5 Books for a Better Planet

Earth Day reads

Whether you’re a gardener, an activist, or a city-dweller desperate for a little dose of nature, here are some books that will give food for thought about the state of the planet, to celebrate Earth Day on April 22.

The Man Who Planted Trees

Jim Robbins

The Man Who Planted Trees is the inspiring story of David Milarch’s quest to clone the biggest trees on the planet in order to save our forests and ecosystem—as well as a lesson about how each of us has the ability to make a difference. Twenty years ago, Milarch set out on a task that scientists told him was impossible—but his team has now succeeded in cloning giant redwoods. With all the dire news about the planet, Robbins’s book is refreshingly hopeful.

Toms River

Dan Fagin

Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, Dan Fagin’s Toms River tells the story of the small town of Toms River, New Jersey, where decades of industrial pollution by local chemical companies had devastating effects on the groundwater, the soil, and the health of the residents. A gripping human drama rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is a tale of dumpers at midnight and deceptions in broad daylight, of corporate avarice and government neglect, and of a few brave individuals who refused to keep silent until the truth was exposed.

Orchard House

Tara Austen Weaver

Orchard House may inspire even those with the blackest of thumbs. Faced with a rundown Seattle house and a ramshackle, overgrown half-acre lot full of unstoppable blackberry vines, Tara Austen Weaver and her mother set out to create a garden that will sustain them, body and soul. Through bleak winters, springs that sputter with rain and cold, golden days of summer, and autumns full of apples, pears, and pumpkins, this evocative memoir recounts the Weavers’ trials and triumphs, detailing what grew and what didn’t, the obstacles overcome and the lessons learned.

The Imperfect Environmentalist

Sara Gilbert

It’ s hard for an ordinary person to know how to help the environment, let alone where to find the time! Between keeping up with work, friends, and kids, who has the time or money to maintain a compost pile, become an activist, or knit a sweater out of recycled grocery bags? But small changes here and there in our everyday lives can make a big impact on the environment. We just need to know where to begin. Which is where Sara Gilbert’s The Imperfect Environmentalist comes in.

The End of Country

Seamus McGraw

The news is full of controversies about fracking, but Seamus McGraw’s The End of Country has a unique perspective on that topic. His family’s land in Pennsylvania is above an enormous natural gas deposit, the Marcellus Shale, so the stakes for him go beyond investigative reporting. The End of Country captures the emotions and the science of an energy boom in a place that never expected one.