat Eaters - Carol J. Adams (2022 edition) - Books about veganism

Most people who transition away from plant-based, vegan lifestyles mention social struggles and the inconvenience of being the odd one out. I sympathize: even after almost a decade during which things have improved on all counts, I still at times feel lonely and unpleasantly singled out due to my obstinate wish to make compassionate choices. That’s when I go back to Carol J. Adams’ book Living Among Meat Eaters, a.k.a. The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook. (The first edition was published in 2009. A second edition was published in 2022, pictured above.)

In the book, Adams – a vegan social scientist – explores the idea of “blocked vegetarians,” those people around us who may agree in principle that eating animals is wrong, but are doing it anyway. She offers a mix of psycho-social analysis, compassionate advice, and even recipes to facilitate our reflection and action in everyday life, at meal time and beyond. She even offers tips to get out dead-end conversations with committed carnivores, which, sadly, remain necessary in my life.

Inspiration to continue on your journey and expand your circle of compassion:
Protest Kitchen: Fight Injustice, Save the Planet, and Fuel Your Resistance One Meal at a Time (Carol J. Adams and Virginia Messina)

Books about veganism - Protest Kitchen Carol J. Adams

Carol J. Adams joined forces with dietitian Virginia Messina to offer a powerful blueprint for impactful action that leverages veganism in the broader struggle for justice in our inequal world. I love, love, love how they propose 30 days of action that light two candles with one flame: they not only introduce readers to the pillars of vegan cooking and nutrition but also inspire concrete acts of resistance to resist the status quo.

A great book to help us find greater meaning in our way of eating.

Nourish your soul:
How to Eat (Thich Nhat Hanh)Books about veganism - Thich Nhat Hanh How to Eat

This is a sneaky little volume you’ll want to gift to spiritually-inclined friends who haven’t quite connected the dots yet. How to Eat, a collection of short reflections on food by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, doesn’t specifically belong to a list of books about veganism… yet he may open some eyes with his repeated nudges to look deeply into our food and see how we are interconnected with all beings on Earth. He reminds readers that “Our way of eating and producing food can be very violent, to other species, to our own bodies, and to the Earth” and specifically encourages embracing a vegetarian diet or at least decreasing meat consumption.

This one gets bonus points because of the meditation on the joys of dishwashing.

Which books about veganism were your favorites? Which ones are still on your to-read list?

I always welcome suggestions.