So what’s the best way to keep accountable to your plant-based goals? Well, I know I sound like a broken record sometimes, but it’s only because it’s true. You’ve got to know your ‘why’. Without a shadow of a doubt. And educating yourself with these books on veganism is a fantastic place to begin building those unshakable inner foundations.
I can honestly say that reading these texts was a truly transformative experience during my own personal journey towards veganism, which made me radically question my normalised and unconscious ways of thinking.
So let’s get to it! These are my recommended books for newbie vegans, the plant-curious, as well as those who are already in it for the long haul.
My Top Picks
Best Vegan Philosophy Books
- Animal Liberation Now by Peter Singer | Skip to book
- This Is Vegan Propaganda By Ed Winters | Skip to book
- Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Dr Melanie Joy | Skip to book
- Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer | Skip to book
Best Books About Vegan Nutrition
Here are the best books on veganism for a life lived with compassion
From a seminal text of the animal rights movement like Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation to the 2022 release This Is Vegan Propaganda, I’ve tried to ensure that I cover the length and breadth of veganism from various angles and perspectives.
For a more well-rounded understanding of veganism, I’d recommend starting with at least one book on ethics and one on nutrition. Regardless, I’ve done my best to boil this list down to just those books that had the greatest impact on me – so you won’t find any fluff or filler here!
Let’s take a closer look…
#1 Animal Liberation Now by Peter Singer (1975-2023)
To protest about bullfighting in Spain, the eating of dogs in South Korea, or the slaughter of baby seals in Canada while continuing to eat eggs from hens who have spent their lives crammed into cages, or veal from calves who have been deprived of their mothers, their proper diet, and the freedom to lie down with their legs extended, is like denouncing apartheid in South Africa while asking your neighbors not to sell their houses to blacks.
What is it about: First published in 1975, Animal Liberation is now widely hailed as the founding philosophical statement of the animal liberation movement. Excitingly, this ground-breaking text has just been republished to bring the book fully up-to-date for 2023.
Having watched the documentary film Earthlings, I had already been briefly introduced to the term ‘speciesism’ – “a prejudice or bias in favour of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of another species” – but this book gave me a much more fleshed out understanding of what this looks like in action.
Singer’s book is characterised by dispassionate reasoning, so if you are more of a logical thinker, then this would be a great book for you. Moving from laboratory tests to factory farming, and even a brief history of religious and philosophical thought on the subject, it’s a long book that took me a while to get through. But if you stick with it, it’s well worth the effort!
#2 This Is Vegan Propaganda by Ed Winters (2022)
Every time we eat, we have the power to radically transform the world we live in and simultaneously contribute to addressing many of the most pressing issues that our species currently faces: climate change, infectious disease, chronic disease, human exploitation and, of course, non-human exploitation. Every single day, our choices can help alleviate all of these problems or they can perpetuate them.
What is it about: Described by journalist Peter Egan as “a modern-day Peter Singer,” This Is Vegan Propaganda is a vegan manifesto for the 21st-century, plant-based generation. It is a very readable introduction to veganism – and a bit more beginner-friendly than Animal Liberation.
Known more commonly by his YouTube moniker Earthling Ed, Ed Winters is a leading figure in a new wave of vegan activism. His on-camera personality really shines through in his writing, characterised by compassion, rationale and patience.
Winters moves systematically through factory farming and environmental concerns (including personal and public health), before uncovering the way in which clever marketing tactics try to convince us that everything’s okay. All the while, he encourages us to think beyond ourselves – highlighting our inherent similarities with animals rather than our differences.
#3 Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Dr Melanie Joy (2011)
There is a vast mythology surrounding meat, but all the myths are in one way or another related to what I refer to as the Three Ns of Justification: eating meat is normal, natural, and necessary. The Three Ns have been invoked to justify all exploitative systems, from African slavery to the Nazi Holocaust. When an ideology is in its prime, these myths rarely come under scrutiny. However, when the system finally collapses, the Three Ns are recognized as ludicrous.
What is it about: Another important concept in the field of animal rights is that of ‘carnism’. A term first introduced by social psychologist Dr Melanie Joy, it refers to the cultural belief systems that have been constructed around animals, conditioning us to believe that it’s fine to eat some (but not others).
As succinctly highlighted in the title alone – Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows – Joy’s text shines a light on the blatant hypocrisy of unchallenged social norms, and how we must emotionally disconnect from our natural state of empathy.
The true cruelty of factory farming is exposed (for animals, plus workers in the meat-packing industry). Joy also looks at the environmental destruction of intensively raising so many animals for food production. Always non-judgemental and down-to-earth, this is a fascinating psychological insight into the structures that enable us to mindlessly consume.
