There is something incredibly rewarding about reading books. Good reads give us the foundation of history and a glimpse into the future to serve as a beacon for where we need to be going and how best to get there. We have read every book in the OPL library and share with you the ones that we most beneficial. Our OPL reads will help raise your awareness and understanding of the connectivity between people and the planet. Themore we know the easier it will be for each of us to embark on joyful simple changes that make a big difference in improving our quality of life on this planet. Explore our featured reads each month and our growing library of recommended reads.
AN IMMENSE WORLD
How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong
Yong’s book gives a glimpse of what Darwin must have felt when he saw the variety of life on the Galapagos Islands. Chapter by chapter, readers are dazzled with new worlds beyond their perceptions. Yong debunks the common misunderstanding that animals experience the world in the same way humans do. Readers learn the unique senses animals use to guide how they live, feed, and procreate. Their methods of smelling, hearing, tasting, touching, and seeing are quite different from humans. Catfish, for example, have taste buds all over their bodies. Bay scallops have dozens of blue eyes on the rim of their shells, naked mole-rats are insensitive to the pain of acids, and other creatures can see ultraviolet light, sense infrared radiation, feel the most subtle surface vibrations, and much more.
Each organism has its umwelt: its world as they experience it. This book is a great exploratory journey into the different worlds around us. As you read, you can expand beyond your senses and begin to perceive the world and all life in a new and inspiring way. An Immense World is a joyful discovery.
ISLANDS OF ABANDONMENT
Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn
This is a journey like no other. The author takes the reader to some of the most desolate places on earth where nature is thriving, pulling itself out of the wreckage man created. Through Flyn’s eyes, readers are able to witness areas destroyed by war and industrial poisons and notice the power and beauty of nature when it’s given space to grow wild. This book is beautiful, heartbreaking, and cautiously optimistic, as it shares how nature can successfully recover and heal itself from man’s wreckage if given the time to do so.
Readers can travel to the wasteland in Scotland – the Five Sisters, West Lothian – and behold the scarred mountains of shale waste from the 1860s that nature is slowly creeping into again. Flyn also takes readers to the 112-mile buffer zone in Cypress that was a demilitarization zone between the Turkish and Greek troops from the 1970s through today. This Greenline, which has been abandoned by humans for decades, is now rich with wildlife.
The author shares the aftermath of the nuclear winter in Chernobyl, Ukraine. This site has been off limits since 1986 due to unsafe radiation levels, and yet, 76% of the area is covered in forests. Nature invades the city, tearing up roads and buildings as it spreads and takes over. This area will continue to be wilderness for another 270 years until radiation levels are safe enough for humans to inhabit again.
Flyn finally takes the reader to the streets of Detroit. Once the fourth largest city, Detroit is now an empty shell, too big for its inhabitants. An area larger than Manhattan is vacant; whole streets are abandoned, grass growing freely and vines creeping up crumbling murals of neglected buildings, urban gardens carefully tended by its remaining inhabitants. The reader is left to ponder how nature and its people can find a way out of the complex situation.
ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE
A Year of Food Life By Barbara Kingsolver
Why does a homegrown August tomato taste so much better than a store-bought one? How do your food choices throughout the year affect not only your taste buds but also the environment? Barbara Kingsolver merges journalism with personal family memoirs as she recounts her family’s decision to leave the food desert of Arizona for the rolling hills of Appalachia, with the intent only to consume what they could grow for the next year or purchase from a local farm.
Kingsolver’s book offers a hard view of the American food system, criticizes the lengths food must travel to arrive at the grocery store, and how the promotion of our food monoculture (which values heartiness and shelf stability over variety, taste, and biodiversity) has had detrimental effects on our health and our environment. It was this realization that made Kingsolver’s family reevaluate their food choices and challenge themselves to change their food habits.
The book weaves beautiful prose – enticing the reader to hunt morels in the forest, taste freshly-picked asparagus, and witness the beauty of a newborn chick – with a healthy dose of the harsh realities of living off the land. Readers can agonize with Kingsolver about the planning and labor required to keep a garden that large, the early mornings and late nights of toil, the humbling act of slaughtering pesky-beautiful bumper crops, and the seemingly-monumental task of preserving a year’s worth of produce in a relatively short harvest time. Despite the work, Kingsolver believes that the taste and nutritional value of homegrown food, as well as the beneficial impact local farming has on the planet, makes it a worthwhile endeavor.
And while we may not all have the luxury to quit our jobs and move to Virginia in pursuit of our food dreams, Kingsolver encourages us to look critically at our food origins and to start locally sourcing what we can for both our taste buds and our planet. Do you know where your food comes from?
ONE GREEN THING
By Heather White, Forward by Erin Brockovich
Heather White is a kindred spirit to One Planet Life. For anyone feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of climate change, Heather shares how to take small steps – one green thing. Actions can ease your anxiety about the future, be a positive force toward climate solutions, and create a sense of joy. Take her easy assessment to find out your service superpower. Are you at the adventure, the beacon, the influencer, the philanthropist, the sage, the spark, or the wonk?
Once you know your superpower, Heather’s book shares role models and guides you on creating your green thing. The 21-day kick-starter plan for each superpower is packed with ideas to make small changes that make a difference. When you make changes that align with your strengths, you leverage your power and tap into joy. Heather does not shy away from climate change. She does share many practical and impactful ways individuals can act to make a difference. We are big fans of Heather White and One Green Thing.
WE ARE THE WEATHER
Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
By Jonathan Safran Foer
We Are the Weather comes at you like crashing waves of tough facts. At the same time, it is deeply personal. This powerful combination lingers with you and changes you – for the better. Jonathan explores in a personal manner the climate crisis as a crisis of belief — a crisis to believe enough to act. As Jonathan points out, “We are disproportionately drawn to immediate and local needs – we crave fats and sugars (which are bad for people…); we hyper-vigilantly watch our children in jungle gyms (despite the many greater risks to either health that we ignore like overfeeding them fats and sugars).” Jonathan asks himself and us: When will you make the turn? When will you say, “ I have to do something?”
Jonathan’s book is “an argument for a collective act to eat differently – specifically, no animal products before dinner. That is a difficult argument to make, both because the topic is fraught and because of the sacrifice involved. “Jonathan keeps it real. He spent three years researching factory farming, wrote a book called Eating Animals, and toured making the case that factory-farmed meat should not be eaten. Jonathan was not perfect during these couple of years. He had a burger from time to time for comfort. Anyone growing up on meat can understand the challenge.
We all need to acknowledge the challenges if we are to move forward. Jonathan confronts himself in a soulful chapter. He banters with his soul in a humbling and insightful manner. None of us is perfect, but we can make a difference.
It is a way that individuals collectively can make a difference. “Changing the way we eat is simple compared to converting the world’s power grid, overcoming the influence of powerful lobbyists to pass carbon-tax legislation, or ratifying a significant international treaty on greenhouse gas emissions – but it isn’t simple. ”
He shares how he has difficulty squaring his gratitude for living with behavior that suggests indifference. Let us all look forward to the day when facing ourselves in the mirror; we can say that is when I decided to make changes.
Jonathan, thanks for the great read.
CAN I RECYCLE THIS?
A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single-Use Plastics By Jennie Romer
Jennie Romer is a leading expert on single-use plastics and reduction and recycling in the U.S. While we know the mantra – reduce, reuse, recycle, do we know what is recycled, what goes into a landfill, and what goes into our oceans? So many questions. Can I recycle my paper coffee cup? What happens to the plastic bags I bring back to the grocery store to be recycled? Does the chasing arrow with a number on plastic mean it is recyclable? (No, it does not, less than 9% of plastic is recycled.) Jennie’s book is a great place to get knowledgeable answers.
