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Books About Sustainability and Nature

Ashley Holstrom

Staff Writer

Ashley Holstrom helps make books at Sourcebooks. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color. Newsletter: Crooked Reads. Twitter: @alholstrom.

Flatiron Books, publisher of Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

From the author of the beloved national bestseller Migrations, a pulse-pounding new novel set in the wild Scottish Highlands.

"So damn good. A page-turner that makes you think and has a huge emotional impact." -Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times bestselling author of Annihilation (via Twitter)

When it comes to books about sustainability, there are three avenues of tone: Existential crisis nonfiction, hopeful nature memoir, and actionable self-help books. And they’re all good and useful! But since we have enough existential crisis in the world right now, we’re only going to focus on the hopeful and helpful books about sustainability and appreciating nature.

Over the last few years, I’ve been reading more and more books about sustainability, zero waste, reducing plastic use, climate change, and appreciating nature. People like the incredible environmental activist Greta Thunberg have inspired me to work on doing the bare minimum, even if it requires a little extra prep work. Even if my little effort doesn’t do what a major corporation could do, if money weren’t part of the game. Here are some of the books that have helped me on my journey, and I hope they can help you on yours, too.

Hopeful Books About Sustainability and Nature

Braiding Sweetgrass

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, sees the natural world as our oldest teachers, from flora to fauna. Braiding Sweetgrass is a stunningly beautiful book about acknowledging and appreciating the nature around us in everyday life, which, hopefully would lead to more attentive and sustainable living.

The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren

In The Story of More, geobiologist and author of Lab Girl Hope Jahren pens a moving letter to all of humanity, begging for change. She delves into the glorious history of humans, from taming wild crops to curing diseases, before getting to the inventions that now contribute to our comfort and climate change. It’s slim, but full of compelling information.

cover image of World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Fumi Nakamura

This little book is the loveliest thing I have ever seen. Aimee Nezhukumatathil, a poet, finds beauty in even the ugliest things in nature. The peacock reminds her of home. The looming trees remind her of childhood. Complete with illustrations by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders will fill you with a whole new appreciation for nature.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein has been writing about climate change for years, and This Changes Everything is her most important one yet, I think. It debunks the notion that carbon is the problem — because the truth is that it’s capitalism. We can stop running our lives on fossil fuels. We can make changes to save the planet. But corporations and greed get in the way. This book offers suggestions for moving forward.

Helpful Books About Sustainability

An (Almost) Zero-Waste Life book cover

An (Almost) Zero-Waste Life: Learning How to Embrace Less to Live More by Megean Weldon

Megean Weldon’s An (Almost) Zero-Waste Life is a gorgeously designed book full of ideas on creating less waste, from concocting your own cleaning solutions to composting the proper way. It’s chock full of recipes for adjusting the life you’re used to — without all the plastic waste.

The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves by J.B. MacKinnon

The paradox is vast: we need to shop to save the economy, but we need to stop shopping to save the planet. In The Day the World Stops Shopping, J. C. MacKinnon investigates how to go about this in a sustainable way. He traveled across the globe, to big box stores and hunter-gatherer communities, to get a better picture of humanity beyond America. Consuming less, he suggests, would likely lead to a closer relationship to nature and a deeper value in our possessions. Sounds good to me.

Zero Waste book cover

Zero Waste: Simple Life Hacks to Drastically Reduce Your Trash by Shia Su

Zero Waste starts with the staggering stats: the average American dumps 4.4 pounds of garbage every day, and landfills hold 254 million tons of trash. Let those numbers sink in. Then think of how those numbers have likely increased since this book’s publication in 2016. Shia Su has turned her zero waste lifestyle into a game — all her non-recyclable garbage from a single year can fit in a mason jar! — and simplifies her methods to get others on board with all her favorite tips and tricks.

A Zero Waste Life: In Thirty Days by Anita Vandyke

This simple and practical guide will help you adjust your daily habits little by little on your way toward a zero waste life. Anita VanDyke’s A Zero Waste Life is the perfect starting point for anyone beginning their zero waste journey.

For even more about the environment and sustainability, check out this list of books about sustainable living, these hopeful climate fiction books, and this piece for your intersectional environmentalist reading list.