Chances are you won’t be spending the summer relaxing on a beach reading the latest novel. But there are a couple of books you should put on your summer reading list—“Fast Food Nation” and “Chew on This.” Both are written by Eric Schlosser, and both have and will continue to get a lot of attention.

“Fast Food Nation” was published in 2001 and carries the subtitle, “The dark side of the All-American meal.” It sold 1.4 million copies, so you can easily find one on www.Amazon.com for $3 to $15. The book looks at the fast-food industry, but digs much deeper.

Here’s a snippet from a review: “Schlosser’s investigation reaches its frightening peak in the meatpacking plants, as he reveals the almost complete lack of federal oversight of a seemingly lawless industry. It follows with vivid tours through feedlots, abattoirs, and a chicken-processing plant to explore how fast-food has achieved spectacular international success…”

Another line goes on to say, “the Fast-food industry’s drive for consolidation, homogenization and speed has radically transformed America’s diet, landscape, economy and workforce, often in insidiously destructive ways.”

It’s good to know that personal choices and societal trends aren’t responsible for those things. It was Ronald McDonald all along.

A fictional movie that pulls six stories from “Fast Food Nation” is set for release this fall.

I saw a clip where Kris Kristofferson’s hard-crusted character talked about standing ankle-deep in blood on a kill floor. So, I’d suggest putting that on your fall “movies-to-see” list.

Last month, Schlosser’s new book, “Chew on This: Everything you don’t want to know about fast-food” was released. The book sort of repackages and updates the content of “Fast Food Nation” but the target audience is middle-school-age children.

Schlosser spent May on tour promoting his book, which gave me a chance to hear him speak. He has a calm, articulate, focused style. People respond well to him. His first book has found a place in some college curriculums. Reports are, the second one is following suit.

You cannot ignore the influence that certain books and certain authors have on society. Upton Sinclair’s novel, “The Jungle” prompted the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.

But, this discussion is not just about Eric Schlosser and his books.

Also last month, 18 food and agricultural groups launched a Web site to tell their stories about the U.S. food system. You can check it out at www.BestFoodNation.com.

Organizers say it “contains current, factual information” about the food system’s positive contributions. It features eight food-industry participants who talk about their pride and satisfaction in producing food. Mark Reding, Howardstown, Ky., is a featured pork producer.

The site illustrates the food industry’s contribution in terms of jobs, environmental stewardship, animal-welfare practices, benefit to local communities and much more. Organizers also say the Web site is set up to counter “Chew on This.” Let’s hope it does much more than that.

The site is colorful, well organized, well written and easy to navigate. I applaud the effort. It’s a good starting point.

I know that Schlosser spent many 12-hour days doing radio, television, newspaper and magazine interviews. Not to mention book signings and public discussions. He traveled to 10 major cities and several minor ones last month pushing his message. Granted, he’s doing it to boost book sales and the resulting money, but how will Best Food Nation compete with that?

The fact that Schlosser is a compelling interview can’t be overlooked. Yes, the food-industry has equally compelling folks, but who can or will step forward, commit the time and money that it will require? It’s great to have local interaction, involving speaker bureaus and such, but those efforts don’t reach the majority of consumers. The urban consumers are the most unfamiliar with the food system. It’s those consumers that you have to not only reach, but convince.  

On the plus side, many agricultural groups are working more closely together and working with others in the food industry. On the negative side, these sorts of issues will continue to challenge you and your business.