Jennie shares her wealth of knowledge on recycling, waste processing, plastic in our oceans, and more. Bolstered with information, you can improve your waste reduction and recycling. Jennie distilled years of experience to practical guides for specific items from bags, boxes, beverage containers, single-use food ware, home goods, personal items, and tools. Her non-judgmental, personal, and policy solutions round out this fantastic fact-filled book. A must-read for the concerned citizen taking action to make a difference.
A POCKET GUIDE TO SUSTAINABLE FOOD SHOPPING
How to navigate the grocery store, read labels, and help save the planet
By Kate Bratskeir
We love Kate’s positive and practical guide to sustainable food shopping. Like One Planet Life, she is not a fan of Environmental Guilt Syndrome. It is not possible to be perfect. Guilt and trying to be perfect are paralyzing. That is the last thing we need right now. Delve into her chapters on How to Start (Being Less of a Garbage Person), Greenwashing and the Myth of Consumer Choice, Look Out For These Bullshit Labels, and more.
This pocket guide can answer questions, such as which of the non-dairy kinds of milk are the least harmful to the environment? Learn how to avoid plastic and waste in our food supply chain. Kate shares hard facts about the food industry and steps you can take to make the grocery store a more ethical place. Sustainable Food Shopping is a great little book for anyone who wants to help the planet.
GOOD CLEAN FOOD
Super simple plant-based recipes for everyday By Lily Kunin
Transitioning to a plant-based diet can be challenging. It is always good to have guides on your journey. Lily Kunin is a health coach. Her book Good Clean Food is a refreshing, incredible guide. She follows a less is more approach and makes gluten and dairy-free ingredients to create irresistible, nourishing dishes. Her recipes hit all the notes to awaken, nourish, detox, restore, sustain and savor your taste buds. All the things that make food enjoyable and satisfying. There are recipes to please all palates from bowls, smoothies, salads, miso mushroom soup, salted caramel bonbons, and more.
There are 100 simple plant-based recipes for great meals. Lily shares how the kitchen ingredients can be used to make beauty products such as the dirty detox bath. We recommend her inspiring guide to a plant-based journey. Lily can be followed on Instagram or explore her Clean Food Dirty City website.
THE MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE
By Kim Stanley Robinson
Two months ago, I finished The Ministry for the Future, and it still lingers with me. It is science fiction at its best. You get to be in a future world that changes how you see things. It is a powerful story of climate change in the next 30 years. Kim Stanley Robinson masterfully combines real elements of science, finance, organizations, and human behaviors with fictional characters trying to save the world for the future.
It begins in 2025, the pivotal decade to reduce CO2 to avoid the worst of climate change. It’s the first fiction book I have read where people struggle in a plausible way to stay within the 2-degree Celsius threshold. There is much drama and competing forces as people, groups, organizations, and countries take different approaches. The solutions used exist today, are in development, or are being discussed. At the same time, climate change is brutal, and a staggering number of people die. The Ministry for the Future is haunting and hopeful. It hangs around my mind as I wonder how we will survive and how to help—a highly recommended read.
THE HOUR OF LAND
A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks By Terry Tempest Williams
Our need for nature is enduring. Wild places deserve our awe, respect, and protection. Take a trip with Terry – with humility, with a deep recognition of all that you do not know – and celebrate 12 national parks. Terry shares her insights on how nature can help us change from a narrative of independence to interdependence. As a world, as nations and people, we are at a crossroads – and moving forward in an interconnected way is the only way. Connectedness is in full display in natural places like our national parks.
“Restoration is what is required today. ” Terry pleads forcefully on behalf of the natural world. She inspires us to explore the national parks. Absorb the sights, sounds, and feel of the natural world. Respect what is interconnected in ways we don’t fully understand. Protect nature. Now is the hour of the land.
HALF-EARTH - OUR PLANET'S FIGHT FOR LIFE
By Edward O. Wilson
Wilson’s solution to avoid the sixth extinction is “to increase the area of inviolable natural reserves to half the surface of the Earth or greater.” When his book was published in 2016, this seemed audacious – but is it? The relationship between the size of the habitat area and the number of species is known and has been for years. If 90% of a habitat area is removed, the number of species that can persist sustainably will be about half. Of the remaining habitat, if another 1% is removed, the species collapses and disappears. Unfortunately, this is the state of many habitats around the world. As people have settled around the world, we have damaged habitats in our wake.
We have used and fragmented habitats to the extent that many species are not surviving. As Wilson stated in 2016, habitats protected by governments and agencies already account for 15% of Earth’s land area, and it increases a little each year. We have made progress. Now is the time to accelerate to save our living planet.
The late Edward Wilson is one of the world’s greatest naturalists and a double Pulitzer prize winner. Half earth would work. It is doable. Let’s have the strength of character to make it happen.
Explore this lovely, informative book yourself. Once you understand our living planet at a deeper level, we open the door to living green with love and respect for all the planet.
Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day By Amishi P. Jha, PhD
A meditation journey takes time to learn and find out what works for you. Learning to meditate takes consistent effort, but the benefits to your life are many. Our mind, like our bodies, requires training to be in peak form. We can quickly feel anxious, worried, and overwhelmed such that our lives seem to pass without us being able to live our best lives. Can 12 minutes a day really make a difference? The answer is yes! Peak Mind is about the science of attention, how it works, and how you can harness the power of your attention – cultivating your brain to pay attention to gain fuller access to your life.
Dr. Amishi P. Jha is the Director of Contemplative Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami. She shares her studies and how you can change your life for the better in 12 minutes a day. Learn to find your flashlight, body scan, connection practice, and how to leverage them to a better you.
It’s a good starting place for busy people looking for peace of mind.
Reflections on the American Land By N. Scott Momaday
Have we forgotten the wisdom of loving the natural world? We need to remember. N. Scott Momaday is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and a great guide. He has devoted much of his life to celebrating and preserving Native American culture and traditions. In this wonderful book of prose, he reflects on nature and its influence on his people – “belong to the land.” In this deeply moving book, N. Scott Momaday reminds us how to love the natural world and celebrate and preserve it.
“When we dance, the earth trembles. When our steps fall on the earth, we feel the shudder of life beneath us, and the earth feels the beating of our hearts, and we become one with the earth. We shall not sever ourselves from the earth. We must chant our being, and we must dance in time with the rhythms of the earth. We must keep the earth.” *page 12
We reach for our copy of this book frequently to guide us back to our love of nature. May you dance in time with the rhythms of the earth.
Practical Projects, Tips, and Advice for Maintaining a More Eco-friendly Household By Christine Liu
Christine Liu’s book is a practical guide to start your journey to more sustainable living. She explores everything in her home and delightfully shares how she made her life simpler and more sustainable. Christine has tips on energy usage, reducing single-use plastic, re-purposing composting, and more. Christina, like us, enjoys dining out. She shares five ways to make dining out more sustainable. You will note that it will take forethought and courage to change accepted social habits (such as bringing a reusable take-out container). These changes do make a big difference.
Christine’s mission is to inspire simple living that improves our lives and the planet. Well, she inspired us! Her book is a great way to get started or to give to someone else to encourage them to begin a sustainable lifestyle
In addition to her book, Christina is a sustainable lifestyle blogger. Her website is simplybychristine.com.
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AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 TREES
Jonathan Drori brings botany, culture, and history together to weave a love letter to trees in the book, Around the World in 80 Trees. This is a book to settle down and go on a discovery journey. Weaving together information about the tree, history, and how it is connected to us changes you. No longer seeing trees as separate, one finds oneself asking, how is it possible that I missed the connectedness? Soak in the opening of your eyes and tree life and you may find a desire growing in you to visit these trees.
