Environmentally Focused Books You Will Want to Read

By Rickie Harvey
As published on westroxburypatch.com
August 2013

Summer is almost over, so when you are ready to put down those warm weather, beachy reads, consider checking out these books about our world, both classic and brand new. By turns galvanizing, prescient, and inspirational, you will find the words within will move you as well as help remind you why we need to keep working for a greener environment even when sometimes it may seem we are doing too little, too late. These examples could be complemented by many others. This list does not pretend to be in any way comprehensive; it is just a sampling to get you started.

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
Considered required reading for anyone concerned about the environment, Silent Spring incited a wave of environmental activism when first published, in 1962. At that time, few people were aware of the negative effects of pesticides and other poisons on our environment, and with a clarity that any non-scientist can understand, Carson unveils the dangers of these sprays without sacrificing the significant data behind the studies. Carson’s book rebukes mankind for repeatedly failing to see how our actions hurt the very world we need in order to exist. One review sums up the book this way: “The publication of [Carson’s] impeccably reported text helped… by setting off a wave of environmental legislation and galvanizing the nascent ecological movement. It is justly considered a classic, and it is well worth rereading today.”

The End of Nature, Bill McKibben
Perhaps the best-known environmental activist of our time, McKibben founded 350.org and has written a number of well-received books about the need for humankind to change its ways before we destroy the earth as we know it. One of McKibben’s early best-sellers, The End of Nature (2006) preceded his books Deep Economy, The Global Warming Reader, and most recently, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. The Cleveland Plain Dealer ‘s review stated that in The End of Nature, McKibben’s “eye-opening plea… is likely to prove as important as Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring… The End of Nature may convert you, or it may infuriate you. But the world will never again look the same to you after you’ve read it.”

Hope Beneath Our Feet, Martin Keogh
A compilation of truly inspiring and fascinating pieces written by authors and activists from Michael Pollen to Alice Walker to Barbara Kingsolver, Hope Beneath Our Feet deserves a place on your bedside table; we recommend meting out one essay per night, or two if you are in particular need of a strong antidote to despair about the state of our planet. Some of you may have been fortunate enough to hear Keogh speak to us about putting together this book of essays when he joined us at West on Centre for a WRSE dinner program a couple of years ago. An outstanding effort on Keogh’s part to both solicit and gather these writings, Hope needs to be savored by each of us.

The Green Boat, Mary Pipher
Published just this year, Pipher’s book does not preach at us or tell us how to address our environmental crisis. Instead, the author relives with us her journey of learning how to survive despair and “how we can get past denial to reverse the human-caused climate change that jeopardizes the habitability of the world… (which she does) thoughtfully, passionately, and ultimately with hope” (Paul Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen). Pipher participated in founding the Coalition to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. To read an interview this month with the author in Ploughshares, click here.

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
In a departure from the preceding suggestions, this is a novel, considered to possibly be the first to so realistically lay out a likely scenario for the not-so-distant impact of global warming. In beautiful, affecting prose, Kingsolver takes on our troubled planet and “delivers literary fiction that conveys an urgent social message… a clarion call about climate change, too lucid and vivid for even skeptics to ignore” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).