Green Reading

In my quest for a better footing on the knowledge side of things – rather than solely relying on gut-feeling, emotion, and hear-say – I have compiled a list of books to read to expand my environmental horizons. Having spent enough time in school, I’m usually less interested in textbooks (though they provide lots of useful knowledge), and I prefer narratives, stories, and personal experiences. I will post a short review of books I’ve read, and I am always looking for new suggestions of books to read.

I have read excerpts of the classic, Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, and it’s on my bookshelf, but I haven’t read it cover to cover (*shock*), so I won’t claim to have read it. I get many of my book inspirations from the David Suzuki Foundation book club. I am also gleaning new books to read from this book list.

I am in no way an expert, and this is just my opinion on these books and how they make me feel.

What I’m reading right now

digging the city Digging the City: An Urban Agriculture Manifesto by Rhona McAdam

Books I’ve read since 2010

 market gardener The Market Gardener, by Jean-Martin FortierThis is the new Rockstar Farmer manual, focused on concrete tips for making a living from a small-scale market garden farm (1.5 acres), with minimal equipment. Very useful.
 Joel Salatin  Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal, by Joel Salatin.Great book. I wasn’t able to finish it before I had to return it to the library, but Joel Salatin always writes in an honest, engaging and hilarious style that I love. While it’s hard to know how much of what he is talking about applies to Canada, certainly the overall impression you get is how difficult the government makes it for ethical and sustainable food producers, and that we should all be angry about this.
 organic farmers business handbook  The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, by Richard Wiswall.A fantastic reference book, I’m going to purchase it and have it on hand always! Used this as a great reference for building my practicum project farm plan. Excellent resource for small-scale, organic farming. As always, though, I wish I had the same resource with Canadian-specific information.
 seed underground  The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, by Janisse Ray.Life’s too short for preachy books, I didn’t make it through. Which is too bad, I really am into seed saving as a political movement.
 farms with a future  Farms with a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business by Rebecca Thistlethwaite. A really great book, combines facts and resources with case studies. Although this book was US-centric and very focused on animal agriculture, it was still very useful and interesting. I would highly recommend this to anyone starting off with farm planning, because it gives such a great overview of everything from business and crop planning to human resources to agritourism.
 thinking beekeeper  The Thinking Beekeeper by Christy Hemenway. A good introduction to beekeeping, particularly top-bar beekeeping. It is very thorough in going through the members of a bee colony, and what bees are doing inside that hive. Very accessible, and includes political and ethical components of sustainable and bee-friendly beekeeping. A good read, allowed me to question the traditional method of beekeeping and learn more.
 hit-by-a-farm-reading  Hit By a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Farm by Catherine Friend. A book about 2 lesbians starting a sheep farm – awesome! This is the first book I’ve come across about 2 women running a farm, which is the kind of story I’ve been wanting to read. A hilarious account of the adventures of sheep farming, and all of the ups and downs that a relationship goes through in this tough line of work. A great read.
 OmnivoresDilemma  The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Great introduction to many of the food and sustainability questions. Particularly interesting is the following of the corn trail. A must-read for anyone that is just getting an inkling of what the food system is all about.Reads well before/after watching the film Food, Inc
 Sheer-Ecstasy-of-being-a-Lunatic-Farmer  The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, by Joel Salatin. Both amusing and annoying, this book does a great job at convincing me that there is a place for sustainable cattle and other livestock raising, and really made me think of the value of properly managed grazing in fighting climate change and renewing the land.
 one straw revolution  One Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka. A classic, must-read for anyone interested in farming. I am so intrigued by his no-till method of farming, and am really interested in seeing it at work. Although the book was published in 1975, almost 40 years ago, it is still completely relevant, and many of the predictions made seem to be coming true, to the detriment of our food system.
 urban-food-revolution The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed our Cities, by Peter Ladner. I liked this book especially because the author is based in Vancouver, so there were a lot of Vancouver examples and stories. A great overview of how urban farming is growing and how it can have an effect on food security and sustainability in cities.
 all-the-dirt-cover All the Dirt: Reflections on Organic Farming, by Rachel Fisher, Heather Stretch and Robin Tunnicliffe of Saanich Organics. A super interesting, informative and engaging book. I totally fell in love with these farms through this book, and it just makes the journey of becoming an organic farmer come alive. Definitely recommend this for anyone getting into farming.
 zero_mile_1 The Zero-Mile Diet: a Year Round Guide to Growing Organic Food, by Carolyn Harriot. A great beginner’s overview, covering the basics of everything from composting to crop families, organic pest control to recipes for using your produce. A good starting point and reference for many different topics.
 diet for a hot planet Diet for a Hot Planet, by Anne Lappé. I foisted this book upon my book club, who probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I did. A clear follow up to her mother’s Diet for a Small Planet, this book makes distinct links between our food consumption habits and climate change. It goes over all aspects, from GMO to animal cruelty, Amazon destruction and excessive meat consumption. A good overview, written in an accessible style.

 diet-for-a-small-planet

Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappé.