Jonathan’s prose combined with Lucille Clerc’s elegant illustrations invites you on an amazing journey. The book is a joy and we hope you accept the invitation. In doing so, you will learn more about trees and humanity than you ever expected.
Jonathan Drori is a Trustee of the Eden Project which is an educational charity and social enterprise focused on connecting us and the living world. The Eden Project can be visited in England where an aging china clay pit was turned into a group of enclosed biomes to emulate nature with thousands of plants. John is also featured in Ted Talks and many other organizations. For more information, please visit his website.
ATTRACTING BIRDS, BUTTERFLIES, AND OTHER BACKYARD WILDLIFE
Make your yard wild! Connect your backyard can to the ecosystem and create more wildlife habitats. Wildlife is declining at an alarming rate due to a large part of our land development, agricultural practices, pollution, and climate change. Protecting and restoring wild areas is essential. At the same time, our backyard can make a difference. Wild areas are too small, so wildlife needs green areas in our towns and cities. David Mizejewski’s book is a must-have guide to connecting your little place on this planet to support local and migratory wildlife.
Your yard transforms into a living ecosystem for wildlife to feed, build their homes, raise their young, and visit on migratory journeys. Plant to feed wildlife pollinators; some are picky eaters. Monarch butterflies have been in rapid decline as the caterpillars only feed on milkweed. We need places for these caterpillars to feed and transform into butterflies. Avoid invasive shrubs; instead, plant a native wildlife shrub row to create visual beauty and give great hiding places for wildlife. We are creatures of nature too. It brings us joy. Let’s bring nature into our towns and cities. We will sustain wildlife and be happier!
BACKYARD BIRDING FOR KIDS
Backyard Birding for Kids is a terrific guide book with activities to get children involved with learning about birds. Fran Lee invites children to create backyard habitats which will attract birds to their bird feeders with easy recipes to make as well as creating birdbaths for birds to drink from. There are several identification charts which makes identifying birds easy for the beginning birdwatcher/birder and a wonderful tutorial on creating a journal to document different species of birds that are identified.
BETTER WORLD SHOPPING GUIDE
We agree with Ellis Jones. Every dollar does count. Based on years of research, Ellis has created a comprehensive resource to help guide our shopping power. There are 72 categories with what you need to know, green heroes, corporate villains. The list of products & companies with a grade from A+ to F helps guide conscious buying. Products that are better for you, better for the planet, and let your buying power add pressure to companies to act sustainably. In addition to the book, the website betterworldshopper.org is a good source of information.
The current book is the 6th edition and was published in 2017. We eagerly await the 7th edition in March of 2022.
We love water, but do you wonder why? We flock to the ocean and lakes to sit quietly taking it all in. We need water daily to survive. We love to splash and float in water. “The Blue Mind story seeks to reconnect people to nature in ways that make them feel good, and shows them how water can help them become better versions of themselves.”
Water is life and it touches us physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Water can give us a sense of weightlessness, floating, calm, and being fully protected. Wallace makes a strong case supported by scientists that our many connections to water are important to a happy and healthy life.
Our planet, when viewed from outer space, looks like a blue marble. Our world, blue with water, is something to cherish. His book reminds us of how connected we are to each other and nature.
Braiding Sweetgrass is a unique and endearing “braid” of stories about our reciprocal relationship with the planet. Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a scientist, a teacher, and a masterful storyteller. She draws on her deep indigenous heritage to bring us inspiring stories from her cultural history and her life “that can be medicine for our broken relationship with the earth.”
Braiding Sweetgrass is a unique and endearing “braid” of stories about our reciprocal relationship with the planet. Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a scientist, a teacher, and a masterful storyteller. She draws on her deep indigenous heritage to bring us inspiring stories from her cultural history and her life “that can be medicine for our broken relationship with the earth.”
COD - A BIOGRAPHY OF A FISH THAT CHANGES THE WORLD
Cod, Mark Kurlansky’s third work of nonfiction and winner of the 1999 James Beard Award, is the biography of a single species of fish, but it may as well be a world history with this humble fish as its recurring main character. Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could.
Once a plentiful fish in the Atlantic Ocean, Cod is a gripping tale of a 1,000 year fishing spree. By the year 1550, 60% of all the fish eaten in Europe was cod and this percentage would continue for 2 centuries. By the 18th century, New England rose from a distant colony to an international powerhouse, “the codfish aristocracy.” There are tales of folks collecting them in baskets off-shore. Codfish could be as big as 150-175 pounds and dried with salt they became the favorite of people around the world (think fish and chips). Sadly, today they are almost extinct. When a codfish is found it is rare if it is over 30 pounds. A species is only as stable as its ability to produce offspring who can live to maturity in enough quality to replace the amount taken. Once a species gets below a certain number it cannot recover. As you suspect, we are good predators and the cod never had a chance. Take this gripping journey into the history of cod. Our actions have consequences and if we are more thoughtful to the cycle of life things would be different.
DESIGNING YOUR LIFE
Have you ever been curious about what would be the most joyful life for you? What gives you joy? What does not give you joy? How can you build a well-lived life?
This is a wayfinding process. As the authors state: “Wayfinding is the ancient art of figuring out where you are going when you don’t actually know your destination.”
This book guides your exploration as you hone in on the actions to build your life. Learn how to handle gravity problems — the ones that are good at getting us stuck from moving forward. Create your dashboard and identify actions for a life that makes sense.
Bill Burnet and Dave Evans are Standford University Professors of the hugely successful course “Designing Your Life.” “A well-designed life is a life that makes sense. It’s a life in which who you are, what you believe, and what you do all line up together.”
It is as if we are all able to attend the hugely successful Stanford University course where Burnett and Evans share their insights, technology,, and tools. Is it time to begin designing your life?
DRAWDOWN - THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE PLAN EVER PROPOSED TO REVERSE GLOBAL WARMING
This book proposes solutions to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. As Paul Hawken describes, “if you are traveling down the wrong road, you are still on the wrong road if you slow down.” The goal that makes sense is to reverse global warming, but how? Here is a comprehensive plan to achieve this audacious goal. Drawdown both names the target and then proceeds with how we can achieve this goal. It is both informed and hopeful. This amazing science-backed book brings the latest information across 80 solutions in a language we can all understand.
We know we are causing harm by burning fossil fuels, unsustainable manufacturing, industrialized food production, destroying forests and natural habitats, creating mountains of waste, and releasing heat-trapping CO2 beyond what our planet can absorb. At the same time, it is hard to figure out how to make a difference. Drawdown lifts us out of fear and apathy with concrete solutions for action — whether we are individuals, communities, cities, governments, or companies. Each solution has a thoughtful introduction incorporating history, science, key examples, and the most current information. The model creates a rank and impacts summary. For example, the second-highest solution is to reduce food waste. If this is done we can reduce CO2 by 70.53 gigatons! This is something that we as individuals can take action on and be an advocate for the entire food chain and reduce its waste. There are solutions across the following categories: Buildings & Cities, Energy, Food, Land Use, Materials, Transport, and Women & Girls. Combined they can reach drawdown and make our world a better place to live.
Yes, it is possible to build a climate-safe world. Read Drawdown for a path to overcome our sense that it is not possible. In addition to the book, explore the website drawdown.org for the latest information.
FIELD GUIDE TO URBAN GARDENING
If you are interested in creating an urban garden, you’ll find that Kevin Espiritu’s book is chocked full of tips and lovely pictures. He starts by sharing that there are lots of good reasons for an urban garden, but the main reason for him is it is “fun.” His practical guide can help if you live in an apartment, condo, townhome, or single-family home in the city.
