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Natural Foods Merchandiser

25 Must-Read Books for Retailers

Some combination of business, spiritual, ethical, environmental and health interests motivates most people who work in the natural foods industry. With that in mind, the staff at The Natural Foods Merchandiser culled our professional and personal bookshelves to provide a list of what we consider to be the 25 must-read books for those in the natural foods industry. We have tried to provide a broad spectrum, knowing that enhancing knowledge is essential for maintaining and broadening those underlying convictions.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk, by Al Ries and Jack Trout; Harper Business, 1993
In the minds of product marketing experts Ries and Trout, 22 basic ?laws? govern market success. Many of the laws may seem obvious, such as The Law of Failure—failure is to be expected and accepted. However, like any seemingly ?obvious? insight, the full impact of these rules only becomes apparent after the telling or, in this case, the reading. Sure, failure is to be expected sometimes, but when does a company cut its losses and what can be gleaned from failure and used in future success? Ries and Trout?s laws help corporate marketing programs avoid making mistakes that competitors will happily use to their advantage.

Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Lotus Press, 1999
Originally published in 1939, Back to Eden is among the first books published on herbal medicine, natural foods and home remedies, and remains a classic today. Kloss, a pioneer in popularizing natural remedies, details the healing abilities of common herbs and provides herbal recipes to cure common health problems. Additionally, Kloss explains his theory on diet—no meat, no between-meal snacking, no liquid taken with meals, five hours between meals—and nutrition. While the Kloss family updated and expanded the book in the 1980s, amazingly little has changed between Kloss? early ideas and today?s knowledge of herbal remedies.

Be Here Now, by Ram Dass; Crown Publishing, 1971
In this memorable book, Baba Ram Dass details his spiritual awakening and guides others interested in discovering their own spiritual path. Dividing the book into three parts, the author sketches his early academic life just prior to beginning his spiritual journey. In the second part, presented cartoon-style, he exhorts the reader to experience the present?s full impact, rather than getting bogged down by past or future concerns. The last section features a ?recipe? guide, which breaks down the journey to spiritual enlightenment, step-by-step. Applicable to business as well as personal life, being here now is essential to maintaining one?s perspective on what needs to be done immediately: for the customer, the business, the environment or the industry.

Being the Shopper: Understanding the Buyer?s Choice, by Phil Lempert; John Wiley & Sons, 2002
This book is a must-have for any reader interested in discovering what really drives consumer behavior. A correspondent for NBC?s Today, Lempert emphasizes—surprise—getting to know and understand your customers in order to better identify and market products that they need and want. Filled with real-life examples of how to develop marketing and branding strategies, as well as an understanding of various target markets, Lempert?s book is a fast, informative read that offers insights on customer behavior that may surprise even industry veterans.

The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Remaking the World, by Jeremy Rifkin; Tarcher/Putnam, 1998
Few have explored the full weight and potential impact of quickly changing, technology-enhanced ?advances.? Rifkin, a prolific author on the impact of technology on societies, economies and cultures, cautions people to think carefully about the effects of existing and up-and-coming biotechnology programs and protocols. In The Biotech Century, Rifkin delves into some of the potential ramifications of genetic modification, urging readers to get personally involved to assure more careful consideration by government and corporations of biotech?s spectrum of potential consequences.

The Book of Macrobiotics: The Universal Way of Health, Happiness and Peace, by Michio Kushi; Japan Publications, 1986
This book, originally published in 1977, launched the macrobiotic movement with an introduction to the whys, hows and wherefores of this dietary practice. Kushi includes information about food and its physical impact, but broadens this basic perspective by looking at how certain foods can affect spiritual development, as well as prevent or relieve mental and physical disorders.

The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan; Random House, 2001
We humans are not as clever as we think we are. It seems, in fact, that even plants can ?one-up? our species. In The Botany of Desire, Pollan, a regular New York Times science and food writer, looks at four plants—apples, tulips, cannabis and potatoes—and the human desires that have assured each plant?s survival. The Botany of Desire provides both a gripping, fact-filled read and a humbling reminder of humans? role as facilitator rather than dictator in nature?s grand scheme.

