Three Books for the Critical Consumer

The choices that we make reveal our habits, beliefs, and ultimately, our understanding of what it means to be human. A Christian’s interaction with nature—God’s designed creation—reveals everything about who we are and what we value—and therefore, the character of the God we serve. These are books about animals, people, and food, but essentially these are books about choices. If stewarding the earth and all that is in it is truly the joyful responsibility of Christ’s image-bearers, then Christians should be ever conscious of the ways that ignorance and ambivalence harm creation and our fellow humans, those bearing Christ’s image! These books are packed with scientific, historical, and sociological data that caused me to reconsider my own consumption habits and have compelled me to become a more engaged consumer, better steward of the earth, and intentional lover of all that inhabit it—people, plants, and animals.

This short list includes three books that I recommend for being both enjoyable and accessible—anyone can pick these books up and learn something. Not only are these titles interesting and actually fun to read, they are written by authors who have yet to complete their own journeys towards living right lives. Read these books to discover a hidden network of the systems and science that influence daily life more than we realize. If we take the creation mandate seriously, then we must be conscious of the impact that our choices make on creation. These are books for the critical consumer—and anyone who wants to be.

Where Am I Eating? An Adventure through the Global Food Economy – Kelsey Timmerman

Where does Starbucks coffee come from? Kelsey Timmerman begins Where Am I Eating? on a quest to answer that very question. Timmerman goes on a jaunt around the globe to seek out the true origin stories of chocolate, bananas, lobster, and apple juice, and while doing so, introduces to the reader the people whose labor is behind the foods we enjoy on a regular basis. This book is an adventure around the world that examines the brands, certifications, and American buying choices that are part of the global food economy—cutting past packaged products to evaluate ethics in an accessible story of real people and places that brings foreign products into close perspective. This is a great launching place for considering the effects of globalization and the importance of knowing food sources.

Plastic Purge: How to Use Less Plastic, Eat Better, Keep Toxins Out of Your Body, and Help Save the Sea Turtles! – Michael SanClements

Plastic Purge is a straightforward three-part story of plastic: its history, the science, and the role that humans play. Read Plastic Purge to understand the why and the how of plastic, and to pick up tips for avoiding unnecessary plastic consumption in daily life. Not convinced that recycling is necessary? Unsure why Nalgene bottles are so proud of being BPA free? This book explains why you shouldn’t microwave Styrofoam and how plastic came to be the most prevalent material in our society…and why that should concern you.

Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating Animals is not an argument against eating meat. Eating Animals is a presentation of where we get the meat that we eat and why we should be concerned about the factory farming system that brings us many of our meals. In a masterful blend of science and philosophy, Foer asks us to consider the duplicity of living in a society that collectively spends $60 billion a year on household pets while simultaneously buying meat, milk, and eggs from the 450 billion animals a year from factory farms—a grotesque industry that elevates low production costs above all else. Foer mixes his own history of eating with a gruesome—and disturbingly true—account of the meat industry, to call the reader to consider the social and ethical implications of either participating in such a grisly system or choosing to abstain.