Top 12 Vegan Books of 2012

VegNews Publisher Joseph Connelly shares his top books for the year—and a few from 2011, too.


The most difficult bit of choosing VegNews’ Top 12 Books of 2012? Narrowing it down to just a dozen. The past 12 months saw a wealth of good reads published—non-fiction, cookbooks, “hybrids,” even kids’ books—so much so that this list easily could be twice as long. Alas, we must whittle it down and provide you the vegan crème de la crème. Without further ado, presenting VegNews’ third-annual selection of the most noteworthy books of the past year.

Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies by Margo DeMello (Columbia University Press)
Don’t let the title fool you: Animals and Society only sounds like a textbook. It’s more like Wikipedia in book form for the AR movement. DeMello covers all the issues, expertly. Now, if you do have a term paper due tomorrow, this would be an ideal place to start your all-nighter.

Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity by David Kirby (St. Martin’s Press)
Probably the most unexpected book on this list, investigative journalist David Kirby set out to write a fair and balanced story showing both sides of the marine mammal captivity issue and came away with Death at SeaWorld, a scathing report critical of keeping whales in swimming pools. This is journalism at its best.

Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The world’s most accomplished vegan athlete penned his first memoir, a mixture of humble biography and grueling race reports. Scott Jurek might claim that he was as “common as grass,” but Eat & Run will leave you with no doubt that Jurek’s ability to push himself farther than what seems humanly possible is other worldly. All athletes, vegan or not, would be inspired by this book.

Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself by Rich Roll (Crown)
As we declared 2012 The Year of the Vegan Athlete, it only makes sense that books by two of the most recognized would find their way on this list. Finding Ultra is lawyer Rich Roll’s middle-aged wake-up call, though it is as much a personal growth treatise as an athletic one. Roll’s story of redemption, from rock bottom to sky high, will leave you believing that anything is possible … on a vegan diet, that is.

The Lean: A Revolutionary (and Simple!) 30-Day Plan for Healthy, Lasting Weight Loss by Kathy Freston (Weinstein Books)
It’s difficult to believe that The Lean, the latest by media favorite Kathy Freston, has been around for only nine months. Freston’s kind, common sense guide is a 30-day program of changing both diet and lifestyle habits. Like its author, the plan is gentle, forgiving, and asks for progress, not perfection.

The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals by Jenny Brown (Avery)
What does a Kentucky-born-childhood-cancer-survivor-amputee-TV-producer-undercover-investigator-turned-farmed-animal-sanctuary-founder have to say? The Lucky Ones rides media darling Jenny Brown’s heartwarming bio into the must-read book of 2012, VegNews’ Book of the Year.

Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Compassionately in the Real World by Victoria Moran (Tarcher)
The last few turns of the calendar have seen plant-based acceptance like never before. Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan is more than just a stamp of approval for veganism. Way more. It is the vegan book for everyone, gently and beautifully explaining the lifestyle to the V-curious, while convincingly enlightening others as to why some people have already made the choice—and why they would benefit from doing so, too.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (Houghton Mifflin)
Diet for a New America by John Robbins (HJ Kramer)
Free the Animals: The Story of the Animal Liberation Front by Ingrid Newkirk (Lantern Books)

Some books needn’t be published in the current year to be influential (or make this list). These three landmark works celebrated significant anniversaries in 2012 (50, 25, and 20 years, for those keeping track), and all were re-released to mark their milestones. Each was hugely influential, greatly changing—some would even say creating—the environmental, food politic, and animal-rights movements. All continue to be significant and important, and worth reading, either again or for the first time.

Honorable Mentions
These two books had big impacts in the past 12 months but were actually published in late-2011.

Sister Vegetarian’s 31 Days of Drama-Free Living: Exercises and Recipes for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit by Donna Beaudoin (Lantern Books)
Sister Vegetarian is a paperback of positivity. Donna Beaudoin’s 31-day program will motivate you to get moving, eat healthy, and smile all day long. If you missed this one, it’s the perfect book to read at the start of a New Year. Sister Veg also set the table for the “recipe at the end of each chapter” phenomenon, later employed in both Eat & Run and Main Street Vegan.

Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide to Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free by Joel Fuhrman, MD (HarperOne)
“To be your best, you must eat the best” so says family physician Joel Fuhrman. The passionate health crusader and originator of the concept that you should front-load your diet with foods that are the highest in nutrition for maximum health benefits also says the same diet will keep you out of the doctor’s office, protecting your immune system from disease. Got kale?

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