American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America

By Michelle Obama (Crown Publishers, 271 pages, $30)

First Lady Michelle Obama tells the story of White House vegetable gardens, past and present, with historical photos and drawings of those plots. Her tale is one of what are essentially oversized home gardens, with eggplant and Brussels sprouts, collards and squash, the stuff that makes up family meals, from the days of John Adams in 1801 to the present. She also chronicles a year in the life of her White House garden, with plenty of photos of both her garden and those who help maintain it, including schoolchildren, White House staff and chefs, and the National Park Service. In addition, the book looks at farmers markets and community gardens nationwide, highlighting some key figures along the way, such as Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee. There's also a sampling of simple recipes from the White House chefs, but this is less a cookbook than a celebration of the movement to focus on healthful local food.