The book is broken down into sections of practical methods for urban spaces. There are sections on container gardening, raised bed gardening, vertical gardening, and hydroponics. So if you already do some urban gardening and want to take it to the next level, reach for Kevin’s book.
FORESTS: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION
We are big fans of Very Short Introduction books from Oxford University Press. They are fabulous books that provide serious introductions in a tiny book. They are written by experts in the field who combine facts, analysis, and exploration of ideas in an enthusiastic manner that makes them easy to read.
This month we wanted to share Forests, A Very Short Introduction by Jaboury Ghazoul. Go on a whirlwind tour that includes forest origins, connections with human culture, disturbance, and dynamics — and where we are going in the future. This book is a good place to start building your brain about forests.
Dr. Qing Li shares the science behind our deep need to be connected to nature. Japan is a forest civilization and 2/3 of the country is covered in forest, even it is one of the most densely populated countries. Over the years, Japan has become aware of the need to stay connected with nature even while living in cities.
In the 1980s the Japanese National Health Program added Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku) for wellness. A Forest Bath is a 2-hour slow walk on a lovely forest path with no cell phones and no talking — while taking everything in through all your senses. A Forest Bath brings you into the present moment and de-stresses you. Many in Japan practice Shrinrin-Yoku regularly. Studies show that Forest Bathing can reduce blood pressure, lower stress, lift depression, improve energy, and more.
Learn how to practice Forest Bathing and how to bring the forest indoors.
FOUR FISH - THE FUTURE OF THE LAST WILD FOOD
In this book, Paul Greenburg explores the collision of humankind with fish — the fish we eat — and how we might be able to live in peace. Greenburg shares that we must go beyond mastering industrial agriculture and master the lifecycle of the wild system. To do this, we need to value the ocean and waterways with a view to protecting them to support marine life. This includes protecting the habitats for fish to reproduce and survive in the wild and only harvesting enough to keep the fish population sustainable.
In the past, as many as 100 million Atlantic salmon hatched in the Connecticut River and eventually made their way to Long Island Sound. Dams and overfishing have led to the collapse of the population. Today every Atlantic salmon is farmed. Cod was so abundant that it fueled the economies and nourished humanity from medieval times through the discovery of the Americans and into the early industrial era. (Refer to Mark Kurlansky’s micro-history in his book, Cod. You will find our summary in the OPL Library). Today, the cod population is extremely small and fishing grounds are closed. Sea bass, also known as branzino, was once abundant in the Mediterranean. Today this species does not exist. When you order branzino you are ordering a farmed fish. Tuna are vast ocean roamers with longer reproduction cycles which makes them harder to protect. Conservationists are pushing to have bluefin on the endangered species list to ensure we do not fish them to extinction but have not yet achieved this goal.
Greenburg helps us understand how thankful we should feel when consuming wild fish, how we need to protect their habitats, and how aquaculture in a non-destructive manner is part of the answer. We recommend this important read.
Reading Edward Humes’ book is like taking a class on garbage in the United States. Humes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, shares how the American lifestyle creates wastefulness. Incredibly, each American produces about 7 pounds of garbage per day. In a lifetime, an American creates 102 tons. Americans are the biggest trash producers in the world. Germany and Italy produce 50% less garbage than the United States. Humes shares that if every country consumed and threw away at the rate of Americans it would require five planets of resources to create the products.
Imagine the landfills around the world — an earth of trash heaps. We have been led to largely ignore our trash problem. It is time to open our eyes and make changes.
Humes’ book is a great way to understand our mountains of garbage, what happens to it, and explore solutions. We learn about reducing waste using the power of “no” like Bea Johnson whose family moved to a zero-waste lifestyle. Denmark is a leader in recycling on a massive scale. For the small percentage of things not recycled, Denmark has a waste-to-energy program. Garbology is a great book to explore the state of trash and potential solutions.
It is time to end our “love affair with trash” as Humes states. Individuals, communities, businesses, and governments will need to make changes to move to a low-waste lifestyle for the benefit of all. We recommend adding this illuminating read to your list and start reducing your trash.
GREENFEAST - SPRING, SUMMER
The air is fresh, the sun is shining and it is time to head to your local farmer’s market. Asparagus and other spring vegetables are here! With your reusable bag select spring vegetables and your taste buds tingle. It is the perfect time to explore Nigel Slater’s book, Greenfeast spring, summer. There are over 110 beautiful recipes, many with pictures and suggested variations that can be made in about 30 minutes.
Enjoy your vegetables in recipes such as tomato-peas-feta, asparagus-puff pastry, peas-parsley-vegetable stock soup, and feta-beets buns. Nigel is English and hence the recipes are in metric scale and some of the names of the ingredients use English names. Regardless, with a little translation, you will have many wonderful spring and summer vegetable-forward meals!
GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL: THE FATES OF HUMAN SOCIETIES
In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond draws from his wide-ranging knowledge of medicine, evolutionary biology, physiology, linguistics, anthropology, and geography, to try to answer big questions about human history over the past 13,000 years.
Diamond shares his thoughts on how civilization develops over time in different ways in response to environmental factors and physical barriers to travel.
For example, he makes that case that the much greater availability of domesticable plants and large animals in Eurasia than in sub-Sahara Africa and the Americas made the development of agriculture and animal husbandry spread quickly. Significant physical barriers such as the Sahara Desert and large bodies of water impeded the rapid spread of these new capabilities. The title has great significance when people from these different areas engaged, resulting in conquest and rapid impact on population by diseases. While you hear so much about the conquests and imperialism, I was shocked by the devastating impact of germs and diseases killing large portions of the population that had not been previously exposed.
Diamond is skilled at crossing disciplinary boundaries and bringing new insights to light in a thoughtful manner. If you are interested in how the world came to be, this would be a book to add to your library. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977.
HEAL THE EARTH
Join in this whimsical trip on the White Feather Flier. Interactively explore the planet, meet new people and help the world. Help with reforestation by planting new trees. Help a reef recover by healing the coral. Pages of beautiful illustrations that bring faraway places closer to young children. An adventure to heal this beautiful planet and its people.
Follow along as Joanna Henry reads aloud this wonderful story.
Two books on how to live in harmony with our planet are: 1) Diet for a Small Planet, published in 1971, and 2) Hopes Edge The Next Diet for a Small Planet, published in 1975. Both books remain powerfully relevant today. As Frances states “Changing the way we eat will not change the world, but it may begin to changes us, and then we can be part of the changing world.”
The book, Diet for a Small Planet, digs deep into our food system to understand what drives wasteful and destructive processes and how they relate to hunger around the world. She discovered the hidden “rules” and processes that result in a food system that can harm health, leave any hunger and hurts the planet. The book then shares how we can transform this awareness into actions. Frances invites us to a personal revolution that is good for people and the planet.
Hope’s Edge The Next Diet for a Small Planet is the story of the journey of Frances and her daughter Anna Lappe as they travel around the world looking for glimmers of hope. They were seeking knowledge on how people are transcending consumerism to the benefit of people and the planet. It is chocked full of inspirational stories about how we can produce, enjoy, and share food in alignment with nature. It truly gives us hope.
HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING VEGETARIAN
As a home cook, I struggled to prepare vegetarian meals. I love vegetables but making a complete delicious meal was a challenge. Once I had Mark Bittman’s book, that all melted away. Mark’s book has everything! If you like to entertain, Mark’s book has 76 appetizer recipes. There are recipes for salads, soups, vegetables, fruits, pasta, noodles, grains, beans, tofu and other high protein foods, dairy, bread, and desserts. The recipes are straightforward, unfussy, and fabulous tasting.
Some of my favorites are Pizza with Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella, Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Vegetable Stock (never buy it anymore), and Hot and Sour Soup. Guided by Mark Bittman’s book, I became a confident cook.
