Books for a changing world: top 10 green reads

Posted in: Environment

Posted on: 01.08.2021

From practical guides to living, cooking and travelling in a more sustainable way, to creative works with green themes, our world and the environmental challenges facing it have inspired writers from all genres. 

In this article, we share some recommendations from the Good Energy team on older, new and upcoming books that challenge us to think differently about how we live in the face of the climate emergency.  

New fiction 

Notes from the Burning Age – Claire North 

This thought-provoking fantasy offers a vision of a future in which texts judged to contain ideas that led to the climate disaster are closely guarded by archivists so that history can never be repeated. We follow Ven, who was once a holy man and keeper of the archives, as he is challenged to translate stolen writings and decide how far he will go to save his world from the mistakes of the past. 

Published on 22 July 2021. 

Nature & natural history 

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

Part memoir, part natural history, this wise, reflective work brings together the author’s experiences as a botanist and professor of environmental biology, and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. As an indigenous scientist, Kimmerer seeks to celebrate and acknowledge the reciprocal relationship humans have with the rest of the living world, as a way of raising ecological consciousness.  

Books for children and young people 

How to Change Everything - Naomi Klein

The internationally acclaimed social activist has teamed up with award-winning children’s science writer Rebecca Stefoff for her first book directed at younger readers. Subtitled “The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting Earth and Each Other”, this book puts youth-led activism in the spotlight and provides tips for getting involved in the movement to create a greener, fairer world. 

Travel 

Only Planet: A Flight Free Adventure Around the World – Ed Gillespie 

Young child with a placard being held by parent at a climate strike

Many of us have had cause to daydream about getting away on a grand adventure recently. For inspiration, delve into this travelogue that charts the author’s quest to circumnavigate the world without boarding a single plane. You can also hear Ed Gillespie discussing the joys of slow travel on the Good Energy powered podcast, Great Green Questions 

Politics 

Too Hot to Handle? The Democratic Challenge of Climate Change – Dr Rebecca Willis 

The science on the climate crisis has been clear for decades, so why haven’t governments acted with the urgency required to deal with it? Drawing on her own experience in climate politics, Dr Rebecca Willis explores why climate change is such a challenge for governments, and how we can get out of our own way to make change happen. 

Deciduous woodland with yellow leaves on the trees and fallen leaves covering the ground

Poetry 

The Lost Spells – Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane 

An enchanting book for all ages. Written to be read aloud, this pocket-sized work of art features ‘spell’ poems to conjure up the wonder of the plants, trees and animals of the UK. Each spell is richly illustrated with artwork by Jackie Morris. The Lost Spells is a companion to Macfarlane and Morris’s The Lost Words, which seeks to rescue nature words that risk being forgotten and has since inspired works of theatre, art and music.  

Social justice 

Consumed: On Colonialism, Climate Change, Consumerism and the Need for Collective Change – Aja Barber 

Writer, stylist and sustainability consultant Aja Barber’s upcoming book is a searing polemic against the exploitation inherent in how the overwhelming majority of clothing is produced. Barber also unpicks the reasons why so many of us are addicted to buying more than we need – and argues how we can move “from consumption to compassion”.  

Published 23 September 2021 

Autobiography 

A Life on Our Planet – Sir David Attenborough 

Sir David Attenborough’s “witness statement and vision for the future” charts the naturalist’s experience of watching the living world change. Whether or not you watched the documentary of the same name released in 2020, this inspiring record of an extraordinary life sends a powerful message about what is at stake if we don’t act on the climate crisis. 

We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited. All we need is the will to do so

Sustainability facts and figures 

There Is No Planet B – Mike Berners-Lee 

What are some of the solutions to the climate emergency? How would they impact carbon emissions – and what might some of the knock-on effects be on society? From food and energy to transport and more, Mike Berners-Lee has worked out the figures to provide a practical, entertaining handbook full of ideas to help humanity thrive. Originally published in 2019, it has been updated for 2021 to reflect the latest climate science. 

Cookbooks 

Eat Green – Melissa Hemsley 

The chef and food writer’s latest cookbook celebrates ingredients that are seasonal and UK-sourced, for ‘flexitarian’ meals that are sustainable as well as delicious. Recipes focus on easy to buy produce and reducing food waste, and many include the option to swap meat or fish in or out without losing any flavour. 

You can also hear Melissa discussing the connection between food waste and climate change on the Great Green Questions podcast.

Person wearing grey stir-frying colourful mixed vegetables

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