Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Fav Five

Green books proliferate on library shelves, in book stores, online, on our sidebar. There are so many great green reads out there that it is hard to know where to start, what to pick up next. By amassing book reviews from all you bookworms, we hope to make that decision a bit easier. If you are just beginning to explore ecologically relevant books, though, even that list can be a bit daunting. So here's a list of my favorite five to hopefully kick start things.

1) The Omnivore's Dilemma: Omnivore's Dilemma explores eating in the industrial food chain (think McDonalds), eating big organic (think Whole Foods), eating small organic (think farmers' market) and eating food you've hunted and gathered (think hunt and gather). I will warn you that the book is dense. It is a slow read because you need to stop every other page to overcome your outrage but you'll never reach for another factory farmed burger without thinking twice. The truth behind "big organic" will also surprise you and the earnestness with which smaller farmers approach your dinner plate will awe you. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars; Readers: recommend for light to medium green readers.

2) Animal Vegetable Miracle: Ms. Kingsolver chronicles her family's attempt to eat locally (mostly from their own yard) for an entire year. The journey is a beautifully written, lyrical romp through seasonal eating and is chock full of the most memorable, meaningful quotes I've encountered. This book was a favorite among my Green Book Club members - many of whom identified with Ms. Kingsolver as a parent. This book will motivate you to grow an edible garden, possibly raise heirloom turkeys and to fight for your local farmer. Some have found AVM to be a bit idyllic but, as I love the idyllic, this is probably my all time favorite green book. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars; Readers: recommend for light to medium green readers.

3) Little House on the Praire Series: Admit it. This one surprises you. Not all "green" books need to be written by Nobel Prize winners and require a PhD in economics to understand. Last year, I wormed my way through Laura Ingalls Wilder's entire series, enjoying every adventure, absorbing every detail and appreciating the beauty of a truly "simple" life. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars; Readers: recommend for light, medium and dark green readers.

4) Last Child in the Woods: The book has spawned a movement to get our children back in touch with nature in an effort to save them from obesity, consumerism, boredom and a myriad of "disorders" as well as to instill in them a love for and need to protect the natural environment. If you are a parent, you must read this book. You will be saddened by the disconnect between this generation and anything without a plug. You will be motivated to help your children reconnect and armed with tools for doing just that. The book is, however, a tough read. It took me a couple months to complete, but, as DramaMama pointed out, "the chapters are set up as shorter essays that can be read as stand alone pieces." You can work your way through the book bit by bit. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (wish it was a bit easier to read); Readers: recommend for light and medium green readers and ALL parents.

5) Break Through: I struggled with this last "favorite". Part of me was inclined to go with Common Wealth, because - although it is a difficult read and there are bits (GMO seeds) that are tough to swallow - I think the book is hugely important to the global green movement. I recently reviewed Break Through and, even though I did not love the book, I feel that anyone serious about moving the green movement forward, gathering a political force to effect real environmental change or wondering what to do beyond individual changes must read this book. It changed the way I think about "the environmental movement" and motivated me to get off my . . . chair and do something about it. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Readers: recommend for medium and dark green readers.

There you have it. My fav five. Please, share yours. I too am looking for my next green read.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget Farmer Boy (about Almanzo Wilder, written by Laura Ingals Wilder). My brothers enjoyed it so much that I picked it up and really liked it.
I would say my top 5, in no particular order, are:
1. In Defense of Food-Pollan
2. Second Nature-Pollan
3. Greening Your Cleaning-Imus
4. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle-Kingsolver
5. The Complete Organic Pregnancy (Even though I'm not a parent or expecting, it was very educational for anybody looking for a healthier way to live. And it will be a good reference for me- someday.)

EcoBurban said...

I read every single Little House book when I was a girl, about 25 times each. I envisioned myself a pioneer, a settler and often dreamed of what it would be like to live in her family. And funny that you think of them as green books, sometimes today when I am cooking or planning a holiday I think back to those books and the Ingalls family. I wonder if my mom still has my books packed away somewhere....

Joyce said...

Oh, yes, the Little House books! I actually gave them to my son for his eith birthday, and he now has them prominently displayed in his homein Ohio. And my grown daughter has them on her "to buy" list.

Unknown said...

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one of my favorites as well. I've not read Omnivore's Dilemma, but I am reading another of Michael Pollan's books: In Defense of Food - fascinating!

ruchi said...

I don't know that I've read enough green books to have a top five as of yet. Let me think:

1) Break Through
2) Rubbish
3) Omnivore's Dilemma
4) Fast Food Nation
5) Garbage Land

But considering I've probably only read 10 green books so far I'm sure that list will change substantially!!

Natalie said...

Thanks for the mini review of Break Through. I'm struggling through it now, and have seriously considered returning it to the library a few times.

Outwardly, I'd say I'm finding their premise a bit cheesy - everyone else is wrong and these two guys see everything clearly. But, perhaps I'm just feeling offended - having considered myself an environmentalists (on and off) for some time. I have an Eviron Studies degree dating back to the mid-90's, but stopped working in the field a few years after graduating. Certainly in that time I met and/or was exposed to a lot of great thinkers. Maybe they didn't wield enough influence to move the ball forward much. Nonetheless there have been heaps of fantastic and pragmatic ideas out there for a long time!

