11 environmental books to read right now
November 26, 2019
With the winter holidays around the corner, we at Earth Day Network are looking forward to some R, R and R (rest, relaxation and reading). Whether it’s waiting for a flight (which we’ll be taking with a small pinch of flight shame), digesting too much food or just avoiding family members, nothing beats a good book to pass the time.
Not sure where to start? Not to worry — we pulsed our staff to recommend some of their favorites, with topics ranging from plant-based diets to Green New Deals to climate advocacy.
Whatever catches your interest, these books will inspire, inform and entertain this holiday season. Or maybe they’ll just spark a loud argument with your climate-denying uncle.
We Are the Weather | Jonathan Safran Foer
Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
While the environmental community has focused much effort on curbing wide-scale greenhouse gas emissions, we have done little to cut the greenhouse gases that stem from our appetites. Jonathan Safran Foer addresses this omission as he describes the detrimental environmental and climate-fueling effects of animal agriculture. “We Are the Weather” features a poignant historical parallel, which adds to its strong tone of urgency. Readers will surely appreciate Foer’s honesty as he shares his personal views and struggles.
— Sabrina Scull, Food and Environment Campaign Coordinator
A Planet to Win | Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, Thea Riofrancos
Why We Need a Green New Deal
As we approach the critical decade for climate action, “A Planet to Win” puts forward a bold vision for the future. Our current system and conventional thinking have caused a climate crisis with widening inequality. Drawing on the history of the New Deal, the authors remind us that many things we take for granted today were the result of a massive mobilization of people and resources early in the 20th century. The book gives us ways to break hold of the fossil fuel industry and put power back into the hands of people and communities. The timing is urgent, this book urges us to think positively about the transition to a green future and a resilient, sustainable United States.
— Sebastian Rosemont, Green Cities Coordinator
The Overstory | Richard Powers
If your idea of a good time is hiking through a secluded forest, complete with dappled sunlight and leaves crunching underfoot, “The Overstory” is the book you need in your knapsack when you stop for a water break. This novel by Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for good reason, deftly weaving together eight unique lives through the connection between people and trees. You’ll never look at your sidewalk maple or elm the same way again.
— Justine Sullivan, Director of Communications and Digital Media
Rain | Cynthia Barnett
A Natural and Cultural History
Extreme storm events like hurricanes and floods have made rain is the enemy. “Rain” shares the long relationship of humans and rain and how we once saw rain as a gift. Barnett acknowledges our complex, love-hate history with rain, detailing how we used to beckon rain with rituals and ceremonies juxtaposed against today’s practices, where we physically manipulate the Earth to divert rain from our communities. After reading this book, you won’t look at rain the same way. Weather is not the enemy, writes Barnett. It’s a gift that nourished our planet. Perhaps it’s how we interact with extreme weather events that needs reexamined.
— Tracey Ritchie, Vice President of Programs and Partnerships
The Great Derangement | Amitav Ghosh
Climate Change and the Unthinkable
Do you ever feel disoriented when thinking about climate change? It’s not just you. In “The Great Derangement,” Amitav Ghosh explores our collective inability to “to grasp the scale and violence of the climate change” in three parts: stories, history and politics. Ghosh includes many stories from his home country, India, and how he witnessed effects of climate change there. This book will inspire and make you think. Like Ghosh says, “Recognition is famously a passage from ignorance to knowledge.”
— Lara Calkivik, Intern
Troubled Water | Seth Siegel
What’s Wrong with What We Drink
In the wake of several high-profile water disasters, many are asking, “What’s wrong with what we drink?” In “Troubled Water,” Seth Siegel explores how thousands of chemicals, microplastics and pharmaceuticals ended up in America’s drinking water. Siegel dives into the history of the United States’ drinking water — rooted in improperly funded infrastructure, lack of government oversight, and misinformation — and argues for practical solutions that start with an informed and mobilized citizenry. “Just as with the rise of environmentalism,” Siegel writes, “when the public comes together to demand healthy, safe drinking water, elected officials will respond.”
— Brandon Pytel, Communications Manager/Writer
Eat and Run | Scott Jurek
My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
Scott Jurek is one of the top endurance athletes in the world, best known for winning hundred-mile races through rugged wilderness. “Eat and Run” explores how he earned his place at the top of professional ultramarathon racing on an all-vegan diet, considered to be impossible by many other elite runners in his field. This memoir is perfect for anyone seeking to eat sustainably while also pushing their athletic limits. Jurek also includes a collection of his favorite vegan recipes that are good for fueling your body, both on and off the racecourse.
— Evan Raskin, MobilizeU Campaign Coordinator
Water on Sand | Editor: Alan Mikhail
Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa
“Water on Sand” shows the intimate connections between people and environments and how these relationships have shaped political, economic, and social history in startling and unforeseen ways. Nearly all political powers in the Middle East and North Africa based their rule on the management and control of natural resources, and nearly all individuals were in constant communion with the natural world. The chapters in this book show how environmental history can open new avenues of scholarly inquiry.
— Mohammad Alserheed, Lead Intern
Fisherman’s Blues | Anna Badkhen
A West African Community at Sea
“Fisherman’s Blues” paints a beautiful, yet haunting picture of the Senegalese fishing town of Joal. The novel narrates the lives of West African fishermen, as well as their families, detailing their vibrant culture, history and traditions. Badkhen describes the grim struggles of these already hurting communities in their effort to deal with foreign trawlers infiltrating their waters, overfishing and climate change. This book provides personal accounts that encompass the struggles of sea faring communities, most notably, in declining fish populations, rising sea levels and the changing geopolitical landscape of the continent.
— Matt Lefler, Earth Day Manager-Africa
Rooted & Rising | Leah Schade and Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Editors
Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis
Are you or someone you love involved in climate advocacy? “Rooted & Rising” is the book for you. Published this year, this book of essays draws from diverse writers grounded in their faith. From Evangelical Christian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe to Quaker Co-Founder of the Climate Disobedience Center Jay O’Hara, contributors reflect on how their faith journeys have informed their engagement through a time of existential crisis.
— Helen Rose, Faith Outreach Coordinator
On Fire | Naomi Klein
The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal
Is the Green New Deal realistic? Naomi Klein’s “On Fire” is a powerful syndication of essays that attempts to answer this question and more, collectively challenging our current way of living while providing a blueprint to a sustainable and fair future. Compared to Klein’s other books, “On Fire” is a good, accessible primer to understanding the climate catastrophe. Klein lays out valuable history lessons about the climate crisis in just over 300 pages and delivers a vision for what we can and need to do to keep Earth habitable for ourselves and generations to come.
— Nicole Turner, Intern