HOW TO GIVE UP PLASTIC - A GUIDE TO CHANGING THE WORLD ONE PLASTIC BOTTLE AT A TIME
We are in a ridiculous plastic waste situation. We realize it but are not sure as individuals what we can do about it. Will McCallum, Head of Oceans at Greenpeace, brings the problem with plastic into focus. He builds on his understanding and experience to share practical ways to reduce our plastic waste. The world is waking to the fact that we have created a material, are using it at an incredible scale, and do not have any way to deal with it afterward. It is damaging our oceans and life around the world.
We are on a path to have more plastic in the ocean by 2050 than fish. Microplastics are making it into our food supply and our bodies. We need to break from the throw-away culture we have become accustomed to.
The book has practical ways to eliminate plastic in your bathroom, closet, kitchen, and on the go. You can start from wherever you are to eliminate single-use plastic from your daily lifestyle. You can use your voice and purchasing power to drive changes in companies. Last but not least, you can advocate in your community, organizations, and government to reduce plastic. As Will shares: “every victory against plastic begins with a single person or small group.” Let Will McCallum’s book assist on your journey to break from plastic.
IF THE WORLD WERE A VILLAGE
Imagine you could hold the world in your hand, see all the people, and learn about them. With over 7.6 billion people with different customs, languages, and circumstances, it seems impossible. How can we wrap our heads around it? In this clever, best-selling book, If the World Were a Village, it miraculously comes into focus. The key is the author translates the world into an approachable village of 100 people.
Our 100-person village is diverse and includes 59 people from Asia, 16 people from Africa, 10 people from Europe, 9 people from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, 5 people from Canada and the United States, and 1 person from Oceania. The village has many farm animals, with the chicken being the most predominant. There are a whopping 2100 chickens (21 times the number of people). Sadly 44 of the people do not have food security. Delve into more village information on air, water, education, work, energy health, and how the village is changing. While this is a children’s book, it has sold over 400,000 copies to the joy of children and adults alike. It’s an essential and easy read for everyone who strives to be a global citizen.
KOLI'S FRIENDSHIP ADVENTURE
We enjoyed this children’s book about Koli the shark from the talented scientists at Ocearch. They love to study sharks and other marine life and share information so we can do a better job of protecting marine life. Swim with Koli and learn about friendship, the ecosystem, and how sharks live. Spend a little time with Koli. You might want to follow a shark on the Ocearch Shark Tracker!
Want something fun and educational to do with kids? Listen to our reading of this wonderful book. Enjoy!
50 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO SAVE THE EARTH
Climate change action is needed on all levels, from the government to big companies, all the way down to our own actions every day. Sometimes it seems like we are too small to make a difference, but we can each make changes that are simple to implement, yet go a long way to help the environment. Most of the actions in 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth are described as ‘ridiculously easy,’ and it’s true – recycling your Sunday paper, planting a tree, or opting out of junk mail all add up to trees and water saved, and ultimately, lower carbon emissions.
Each tip in the book comes with background and fast facts illustrating why it is important, and steps to help you make the change. 50 Simple Things makes helping the planet foolproof – after all, if you knew that turning off the tap while you brush your teeth could save your household alone 20,000 gallons of water, wouldn’t you? Our planet is hurting, and with this book you can help it heal without hurting yourself.
RACHEL CARSON AND HER BOOK THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
Meet Rachel Carson as a little girl who loves the woods. Her mom also had a deep love of nature that she shared with Rachel as they watched the night sky and listened to the melody of nature. The book takes you on Rachel’s journey from early writing to a career in biology, to searching and finally securing a job. Her keen observation, knowledge, and determination led to her a pivotal moment when she knew she needed to write Silent Spring.
At the time, DDT was sprayed on farms, parks, and even in neighborhoods without considering the health impacts on humans, animals, birds, and other life. She was able to explain how the DDT spray used to get rid of insects was actually harming birds and other life. The chemical companies that created DDT viciously fought her book and tried to discredit Rachel. Happily, it became a global bestseller and created many positive environmental changes. This is a wonderful telling of how a thoughtful, determined person can make a difference.
Dominique Crenn takes us on her life journey from early childhood adoption to a loving, well-to-do French family to the unique creative chef she is today. Her experiences with family dinner parties gave her insights into how the local ingredients brought together with art can be otherworldly (glamorous and fun). Dominique takes you along on her bold journey from France to San Francisco and as she worked her way through the ups and downs of the culinary world.
Dominque has a way of diving in headfirst while staying connected to her journey and vision.
She has a deep awareness of the connection of food to our health and the environment. She shares a simple message: “that people should eat and consider where food on their plate comes from.” More importantly, she brings this into her kitchen with vegetable-forward meals from local and sustainable sources. Her chapter on “The Ethical Kitchen” includes ideas for how we can all eat healthier and sustainable for the planet.
In her restaurant, Atelier Crenn, all the dimensions of her personality come together. They create an adventure that flows with life. The restaurant does not even have its name outside. The adventure begins as you search for this small restaurant and find the side door to enter. Once inside and seated, the menu is a poem that hints at what the multi-course meal will be while never directly stating the courses. The poetry is to draw you in and connect with nature and joy. Each dish in this vegetable-forward tasting menu is with local ingredients from local farms and fisheries. The atmosphere is a deep, elegant connection with nature and your senses.
The book is an engaging and candid view of what drove Dominque Crenn to become an award-winning chef.
REBIRDING - RESTORING BRITIAN'S WILDLIFE
Rebirding paints a vision of a wild Britain and then shares provocative actions and hope that the future can be a place of great biodiversity. Benedict takes the long view starting with how Britain was tamed. Instead of ending with the environmental challenges in Britain and how to react to them, he moves on to put forth a proactive approach for ecological restoration. It is both bold and hopeful. Too small and fragmented habitats have huge negative impacts and the need for large-scale habitats comes through loud and clear. Without sizable habitats species including birds die out. What we fail to recognize is that birds, trees, and animals operate collectively and need ecosystems of scale to flourish.
In Chapter 7, Benedict shares his thoughts on the “Wild Economy”. He compels us to think of the economic benefit of wild areas and how it can create jobs for rural communities. It is interesting and helpful to link rewilding with economic factors as they will both play important roles. By thoughtfully creating jobs and opportunities we can have more people caring for nature, more habitat and biodiversity, and more people visiting to experience it. As the world becomes more urban, it is important to make sure wild nature and rural economies benefit.
We love that he has envisioned a different Britain full of nature and wildlife. As Benedict shares, Britain is not a crowded country (82% of the population lives in urban areas) and has all the needed space for nature. So yes, Britain does have options and time will tell what path they take. He outlines how to create new outcomes, let nature do the work, be messy, see the big picture, and invest in habitats of scale.
Benedict’s book is a splendid read. The vision of rewilding on a grander scale is possible.
SALT - A WORLD HISTORY
Anthony Bourdain said it best: “The fascinating, indispensable history of an indispensable ingredient…a must-have for any serious cook or foodie.” The surprising history of salt — the only rock we eat — is a pleasure to read. Until the early 1900’s salt included the establishment of trade routes and cities. It served as a currency for paying wages and funding wars.
Take a salt tour from Egyptian Pharaoh life, the adventures of salted cod, the American salt wars, salt and independence, and much more. This salt focused through time is engaging and enlightening. We promise you will never look at salt the same again.
