Recommended Reading

Valuable Books to Read

These are books that are powerful in terms of describing the culture and pervasiveness of environmental damage, and the actions people and communities are taking to support the earth, including examples of renewables development, systemic changes to culture and society, and plans for what needs to happen.

(Reviewed and edited by Ruth Amundsen, in rough descending order of importance with the books that were most impactful for me listed first)

Book title Author Comments
Natural Capitalism Paul Hawken, L. Hunter Lovins and Amory Lovins. A great book.  Wonderful description and examples of what US and other corporations are already doing and have done to make their businesses more sustainable, environmental and socially responsible.  Every chapter has an upbeat part with positive examples, and then shows how far we have to go, but how easy it would be for American corporations to pick up these ideas and use them.  I’d like to send a copy to every corporation in the world.  The sequel to Ecology of Commerce (below).
Ishmael, The Story of B, My Ishmael Daniel Quinn Great ‘how to save the world’ novels, packaged in some parables that really work.  Best to read the trilogy in order, because in each one he draws you further in to his way of thinking.  Beyond Civilization is the next one, seems to be the most direct in terms of what to do next, but I’m not sure if it would work to read it before the others.  Even better parables are on his Web page.
The Ecology of Commerce Paul Hawken This is one I really got enthused about — so much so that I bought 25 copies and sent ’em to heads of Congressional Committees… Anyway, it’s about how we could make US businesses more environmental *and* more profitable at the same time.  Not just philosophy, he’s got good real-life stories and examples.
Plan B 4.0, Mobilizing to Save Civilization Lester Brown A comprehensive look at the dangers of the fossil-fuel economy.  Truly scary look at the current data on the speed of ice melt, and water scarcity.  Good summary of the energies that could be used to replace fossil fuels.  Ambitious but achievable goal of closing all coal-fired plants by 2020.  Only thing missing is he doesn’t talk about nuclear fission.
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming edited by Paul Hawken A great look at what solutions exist to decrease carbon, and realistic costs and potentials for each, ranked globally.  Some real surprises for me as to which are most effective, and some I had never heard of.
Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet Michael Bloomberg & Carl Pope A great book by two people from very different backgrounds, on how cities can step up and solve climate change without waiting for the federal government.  Great practical examples of what has worked, and what to do next.
Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know Joseph Romm A stunning book that goes through all details of climate change and its effects, some of which (like labor productivity) I had never thought of.
The Ministry for the Future Kim Stanley Robinson An amazingly vivid look at the possible future we are condemning the planet to, by taking no action on climate change.  And a look at a future where the actions taken to fight climate change become lawless, and how that inspires companies to find other ways to get things done that emit less carbon.  A great read.
The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet Michael Mann Great story of how big business has passionately fought against any acknowledgment of climate change.
Climate: A New Story Charles Eisenstein By one of the guys in the paperclip maximizer podcast that my kids and I are fascinated with.  He at first takes a very dry attitude toward climate change, and also was a little off-turning to me by being very new age.  But quickly became gripping and convincing that we need to think about this a new way, not just in terms of carbon emission but in terms of healing the Earth.  Excellent.
Falter Bill McKibben Great summary of the dangers of climate change and artificial intelligence
Flight Behavior Barbara Kingsolver A novel that addresses global warming and the failings of public education through the story of a Tennessee woman whose thus-far disappointing life changes when 15 million monarch butterflies alight in the woods near her home.
Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America Christopher Leonard Terrifying summary of everything Koch has done and how far their reach is, plus history of the family and their future goals.  Well worth the read.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus The Climate Naomi Klein An absolutely amazing book that ties together climate change, global poverty, water shortages, excessive corporate power, GMOs, agroecology, geoengineering, some of the Leaver and Taker ideas from Ishmael, as well as rights of indigenous tribes and societies.
Blowout Rachel Maddow Love her books.  Story of American oil industry
On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal Naomi Klein Great book
The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming David Wallace-Wells Scary but very well-done.
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities and the Remaking of the Civilized World Jeff Goodell Terrifying and real, what will happen and is happening.
Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand Haydn Washington & John Cook A great (but scary) summary of climate change, and then why there are so many deniers, and why they want to ignore the truth.
The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change Al Gore A comprehensive list of what is facing our civilization, reasons and solutions.
Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis Al Gore A beautifully researched and photographed book that makes the science behind the climate crisis and its solutions really clear and compelling.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed Jared Diamond A great and insightful reckoning of societies in the past that have collapsed or not, and why.  Relates that to today’s societies and the choices we are making.  Fascinating history, and a searing look inside some societies and their choices.
Hot, Flat and Crowded — Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America Thomas Friedman Insightful and fact-filled.  Great summary and examples of the impact of population growth, use of dirty fuels for energy, cars, and global connectivity.  Makes you want to change the world.  I want to send it to every politician I can reach.
