10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Vintage) by Cheryl Strayed
A memoir and manifesto, Strayed is ill prepared for the rigors of trail trekking life. Yet through sheer willpower she continues hiking one of the longest and toughest trails in North America; the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail runs from the southern Mexican border all the way through Northern California and up to the Canadian border, desert meeting mountains. For Strayed the trek is about coming to terms with a hectic life, love and loss, and a challenge of her willpower. She’s not one to give up easily but the trail nearly does her in and throughout her journey she learns to grow, move on and come to terms with her place in the vast universe.
9. A Way of Life Less Common: Modern Day Pioneers (Volume 1) by Christine Marie Dixon
Modern Day pioneers are interviewed in this quick and satisfying read. The couples profiled in this book all tell uplifting stories of creating their own version of paradise. Many explain what led them away from the modern consumerist culture to try and eek more meaning out of their existence. Some made the change for financial reasons, others to be more in line with their values. Regardless this book is a satisfying read that profiles a diverse selection of North American homesteaders.
8. Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City by Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates
Two good friends purchase a degraded plot of city land and turn their backyard into an edible landscape. This book is loaded with information for the layman and expert alike- their charts in the back section are wonderful resources. Using permaculture techniques and a heady love of all things botanical Eric and Jonathan chronicle their years spent improving their plot. Polycultures, edible ground cover, dwarf trees and beneficial wildlife havens are all discussed within this book.
7. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau (Library of America) by Collected Authors; Edited by Bill McKibben
This book is a collection of works from modern day environmentalists all the way back to the ‘founding fathers’ of the environmental movement: Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson -it is a tome. This was a textbook for one of my college English classes and I loved it so much I kept it and still read from it to this day. If you want to read through a wide range of environmental topics I would recommend this book.
6. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Considered the father of the modern day environmental movement, Thoreau might’ve romanticized a life he wasn’t entirely true about living. Yes, he lived near a big town, frequently socialized, bought in most of his food and tools and lived on his friend’s land. However, Thoreau expressed some deeper longing of the human soul to be in contact with nature, to take nature in on its own terms. He may not have been the rugged mountain man that other have fancied him as, but he was a man of eloquent words that loved the piece of land he lived on. His modest cabin in the woods gave him enough time to sit back and think; to not be distracted by ‘modern’ inventions. Thoreau realized before others would repeat his sentiments- that industrialized life was taking something fundamentally human and wild away from our collective souls.
5. The Mad Farmer Poems by Wendell Berry
Alright, so this isn’t a book, it’s just a poem. But one of my favorite poems, and if you haven’t read it you need to! And it is a good introduction to Wendell Berry, one of my favorite environmental writers. He has a ton of collected works- essays, poems, stories; he is a very prolific writer.
4. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams
I read this book as my father was fighting with illness- it turns out it was cancer. Tempest’s mother also battles with cancer- like most of the women in her family. She comes from a long line of Mormon settlers, her family and histories are important to her. She can trace back through the generations of women in her family- most of them taken before their time by cancer. She calls her lineage ‘the clan of the one- breasted women’ she speaks of the nuclear testing sites- the bombs exploded near towns like hers and the inhabitants exposed to radioactive fallout. This book was not easy to read for me, while struggling with my father’s illness I would read a chapter and weep for hours. But this is a powerful story of healing, of love and loss, of the atrocities committed by mostly ‘sane’ people, and our lost connection to the land, our body and our soul.
This book helped me dream up a practical and frugal way to start some fun projects. There are ideas for every month in the year- this book is tailored to seasonality. The author’s succinct way of writing makes the projects easy to understand and she explains the usefulness for each. I would highly recommend purchasing this book as a whole rather than picking months to purchase- I tried this yet found I wanted the whole collection of months instead of bite sized pieces. Her other e-books she’s published on Amazon frequently are free and even when they’re not most are .99 cents. I would highly recommend reading more by her as she is a wealth of knowledge and has a plethora of money saving ideas for your future homestead.
2. A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen
This is not a ‘feel good’ book, it will hit you hard- and not let go. Jensen has a way of putting things in their most basic terms, and while not everyone will agree with his analysis, it is hard to ignore the connections he makes. This is another powerful book, which begs readers to open their eyes to the culture that will destroy itself and its land base. Jensen parallels much of our cultural ills with our willingness to take, destroy, desecrate, and burn. He might not be for everyone, but for me it was a powerful wakeup call- our culture is not unique, we’ve been exploiting people and our land base for thousands of years. Jensen poses a very basic question that I can’t help but ask myself too: Do I keep writing and hope the world changes, or do I blow up a dam?
1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
Half family story, half farmer manifesto, Kingsolver moves her family from the desert of Arizona to the mountains of Appalachia to fix a rundown farmhouse and make a go at feeding herself and her family with seeds, rainwater and a little luck. I distinctly remember reading this book as a young adult and wondering where exactly my food came from and it led me to where I am today. This memoir speaks directly to my inner farmer- her endless weeding; canning and generally backbreaking work gives her true independence. Sure, her family still relies on the outside world for staples and treats, but what she finds is that a little care for your land can produce abundance like city folks have never seen. There are essays and refreshing blurbs peppered throughout the book, both written by her husband, Steven and her daughter, Camille. You can tell Kingsolver is in her element when talking about her garden and pastures, she waxes poetic on springtime flowers, asparagus and sun kissed tomatoes. Her younger daughter, Lilly, even starts raising chickens for eggs to sell (so she can afford to buy a horse).
I hope my list has encouraged you to purchase some of these books and read through them. I have included Amazon links for all of the titles. Obviously there are many more books I love that I have not included but I feel like this list has a wide spectrum of entertaining and environmentally conscious books. Thanks for reading!