The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicine, edited by Mark Blumenthal; American Botanical Council, 1998
This reference book was created by the German government to inform health-care practitioners and researchers about the effectiveness and safety of various herbal treatments. After rigorous scientific research, more than 400 herbs and herbal combinations are presented, complete with basic guidance on uses, consequences and side effects of remedies—both those that have gained official governmental approval and those that have not.

Diet for a New America, by John Robbins; H J Kramer, 1987
Heir to the Baskin-Robbins dynasty, Robbins opted to step aside from becoming the ice cream chain?s commander in chief and take his interest in food in a different direction. In Diet for a New America, Robbins educates consumers about the effects of food choices, whether in terms of personal health, the health of other creatures or the well-being of the global environment. Robbins offers compelling arguments for resisting a protein-rich diet by discussing the full impact seemingly innocuous grocery purchases can have.

Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lapp?; Ballantine Books, 1991
Originally published in 1971, this book blazed the trail for others such as Robbins (above) in demonstrating how food choices can influence not only one?s own health but, ultimately, the state of the planet as well. More than a treatise on the benefits of vegetarianism—complete with recipes and ideas for replacing meat with healthful, nutritious substitutes—Lapp? shows how, as individuals, we can make a difference in our own and others? health and well-being by changing the way we eat. By making careful choices, Lapp? believes, people can align their food and lifestyle choices with their social and political vision to create a better world.

Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth, by Lester Brown; W.W. Norton & Co., 2001
Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, an organization that researches global environmental issues, offers environment-friendly alternatives for restructuring the global economy. He argues that environmentally sustainable alternatives—those not based on fossil fuels or ?throwaway? commodities—can also be economically viable and that such alternatives are essential. Environmentally sound thinking and acting, he insists, are required in order to guarantee later generations a viable future.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don?t Work and What To Do About It, by Michael E. Gerber; HarperBusiness, 1995
This is a book for any business, large or small. Gerber helps business owners gain perspective, counseling them to look at their company as a saleable asset rather than an emotional investment. Gerber also demonstrates how to harness the technical, managerial and entrepreneurial skills that every business operator possesses to create a successful, valuable business at any stage of development.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser; Perennial, 2002
Most people who read this book will likely think twice before eating fast food again. Schlosser?s now-famous expos? reveals the seamy side of the fast food industry, from conditions at fast food restaurants? front counters to the back door where meatpacking corporations deliver their goods. The ramifications are industry-wide, ensuring that consumers will more carefully consider where their food comes from, whether dining in a restaurant or shopping at the grocery.

The Green Pharmacy, by James Duke; Rodale Press, 1997
Duke, an authority on healing herbs, provides herbal remedies for 120 common health complaints. In addition, he relates stories about his personal experiences with each remedy—folksy stories you might expect to hear while visiting with a small-town pharmacist or physician.

Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, by Linda Rector Page; Healthy Healing Publications, 1997
This classic, first published in 1985, offers a treatment for pretty much everything that ails a body. Whether dealing with acne, hypoglycemia, toothache or a holistic approach to combating cataracts, Page has suggestions for maintaining one?s body, and dealing with personal healing and preventive health care, naturally.

Living Downstream, by Sandra Steingraber; Vintage Books, 1998
After years of inadvertent and unavoidable ingestion of her rural Illinois town?s environmental toxins, Steingraber developed—and survived—breast cancer. In Living Downstream, she takes a surprisingly objective scientific view of the correlation between environmental toxins and the congregation of cancer cases in particular areas. An ecologist, Steingraber offers an easily digestible, if disconcerting, view on the harmful health effects of common contaminants such as pesticides and industrial chemicals found in many towns, counties and larger regions of the United States.

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins; Little, Brown and Co., 1999
This book, using real-life examples, makes compelling arguments for the marriage of successful business with environmentally sound practices. Hawken and the Lovinses also expose myriad examples of corporate welfare, such as government subsidies for the timber and oil industries, which, the authors say, don?t make environmental or economic sense for the wider public. The authors propose that the best hope for combining business with environmental success will involve removing corporate taboos against doing the right thing, even when it costs money up front, while innovating environmentally sound alternatives and solutions to common industrial problems.