Good background for why eating less meat is good for the planet. It’s dated, for sure, but when it was first published in the ‘60s, it was groundbreaking. If I wasn’t already a vegetarian, this would have given me the reasons I needed.

 where-our-food-comes-from-retracing-nikolay-vavilovs-gary-paul-nabhan-paperback-cover-art

Where our Food Comes From, by Gary Paul Nabhan.

A story of a scientist who traveled the globe, documenting traditional agriculture and collecting seeds from each place. Gives a great overview of why historical, local agricultural practices are important, and should not be displaced by multinational corporations and GMOs.

 dirty life The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball. A great story of a woman who left her city life to become a farmer in a very unique farm. A funny, inspiring story of how someone can completely change their life path and successfully take up a physically demanding lifestyle.
  greenhorns-cover Greenhorns: The Next Generation of American Farmers, edited by Zoe Ida Bradbury, Severine von Tscharner Fleming, and Paula Manalo. This book of essays by young and new farmers was inspirational and fun, covering everything from growing vegetables, raising livestock, building community, and money troubles. I loved reading about all the mistakes and successes of new farmers, because I hope to be like them one day! Entertaining, accessible, and offers a lot of different points of view.
 BarnHeart-cover-smmade from scratch Made from Scratch and Barnheart, by Jenna Woginrich. These two books, sequels, chronicle the adventures of a first-time homesteader. As someone who wants that kind of lifestyle in the next few years, I loved these books for the simplicity and basics. It makes me believe that anyone, with hard work and a lot of research, can have a farming life, if they really want it. Easy, quick reads with a lot of practical information.
 greenhouse Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming, by Gale E. Christianson. Although it seems like it would be really dense, I found this book approaches the whole history and science of global warming and greenhouse gases. Covering everything from Darwin, the industrial revolution, to the Kyoto Protocol debates.
 animal vegetable miracle Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. I can really appreciate a non-fiction book about locavore diet, written by a novelist. This book was hilarious, inspiring, entertaining, and practical, offering lots of ideas and recipes. This is a great book no matter whether you’re an environmentalist or you just want a fun book to read.
  The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhood, by Peter Block and John McKnight. This book focuses on the power of communities to combat the huge, seemingly insurmountable challenges that we see in the world. Climate change and political apathy are 2 big challenges, but this book brings challenges to a local scale, putting power in everyone’s hands. It was a good book, offering actual ideas to overcome challenges on a local scale.


The Revenge of Gaia, by James Lovelock. I gave up. Did not like his writing style at all.


Locavore, by Sarah Elton. Very good book, with lots of different stories from all over Canada. Moves from the rural farm to the urban one, and gave me lots of ideas of what can be grown from within the city!


The Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant. Fascinating delve into the long tradition of logging in British Columbia. It makes you feel both desperate to protect the forests, and sympathetic to the realities of the loggers. Also a lot of interesting history and stories of the Haida people. All in all, a great read for a West Coast environmentalist!


Eaarth, by Bill McKibben. This should be required reading. It won’t leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside, but it contains a lot of relevant information on the realities of climate change and the new Earth (Eaarth) we are living on.

 

The 100-Mile Diet, by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon. Great, inspiring book about two people eating locally for a year. I love books that are set in my own city, because it helps me to think that I could do that too.

 

Trauma Farm, by Brian Brett. This hilarious book makes me both really want to be a farmer, and realize that it is a major challenge. Great stories about daily farm life, as well as many commentaries on the realities of agri-business and it’s effect on our current reality of food, farming and environment.

 

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from the Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv. Honestly, if I hadn’t been reading this for book club, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. Although there were some excellent points, and I agreed with the premise, it was repetitive and textbook-like. I read a lot of textbooks when I was in school – now that I no longer have to, I’d rather not.

 

Tree: A Life Story, by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady. A beautifully written book about the life cycle of a great Douglas Fir. I learned so many random facts in this book, and I loved that about it. Did you know that some kinds of carpenter ants keep herds of aphids? Crazy! My copy of this book was signed by David Suzuki, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with (from a distance) at the David Suzuki Foundation
 PermaculturePrinciplesAndPathways  Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, by David Holmgren. Haven’t exactly completed reading this book, but sifting through it. Permaculture is an awesome idea, but the book reads like the dry textbooks I had to read in university. Turns out, still makes me doze off.

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