Storms of my Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity James Hansen A great book.  Not just powerful because he’s a great scientist who has had a lot of bad things happen to him, but also because he’s a great writer, feels passionately, and has a great story to tell.  A mix of his life, science data, and the politics behind climate change denial.
Climate Cover-Up James Hoggan A terrifying and true look at what the right-wing have done to obscure the science on global warming, who has paid, and what will happen if the status quo continues.
Eaarth: Making a life on a tough new planet Bill McKibben An incredible book.  Very hard to read because it’s so harsh on what is happening now to the earth.  Very clear that this is not a future problem, it’s here now.  Gives solutions, a little different than Hot, Flat and Crowded, but possible.
No Impact Man — The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process Colin Beavan I loved this book, and it made me think a lot about the ways we create waste in our family.  Review quote: A guilty liberal finally snaps, swears off plastic, goes organic, becomes a bicycle nut, turns off his power, and generally becomes a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, Four Seasons–loving wife along for the ride. And that’s just the beginning. Bill McKibben meets Bill Bryson in this seriously engaging look at one man’s decision to put his money where his mouth is and go off the grid for one year—while still living in New York City—to see if it’s possible to make no net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no air-conditioning, no television . . .
Our Endangered Values Jimmy Carter A great and impassioned summary of everything that has been done over the last 6 years that is bad for the country – energy decisions, political decisions, etc.
Blessed Unrest Paul Hawken A great book about the environmental movement, and how it is similar to a natural reaction of the human organism to save itself.  Very upbeat, makes you feel like there is some hope that there are enough people around the world trying to do good things that it may make a difference.  Also a great listing (expanded on the Web site) of all environmental and social organizations.
Harvest for Hope Jane Goodall A wonderful book on eating healthy, eating local, helping your kids eat right, school lunches, eating meat, current US food system failures.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma Michael Pollan A wonderful insight into the American food system and the impact what you eat has on the world, the nation, and the environment.  How the choices the US government has made have impacted farmers’ choices.  Amazing info about how ubiquitous corn is, and the impact that has on the environment.  A great description of Polyface Farm, which uses sustainable farming practices to produce meats without harming the environment.  Also how much healthier grass-fed meat is.  A very holistic view.
Power to Save the World, The Truth about Nuclear Energy Gwyneth Cravens A great and well-researched book laying out the case for why nuclear can be a great solution to the global warming problem.  Knocks down many of the myths, goes through all the reasons that nuclear is safe.  The author toured every step of the handling, use, and storage of nuclear waste.
Earth: The Sequel, The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming Fred Krupp A comprehensive look at almost all forms of non-fossil fuel energy, and great examples of how they are already being implemented, as well as the dangers of staying with our current fossil-fuel intensive economy.   The main take-away is that we need a carbon cap and a trading system, to impose a cost for carbon emitted into the atmosphere.  But companies like Google are acting now as if there were already a cap.  Only thing I didn’t like is that is he pooh-poohs nuclear fission by saying there are safety and storage concerns — his data on that is old.
Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens Douglas Tallamy The best description I have seen of why we should plant native plants and not aliens.  Not just beauty, less environmental harm, etc, but also why it sustains local bird populations and the whole ecology.  Very moving, and great suggestions anyone can do.
The Most Important Fish in the Sea H. Bruce Franklin Menhaden are a little-talked about but once very populous fish that provide two essential functions.  They are the only fish that are solely plant-eaters; they are filter-feeders that eat the micro-algae that cloud our waters, stifling fish and plant life. They are also the main food fish for most fish that we eat.   The fact that Virginia has not outlawed the slaughter of menhaden in our coastal waters means that Omega Protein (the only company doing this) takes billions of menhaden out of the Chesapeake Bay before, during and after their spawning, leaving very few menhaden to live to adulthood.  This is resulting in massive algae blooms, as well as starvation and disease in many other fish species such as tuna, cod, haddock, halibut, bluefish, weakfish, bluefish, etc.  If Virginia would outlaw menhaden reduction, in line with what has been done in the 13 other states along the seaboard, this would go a long way toward restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Silent Spring Rachel Carson Really a classic.  Unfortunately many of the things in here are still true.
Cradle to Cradle William McDonough and Michael Braungart Remaking the way we make things.  A full look at how to really become environmental (not just “less bad”), how businesses can make waste equal food, how to be more like nature…
An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore Excellent book, passionate and visionary.
Field Notes from a Catastrophe – Man, Nature and Climate Change Elizabeth Kolbert A good, realistic, detailed and personal look at global warming.
Bush Versus the Environment Robert Devine Excellent book.
High and Mighty – SUVs: The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way Keith Bradsher Documents how millions of Americans are dying needlessly from SUV-related injuries, how pollution is higher, and the history and politics behind all the loopholes that SUVs slide through.  Bought a Prius instead of our 4Runner right after reading this.
Going Local — Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age Michael Shuman A great read with ideas of how global corporations hurt the ecology, the community, the environment, and the citizens, and how communities can be strengthened.
Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply Vandana Shiva About how large corporate giants like Monsanto are raping the world and making it legal.
Our Stolen Future Theo Colburn  About how modern chemical exposure is changing the human race and its fertility, as well as animals, in ways we haven’t figured out yet.