Top 10 environmental books for your summer reading list

GreenUP staff picks of green classics ranging from novels to non-fiction to children's books

GreenUP's top 10 list of green summer books provides you with a variety of reads that are sure to keep you relaxed, healthy, and informed this summer while you are cottaging, camping, beaching, or relaxing in your own backyard. Most are available for loan from the Peterborough Public Library. (Photo: Karen Halley)
GreenUP's top 10 list of green summer books provides you with a variety of reads that are sure to keep you relaxed, healthy, and informed this summer while you are cottaging, camping, beaching, or relaxing in your own backyard. Most are available for loan from the Peterborough Public Library. (Photo: Karen Halley)

We are about mid way through the summer. As you settle into the backyard hammock or a lounger on the dock, what books are you looking forward to reading?

GreenUP is here to help you fulfill all of your summer reading plans with suggested favourites from our staff members.

Whether you’ve already planned a couple of reads for the beach this year, or are still considering your options, put one or more of these green books on your summer reading roster.

Note: Most books on our list are available through the Peterborough Public Library.


1. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass

Robin Wall Kimmerer draws on her experiences as a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, writing Braiding Sweetgrass as a collection of reflections that weave together the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers, offering us gifts and lessons.

“Braiding Sweetgrass is beautifully written,” says Laura Keresztesi, GreenUP NeighbourPLAN Program Coordinator. “The book shares so much information about natural systems and our connection to them in a very accessible way, and the story telling is excellent.”

This book is compelling and thoughtful, and does not shy away from the challenges facing our world, but offers helpful, gentle, and loving advice for healing ourselves, our community, and our planet.

“One of my favourite chapters was on her reflections on the Thanksgiving Address,” Keresztesi says. “Kimmerer asks how the world might be different if we all took time each day to be thankful for what we have rather than focusing on always wanting more.”

 

2. The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf

The Invention of Nature

The Invention of Nature follows the life of Alexander von Humboldt, a visionary German naturalist whose ideas changed the way we see nature.

This story takes place when the New World was new to explorers. At this time, Humboldt instead was exploring the natural world and discovering it as a complex and interconnected force — an idea that was revolutionary at this time.

“A great summer read for those lazy days when you don’t feel like doing much, but want to live vicariously through an amazing naturalist and adventurer,” says Matthew Walmsley, GreenUP Water Educations Coordinator.

“This book is a thrilling travel story and gives us insight into the world, through someone absolutely passionate about extending our knowledge of nature.”

Humboldt’s name is now very much forgotten in Canada and North America, but his ideas and discoveries are what inspired the work of Charles Darwin, David Thoreau, and John Muir.

 

3. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Prodigal Summer

Prodigal Summer is a fictional story that weaves together three stories along with the tapestry of lives inhabiting the forest, including a wildlife biologist, a young hunter, local farmers, and a den of coyotes.

“This is a great summer book because it is set during a humid summer in the Appalachian mountains and the narrative pays close attention to the local ecology and nature,” says Hayley Goodchild, GreenUP Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods Coordinator.

“It is also a beautifully woven story about the lives of unique characters — it’s one of my favourite books.”

 

4. The Sweetness of a Simple Life: Tips for healthier, happier and kinder living from a visionary Natural Scientist by Diana Beresford-Kroger

 The Sweetness of a Simple Life

The Sweetness of the Simple Life mixes science with storytelling and myth. The author shares practical every day solutions for living well, mixing a back-to-basics mentality with modern science and aboriginal traditions.

“I picked up a copy of this book after hearing the author speak at the 2018 Fleming College Ecosystem Management EcoHealth Conference,” says Heather Ray, GreenUP Water Programs Manager. “I recently cracked open this book while enjoying a quick moment of lounging in the hammock. What I love about it is the short essay structure, which is a perfect format for when I don’t have a lot of time of nestle in for a longer read.”

The best location to take in this book is under a tree. The author takes readers on a journey of connection with nature, science, humour, truth, and one’s self.

“Diana’s essays are light, yet powerful and always come from a place of ecology, true heart, and inspiration,” Ray says.

