5 of the best environmental summer reads

If you’re fortunate enough to have a holiday looming and need some thought-provoking summer reads, look no further.

We recently took part in a panel discussion to debate the best books on the environment as part of the ‘Desert Island Books’ series hosted by Bristol’s Redland Library.

Panellists nominated their favourite green reads and we’ve compiled a top five to help you make the most of the long summer evenings.

summer reads

1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Darren Hall, Project Manager at the Bristol Community Land Trust, began the discussion with his recommendation Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

Tracing the evolution of our species from pre-history to the present day, the book looks at how humans became custodians of the natural world and examines our impact. Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.

2. Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America by Richard Slotkin

In a more specific context, Honor Eldridge, Head of Policy at the Sustainable Food Trust, chose Gunfighter Nation. Showing why nature has only economic – rather than intrinsic – value in the United States, Slotkin offers a valuable insight into recent political decisions affecting the physical landscape of America. Sure to spark debate, this book completes a provocative triology examining the use of the frontier myth to justify America’s expansionist policies.

3. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

Capitalism also plays a major role in our next book, chosen by Chris Bennett, Head of Behaviour Change and Engagement at Sustrans. Klein’s international bestseller argues that society must fundamentally transform if we are to tackle climate change. The book challenges the reader to forget everything you think you know about global warming as ‘it’s not about carbon – it’s about capitalism’. The good news is that we can seize this crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.

4. The Winning of the Carbon War by Jeremy Leggett

Continuing the optimistic theme, Ian Roderick, Director at the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems, recommended The Winning of the Carbon War. Humanity is in a race, a kind of civil war. On the light side, the believers in a sustainable future based on clean energy fight to save us from climate change. The dark side defends the continuing use of fossil fuels, often careless of the impact it has on the world. Written in the style of a diary from 2013 to 2015, Leggett’s front-line chronicle tells one person’s story of those turnaround years, culminating in dramatic scenes at the Paris climate summit, and what they can mean for the world.

5. Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin

Our very own Jenny Briggs, account manager at Greenhouse PR, recommended Roger Deakin’s nature writing classic, which takes the reader across Europe to Central Asia and Australia to discover what lies behind our profound connection with woods and trees.

Deakin’s final book, finished just four months before he died, is autobiography, history, travel and natural history combined. It will take you into the heart of the woods, where we go ‘to grow, learn and change’ and is a poignant reminder of the beauty and wonder in our natural world.

All of the books discussed are available across Bristol’s library network and would be a real treat to dip into while relaxing by a beach, river or woodland. Happy reading!

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