Cover image of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

5 Books Every Environmentalist Should Read

In case you didn’t know, books are important.

Books help us share ideas, communicate complex ideas, and come together over an important topic. I consider myself to be a book nerd, an environmentalist, and a feminist, and these are some of the most important books I’ve read so far:

1. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Cover image of Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

First up is the book that I’m currently reading. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation, and the way she writes about the intersection of scientific knowledge and indigenous teachings of the land is beautiful, and nearly every chapter makes me cry happy tears. In some chapters, she focuses on the story of one tree or plant, and how it came to hold its significance in both the scientific world and in her own life and history. In others, she uses an aspect of herself, such as motherhood, to explain how every single living thing is connected, and how we should take care of one another.

2. The Overstory by Richard Powers 

cover image of The Overstory by Richard Powers

I first read this book during the peak of quarantine in the spring of 2020, and it kept me so entertained I could barely put it down.

This novel highlights the inherent connection that every person has with nature. The Overstory centers 9 main characters, whose lives become synonymous with a certain kind of tree. And despite their widely raging lives and backgrounds become woven together by their passion for environmental justice. It also provides a really interesting look into intersectionality as the diverse set of characters each carry their own passions and issues to the table to deal with.

3. Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Cover image of Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

This book was used as a required text in 3 different environment-related classes that I’ve taken, and I completely understand why.

Aldo Leopold is widely considered to be the father of modern-day conservation techniques. Born in 1887, he was way ahead of the game in terms of understanding the importance of keeping an ecosystem whole, and how all the parts are necessary for any of them to thrive. He writes about the old ranch he lives on and tends to, and I think every person who is responsible for cutting down a tree needs to read this book to understand the weight of their actions.

Since I’ve read this book, I’ve always tried to do what he described as “thinking like a mountain,” I can’t recommend this one enough.

4. This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Cover image of This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Ok, so here’s where I lied. I haven’t actually read this one yet.

But a funny story about it: I recently turned 21, and my friend got me this book of cocktails based on famous feminists called Free The Tipple.  When I saw the page that featured Naomi Klein, and I learned about her famous book that drew attention to how our economic system is pitted against the environment, I knew I had to make her cocktail first- muddled blackberries and basil leaves with kombucha and locally sourced vodka- and it was delicious!

Her book has been on my reading list ever since, and I know that it holds a plethora of information about how there has to be a reconciliation between how we value money and success with how we view the environment. 

5. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Cover image of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

I first read this book in my junior year of high school, and I can largely credit this book with helping to from my passion for the environment. It gave me tools and a framework to look at nature through that I still use to this day.

I often describe this book to other people that it’s like Walden Pond, but written by a woman in the 1970s, which makes it way better and way more interesting than Walden Pond. She details her experiences living in a cabin by a creek in rural Virginia, resulting in astounding descriptions of so many creatures she encounters, and profound comparisons of time to the flowing of the creek. 

Annie Dillard gave me the words to describe my passion when it was just forming. I can still go back to my highlighted, underlined, dog-eared, and sticky noted copy, and re-read a chapter to find a new nugget of wisdom that I haven’t yet discovered.

That’s why I always recommend this book to people who say they care about the environment, and you should read it too.

 

author

Mallory

Hey there, my name is Mallory Mason. I am 21 and studying English, Writing, and Environmental Ethics at the University of Georgia. I'm passionate about cultivating community, seeking peace and justice, and learning how to be a better person to others and the planet. I love music, nature, and laughing with my friends. Thanks for visiting my website :)

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