What We've Been Reading Lately
We thought it would be interesting to share with you what we've been reading lately. Many green books, though not all are related to tree-hugging (we rarely go off-topic, but with books, we can't resist). Please share your reading lists with us in the comments.Michael Graham Richard
I don't usually read that many books at once, but half of those are more reference books than linear texts, so it works.
From the top to the bottom:
A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander. 5/5, excellent if you have any interest at all in what makes regions, towns, communities, houses and rooms work. Lots of food for thought.
Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins. 5/5, another great book. People just discovering green should probably start with The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken since it contains many of the same ideas and is more concise.
The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention by David W. Orr. I'm not far enough into it to comment. It's fairly theoretical so far, but interesting.
Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook-12th Edition: The Complete Guide to Renewable Energy Technologies & Sustainable Living, John Schaeffer (Editor). This is more of a reference book. Everything you need to know about generating power, making your home more energy & resource efficient, etc. It's half catalog for the Real Goods store, half catalog of "what's possible".
Serious Straw Bale: A Home Construction Guide for All Climates by Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergeron. I wanted to know more about straw bale houses. This is very well-written and complete. More about cold-climate building than warm climate, but still has a lot of tips for both.
The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling by Daniel D. Chiras. Another reference book, very well-written with lots of examples, pictures and diagrams. If you want to build a house that takes maximum advantage of the sun (both to heat it during the winter and keep it cool during the summer), this is a good place to start. Lots of info about how much glazing you need (don't make the mistake to over-glaze!), how much thermal mass, house orientation, best materials, etc.
Not pictured: The Weather Makers : How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery. I finished this one a few weeks ago. Another must-read. Tim Flannery goes much farther than (for example) Al Gore does in his book, yet he keeps it very interesting. Lots of science, but definitely not a dry read. Highly recommended.
Going Native: Living in the Australian Environment by Mike Archer and Bob Beale
Possums as pets, farming kangaroos instead of sheep, native macadamias and wattle seeds over imported peanuts, etc. It is these sorts of tales that have made this book so controversial. But the authors acquit themselves well. Explaining in laypersons language why Australians need to work with their land, rather than continuing to impose imported European norms to a landscape so radically different, from whence those ideas came.
Paper or Plastic: Searching for Solutions to an Overpackaged World by Daniel Imhoff and Roberto Carra
Another book easier to read book, than it is to find the time to do such. Although published only last year, some of the businesses listed as case studies of innovative packaging seem to gone west. Such is the unfortunate fate of some companies with solutions ahead of societies acceptance of the problem.
Recently finished these two books, almost back to back. Not eco in any overt way. Except that these are both a collective a multi-narrative short stories, where the actions of a character in one story has profound influence on the live(s) of other characters in their own story. And so it is in our relationship with each other and our planet. All our actions are important, their knock-on effect immense.
A Scanner Darkly (Philip K. Dick) is a schizophrenic trip through the world of Cop vs. Criminal, which has next to nothing to do with Treehugger. It's a confusing and highly entertaining romp, and one of Dick's masterpieces.
Introduction to Permaculture (Bill Mollison) is the seminal antipodean introduction to, well, permaculture - the practice of growing food and livlihoods in accordance with the natural systems around us. Anyone interested in gardening, living off the grid, or owning a country home should have this book at their disposal - it's fascinating.
Comeback Cities by Paul S. Grogan and Tony Proscio
Comeback Cities is concerned with revitalizing even the grittiest of urban inner cities. It takes a deep look at some of the causes of urban decay and gives examples of communities that have overcome this (such as the South Bronx). The book's message, and one that I tend to agree with, is that the inner city isn't dead, just mismanaged. Bungled housing, banking, and schooling schemes in the past have given some of the worst neighborhoods in America nowhere to go but down. A combination of community and regulation (or de-regulation in some cases) can bring back a declining community without complete gentrification.
I've been reading Hans De Blij's "Why Geogaphy Matters: Three Challenges Facing America," (Oxford, 2005). It's a great primer to the field of geography today, which means a great how and why of the world's resource use and political interaction. Complete with lovely colorful maps, it offers a grab bag rundown of the world's current geo-political and ecological hotzones and topics, from Afghanistan and Iraq to the Islamic "front" in sub-Saharan Africa and, yes, South America. China of course also plays a large role, as a potential imperial actor in some future Cold War with the U.S.. Casting global warming as a natural phenomenon, with a lengthy explanation of climate change, he urges against the pollution that "enhances" it. Most importantly, he helps add, at least for the geography novice, a healthy appreciation for the globe from the perspective of its visible and natural environments.
I just finished Margaret Atwood's 'Oryx and Crake' which was brillllliant and I am already captured by 'The House of the Spirits', Isabel Allende. The Architecture of Happiness and Cradle To Cradle (William McDonough, Michael Braungart) I got on monday for my birthday lucky me!
The Moral Animal! Awesome.
Against the Romance of Community by Miranda Joseph
Politics Out of History by Wendy Brown
"The Long Tail" by Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson noticed that even the biggest bookstore can only carry a small slice of available books, and that any graph of sales, rentals or interest in anything is going to have a pile of hits up front and a "long tail" as sales drop off and shelf space becomes too expensive. The internet changes everything, as the shelf space is virtually free so an Amazon can get huge revenue out of the long tail. The principle has implications for all of us- anything where the interest level is shallow but geographically very wide. How many green products on TreeHugger would actually exist if there was not an internet to make them available to people all over the world? Wonderful book.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost.
What a great read! Its like a travelogue, only with the witty banter of a 20-something journalist whose taken a leap halfway around the world to a place he's never heard of. The author makes the island sound quite undeveloped, the natives sound less than cultured and the disesases they pick up sound particularly painful, yet by the end of the book I found myself wanting to apply for a post with the Foundation for the People's of the South Pacific too. The book is light-hearted and a great, fun summer read, better yet, read it in the winter or early spring when it seems like that snow will never melt - this book will warm you up fast.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
A serious tale of friendship, forgiveness and redemption - sounds cliche, but I couldnt put the book down (again, another cliche, but give the book a chance). The book is very well-written and kept me engaged throughout. The first half of the story takes place in Afghanistan and the author uses lots of cultural references and throws in local phrases which gets the reader more involved in the story, almost as if I was a fly on the wall. The plotline and emotions involved are pretty intense, and some parts are hard to read - but hang in there, the story is worth it.