A number of diverse books and articles have been helpful to me in providing an orienting framework of questions around food and population issues.
For an overall perspective, there is the brilliant historical investigation by Mike Davis (2002), Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World. Verso: New York. Davis explores the interplay between British imperialism, technological advances, the discovery of worldwide weather patterns causing widespread drought and famine.
An interesting companion piece is a detailed case study of recent droughts and famine, looking at how disasters can be averted. Peter Walker (1989). Famine Early Warning systems: victims and destitution. Earthscan: London
Also, a general perspective about the state of the world and the interaction between capitalism and the many severe assaults on the environment, see James Gustave Speth (2008). The Bridge at the Edge of the World: capitalism, the environment, and crossing from crisis to sustainability. Yale: New Haven. This book is unique because of Speth’s position as dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University.
There are several authors who write specifically (and eloquently) about food and agriculture:
Raj Patel (2007). Stuffed and Starved: markets, power and the hidden battle for the world’s food system. Harper Collins: New York.
Vandana Shiva has written many books on this topic. A good recent book is Soil Not Oil: environmental justice in an age of climate crisis. (2008). South End Press: Cambridge.
Tony Weis (2007). The Global Food Economy: the battle for the future of farming. Fernwood: Winnipeg.
I would recommend George Monbiot: The Population Myth (2009-09-30) and Chris Williams’ review article “Population, hunger and environmental degradation: are there too many people?” International Socialist Review, Nov-Dec 2009.