The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket (Hardcover)

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"A deeply curious and evenhanded report on our national appetites." --The New York Times

In the tradition of Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma, an extraordinary investigation into the human lives at the heart of the American grocery store

The miracle of the supermarket has never been more apparent. Like the doctors and nurses who care for the sick, suddenly the men and women who stock our shelves and operate our warehouses are understood as 'essential' workers, providing a quality of life we all too easily take for granted. But the sad truth is that the grocery industry has been failing these workers for decades.

In this page-turning expose, author Benjamin Lorr pulls back the curtain on the highly secretive grocery industry. Combining deep sourcing, immersive reporting, and sharp, often laugh-out-loud prose, Lorr leads a wild investigation, asking what does it take to run a supermarket? How does our food get on the shelves? And who suffers for our increasing demands for convenience and efficiency? In this journey:

    We learn the secrets of Trader Joe's success from Trader Joe himself
    Drive with truckers caught in a job they call "sharecropping on wheels"
    Break into industrial farms with activists to learn what it takes for a product to earn certification labels like "fair trade" and "free range"
    Follow entrepreneurs as they fight for shelf space, learning essential tips, tricks, and traps for any new food business
    Journey with migrants to examine shocking forced labor practices through their eyes

The product of five years of research and hundreds of interviews across every level of the business, The Secret Life of Groceries is essential reading for those who want to understand our food system--delivering powerful social commentary on the inherently American quest for more and compassionate insight into the lives that provide it.

About the Author

BENJAMIN LORR is the author of Hell-Bent, a critically acclaimed exploration of the Bikram Yoga community that first detailed patterns of abuse and sexual misconduct by guru Bikram Choudhury. Lorr is a graduate of Montgomery County public schools and Columbia University. He lives in New York City.

Praise For…

"The Secret Life of Groceries reveals the unsustainable reality of American reader of this ambitious book will enter a store the same."
San Francisco Chronicle

The Secret Life of Groceries is a deeply curious and evenhanded report on our national appetites."
The New York Times

The Secret Life of Groceries takes us on a tour through the lives that the food system touches so that we have clear eyes about the human and environmental cost of our demands. If we can stomach it."
The Washington Post

“Is "literary muck-raking" a genre?  It is now.  This book is at once a satisfying, enjoyable meal and a glass of cold water to the face.  The modern shopper wants groceries that are ethical, sustainable, humane, affordable, fresh, and convenient.  But as Lorr discovers, the costs of our demands are recouped from the bottom of the food chain: debt-ruined truckers, foreign slave labor, and Whole Foods workers in our own communities -- the people whose lives Lorr shared (and sometimes lived) for weeks or months.  Does it sound grim?  It's not!  The Secret Life of Groceries is a terrific read.  The stories flow, and the hard truths are seasoned with wit and hope.  Bottle this man and get him into every home!”
Mary Roach, author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“A titanic achievement of reportage, insight, humor, and humanity,The Secret Life of Groceries will forever change the way you think about the American food system. Lorr journeys deep into our troubled supply chain with propulsive force and insight and brings us back the goods.”  
Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams: : A Journey Through the Heart of America's Fast-Food Kingdom
“In The Secret Life of Groceries, Benjamin Lorr demonstrates through lively and meticulous reporting how much the enthronement of the American consumer has cost workers, from truckers who live on $100 a week to slave laborers who fish the waters off Southeast Asia. With compassion and humor, Lorr introduces us to very real people who constitute that abstraction we call the “supply chain” and challenges us, in a thoughtful and nuanced way, to consider the high price we pay for supermarket bargains.”
Timothy Noah, author of The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It

"With prodigious research and vivid writing, Benjamin Lorr follows our food through a bizarre culture of enslaved fishermen, inventive entrepreneurs, underpaid truckers, exploited store workers, and chains so corrupt that bribes are routinely labeled 'fees.' Don’t read this book if you want to remain complacent about your groceries. If you want to be informed, as you should, this book is a must."
—David K. Shipler, former New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of seven books, including The Working Poor: Invisible in America

"If you have ever wondered who made that bottle of spicy condiment; who brought it to you; who is behind the wheel of the truck you just overtook that delivered it; who stacked it on the shelf; and how you came to choose it, read this book, because you will learn all those things. If you didn’t think it was possible for a book about groceries to have richness, insight, humor, humanity, and charm all at once, read The Secret Life of Groceries. You’ll never look at a sauce bottle with indifference again."
—Rose George, author of Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate

"I loved this book... How many times have I been in a supermarket? I thought I understood it. But The Secret Life of Groceries taught me that I didn’t know much at all about the way food turns into groceries.  Benjamin Lorr has given us a perfect book - deeply reported, brimming with interesting characters, and written with great style. Read!"
Caitlin Flanagan, author of To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife
Product Details
ISBN: 9780553459395
ISBN-10: 0553459392
Publisher: Avery
Publication Date: September 8th, 2020
Pages: 336
Language: English

How to read more
( Birmingham Museums Trust’s Digital Image Resource shares thousands of images that span decades of Birminghams vibrant past)

How To Read More

If you love reading, but for some reason you read less and less, know that everything is fine. It happens.
Our lives today have so many things that distract us - how can we not put books away when all these movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, social networks and endless surfing in online stores are around ...
Yes, it's really hard to resist, but you certainly can!

In this article, we want to share with you some tips to read more often and more successfully.
These are some notes and some practices that we have collected for our SUNDOG BOOKS readers club.
And maybe it will bring more books into your life!

Why do we want/need to read more?

To start reading more, you have to understand why you need it.
And you will be surprised, but your goals can be quite varied:

- for work
If you read a lot on duty, then you definitely need to speed up the process. The logic here is simple: read faster → work faster → more time for books for yourself.

- for education
you need this for your educational career or sometimes you just want to read to learn. And, with all the new alternative ways to gain knowledge (podcasts, online courses and videos), the book still does an excellent job of this task too.

- for self-development
all exercises for increasing speed, one way or another, improve cognition and memory.

- for fun
because good books always = fun!

Book lovers have an additional special goal for reading more often. If you love literature, you will understand what we mean: you want to catch everything - to follow modern literature, and not forget about the classics, look into non-fiction and children's publications. And there’s so much you want to reread! The goals are ambitious, but attainable if you read a lot.


And so - How to read more:
We will tell you about the methods that we use ourselves. Perhaps some will suit you as well.


15 minutes a day

You've probably already heard this rule: if you want to start a healthy habit, devote 15 minutes a day to it. Once upon a time, we all read irregularly, in jumps and starts. Sometimes we cannot open a book we have begun weeks ago. Therefore, you should decide to create a rule: devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading. Try reading before bed, or maybe during lunchtime, or even when you are having your morning coffee.

You will see progress immediately. You will notice that almost always your 15 minutes will grow into half an hour or more. But the most remarkable thing is that in three weeks your hands themselves will be looking for a book.


50 First Pages
This method advises - If the book hasn't hooked you from the first 50 pages, put it aside! Life is too short to read uninteresting books.

It is necessary to change the approach to books. At first it will be hard for you to stop and put the book down. Even if we put the book away, it will seem to reproach us from the shelf, mocking us as quitters. But in the end we should come to one simple thought: if it doesn’t hook your attention, you should not force yourself to read it.

***Fifty pages is not a bad test. Not the most objective, but definitely effective. It helps to determine whether it interests you or not, and whether to spend time on things that do not excite.


Reader's Diary

This should be used to improve the quality of reading - to make it more conscious. For starters, it can be a simple notebook with headings:

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • Main characters
  • Scene
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Quotes

And, yes, a reader's diary is not a thing about quantity, but about quality. But, it can also motivate. When you open your diary and start looking at quotes (especially quotes), you immediately really want to read.


Maybe a Book Bet?
Several people can participate. Members of the betting group can come from friends, family, and also your colleagues. And of course you can set your own rules for participation, but we'll give you a simple example:

Everyone in the group should read and review a book over the course of a month with weekly updates. Anyone who does not finish a review buys the book for all other participants for the next month.


Speed Reading

Another effective way to increase the amount you read is speed reading. The logic here is simple - the faster you read, the more books you can enjoy.

*There are many online courses on speed reading, and you can also study on your own using instructional books. But, it is worth noting that this is a serious learning process that will require some effort on your part.



Reading every day is quite attainable, the main thing is to try to make it a habit.
Sometimes, instead of heading for Facebook, try opening a book and soon you won’t even remember why you needed to wander around social media.
And also - don't forget about audiobooks. They are a cool way to take the load off your eyes sometimes and just immerse yourself in the story. Some books are really strong in voice acting.


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