SEEING FLOWERS - DISCOVER THE HIDDEN LIFE OF FLOWERS
It’s spring and everywhere plants are blooming. Daffodils everywhere in the park greet me on my morning walk. Once back home, I enjoy reaching for this lovely book, Seeing Flowers, to learn a bit more about daffodils. They are part of the amaryllis family and they are wildly popular. Their natural trait is to bloom in the off-season months and so daffodils ring in the spring. It is a morning treat to leisurely take in the photos of this lovely family of flowers including daffodils, common snowdrops, exotic red spider lily, and paperwhites. Flowers, their beauty and scent, charm our world. For anyone interested in flowers, this is a lovely and informative book.
Rachel Carson’s book is packed full of scientific information and shared in graceful, compelling prose from beginning to end. Her keen observation, knowledge, and determination led to her a pivotal moment when she knew she needed to write Silent Spring. At the time, the chemical DDT was indiscriminately sprayed on farms, parks, and even in neighborhoods. No consideration was taken on the health impacts on humans, animals, birds, and other life.
Rachel asked the question: “Who would want to live in a world that is not quite fatal?” Humanity had acquired the power to alter the natural world with speed and without concern for the damage to the people and the planet. Her book is powerful as we continue to damage our environment in the name of progress. Her chapters take you on a journey of the impact of chemical pollution on towns, soil, rivers, water, and animal life. The chapter on “The Human Price” is just as compelling today as the world struggles with climate change. She shows us how to understand a complex interconnected world by looking both at the big picture and the details in a thoughtful manner. We continue to deal with the hazards that we are creating. Knowing this, we can choose to progress in alignment with nature. Humans are innovative and can change. Do we need to accept that progress requires that we destroy nature? Rachel would say no. We could not agree more! Rachel Carson, we thank you for bringing your twin talents in writing and science to make a difference!
THE BACKYARD HOMESTEAD
In 2010, this book inspired me to transform a portion of my yard into a food-producing garden. Never mind that I wasn’t focused on producing all my food, this comprehensive book guided me to a truly spectacular producing garden. There is great joy in picking fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs to make a meal. Learn how to start a small garden that works through the seasons with spinach, beets, lettuce, radishes, marigolds, tomatoes, and basil.
There are chapters on vegetables, fruits, herbs, harvesting, canning, drying, baking bread, and more. Even though my home now is an urban apartment, this book is an excellent source for my container garden.
THE BIRD WAY
The Bird Way is such an interesting book detailing many species of birds and their amazing brains. Once you read this book, you will never view birds as just little creatures that fly; but learn that birds are extremely intelligent, unpredictable, imitators, tricksters, entertainers, and caregivers.
Jennifer Ackerman’s research encompasses two decades of studying birds, their habitats, intelligence, wit, songs, and vulnerabilities. It is truly a delightful and educational read.
THE FUTURE WE CHOOSE
The Future We Choose makes it clear that two dates are essential to keep top of mind: 2030 and 2050. By 2050 we must have stopped emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the planet can naturally absorb through the ecosystems. To do this we must begin a significant reduction in the 2020s and reduce by 50% by 2030. So the next decade is key to mitigate the worst of the climate changes. As we take a moment to wrap our minds around this — this decade, this means now.
Christiana and Tom take us through a quick tour of the terrible consequences. They ask the question where are you? The majority of people understand and “acknowledge the evidence but take no action because they don’t know what to do, or. because it is far easier not to think about climate change. It is scary and overwhelming.” It is this global majority that can make a difference and needs to act.
The book shares 10 actions that we can take to move toward meeting the reduction targets. One of them is seeing yourself as a citizen – not a consumer. Changing this point of view lets you step back and think. Is this something I really need? Is this good for my quality of life and the planet? Changing your point of view, opens new doors and enables you to take new actions.
The Future We Choose is both scary and optimistic and suggests ambitious ways to make a difference.
THE HUMAN PLANET
George Steinmetz takes you on a bird’s eye journey around the world. His aerial photos capture our natural places, harvesting of the biosphere, our dwellings, and all types of human changes to our living planet. George Steinmetz has traveled the world for more than 3 decades taking aerial photos for National Geographic, the New York Times, and other journals. Andrew Revkin is an award-winning science journalist, with 21 years at the New York Times. They both were born in the late 1950s when there were 2.8 billion people on earth and since then the population has accelerated to over 7.6 billion people. Together they share a stunning perspective of the dramatic changes humans have made to the planet.
In the dynamic planet section, we learn about The Big Lagoon area of Shark Bay. It is off the coast of Australia and is home to the world’s most diverse seagrass beds. This habitat for many marine species is at risk due to the changing temperatures. On page 46, view the fierce conditions in the Danakil Depression of Ethiopia. The beautiful colors of this natural place are from chemical reactions. It is extremely acidic and temperatures are close to the boiling point. Are those green pastures in China (page 55)? Actually no, it is Lake Tai, one of the largest freshwater lakes in China. Thirty years ago it was clear but now in the summer, it is covered in algae. Enjoy the beauty of amazing migrations from Zebra’s in Botswana (page 70) to flamingos in Bolivia (page 71).
Soar with these photos from a different point of view. The enormity of our impact is breathtaking. Understanding the scale of the change to landscapes and ecosystems can be overwhelming. We agree with George and Andrew that this is the beginning. We have the opportunity and the wherewithal to make changes for a better future. The Human Planet has a strong voice and is deeply rooted in love for people and the planet.
THE HUMAN TIDE - HOW POPULATION SHAPED THE MODERN WORLD
In The Human Tide, Paul Morland shows how periods of rapid population transition shaped the course of world history. His specialty is demography (the study of population) and he is focused on numbers understanding the changing world. In Paul’s words: “To get a sense of how completely revolutionary have been the changes in the last two hundred years or so, it helps to have a long view of demography.
Julius Caesar was appointed perpetual dictator of the Roman Republican in 47 BC; his domain stretched from what is now called Spain to modern Greece, as far north as Normandy in France and much of the rest of the Mediterranean, a region that today contains over 30 countries. The population of these vast lands comprised around 50 million people, which was about 20% of a world population of approximately 250 million. More than 8 centuries later, when Queen Victoria ascended the British throne in 1837, the number of people living on earth had grown to something like 1 billion, a fourfold increase. Yet less than 200 years after Victoria’s coronation, the world population had increased further seven times – nearly twice the growth in a tenth of the time.” Today we are over 7.7 billion and while still growing, Paul shares his insight that there is a good chance that the global population will have stopped growing altogether by the end of the century. How is this possible? Well, pick up The Human Tide and let Paul explain. If you love people, this unique lens on history will be fascinating. Learn about the factors that are changing our growth patterns from the reduction in child mortality, the number of children being born, and the migrations around the world. All of these play together to shape our world and our daily lives in surprising ways.
THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 6 GLASSES
Take a hydrating tour of humanity through our drinks over the years. As people began to live in cities the need to quench one’s thirst safely became a challenge. It is no wonder this led to the emergence of other beverages. And yes, humans are creative in developing beverages. To learn more, travel the world drink by drink: beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt, wine in Greece and Rome, spirits in the colonial period, coffee in the age of reason, tea in the British Empire, and Coca-Cola.
This evolution of our drinks has a surprising influence on history at pivotal moments of human and civilization development. Take a moment, grab this book and your beverage of choice, and enjoy. You may not look at your beverages the same again.
THE IDEAL CITY
“What kind of cities do we want to live in? Every week, 1.5 million people move into urban areas worldwide in search of opportunities and a better life. What kind of home do we want to create for humanity?” The Ideal City is a powerful book of projects globally as we begin to move to more progressive cities that meet the needs of many while valuing earth’s resources.
