Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

By Michael Pollan

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Penguin Books, 2009

Genre: Non-fiction, health & fitness, healthy living, diet, nutrition

ISBN: 9780143116387

Intended audience: American adults

Number of pages: 140

Setting: USA

Time period: The era of obesity and processed “food-like substances”

Description: A practical guide for what and how to eat, written as a follow up to Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Following the Introduction, the book is divided into three sections based upon the key concepts from In Defense of Food – “Eat Food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”

Illustrations: Beautiful black and white illustrations of various food items and equipment break up the rules and text.  I can’t tell if they are etchings, engravings, or lithographs, but I like them.  There is no illustrator information in the book, so I suppose these are images which are out of copyright and in the public domain.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: This is a very quick and easy read; after a twelve page introduction, the rest of the book contains rules (some of which have a short explanation).

Characterization: There are no characters, but there are traditional sayings from various parts of the world.

Frame: There are two frames for this book.  The first is simplification (of complicated diets, health information, nutritional science, and health claims).  The second is a guide.

Story line: A useful little book which offers clear and concise ways to eat healthier (and hopefully end the American obesity epidemic).

Subject headings:

From PCPL:



Food habits.

Similar authors:

Barbara Kingsolver – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Gary Paul Nabhan – Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods

Eric Schlosser – Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

Ronald F. Schmid, N.D. – Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine: Improving Health and Longevity with Native Nutrition

Personal notes: A short and sweet easy read.  Some of my favorite rules include:

13 – Eat only foods which will eventually rot

19 – If it came from a plant,eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t

25 – Eat your colors

26 – Drink the spinach water

36 – Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk

37 – “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead”

39 – Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself

48 – Consult your gut

63 – Cook

Other (diversity, themes, websites):

Michael Pollan’s website

Grocery Store Wars video on YouTube (5:51)


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