Great Books for the Summer

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Summer is officially upon us, and warm weather and a little more free time are great reasons to settle in with an excellent book. Whether at the beach or on a camping trip, there are some excellent newly-released books that offer intriguing ideas for even greener living.

Here are some books covering everything from cooking tips from Alice Waters to experiments in living off the grid.

Environmental/Lifestyle

The Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition): Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen: The newest installment of The Urban Homestead is a must read for city-dwellers and renters who think that you need a big house or lots of property to participate in the sustainability movement. Urban Homestead is full of detailed and practical strategies for applying big picture sustainability goals to the small-scale home environment.

The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard: Following up on her documentary of the same name, The Story of Stuff offers a more in-depth discussion of consumer culture, its costs, and, most importantly, practical ideas for creating a more sustainable paradigm. Leonard reveals how our seemingly simple habits of consumption and disposal are part of a complex, often harmful environmental cycle. Throughout, she offers suggestions for moving forward along a different, more sustainable model.

Gardening/Cooking

In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart by Alice Waters: As one of the founders of the Slow Food movement (developed to counter the fast food culture), and an award-winning chef, Waters is expert both at explaining the virtues of preparing your own meals and providing the Cooking 101 techniques to get even the greenest of chefs started in their kitchens. As well as a great how-to book for anyone interested in finally learning the basics of cooking this summer, In the Green Kitchen is also full of tasty recipes from a plethora of great chefs.

Eat Your Yard: Edible Trees, Shrubs, Vines, Herbs, and Flowers For Your Landscape by Nan K. Chase:
Gardening will seem, well, ordinary after reading of all the possibilities that Eat Your Yard provides to landowners. Chase moves beyond the basics of gardening and introduces readers to the many beautiful and tasty flora that can enhance your landscape and satisfy your palate at the same time. This book is an excellent 2-for-1 gift for anyone who enjoys landscaping and gardening, as well as cooking.

Sustainability/Low Impact Living

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan: This book chronicles Beavan’s year-long attempt to approach a zero impact lifestyle. From the practical to the radical to the absurd, Beavan’s experiences lead him to surprising, humorous, and often profound conclusions about the environmental movement and the role that individuals can and should play in preserving the earth’s resources.

Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream by William Powers: Far from Colin Beavan’s experiment in low-impact living, is Powers’ account of Dr. Jackie Benton, whose cabin is the book’s namesake. Powers joins Benton, who has managed to live completely off the grid in a small cabin in the woods of North Carolina. Twelve by Twelve recounts his time spent with her and the many subtle ways that her seemingly radical lifestyle can help everyday people make important insights into the world in which we live. Although this book seems more somber than Beavan’s piece, it is also more poetic.

Volunteering/Activism

700 Places to Volunteer Before You Die: A Traveler’s Guide by Nola Lee Kelsey: On bookshelves this July is this comprehensive volume dedicated to volunteering and travel. Kelsey presents the seemingly endless possibilities for people looking to see the world and make a difference. More importantly, she also addresses the most common questions about volunteer vacations, and provides firsthand insights from both the volunteer and the organizational perspectives. After reading this book, you’ll be itching to get out there and see (and change) the world!

Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times by Paul Rogat Loeb: While at first glance the title seems to suggest just another self-help book, Soul of a Citizen takes a fresh look at the meaning of citizenship and activism in the current context. Rather than advocating high profile, radical methods of addressing today’s social and economic problems, Loeb emphasizes the importance of personal conviction and human interaction in persuading people to embrace a cause. In a world that seems to grow more connected but less communal with each new technology, Loeb’s emphasis on human connection and redefining personal fulfillment seems particularly timely.

Read more from Libuse Binder at Weekly Way and Ten Ways.

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