Great Green Reads: An Eco Book List

In an effort to roundup the most recommended environmental books for both adult and youth reading, we reached out to the staff at several Birmingham area libraries. Members of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative and North Shelby County Library helped create a fantastic reading list including nonfiction and fiction, as well as print and down-loadable editions, making it easier than ever for patrons to take advantage of hundreds of environmental books offered. Browse through the list, and this summer stop by your local library branch to check out a few books that help inspire a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to life.

Recommendations for Adults:

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was first published in a series of three excerpts in the June, 1962 edition of the New Yorker. Later that year, the book was published in its entirety, spurring a public outcry that eventually forced the banning of DDT and encouraged revolutionary changes in laws that affect our air, land, and water.

An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It by Al Gore. A follow up to the award winning documentary with the same title, An Inconvenient Truth is based on a series of multimedia presentations on global warming that Gore created and  promotes world-wide. Gore, a well known environmental leader and expert, explores the incredible fast growth and intricate scope of global warming. The book presents the idea that the existence of global warming is no longer a question, and that if left unchecked, our planet and its inhabitants will suffer severe consequences.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollen. In Defense of Food Pollen encourages better human health by getting back to the basics of eating real, unprocessed foods, in much smaller portions. “Our personal health,” he states, “cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.”

Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods by Gary Paul Nabhan. Nabhan reminds us that eating close to home is not only a matter of convenience, but allows us to realize the importance of our community’s deep cultural roots to see it as a significant contribution to our own well being.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn. Ishmael is a story that explores the immense lifespan of the earth from the birth of time to a future there is still time save. Quinn develops an intriguing quest for truth and knowledge, but like all great teachers, doesn’t make the journey an easy one. Instead, he demands the final answers to come from within ourselves.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. This incredibly influential book explores the widening gap between the outdoors and an entire generation of “wired” children whom Louv refers to as “nature-deficit.” Louv directly links this lack of nature in children’s lives to many of our country’s most disturbing childhood trends including rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. A must read for parents.

The Body Toxic by Neena Baker. This compelling work reveals the massive issues and concerns regarding the alarming amount of  chemicals found in our very own bodies. Baker, an award winning investigative journalist, boldly spells out the toxic truth surrounding our nation’s chemical industry and our government’s failure to properly protect us from the resulting health hazards of chemicals found in everything from plastics, to makeup.

Jefferson County Library Cooperative’s down-loadable resources include some of the following recommendations:


Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World by Diane MacEachern

Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability by David Owen

Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life by Nancy Sleeth

Get Your Pitchfork On!: The Real Dirt on Country Living by Kristy Athens

1000 Ideas of Creative Reuse: Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew by Garth Johnson

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

Also offered through most public library systems is the online resource EBSCO GreenFILE, a free database that provides hundreds of listings on how to find books about the following environmental topics:

  • Green building
  • Global climate change
  • Pollution
  • Recycling
  • Renewable energy
  • Sustainable agriculture

Recommendations for Children’s Environmental Books:

Picture Books & Easy Readers (fiction):

Arthur Turns Green by Marc Brown

A Green Green Garden by Mercer Mayer

Fancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day by Jane O’Conner

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano

Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry

Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter

All the Way to the Ocean by Joel Harper

Where There Once Was a Wood by Denise Fleming

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

The Garden of Happiness by Erika Tamar

Children’s Nonfiction

When is it Great to Turn Green? (An Environmental Q & A Book) by Michele Ingber Drohan

How Green Are You? by David Bellamy

Recycle This Book: What You Can Do to Save the World by various authors

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

Recycle!: A Handbook for Kids by Gail Gibbons

365 Ways to Live Green for Kids: Saving the Environment at Home, School, or at Play–Every Day! by Sheri Amsel

Energy Island: how one community harnessed the wind and changed their world by Allan Drummond

Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Written by Kate Agliata 

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