The New Laurel?s Kitchen: A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery & Nutrition, by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders and Brian Ruppenthal; Ten Speed Press, 1986
Originally published in 1976, Laurel?s Kitchen is a combination cookbook and whole-food guide, with a chapter on nutrition.The authors combine the kind of comfortable dialogue that might occur between friends discussing good, nutritious and tasty foods, with great recipes. Full of menu ideas, nutritional data and guidelines, the book guides readers with compelling food preparation ideas as well as detailed dietary information and options.

The Organic Foods Sourcebook, by Elaine Marie Lipson; McGraw-Hill Contemporary, 2001
This text provides a great starting point for those wanting more information about organic foods and products. Lipson answers the basic questions that organic proponents often take for granted: What does organic mean exactly? Why buy organic? How do I know the food is organic? Lipson also provides much-needed guidance on the difference between the variety of claims found on packaged products, as well as suggestions for buying organic on a budget, and an extensive lists of resources for those seeking more information on organic products, cookbooks, organizations, etc.

Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology and Bioterrorism, by Marion Nestle; University of California Press, 2003
In this groundbreaking book, Nestle, director of public health initiatives at New York University, gives readers an overview of U.S. and global food politics. She reviews the effectiveness of federal regulatory agencies and existing controls in assuring consumers safe food products. In addition, Nestle looks at the consequences of introducing genetically engineered foods into the food supply. In the book?s last section, she reviews potential terrorist threats to food and water supplies, as well as means by which the government, food producers and the public can act to avoid such scenarios.

Seeds of Change: The Living Treasure, by Ken Ausubel; HarperSanFrancisco, 1994
In this book, Ausubel heightens readers? awareness of the need for plant and food biodiversity by interviewing organic gardeners, botanists and other scientists, organic chefs, such as Alice Waters, and scholars. Ausubel weaves each expert?s opinion into the book as it might occur in an over-coffee interview, making their words come alive as he discusses with them the need for preserving and maintaining native plant species, especially in the face of the agribusiness-fostered trend of plant specialization.

Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You?re Eating, by Jeffrey M. Smith; Yes! Books, 2003
The title pretty much sums it up, as Smith presents a list of unresolved safety concerns associated with genetically modified organisms. Smith has written, in many ways, the equivalent of a spellbinding thriller, rife with cover-ups, bribery and evidence of factual omissions and distortions perpetrated by agribusiness and government agencies in ensuring GMOs make it to market. Smith exposes the real-life consequences, which potentially affect the U.S. population unwittingly ingesting these foods.

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson; Mariner Books, 2002
Silent Spring was the first book to raise alarm in the United States about the impact of chemical pesticides on the environment and the subsequent repercussions along the food chain. What is largely accepted now as fact rocked the world in 1962, when the book was first published. The results, after much resistance from chemical companies, were federal laws that regulate air, water and land. However, Carson?s urging that citizens play a role in safeguarding their environment remains important today when ongoing vigilance is required, perhaps more than ever before.

Taste Life!: The Organic Choice, edited by David Richard and Dorie Byers; Vital Health Publishing, 1998
Readers are treated to ruminations on the value and benefits of organic food in this compilation of 19 essays and one poem by none other than Walt Whitman. Authors of the selected essays are no less colorful, from pioneers to contemporary advocates of the organic movement. Contributors include Sir Albert Howard, the father of modern organic agriculture; Robert Rodale, son of J.I. Rodale and vocal supporter of the U.S. organic food movement; and Dana Pratt, a homemaker living on a small, central Illinois farm, who won the Taste Life! essay contest with a description of why she grows and buys organic produce for her family.

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, by Paco Underhill; Simon & Schuster, 1999
Underhill and his team of patiently observant modern-day anthropologists study retail shoppers to unearth common consumer habits to help their clients, who range from dog food manufacturers to cosmetic companies, understand shoppers? habits. Who is more likely to buy dog treats, an adult or a child? What does age, sex or weight have to do with product placement and correlated sales success? How can retailers best guide shoppers to new or featured products? Using examples and an upbeat writing style, Underhill provides strategic solutions to questions that many retailers often don?t think to ask but will be glad to have answered.

Rachel Hauser is a freelance food writer in Boulder, Colo.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 2/p. 69-70

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