As Kermit the Frog knows all too well, it isn’t easy being green. Helping the planet is a daunting task, and connecting with nature can seem challenging in these tech-focused times. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Here, seven authors share books that can help readers engage with the world around them in brand new ways. Being green just got a bit easier.
“Dear Reader, here is your assignment for Earth Day: You are to take a comfy cushion and a copy of The Wind in the Willows outside into the sunshine. Seek out your favorite shade tree, preferably one by a gurgling stream or in a lush meadow. Settle down with our old friends Mole, Ratty, Badger, and the irrepressible Toad, and indulge yourself in some of the finest nature writing known to man. You will be excused for wiggling your toes in the grass with pleasure at Kenneth Grahame’s descriptions of the hedgerow and its many furry inhabitants, of the rushing river, practically alive, and the pastorale perfection of the springtime fields he conjured up for us over a century ago. Grahame’s world is perfection, and it lives on.” —Jacqueline Kelly, author of The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate
“‘I bequeath myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love,’ wrote Walt Whitman at the conclusion of Leaves of Grass. ‘If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.’ This was no maudlin lamentation for a life expired, but rather, a homage to the redemptive qualities of the world beneath our feet. I can think of no better time to pay similar tribute than today. That’s one of many reasons why I’ve selected Paul Bogard’s The Ground Beneath Us as my Earth Day must-read. With lively and deeply personal prose, Bogard unlocks the secret world of earth itself: from the startling biodiversity of soil, to hallowed sites like Gettysburg and New York’s World Trade Center, to all that is sacred and profane we ask the ground to hold. Along the way, Bogard travels from the hills of Colombia to the forgotten streets of London to the site of one of the Nazi’s most notorious death camps and back again as he explores the science and the spirituality of our planet’s very essence. This is a gorgeous—and very important—book. Once you’ve read it, you won’t walk, stand, or sway the same way again.” —Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland
“What a task—to choose just one book for Earth Day! So many float by, like Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, Henry Beston’s The Outermost House, or Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America. If it must be just one, it would be John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts’ The Log of the Sea of Cortez, for its marriage of literature and science and its extraordinary glimpse into the life that thrives between high and low tide. In that book, Steinbeck muses that the feeling we call religious is really the sense of being connected to the whole thing. It is advisable, he says, to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool.” —Jonathan White, author of Tides
“Me…Jane is an incredible nonfiction picture book about Jane Goodall’s early forays into nature with her stuffed chimp Jubilee. The gorgeous illustrations and poignant writing make me want to become part of nature, just like she did (and does!). This is a beautiful story about an inspiring woman.” —Erin Entrada Kelly, author of Hello, Universe
“For Christmas this year, one of my daughters gave me The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben. A big title for a slim volume, but after you’ve read it you’ll never feel alone in the woods again. Wohlleben opens up to the lay reader the busy social, reproductive, and sometimes antagonistic lives of oaks, elms, beech, and evergreens. ‘Blossoms,’ as he writes, ‘do not release scent at random or to please us.’ Adult trees in native forests have been around much longer than we have and, unless we destroy them all, will remain long after each of us is gone.” —Anne Korkeakivi, author of Shining Sea
“At the risk of recommending a book that will send all readers of good will into a tightening spiral of paralyzing depression: Everyone should read The Life and Death of Planet Earth, Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee! Because sometimes it’s good to think about endings and beginnings. By which I mean: Sometimes it’s good to take the long view. Sometimes even the really, really, really long view. As in, beyond global warming into global cooling, and then past that into the other global warming, which will conclude with global incineration. My point is that… Sorry. I—sorry, everyone, look, I’m going to need a minute to myself.” —Roy Kesey, author of Any Deadly Thing
“As far as Earth Day literature goes, The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch is less folk song lullaby to mother earth, more retro-futurist feminist-punk ballad of an earth plunged by endless war into eerie, eco-catastrophe. In other words, this is the book we need now, right on time. As we strive to hold back the tide of environmental peril, this genre-disrupting beauty of a book, a retelling of the Joan of Arc story, gives us a heroine (child-warrior, storyteller, earth-communer) for our times. Yuknavitch’s The Book Of Joan isn’t just about war and earth and sexuality and humanity, it’s a heart-stopping demolition of the expected narrative of survival—for all of us and our planet, too. Fired up, furious readers will find kin in Yuknavitch’s Joan, for whom ‘the world was her deepest intimate.'” —Alice Anderson, author of Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away