Books: What the TreeHugger Team is Reading!

Last September we did a post about what we were reading (green-related or not) and we thought it was quite a fun exercise, so here is the second edition. Please let us know about the books that you are reading in the comments.Michael Graham Richard, Gatineau, Canada
Let My People Go Surfing, by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, is a two-in-one book: The first half is Yvon's bio, and what a life he's had! It's clear that from a young age he's been very close to nature and that everything he has done was fueled by passion and a drive to do the right thing. The second half of the book contains Yvon and Patagonia's "philosophies", they explain how and why they try to make Patagonia as socially and environmentally responsible as possible and why they helped create the 1% for the Planet Foundation. As Yvon often quotes: "There is no business to be done on a dead planet." (David Brower).

American Ceasar, by William Manchester, is a biography of Douglas MacArthur, the famous American general who played important roles in World War I, World War II (in the Pacific theater) and in the occupation and reformation of post-war Japan. He's a pretty fascinating character, extremely intelligent, with an almost photographic memory, but with deep flaws too (including vanity and paranoia). He was at the center of so many important events that his biography is also a good history book.

Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond, is quite literally the history of the world for the past 13,000 years. It tries to explain why things happened the way they did; why certain societies developed agriculture and certain technologies earlier than others (the local environment and climate plays a big role), etc. I'm only halfway through so far, but it's very insightful.

Out of Our Minds, by Ken Robinson, is a book about education, why it's broken and how we could fix it. For a good overview of Ken's ideas, see this TED video. The book can be both funny and dry. I'm not sure it is always accessible to a general public, but if you are interested by education, how people learn, discover and cultivate their talents, this is a good book.

I'm also reading the latest issue of Nature. Some of it is accessible from their website, but you need a paid registration to get to most of the content.

Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA

Title: Biodiesel Power: The passion, the people, the politics behind the next renewable fuel.

Lyle Estill is a co-founder of Piedmont Biofuels, and prolific blogger on energy related issues. This book tells how a group of energy activists and backyard chemists went from mixing up biodiesel in a used food processor, to setting up a successful co-op, to running an industrial-sized fuel manufacturing plant. It also chronicles the rise of the wider biodiesel movement, and touches on the forces standing in its way. It is a book written very much from the frontline, so don't expect academic detachment. It is a window on how a small group of activists across the country are making a real difference. The real strength in this book lies in the fact that the author knows that biodiesel is not THE answer, merely one link in a long chain of answers that just might get us through our current crises.

An interview with the author will be posted on Treehugger in the near future, if I can put the book down long enough to transcribe it.

Also available direct from Piedmont Biofuels.

Kathreen Ricketson, Canberra Australia

SPECK: A Curious Collection of Uncommon Things

A different way to 'view' your environment. Series of quirky art experiments, that encourage the viewer to think and look deeper at ordinary things that might otherwise pass them by. I keep coming back to this book to a second, third and fourth viewing, it is addictive and each time I find something different to focus on.

Nick Aster, San Francisco, USA

Mycelium Running - the mind blowing adventures of fungi expert Paul Stamets who just might have dug up one of the most important elements of life on earth - the infinitely complex network of mushroom mycellium running beneath our feet. Although Stamets' style gets a little bit, shall we say, trippy from time to time, his genius and passion are nonetheless electrifying and persuasive. It's all connected man.

Also: The Essential Drucker - a collection of Peter Drucker (management guru), GOOD Magazine's fabulous 3rd issue, and yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

Paula Alvarado, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sherlock Holmes, the Complete Novels and Stories Volume II

Such a classic, a must for every CSI fan.

Kenny Luna, North Babylon, NY, USA

Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama

Terrific book about growing up the child of a black father and a white mother in America. He also provides some great insights into his early start as a community activist and what motivated him to leave the business world and pursue his passion. I'm not finished yet, but it's most definitely worth reading.

Jenna Watson, Barcelona, Spain

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This book is not TH related in any way, but I just read it to help some of my students with dyslexia. Many American students have it on their required reading list. It is an interesting story about a dystopian society somewhere in the future that shields and protects its members
through strict rules and lack of personal choice. One person in "the community" holds all of the memories of the world so that the other members don't have to feel pain. If you break the rules you are "released", and so on and so forth. This is an interesting reflection on the importance of choice and freedom in society. It is a great and quick read for all ages; perfect for the subway or the bus.


The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering our Place in Nature by David Suzuki and Amanda McConnell

This is a seminal work by the Canadian geneticist/broadcaster David Suzuki. It discusses the general state of the planet, our place on it and what we need to do to sustain ourselves in the sacred balance with nature. As the inside cover says, "This powerful, deeply felt book gives concrete suggestions for how we can meet these basic needs and create a way of life that is ecologically sustainable, fulfilling and just." The book also tells stories of people who are doing just that. Another review on this book notes that what is inside this book is not the important thing, it's what you do with what you learn from it - I second that. Definitely recommended.


Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

This book is a great read from page one. It tells the story of a large Mexican family living in Chicago and their annual trip south to visit their extended family in Mexico City. Set during the revolution years in Mexico this book tells the story of three generations of the same family. There are many themes in this book including emigration, cultural identity, the role of mothers, childhood, story telling and lying just to name a few. This is a multi-layered book with great and vivid descriptions. A good read (and even more so because it was re-gifted/recycled to me from Eytan and Renata).

Petz Scholtus, Barcelona, Spain

Ben Elton's 'Stark', is a classic from 1989 but still very true (ficton) today. EcoAction versus the world's billionaires who are trying to escape the dying earth Very funny, for all sarcasm loving green freaks! ISBN: 0-7474-0390-2

Terminal B is the creative database project of Barclona by FAD. This book brings together 100 creative individuals who have been documented during the first 6 months of the project. I received it at the launch party last week and I quite enjoy reading about others who chose Barcelona to live and be creative. And if you're in need for a creative mind, you can find it here... ISBN: 84-611-4766-9

''The Alchemy of Innovation' (La Alquimia de la Innovación) by Alfons Cornella, president and founder of Infonomía and Antoni Flores is a book I pick up now and then. Unfortunately it hasn't been translated rom Spanish yet but I'd still like to recommend it as a very stimulating and refreshing book. It's basically a conversation between the two innovation experts Cornella and Flores who discuss the big word so popular nowadays. They share ideas and experiences about the challenge in an always more competitive and globalised market. Very inspiring!

available via the Infonomía web site.

Kara DiCamillo, Newport, RI, USA

Marley & Me by John Grogan - This book is about "life and love with the world's worst dog." It's about what really matters in life and how a neurotic dog was able to teach it. I am a dog owner and had heard great reviews about this book. It has touched my heart so far...


The Secret by Rhonda Byrne - "The law of attraction is a law of nature. It is impersonal and it does not see good things or bad things. It is receiving your thoughts and reflecting back to you those thoughts as your life experience. The law of attraction simply gives you whatever it is you are thinking about." This is "The Secret." Unbelievable book and DVD. The Secret will change your life.

Simran Sethi, Lawrence, Kansas, USA

The End of Food: The Food Industry is Destroying Our Food Supply -- And What You Can Do About It, by Thomas Pawlick

This book is a nice addition to your sustainable food collection. Consider it something like an aperitif. It's a casual read by Canadian journalist Thomas Pawlick that breaks down exactly what's in what we eat. Although it's a bit too chatty for my taste, I am definitely finding interesting facts and information that will help me make healthier choices.

George Spyros

Hudson River: A Natural and Unnatural History
by Robert H. Boyle

Fishing Giants and Other Men of Derring-Do: Amazing Tales of Extraordinary Sportsmen
by Robert H. Boyle

The Riverkeepers: Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right
by John Cronin, Robert F. Kennedy

Rockin it Thoreau-old school, well not quite, but close. Fitting to the geologic origins of the Hudson itself some 75 million years ago, Boyle's Hudson River forms part of the bedrock of environmental courses taught in universities across America to this day. The book chronicles the life of the river, its wild life and the humans such as Boyle who fight to save it and those who's avarice would destroy it. It's an exhilarating read switching from the taxonomical names of flora and fauna to political intrigue as century-old traditions come under attack as local fishermen fight back. The trivia ain't bad either: did you know that Captain Henry Hudson, after "discovering" the Hudson, was overtaken by a mutinous crew and was set to sea in a lifeboat never to be heard from again? Boyle is known to have swum, fished and boated every inch of the Hudson and his love of the river comes through in every word. I purchased a used copy of the first edition pictured above and the pages are so thick that every time I turned a page I had to check to make certain that I wasn't turning three or four. From that standpoint, it's a sumptuous and justified dead-tree read. And I recycled my copy giving it to some friends with a place on the Hudson Preserve up past Saratoga race track. It was fifty degrees out, but the water is so pristine and clear, we had to jump in. However, you might want to get the expanded edition published in 1979 as it has a follow-up chapter.

To learn a little more about Bob Boyle, I read Fishing Giants, and was floored. It's a compilation of Sports Illustrated articles each of which profiles a fascinating individual. From following around Nabokof as he butterfly hunts, to the multiple fishing records achieved by pulp western novelist Zane Grey, Boyle quietly illuminates the core of humble greatness to which we all can aspire. One madcap outdoorsman with the largest collection of duck decoys we find out in the epilogue becomes the president of the National Audubon Society. With modesty for his own life achievements, Boyle never profiles himself -- although he should.

Some say Bob Boyle is the father of contemporary American environmentalism. He was the outdoor writer for Sports Illustrated Magazine since its inception in 1955, and by 1966 used his connections within Time Inc.'s legal department to discover the long forgotten and never used Federal Refuge Act of 1899, and the New York Harbors Act of 1888. These statutes banned the discharge of pollutants into America's navigable waters and contained a bounty provision allowing the person who reported the violator to keep half of the penalty charged. The legal hammer of these laws would give rise to the Hudson River Fishermen's Association (HRFA — that evolved into the Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper organizations of today) as well as American magna carta laws such as The Clean Air Act (1970) The Clean Water Act (1972) The Endangered Species Act (1973) and others. The Riverkeepers features great details from the early days of the HRFA as well as boots-on-the-ground war stories of taking on major polluters from the 1980's through the late 1990's.