Journey around the world from one inspiring project to another. The Urban Farming office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is alive with greenery. The building is dripping with hanging planter boxes filled with local vegetation. This vertical farm processes food and acts as a microclimate through the building. Can you imagine the smell of the clean air? Designing public spaces with a human-centered approach enhances the quality of life. In San Francisco, Market Street used to be a congested thoroughfare with worn infrastructure and unsafe. When it went car-free in 2020 it became a joy of the city – calmer, accessible, encouraging more people to local shops. Consider the super-green highway in Seoul, South Korea. The Seoul Skygarden is an elevated linear park soaring over half a mile. Keep this book on your coffee table — to pick up and turn to a page and be inspired by these buildings and public places.
This is a book about hope. Hope for cities that are resourceful, accessible, shared, safe, and desirable.
THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS
Stefano Mancuso’s book reads more like a fiction travel log but incredibly it is all true. Learn about plants with different talents including the pioneers, combatants, veterans, fugitives, conquerors, courageous, time travelers, and solitary trees. Trees live so much longer than us and move slower such that we do not notice their special traits. They grow in family groups and many trees live longer than 1000 years. They were here before us and will be after us.
Years after a human traveler has planted a seed in a new location, there can be an abundance of trees that changed to flourish in the new environment. Consider this: the trees we consider invasive have special talents. They include: a great ability to spread seeds; rapid growth; capacity to alter their form in response to environmental conditions; tolerance of multiple kinds of stress; and capability of associating with humans.
This book is a pleasure from beginning to end.
THE LITTLE BOOK OF KINDNESS
It is time for all of us to have a kindness epiphany! One day Bernadette decided to go on a year-long journey of kindness. She had been overwhelmed by the troubles of the world. She pondered the big problems such as the environment, wars, famine, and little problems. It seemed there was nothing she could do to make a difference. Then by chance, she changed her life.
Let us share this moment in her own words: “I was in the queue at our local post office. In front of me in the queue was a young man. He got to the counter and I overheard him say he’d forgotten his money, and that he’d been hoping to post his driving license application. So, without thinking, I said, ‘I’ll pay for it.’ It cost me a bit of loose change for a stamp, no big deal. He said, ‘Thanks very much’ and went on his way. I thought about what had just happened. I thought maybe what I had done was cheered him up a bit. I realized it definitely cheered me up because I had very easily been able to make a tiny difference to another person.” This is when Bernadette decided to do a kind thing for a stranger every day for a year!
The Little Book of Kindness is inspiring and chock full of kindness ideas. She completed her feat of kindness acts for a year. It changed her for the better and made a difference to others. Explore her chapters in order or dive into one that intrigues you. Some of the chapters are: be kind to yourself, be kind to strangers, be kind to those you love, be kind to the environment, be kind online, and so on. We agree with Bernadette that being kind makes you happier and healthier. Enjoy!
“I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs – “ The Lorax wants to stop the senseless cutting of trees. But even though he shouts the cutting continues. The book is a whimsical but powerful environmental tale of how we need to listen and change before it is too late. We need to listen to the Lorax.
Dr. Suess published this captivating book in 1971. Today it resonates even more than when it was written. Gather the whole family around, read the Lorax, and make positive changes to care for our beautiful world.
Want something fun and educational to do with kids? Listen to our reading of this wonderful book. Enjoy!
Want something fun and educational to do with kids? Listen to our reading of this wonderful book. Enjoy!
THE MIRACLE OF MINDFULNESS
Reading The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh is like receiving letters from a wise friend about how to introduce mindfulness into your busy, stressful life. The book evolved from letters that Nhat Hanh wrote to Brother Quang to encourage workers during a dark time in Vietnam. These personal and direct letters became this accessible introduction to meditation. While originally published in 1975, today its messages and practices continue to inspire people around the world.
The book has been translated from the original Vietnamese and has readers on every continent in the world. Hanh has written more than 100 books, which have sold millions of copies in the United States alone.
Treat yourself with this book. Then begin your mindfulness journey guided by this Zen master. Try the many practical exercises from deep breathing to washing dishes; to helping a child with homework; to contemplating interconnectedness; to liberating yourself from narrow views;to just a simple smile. Let your meditation practice bring you to greater understanding and peacefulness.
THE MODERN COOK'S YEAR
If you are interested in vegetarian and seasonal meals, then this book is for you! Anna Jones’ lovely book wanders through the seasons with food from starters, mains, and desserts. She helps you plan your year through the chapters: herald of spring, the first warm days of summer, autumn, and winter. It is an accessible culinary adventure with recipes that put vegetables front and center.
Anna has a way of knowing what will please the taste buds in alignment with the seasons. Her recipes use creative combinations from her experiences. For example, I love lemon cake, but her lemon and cardamom upside-down cake takes it to another level. The book shines with unexpected and wonderful flavor combinations. Anna’s book makes cooking vegetarian an at-home culinary experience. I highly recommend it!
THE NEW 50 SIMPLE THINGS KIDS CAN DO TO SAVE THE EARTH
Climate change action is needed on all levels, from the government to big companies, all the way down to our own actions every day. Sometimes it seems like we are too small to make a difference, especially as a child. This updated, revised version of the classic 50 Simple Things book is geared towards helping children protect the environment.
Using the same format as the original, the kids’ version serves as an introduction to basic environmental conservation principles, such as recycling glass or drinking tap water instead of bottled water, and turns each action into a fun challenge that they will look forward to completing. This book makes saving the planet so easy that a kid could do it, and children and adults alike can use this book to start paying attention to how their lives affect what is going on around them.
THE RABBIT LISTENED
We found the perfect book for children and adults to provide reassurance during the stressful times we are living in. It is a tender and gentle story of grief and empathy when something goes wrong. The Rabbit Listened by Cory Doerrfeld is heartwarming and the lovely prose and illustrations are guides for helping someone in a difficult time. So cuddle up with a hot chocolate and this book for a moment of reflection. Then listen to someone who needs your help.
Enjoy our reading of this special book for all ages
We invite you to view and listen as we read aloud The Rabbit Listened. Peace be with you.
THE SCIENCE OF YOGA
Have you ever wondered why yoga is so popular or why it makes you feel good? Well, then this book is for you. The Science of Yoga, The Risks and Rewards by William J Broad is a well researched and informative read that explains yoga’s healing potential. Yoga is one of the fastest-growing health and fitness activities around the world. This book helps you understand the 13 different types of yoga and how they developed over the years (the good and the bad).
The first couple of pages of the chronology from 2500 BC to 2011 is a history fly by with fascinating facts, and sets the broad context. The book then explores yoga with chapters on Health, Fit Perfection, Moods, Risk of Injury, Healing, Divine Sex, and Muse. I think you will find The Science of Yoga is informative and entertaining, and will motivate you to try yoga or expand your practice.
As a treat for yourself, curl up with this riveting true-life tale. Once you do, we are sure you will want to add sun salutations to your day!
THE SECRET NETWORK OF NATURE
Nature is a connected network of life that we rarely notice. Peter Wohlleben shares many examples of this interconnected-ness so we can begin to see nature in all its beautiful complexity. Based on science he leads us through life cycles where salmon, rivers, and trees support each other. We learn how wolves, bears, and fish need each other in Yellowstone National Park. To our surprise trees take loving care of their young. In one chapter he explores our role in nature.
Peter opens our eyes and we will never look at nature the same again. It is magical and deserves our understanding and care.
On page 186 he shares scientific knowledge on trees and how they care for their families. “Beeches, as well as Douglas first and other socially-oriented species, love their families. If that sounds exaggerated it’s worth taking a moment to listen to the Canadian scientist Dr. Suzanne Simard. She discovered that mother trees can sense through their roots whether the seedlings at their feet are their own children or the offspring of other trees of their own species. They support only their own children, by providing them with sugar through connected root systems – effectively by suckling them. But that is not all. To help the young trees, the parents step back underground, leaving the little ones more room, water and nutrients.”
