At Your Leisure – A Summer Reading List

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summer reading list for vegansThe first book I remember reading all by myself was “The Story of Toby”.  It was the tale of a little brown pony, named Toby, who accidentally got splashed with red paint.  With help from his friends, all was not lost, and things ended well for Toby.  I read that story over and over and over as a child.  Even today, when I visit my parents, I usually happen upon my old friend and read his story again.

What is your “Story of Toby”?  Summer is a great time to dust off an old favorite or to find a new one.  Here are some vegan-friendly selections for your summer reading list.  They’re split into handy categories I call the Three E’s: Enlightenment, Encouragement, and Entertainment.


  • Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition is the much-anticipated work of T. Colin Campbell and Howard Jacobson.  Perhaps you first met Campbell through his ground-breaking opus, “The China Study”.  In “Whole”, he clarifies the power, benefit, and sense of whole plant-based foods – and examines why the whole is more than the sum of the parts.  You’ll want to read the whole thing.
  • Dr. John McDougall recently published The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good!  In one stroke, he dispels the unfortunate myths about starches (complex carbs like rice, corn, and beans) and promotes them as the centerpieces of our daily meals.  It’ll make you proud to be a “starchivore”.
  • Though not particularly vegan-oriented, you might appreciate Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  You make countless decisions every day.  In this book, the Heath brothers provide a practical and powerful framework (the WRAP) for making bolder and better choices – for your vegan lifestyle and in all aspects of your life.


  • Scott Jurek is the Babe Ruth of the ultra-marathon (foot races of more than 26.2 miles).  His career as an extreme athlete is incredible.  In his book, Eat and Run, Jurek describes his failures and his successes – and how his vegan diet helped him reach the pinnacle of his sport.
  • Though published in 2000, Being Vegan, by Joanne Stepaniak, is still fresh and filled with sound advice for the aspiring vegan, the new vegan, and the vegan veteran.  You’ll pick up great guidance for navigating the choppy waters as a person outside the social main stream.
  • For a beacon of inspiration reaching back to the Transcendentalists, you can seek out any essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  If you don’t already have a favorite, try Self Reliance.  His words will speak to any vegan: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius”.


  • For your summer reading list, you also need some breezy, fun, and relaxing reading.  Short stories are great between vegan picnics on the beach or at the cabin by the lake.  Very Good, Jeeves!, by P.G. Wodehouse is a great collection of anecdotes about the clueless, but good-hearted, Bertie Wooster and his indefatigable valet, Jeeves.  We could all use a Jeeves to bail us out of the socially-awkward situations we occasionally box ourselves into.
  • Another raconteur of the first stripe is Jean Shepard.  Best-known for his portrayal of Ralphie, the bb-gun-obsessed protagonist of A Christmas Story, Shepard has written other fictions that are just as hilarious.  You might want to check out, A Fistful of Fig Newtons or Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories: And Other Disasters.  His turns of phrase can be at once poetic and comic, a rare combination.

As you pack your bag for your vacation, I hope you throw in a few paperbacks.  Or, if you prefer, load up your iPad or Kindle with books and read from your summer reading list … at your leisure.

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