Best Environmental Non Fiction Books



If you want to know more about the natural world and all the ins and outs of the debates surrounding it, pick up a book. There’s a lot out there, so we’ve compiled a list of the best. By no means exclusive, this list is meant to be a broad sampling of interesting, diverse green titles.

Happy reading!

The mother of muckraking environmental books about the effects of pollution. Carson’s book received endless criticism from chemical manufacturers and policymakers, before everything she proposed about the danger of pesticides was proven true and their use was finally curtailed or, in the case of DDT, banned.

Al Gore’s examination of the effects of global climate change, which sparked national debate and contributed to a current wave of environmental consciousness. It was released as a companion to the now-famous movie of the same title.

One of the foremost classics of environmental writing. This collection of writing includes memoir and argument, as well as classic vistas of the natural world that Leopold explored and loved.

In this classic, Sioux medicine man Black Elk recounts to poet John Neihardt his childhood in the Black Hills and the lives of the native people who lived there and were dispossessed by white settlement. The book recounts their resistance and Black Elk’s vision of his people restored.

This book comes from John Muir’s journal he kept while tending a flock of sheep in the Sierra Nevadas — his first brush with the country he would work to preserve for most of his life. It documents the lucid, awakening consciousness of a legendary conservationist.

McKibben works from the premise that unlimited, unending economic growth is impossible, something that is nonetheless the presumed goal of economies worldwide. He seeks to reorient us towards what real wealth is, and it’s something we’re rapidly losing: a healthy and functioning natural world.

Kingsolver’s account of growing her family’s food and preserving the harvest through pickling and canning. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she addresses the troubling nature of our broken national food system in a practical, attractive manner and finds it hard, but ultimately rewarding, work.

Rodale argues for the expansion of organic farming, documenting the harmful effects that pesticides and industrial farming have had on the environment. No longer a fad, organic farming, Rodale argues, is necessary for our health and the health of the world we live in.

A look at contemporary American society and its attendant overconsumption. The authors use the metaphor of a social condition to explore why enough is never enough and the effects that this has on our world.

Brand, who co-authored the groundbreaking Whole Earth Catalogue, offers his advice on practical advice for saving the planet, which includes embracing nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, among other compromises he deems necessary.

Paul Hawken’s optimistic history of the environmental movement and his projections of where it will go.

Unlikely tree-sitter and environmental hero Julia Butterfly Hill writes about her time as a forest defender in northern California’s majestic redwoods.

In this wide-ranging memoir, radical environmentalist Derrick Jensen recounts his traumatic childhood and the encounters with nature that were his salvation. He also explores the communication possible between humans and non-human life and lays out the foundation of his later social critique.

Native American author and activist Winona LaDuke documents examples of indigenous American resistance to spiritual and environmental conquest.

This extensive anthology from the Library of Congress features writing from Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and contemporaries, such as Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver, as well as a foreword by Al Gore.

Abbey is best known for his novel The Monkey-Wrench Gang, about a motley crew of eco-saboteurs that spawned a radical enviromental movement worldwide. But his nonfiction is equally compelling. In Desert Solitaire, Abbey writes from the Moab Desert of Utah, where he expounds on our dwindling wilderness and man’s inability to live within the confines of nature.

So there you have it: our favorite nonfiction environmental books.

Which ones would you add to the list? Please tell us your favorites in the comments section below.

E J Butler August 7, 2011 at 10:45 am

Wilderness And The American Mind — Roderick Nash

Braum August 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Thank you for the interesting list of environmental books.

Have you read Minoru Kyo’s Already Extinct? It is a little more ‘numbers oriented’ but with a nice breadth of issues that affect sustainability. Also, there are some more unique perspectives presented, especially around renewable energy technologies and Jevon’s paradox. You might find it a little different than many of the others that have been published recently.

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