See. I'm feeling so defensive!!

Anyway, I'll try to read on with an open mind. I do hope the book gets more complimentary...

Donna said...

I love that you chose the Little House books! I never would have thought of them, but they are my all-time favorites, and probably shaped my thinking more that I even realize on both cooking and simple living. But I guess anything I read at least 25 times would shape my thinking, wouldn't it! Great post.

Anonymous said...

I walked by my bookshelf and came across one of my favorites that I forgot to mention in my top 5!
Jane Goodall's Harvest of Hope.

hmd said...

I really enjoyed "The world without us" by Alan Weisman. That's one of my all time favorites. ABSOLUTELY fascinating!

Green Bean said...

Jam: Isn't it a wonderful series. You read it for fun but notice how instructive it actually is.

Abbie: Ah, can't forget Farmer Boy! Especially because I only have boys. Thanks for the reminder. ;-) Hmm, haven't read some of your top 5. More to add to the list!

EcoBurbs: Those books are so beautiful in how family takes center stage, connections with others instead of with things. Go call your mom already and ask for those books.

Joyce: How great that your son has them. I started reading them to my oldest and he was riveted.

Bobbi: Definitely add OD to your list (as if the list is not long enough already). It is a long but necessary and riveting read.

Arduous: Wow. Two of your top five are about trash. Sweet. I guess that means I really do need to read Rubbish!

Natalie: It took me a long time to get through too and I had some of the same reactions that you do but I definitely think it is a worthwhile read. To me the chapters on security and the church were major. Have you gotten there yet?

Donna: Sounds like we all need to get together and have a Little House blog. ;-) I really do love the entire series.

Abbie: Oh yeah! Someone reviewed that book but I can't find it now. Was it you?? I have to apologize to you and anyone else if a review gets overlooked for our sidebar. I sometimes get so sidetracked by reading the review and assimilating the information that I completely blank on adding it. Anyway, thanks for coming back with another top 5-er.

Heather: Really? I tried to read it twice and couldn't get into it. I didn't make it past the first couple chapters though. Maybe I should go back and try again.

Sam said...

I should read Little House...I didn't think to read it because I thought it was a kid's book and thus could be a bit boring or short. I should check it out now.

My favs in no order b/c they really influenced me:
1. Animal Vegetable Miracle
2. The Other Side of Eden - I now believe that an agricultural/farming society by its very nature can be farmful to the environment compared with a nomadic one. It was heartbreaking at times to get through it because the focus is on the Inuit and their disappearing culture.
3. Rubbish - because it made me reconsider my preconceived notions about the composition of landfills
4. The Worst Hard Time - I've been going back in time to understand how the food system came to be what it is today...and this is the furthest I've gone back and learned so much about the Dust Bowl. is down so since I have a bad memory I can't remember. But these books have definetly made a huge impact on my life.

Anonymous said...

green bean- I wasn't the one to review HOH. Maybe I could write a review, but I read it like 2 years ago... I'd have to reread most of it first!

beany- I have The Worst Hard Time... bought it last year at a book fair at school, thinking my husband would like to read it. (He's not a reader... but I keep trying!) Anyway, with your recommendation, I may have to pick it up myself!

Green Bean said...

Abbie: Darn. I'll have to troll around and see if someone actually wrote a review. Maybe they left a comment. I know someone read it for the challenge.

hmd said...

GB: Regarding "The World Without Us" - I loved it. That's where I first heard about the plastics in beauty products/facial scrubs. I especially liked the chapter talking about the DMZ in Korea and how since no one is allowed there, plants and animals that were once almost extinct are now thriving.

Joanna said...

Great list. My current fave (just reviewed on my page is Living the Good Life. Love it!

Melissa said...

I'll give a top 3 since I haven't liked a few of them enough to put them on a top 5, and like arduous, I'm still light green on my reading list:

1. Fast Food Nation
2. Ishmael (I especially liked this because it was fiction, which is pretty tough to do, imo)
3. The World Without Us - the end really sort of tanked for me, but like Heather, I loved the bits about the DMZ and some of the other formerly inhabited places. I just wished it had finished stronger.

Melissa said...

Oh, btw...meant to add that I too am a devoted Laura Ingalls Wilder fan...she even wrote a cookbook, if I remember correctly, that led to some interesting experiments when I was younger...

Joyce said...

I love the Little House cookbook. I cooked out of it when we had the big garden. It's the ultimate in simple and frugal, though all that salt pork can't be too healthy for us sedentary 21st century types.

Green Bean said...

Heather: Oh, that's right! I remember you writing about the Korea thing before which is really interesting. You convince me to add it back to my list - which is getting longer by the list. I need to start a post asking for things people hated so I can cross stuff off. ;-)

Joanna: Living the Good Life . . . hmm, I'll have to check out your review and add it to our review list. Thank you!

Melissa: Gotta love green fiction. There should be more but it is hard. More on the World Without Us! Okay, okay!

Joyce and Melissa: I do remember coming across that somewhere. I need to see if my library has one and check it out. Thanks!