Book List

Readings and Ruminations

imagine book list western running fitness food agriculture non-fiction
Yes, I actually took this photo at the MSP airport.

I love books and reading about the experiences of others. While I get many, many hours of audiobooks in while running the trails and during marathon training, my bookshelf over flows with well-read (and to-be-read) paperbacks.

I love non-fiction and western history, books to add historical context to the places I’ve lived, perspectives on food and agriculture, fitness and training from other runners, and books to improve my leadership and personal development.

While I may not always agree with some of the perspectives (*) I read on food and agriculture, I believe it important to better understand all sides of the issue to be more firm in my understanding and beliefs. That being said, I don’t endorse messages is every book listed below, but I still believe they’re important to be familiar with.

This list is always changing. Let me know what you think, if you agree or disagree, or if you have suggestions for my shelf. Email me with your book suggestions, or shoot me a Tweet.

The Fence Post

Books I have read and my thoughts about the material

the-big-fat-surprise-bookFood and Agriculture

louis-lamour-booksGeneral Fiction

Leadership and Business


born-to-run-christopher-mcdougallRunning and Fitness

6000-miles-of-fence-xit-ranchWesterns and History

Disclaimer: Some (but not all) links to products or services via Amazon are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase (at no additional cost to you). The links are provided as a convenience if you would like to know more about items mentioned. These small commissions make it possible to maintain this blog and advocacy efforts.

*Books marked by an asterisk are included for context surrounding food conversations, not necessarily an endorsement of beliefs by the authors.


  1. I’ve got a few books that come to mind.

    Recently read/listened to “Hot Flat and Crowded” by NYTimes reporter Thomas A Friedman and think it’s the best statement of the current world situation I’ve seen in a long time. The role of the growing global middle class has some enormous challenges for agriculture and he discusses it fully in this book. A lot to learn here.,+flat+and+crowded

    I loved “Guns, Germs & Steel” and although the focus is history, the role agriculture — cultivating crops and domesticating animals — had in enabling development of civilization is incredible and the sections that address this still blow me away years after I read it.

    If you like cotton (I do) and world trade impacts you (dare you to say it doesn’t), you should read The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy

    The one I currently have waiting for me to read is Tomorrow’s Table which is written by Pam Ronald a biotech prof who’s husband is an organic farmer. She was the woman who went on Dr. Oz and tried to bring lucidity to the conversation.

    Wow… that’s longer than I thought I’d be. Hope you add one or two to your list. 🙂

  2. Jim Owen was the featured speaker at the banquet during our Maryland Cattlemen’s Convention last weekend. (Our 24th, by the way.) Enjoyed his talk very much. Just want to add that the ‘cowboy ethic’ is ‘cowboy’ and not just confined to the west. I’ve known cowboys from all over the world and if they are true to the name, they all have that cowboy ethic. Mr. Owen passed out his business card and it has a list of of his ten cowboy ethics on the reverse, including the ones you mention above, and as I read down the list, it was like reading my husband’s code that he lived by.

  3. Ryan

    I have read Up to my Armpits, am a huge Grisham (I have read almost all of his books) and am McMurtry fan! I have also read The Omnivore’ s Dilemma, the Jungle and The Worst Hard Time.

    Excellent books on your list. I will have to check out some of the ones I have not read yet. I am an avid reader and always looking for good material.

    James Harriot is very good and along the same lines as Doc Edwards.

    I feel it is important to read what the anti-ag people are writing and the misconceptions they are planting. I plan to someday read more of Pollan’s books.

    One can never go wrong w/ Larry McMurtry; his non western novels are as entertaining as the westerns. I highly suggest the entire Lonesome Dove series of books.

    Thanks for sharing your reading list!

  4. Ryan

    Sounds like you’ve found some intriguing reads, I’ll keep my eyes open for them. I’m also an avid reader and (thanks to my dad who is a large animal vet) have come across some great first-hand accounts of cowboys, vets, etc.

    Some of my favorites are by Ben K. Green: The Village Horse Doctor, Wild Cow Tales, Horse Tradin’, Some More Horse Tradin’, and A Thousand Miles of Mustangin’. Doc Green grew up in the early 1900’s and cowboyed over a good portion of the West, and studied veterinary medicine.

    Another great series is by Ralph Moody. He also grew up in the early 1900’s, and gives a vivid account of his life as his family goes from the Eastern US to a ranch in Colorado, then to farms in Massachusetts and Maine. The series starts with Little Britches.

    Hope you find these wonderful books as fun to read as I did.

  5. Nop’s Trials – not about cattle really but good book. Even better by the same author – Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men. Both focus on stock dogs, border collies to be exact. The first is a novel, second true story. Maybe a couple other suggestions – were recommended to me but will read them first to see. 🙂

  6. Hey Ryan,

    May I first just say – congrats on your blog! You do so much to provide insight for those who are agriculturally illiterate. You also give those involved in ag life a chance to learn, as well; as an agricultural major there are some things I’ve learned from your posts. Keep up the great work.

    I might also mention that I love that you’re a book worm. Reading is a second passion of mine as well. I recommend some of Cormac McCarthy’s work. There’s a trilogy of his I think you would enjoy. I know it’s not necessarily agrilculture-related but I also suggest The Guns of August, by Barbara W. Tuchman.

    Enjoy. 🙂

  7. Wow! Thanks Ryan and Commenters for sharing all these book titles. I just read one that I think you might enjoy titled Real Dirt. It is written by an ex-industrial farmer in Canada who turned to organic farming to save his family farm. It is very transparent: he says he damaged his land more during his first years farming organically (because he was tilling), than when he was farming conventionally. Here is the link to his website

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