It's different: My Earth Day Reading List

I was recently invited by Christine over at The Gardening Blog to participate in an Earth Day meme: to compile a reading list of books that inspired me to "live green" and write a post about it. This particular idea was originated (as far as I know) in a post by The Sage Butterfly.

At first I was reluctant to contribute, because I don't really read books on this topic. Reading more about the spirit of the meme, I realized that the books don't have to be about gardening, recycling, carbon neutrality, or the like -- they could be any sort of book. Hmmm... okay, here's my list. It's a bit different.


Although I'm not extreme in my "greenness", there are several things I do to help minimize my impact on this planet. I recycle everything I can, even if it means storing up Styrofoam in my attic for 10 years, waiting for the day that somebody finally accepts it for recycling.

Notice the worker is pulling bags of foam out of the cab too.
(That day finally came this past weekend when a company at the St. Louis Earth Day recycling fair was taking Styrofoam. They were quite excited when I pulled up with my truck overflowing with foam!)

I garden pretty much organically, grow lots of bamboo, have planted many trees of all sizes, compost all kitchen and yard waste, welcome wildlife to my yard -- in other words I do what I can.

Did books inspire me to do these things? Honestly, no. I do these things because they make sense to me. It seems wrong not to do them. It's just how I think. With that in mind though, I have been able to come up with a list of "three" books that have inspired me to think of our planet as the tiny, not-indestructible place that we get to live, and reinforced my view that we need to make more of an effort to take care of it and everything that lives on it.

This is a different list, so get ready...

In no particular order...

1. Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson

I love reading Science Fiction, and this book has as much Science as you can get past an editor in today's SF market. It describes in fascinating detail the steps required in terraforming Mars and making it habitable by humans, but isn't a technical manual -- it's still a novel, or should I say "novels". This is actually a trilogy of books:

but Red Mars is my favorite because it describes the start of the process. For instance, how exactly can the colonists that go there grow crops to feed themselves? The Martian soil doesn't contain any of the "stuff" that makes soil on Earth capable of supporting plant life. None of the organisms or organic matter that makes soil "alive", not even bacteria. Just fascinating to me, and made me really think about the stuff I sink my trowel into so often.

2. Forty Signs of Rain, by Kim Stanley Robinson

I didn't intend to let a single author monopolize my list, but I can't pretend that this other fiction trilogy didn't have an effect on me. It's a near-future novel and focuses on the effects of global climate change. From rising sea levels to the stalling of the ocean currents that give much of Europe its milder climate, I think these books gave me a taste of some of the things that we can expect to see in the next decade or two. Extreme weather occurs over much of the world, affecting the food supply and many ecosystems -- yikes.

These novels are much easier to relate to than the Mars books, and contain much less "science", or at least more accessible science. Great stories and characters too.

3. Powers of Ten, by Philip and Phylis Morrison and the office of Charles and Ray Eames

This book is apparently based on a movie of the same name, and takes a look at our galaxy, solar system, and planet in steps that are a power of ten closer at each page turn. It starts 1 billion light years away (which is pretty incomprehensible to me) and the next page is 10 times closer: 100 million light years, the next page is 10 million, then 1 million and so on.

It gets really interesting when closer in and things become more recognizable.

The book has text in it, but it's really the photos that make the impression.

The blue square indicates what the next page will show.

This book was really eye-opening to me, as it shows just how insignificant our planet is in the scope of the universe. It's such a tiny speck floating in absolute nothingness, and if we ruin it, where do we have to go? Nowhere, at least not anytime in the foreseeable future. If you want some perspective, take a look at this book.

Honorable mention: Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe.

Yes, the "classic", first published in 1719. Shipwrecked and alone, the title character has to learn many of the skills that mankind itself has learned over history. Sowing wheat (or a wheat-like grass), growing it, harvesting, milling it into flour, and making bread. Making pottery from clay in the soil through trial and error. "Man vs. Wild" pales in comparison to what Crusoe goes through for years. This book is the original self-sufficiency manual.

So that's my crazy Earth Day reading list. If you want to see what other garden bloggers have come up with for their book lists, head over to The Sage Butterfly. Don't forget to check out The Gardening Blog too.

Finally, this meme's guidelines say that I should invite at least three other bloggers to participate. Although I haven't specifically invited all of these, I think they're worth taking a look at, especially in the spirit of Earth Day.

Bamboo and More
The Whimsical Gardener
Real Men Sow
Great Stems

Happy reading!


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The Sage Butterfly  – (April 20, 2011 at 10:13 AM)  

Your selected reads are different but relevant nonetheless. I am very interested in reading some of these. Perhaps we can all learn what not to do as me move forward. And your Styrofoam hoarding paid off in a big way...kudos to you! Thanks for joining in and Happy Earth Day!

Christine @ The Gardening Blog  – (April 20, 2011 at 12:01 PM)  

I think these are fantastic selections! Far more interesting than mine and the type of read that will convert non-gardeners to care about our planet! Fantastic choices - I'm going to read Red Mars.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (April 20, 2011 at 12:47 PM)  

Alan, I love your book selections. As Christine said, very different from the far more predicable titles most other bloggers (myself included) will come up with. I will be sure to read the Sci-Fi novels you recommended. I actually like Sci-Fi to be heavy on the Sci, which is pretty rare.

HolleyGarden  – (April 20, 2011 at 4:21 PM)  

Great different book selections! That last one looks so very interesting! And I think I would love the "Forty Signs of Rain".

Anonymous –   – (April 20, 2011 at 8:55 PM)  

I am not much of a reader sad to say, but I would have a tendency to go the science fiction route too. I loved the movie Avatar and saw so much philosophically speaking in the movie worth applying to our own plant.

Donna  – (April 21, 2011 at 1:32 PM)  

Interesting reads...I am looking forward to exploring a few...Happy Earth Day!!

Diana Studer  – (April 21, 2011 at 3:50 PM)  

Now you remind of other SF/futuristic novels. Dune and Soylent Green. And Sheri S Tepper.

Anne McCormack  – (April 22, 2011 at 9:26 AM)  

Powers of Ten is awesome! It really shows how we fit in to the big picture. Your choice of Robinson Crusoe is great too--my choice for the Earth Day book project has lots in common with this classic. Check mine out at Gardening with Binoculars!
PS: I'm a St. Louisan, and I didn't know you could recycle foam. Thanks!

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (April 22, 2011 at 9:34 AM)  

Alan, thank you for inviting me to participate in this project. Here is my post:

I've put the Kim Stanley Robinson books you recommended on my library list.

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