Published: 2009
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Why It Mattered: Brought increased attention to the question of whether eating meat is ethical

As a novelist, Jonathan Safran Foer's gimmicks don't necessarily scan as gimmicks. Indeed, a great artist makes you blind to the gimmicks ("Real neat, Joyce, deciding to have your book take place over the course of just one day—I see what you're doing!"). When his fiction works, it's because the showy formal straitjackets he traps himself in service his story, and vice versa. Writing non-fiction, especially a work that is so invested in swaying the reader to a certain conclusion—that it may be better to not eat animals—requires a different approach. But JSF isn't hearing that. So you have a precious book about eating animals that, despite its artistic flaws, contributed significantly to the national conversation about how to eat. To quote Natalie Portman: "Eating Animals changed me from a twenty-year vegetarian to a vegan activist." Most of us are still teasing out the answers to these impossible questions.