Warren McLaren, Sydney, Australia

The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden by The Diggers Club (TreeHugger review here)
ISBN 1-876473-59-2


The Disposable Male: Sex, Love and Money - Your world through Darwin's eyes by Michael Gilbert


Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow: The darks side of extreme adventure by Maria Coffey


Let My People Go Surfing: the education of a reluctant businessman by Yvon Chouinard


Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende

Mairi Beautyman, Wandering Around Asia (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

The day before I left Thailand for Cambodia, I traded a fellow traveler The Red Tent (also excellent) by Anita Diamant for this book on Pol Pot's horrific regime. The author was five when her family was forced from Phnom Penh, along with most of the city's population, in the government's brutal effort to return to an agricultural society. The madness included mass murder of educated people. Eventually, Diamant was forced into a re-education camp, which literally trained children to become cold blooded killers. The narrative voice is particularly powerful with its straightforward approach—there's no embellishment, just the cold hard facts. Reading this as I checked out S-21, a former prison (which includes disturbing
photographs of children killing prisoners), and the Killing Fields, made it all the more real. My only negative comment is on the title—which doesn't seem to reflect Diamant's story. Recommend.

Justin Thomas, Virginia, USA

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets

Review: This book really shines a new light on fungi, and explains how useful they can be to humankind. Engaging.

The Healing Powers of Peppers: With Chile Pepper Recipes and Folk Remedies for Better Health and Living

Review: They're hot, and they can heal. Good stuff.

Leonora Oppenheim, Quito, Ecuador

Currently reading - Crude Chronicles by Suzana Sawyer

I have recently arrived in Ecuador to work for the Kallari Association, which is a Amazon Kichwa co-operative. So I am getting myself up to speed on the history of environmental activism in the Amazon, many areas of which have been devastated by the carelessness of large oil companies drilling in the rainforest. Suzana Sawyer's book takes an ethnographic approach to the story of the indigenous movement's fight against a U.S. oil company in the 1990s. This is a fascinating and important book, albeit written in a dense academic style which can make it a struggle to get through.

Just finished - Savages by Joe Kane

Kane's book is the anthithesis of Sawyer's, it's an entertaining, shocking, romping read - short, colourful and adventurous. But it has been criticized for, what some say is, an over dramatization of the Huoarani Tribe's fight to keep oil prospectors off their land.

Recently read - Emma's War by Deborah Scroggins

The fascinating story of the British aid worker Emma McCune who went to work for Street Kids International in Southern Sudan in the early 1990s and who created great controversy when she married Riek Machar, a local Sundanese rebel commander. Apart from telling Emma's extraordinary story, this book is an excellent illustration of the difficulties of aid work and the very complex political history that predates the current genocide in Darfur.

Celine Ruben-Salama, New York City, USA

The Geography of Nowhere, The Rise and Decline of America's Man Made Landscape By Howard Kunstler

This account of the ravaging of the American environment by the auto, suburban developers, purblind zoning and corporate pirates explains how the American landscape was transformed into the amorphous sprawl we know and hate. Provocative and entertaining the book lays out how this transformation happened as well as the social and environmental consequences of this type of development. A must read for those who want to understand (and change) the car-crazed lifestyle most Americans are stuck in.

Getting To Scale, Growing Your Business Without Selling Out By Jill Bamburg

With social entrepreneurship and values-drive business models on the rise this book examines how to grow these types of businesses without selling out to corporate giants. Just started reading this one so, stay tuned for a full review soon. I am finding it an easy read so far with great case studies and lessons learned from companies such as Birkenstock, American Apparel and New Leaf Paper.

Free Agent Nation, The Future Of Working For Yourself by Daniel H. Pinker

30 million Americans and counting are choosing to work outside of the traditional corporate structure and instead be their own boss working as consultants, freelancers and entrepreneurs. This book is explains this shift and the implications of it on both the macro and micro level. As CEO of a "nanocorp" (a microbusiness that remains ruthlessly small as both a personal preference and a competitive advantage) Pinker knows your time is particularly valuable. Each chapter is nicely summarized so you can get the skinny in a few brief moments and go back for more meat later when you have some spare time. Helpful for those wanting to take the plunge into the self employment game as well as those already in it.

Lloyd Alter, Toronto, Canada

Coal: A human history by Barbara Freese

A history of coal from Roman times, the US and China. Freese shows that coal emissions kill about 30,000 people a year, causing nearly as many deaths as traffic accidents and more than homicides and AIDS. The author contends that alternate energy sources must be found to ensure a healthier environment for future generations.


The philosophy of sustainable design by Jason McLennan

The bible. The major ideas and issues.Sustainable 101. longer review to follow.


Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, food and the coming crisis in Agriculture by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

the title is almost as long as the book, a short, intense discussion of how we are not made of corn but oil.

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