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WSU Common Reading 2009-10


The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals


The Author

Michael Pollan is an journalist, activist, professor, and author of six books including “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Nautral History of Four Meals” (2006).

Pollan was born in Long Island, New York on February 6, 1955. He received a B.A. from Bennington College in 1977 and an M.A. in English from Columbia University in 1981.

He is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a former executive editor for Harper’s Magazine.

In addition to “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” his books include:

  • “Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education” (1991)
  • “Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder” (1997)
  • “The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World” (2001)
  • “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” (2008)
  • “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” (2009)

He has receied the Reuters World Conservation Union Global Awards in environmental journalism, the James Beard Foundation Awards for best magazine series in 2003, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Association.

Pollan appeared in the documentary film King Corn (2007). He also co-starred in the documentary Food, Inc (2008), for which he was also a consultant.

The Book

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” was named one of the five best nonfiction books of the year by The New York Times in 2006. The James Beard Foundation named the book its 2007 winner for the best food writing.

In Pollan’s book, he poses the every day question of “What should we have for dinner?” to the reader. Should we eat fast-food? Something organic? Or something we hunt or grow ourselves? This is what the author considers as the omnivore’s dilemma.

To find the answer(s) to this straightforward question, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal. In the process, he develops a definitive account of the American way of eating.

Common Reading Tuesdays

The Common Reading Tuesdays series was created during the 2008-09 academic year for the WSU Common Reading program.

These lecture series invited professors and researchers from all fields at WSU to connect their research, field, or experience with freshmen and the issues raised in their Common Reading book.

For the 2009-10 academic year, the Common Reading Tuesdays events included:

  • Aug 25: Special screening of King Corn, 7-9 p.m., Todd Auditorium
  • Aug 25-September 15: Terrell Atrium exhibit on William J. Spillman, WSU faculty member who was a major figure in modern agriculture
  • Sept 15: “Nutrition Basics and Tools for Making Good Choices” presented by Shelley McGuire and Annie Rose, 7 p.m., CUE 203
  • Sept 29: “Food: Use, Abuse, and Control” presented by Tim Freson, 7 p.m., CUE 203
  • Oct13: “Native Food Traditions on the Palouse” presented by Josiah Pinkham, 7 p.m., CUE 203
  • Oct 27: “Maize in the Ancient Americas: Beer, Bread, Ceremony” presented by Melissa Goodman-Elgar, 7 p.m., CUE 203
  • Nov 15-18: YMCA Hunger Banquets at the Ensminger Pavillion
  • Dec 1: “From Dilemma to Paradox: The Omnivore in a Global Context” presented by Ralph Coolman, 7 p.m., CUE 203
  • Jan 19: “Safe to Eat?: The Science, Politics, and Economics of Food from Farm to Fork” presented by William Sischo and Tom Besser, 7 p.m., CUE 203
  • Feb 9: “Reading Food and Land” presented by several WSU faculty creative writers, 7 p.m., CUE 203
  • Feb 23: “The Ethics of Eating” presented by Matt Stichter, 7 p.m., CUE 203
  • Apr 6: “Transportation Efficiency and Alternative Fuel Development” presented by Eric Jessup, 7 p.m., CUE 203
  • Apr 13: “Biofuels from Biomass” presented by Shulin Chen, 7 p.m., CUE 202
  • Apr 20: “From Pocahontas to Avatar: The ‘Ecological Indian’ and Environmentalism in U.S. Popular Culture” presented by Noël Sturgeon, 7 p.m., CUE 203