 

5. The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson

 The Triumph of Seeds

The Triumph of Seeds explores how grains, nuts, kernels, pulses, and pips have conquered the plant kingdom and shaped human history. Seeds support diets, economies, and civilizations around the globe.

“This is a great book to read in August as plants in our region are starting to turn to seed,” explains GreenUP Educator Danica Jarvis. “As you read about the history of how seeds and humans have grown and changed together, you can start to think about seed collection in your own yard.”

This book, a scientific journey that is told with charm and wonder, is an essential read for anyone who loves to watch a plant grow.

 

6. The Forest Unseen by David Haskell

The Forest Unseen

“The Forest Unseen is a perfect summer read because you can quickly pick it up and read a small passage and then put it down again,” says GreenUP Water Education Programs Coordinator, Matthew Walmsley.

Focusing on a single spot in the forest throughout the book, author Haskell creates a meditative place exploring the changes that happen in a year’s time.

While we often expect nature to be as exciting as an episode of Planet Earth, Haskell demonstrates how amazing and inspiring even the smallest lichen is.

After reading even a chapter of The Forest Unseen, you will be inspired to find a spot and spend a few moments enjoying the beauty and complexity of nature.

 

7. Nurdle the Turtle by Rochelle Archibald and Amanda Hashimoto

Nurdle the Turtle

Nurdle the Turtle is a children’s book based on the true story of a red-eared slider turtle whose foot was caught on a fishing hook, but who has now recovered after having her foot removed.

This is an illustrated storybook with an important environmental message: that our actions have impacts on the environment and on wildlife.

Author Rochelle Archibald is the Executive Director of A Greener Future, a not-for-profit orgnaization that improves the environment through litter cleanups, education, and events.

Nurdle the Turtle is available for sale at the GreenUP Store and is a great read to inspire children (and adults) to care for the environment.

 

8. Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

Zero Waste Home

Zero Waste Home shares the writer’s story of reducing waste at home and simplifying her family’s lifestyle in the process.

She shares tips, tricks, and tools for you to do the same to save money, time and improve your health in the meantime.

“Zero Waste Home offers room by room instruction on how to eliminate waste and change wasteful habits,” says GreenUP Store Coordinator Kristen LaRocque, “The author delivers her insights with humility and humour and emphasizes that making changes slowly is more sustainable and therefore impactful than a drastic overhaul.”

This book is both comprehensive and playful, making it a great cottage or staycation companion this summer.

 

9. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

Ishmael

“I think a great summer reading list would have to include Ishmael by Daniel Quinn,’ says GreenUP Store Associate Tabetha Graham.

“It has just enough whimsy balanced with deeper and more philosophical environmental ideas. It really begs you to look at the world in a different light.”

Ishmael is a beloved novel and bestseller that should be on every environmentalist’s book list. The book offers positive solutions to environmental problems while taking the reader on a spiritual adventure.

As a relatively short novel, this book is one to return to periodically so that we can ask, “how can we save the world from ourselves?”

 

10. The Big Book of Nature Activities: A Year-Round Guide to Outdoor Learning by Drew Monkman and Jacob Rodenburg

The Big Book of Nature Activities

The Big Book of Nature Activities by local naturalist Drew Monkman and Jacob Rodenburg is a GreenUP staff favourite and a local essential read for the whole family to enjoy. It is packed full of ideas and activities to get your family outdoors and connecting with nature. The fun continues all year long, as the authors take you on a journey through all of the seasons in the Kawarthas.

The Big Book of Nature Activities is available for sale at the GreenUP Store at 378 Aylmer Street North, Peterborough. As well as the activities mentioned in the book, for even more local green events check out the GreenUP calendar of events for bike nights, workshops, and activities that get everyone outdoors and moving.

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GreenUP
For more than 20 years, GreenUP has been central and eastern Ontario's leading organization focused on issues of environmental education, sustainability, and stewardship. GreenUP is a non-profit charity and an active community organization that offers dozens of programs and services to those living in the Peterborough & Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario. GreenUP's programs focus on facilitating positive action and provide the tools to make small changes in the home or cottage that can create a large and lasting impact on our environment. You can follow GreenUP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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