THE SIXTH EXTINCTION
Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book is a powerful read that helps us understand our impact on the planet. In 1500 there were about 500,000 people on the planet; today there are over 7 billion. People have been to every location around the world and made changes in our wake. Simultaneously with humans dominating the planet, plants and animals are dying off at abnormally fast rates.
This human-dominated period was coined the Anthropocene by Paul Crutzen. “Among the many geological-scale changes people have effected, Crutzen cited the following:
- Human activity has transformed between 1/3 -1/2 of the land surface of the planet.
- Most of the rivers of the world have been dammed or diverted.
- Fertilizer plants produce more nitrogen than is fixed naturally by all terrestrial ecosystems.
- Fisheries remove more than 1/3rd of the primary production of the ocean’s coastal waters.
- Humans use more than half the world’s readily accessible freshwater runoff.”
The Sixth Extinction is deeply researched and at the same time is a flowing read. She takes us on a journey and helps us understand so we can begin to act in a way that is more sustaining to all life.
THE STORY OF MORE
If I could retitle this book, I would call it, Does This Make Sense to You? Hope shares a wealth of information in concise, eye-opening chapters that make you question things we all take for granted. When reading Chapter 2 on food, I kept asking myself, does this make sense? Learning how our food is produced and wasted is shocking. It does not make sense to me!
One example is the farming of salmon. It takes 15 pounds of fish to create 3 pounds of fish meal to feed and grow a one pound salmon. Once again, I find myself saying, this does not make sense.
In the chapter Throwing It All Away, we learn: “Every day, almost one billion people go hungry, while a different billion people intentionally foul enough food to feed them. We gamble our forests, freshwater, and fuel on food that we have no intention of eating and we lose every single time.”
The Story of More is a pleasure to read even though it is shocking. A must-read for anyone that wants a quick way to become informed on our impact on the planet.
THE SUSTAINABLE CITY - SECOND EDITION
What is a sustainable city? It is a built habitat that works towards being environmentally, socially, and economically healthy for existing populations and existing generations. To this end, these cities minimize greenhouse gasses, use as few non-renewable resources as possible, remove pollutants from water, efficiently use water and energy, and reduce waste.
Steven Cohen and Guo Dong discuss how we need to transform from a consumer society to a brain-based economy. This new model is oriented towards services, entertainment, travel, and experiences and less toward possessing products. This book is a comprehensive discussion of sustainable urban systems such as water supplies (like New York’s water supply), solid waste reduction (New York has set a goal to have zero waste by 2030), food supplies, health systems, and so on. It also discusses the sustainable lifestyle, sustainably managed organizations, the role of policy and politics, and sustainable urban development.
URBAN GARDENING FOR BEGINNERS
Urban dwellers can benefit from a connection with their food. Marc Thoma shares easy ways to create your own indoor or balcony vegetable & fruit garden. Marc guides you on how to start small, plan what to grow, selection of containers, prepare the soil, set up lighting if needed, care for plants, and harvest. Herbs are a great place to start, and the section on herbs explains the needs of each type and the care required.
If you lean more towards a step-by-step process, then turn to chapters 4 and 5 for salad in a container, raised bed veggie garden for the family windowsill garden, herb and scallion centerpiece, and more. Having your own little garden to supplement what you pick up at the farmer’s market is rewarding and delicious.
WALKABLE CITY RULES
Walkable cities are the best for both people and the planet. Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2100 it is projected that it will be 85%. Surprisingly, cities are better for the environment. For a period, we thought that cities caused the most harm to the environment. Cities consume 75% of the resources and emit 75% of worldwide CO2. Of course, they do as this is where most of the people live. Now, calculate the carbon emission per person – urban people emit less CO2/person. Cities cover only 2% of the available land and enable people to share resources and reduce driving distance. Jeff Speck’s book helps us understand how walkable cities make a huge difference.
Walkable cities attract talent, increase property values, reduce the need for cars, are safer and healthier, strengthen communities, and are better for the environment. Jeff Speck’s has 101 thoughtful ways to make our cities more people-friendly. In walkable cities automobiles become obsolete, bike and walking networks abound, housing is attainable and integrated, lighting and layout make it intriguing and safe. There are main streets that are only for pedestrians. Automobile travel is slow with all-way stops and city speed limits such as 20 or 25 mph. There are trees and green everywhere. Walkable cities are wonderful places to live.
Let’s take Jeff’s book to heart and work to make our cities more walkable so everyone in them can have a high quality of life.
WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS
This children’s book, We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom and beautifully illustrated by Michaela Goade, serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting our water. It is inspired by Indigenous-led movements to protect our natural resources. Soak up this story as it is read by Joanna Henry.
Book Read Aloud
Soak up this story as it is read aloud by Joanna Henry. Enjoy it here.
WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE A BIRD
From Flying, to Nesting, Eating to Singing – What Birds are Doing and Why
Birds are everywhere. They existed from prehistoric times and have evolved with incredible talents. Let David Allen Sibley guide your journey into the bird world. You will find yourself gazing into the sky and admiring the birds of North America.
As a recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the American Birding Association, David has a wealth of bird knowledge to share. His book is packed with pictures and information while remaining readable for all. Reading this book is like a meandering walk in nature. On this walk, you can explore 96 birds common to North America. Each bird section starts with a life-size picture, bird information, and short essays on how birds think and live. It is easy to start with one bird and then follow the references to other pages. It is a wandering path about birds and their connections to us.
For example, we learn that Turkeys and all birds have ears. The feather-covered ears are just below the eyes. Many birds have better hearing than people. The name turkey comes from the mistaken impression that they arrived in Europe from Turkey. Turkeys were first domesticated in South Mexico and brought to Europe in the 1500s by Spanish explorers. In the year 1620, the Mayflower set sail for Massachusetts with several live turkeys among the cargo.
This wandering path is enjoyable for adults and children to learn about birds and how we are connected. Afterward, you will have a new appreciation for birds and their magnificent lives.
ZERO WASTE HOME
Zero Waste Home is a story of Bea Johnson and her family awakening to the benefits of reducing the waste in their home. Bea is all in with zero waste. Their family has reduced their waste dramatically and love their new lifestyle. Bea is called the mother of the zero-waste lifestyle. The Johnson family has found many benefits to the new lifestyle: financial (less stuff costs less), health (reducing exposure to chemicals), and time (less time managing stuff).
Her approach is the “5 R’s”: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot. For each category, Bea shares thoughts on how she reduced their waste. The best aspects of her book are the questions she poses you ask yourself. It is so easy in our busy lives to get caught up in consumerism that leads to habits that harm your health and the planet. Once you ask yourself these questions, you begin to formulate answers. Thinking about your waste and then exploring the ideas for reduction gives you all you need to get started.
Even if you are not ready to test the extremes of zero waste, you can get started to reduce waste to gain both benefits for your life and the planet.
ZERO WASTE LIVING - THE 80/20 WAY
If you’re wondering how to make some easy changes to reduce waste, then this practical guide may be just right for you. Let a friend, Stephanie, share her approach to zero waste living the 80/20 way. She was inspired by Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home (an OPL recommended read), and other experts. Zero waste living is a movement that promotes less consumption and waste. As we all find out, it is easier said than done. Stephanie decided to use what the business world calls the 80/20 rule – the majority of the results come from a few actions. Pondering the 80/20 rule and research led her to the magic three – focus on food, purge plastics, and recycle right are impactful levers for people to reduce waste.
We at One Planet Life particularly like how Stephanie starts off chapter 1, The Aha Moment, with a quote by Ann-Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef. “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Sit back with a cup of tea, coffee, water, or wine, and let Stephanie help you get started.