#4 Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (2011)
Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?
What it is about: If you’re interested to know why Natalie Portman went vegan… well, this is the book she cites as changing her perspective! So it’s a great one to help you on your way with your own vegan transition.
Framed from the perspective of a father’s love for his son, Safran Foer’s book is fluid in structure – part story-telling, part interview, part philosophy. If you’re looking for the emotional counterpart to Animal Liberation, then Eating Animals brings the heart and soul.
An eye-opening experience that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down, Eating Animals is particularly hard-hitting if you’ve traditionally shied away from knowing too much about factory farming. Darkly humourous in places and brutally honest in others, it reads like a fast-paced horror novel (only of course, it’s even scarier because it’s actually happening).
#5 How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger (2016)
This was my wake-up call. I opened my eyes to the depressing fact that there are other forces at work in medicine besides science. The U.S. health care system runs on a fee-for-service model in which doctors get paid for the pills and procedures they prescribe, rewarding quantity over quality. We don’t get reimbursed for time spent counseling our patients about the benefits of healthy eating.
What is it about: How Not to Die will always have a special place on my Kindle bookshelf, because it opened the door to my plant-based journey. If you’re interested in learning about how diet and nutrition can prevent and even reverse many chronic major diseases (including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even some cancers), then this is a fascinating read.
Dr Greger opens with a deeply personal story, describing how a plant-based diet saved his grandmother from late-stage heart disease. But this isn’t just a miracle case. After years of research and clinical trials, what he has come to understand is that poor diets – consisting of processed foods and animal products – are the number one cause of premature death.
Narrated with passion and personality, I am always citing ‘The Daily Dozen’ on this blog – aka the food groups we should aim to eat on a daily basis for optimum health and well-being. The overall message is clear: switch to a plant-based diet to live a longer and healthier life.
#6 The China Study by Dr T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M. Campbell (2005)
What made this project especially remarkable is that, among the many associations that are relevant to diet and disease, so many pointed to the same finding: people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.
What is it about: If you enjoyed How Not to Die, then The China Study will provide some complimentary further reading. In it, Dr T. Colin Campbell argues for the health benefits of a whole food plant-based diet. Published nearly 20 years ago, it continues to be one of America’s best-selling nutrition books.
I’ll warn you in advance: this is a monster text with plenty to unpick. And it’s hardly surprising when it’s based on a whopping 20 years of research between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy for Preventative Medicine. In fact, this is the most comprehensive study of human health and nutrition ever conducted – spanning 65 rural counties in China.
While it may sound like a heavy read – don’t panic! The message is extremely easy to digest and complex medical terms are kept to a minimum. In short, any consumption of animal products (including dairy) increases mortality rates from cancer and other chronic diseases.
#7 The Food Revolution by John Robbins (2001)
Your life does matter. It always matters whether you reach out in friendship or lash out in anger. It always matters whether you live with compassion and awareness or whether you succumb to distractions and trivia. It always matters how you treat other people, how you treat animals, and how you treat yourself. It always matters what you do. It always matters what you say. And it always matters what you eat.
What is it about: Building on his 1987 text Diet for a New America (which can be seen as an earlier incarnation of this text), The Food Revolution is still one of the most frequently cited books of the food-politics revolution nearly two decades later, promoting conscious food choices.
Author John Robbins has quite a remarkable story. Heir to the Baskin-Robbins food company, he was set up for life to become rich and powerful. However, after researching how meat and dairy are produced, he courageously chose to walk away from the family business and become a vegan.
Highlighting the negative health effects of GMO and animal products (it pairs nicely with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring), Robbins points out the lies told by the meat and dairy industries. In particular, I love how he ties together the threads of personal ethics, philosophy, environment, and nutrition into an overall manifesto for intentional living. In other words, my mission statement here at Intentional View!
Read These Books About Veganism to Kick-Start Your Plant-Based Journey
Whether you’re a new vegan hoping to solidify your reasons for going plant-based, or you’re an existing vegan looking to deepen your understanding on the subject, then I know you’ll enjoy the challenging yet enlightening books on this list.
In truth, you can’t make an informed decision about where you stand on something until you’re presented with all the facts. By reading fully researched books that cite their sources – which have been written by experts in their respective fields – this is one of the best ways to educate yourself.
That said, I totally understand if reading isn’t your thing. For those who prefer to learn in a more visual way, then here are some hard-hitting vegan documentaries that introduce many of the concepts discussed in these books.
If you do add any of these vegan books to your reading list, then don’t forget to let me know how you get on!