The best books to help you keep your cool on a warming planet

Who am I?

As an environmental educator over the past 18 years, I have come to see that the central question of our work is no longer “how do we get more people to care?” Our work now is to keep ourselves sustained for the long haul of climate justice advocacy that lies ahead. People now care, a lot, and need to know how to avoid burnout and “amygdala hijack”, cope with the hard emotions of it all, and build community. The solutions are no longer just political, technological, or economic. We need to develop existential tools, resources of interior sustainability, and cultural resilience if we have any hope of thriving in a climate-changed world.

I wrote...

Book cover of A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet

What is my book about?

A youth movement is reenergizing global environmental activism. The “climate generation”—late millennials and iGen, or Generation Z—is demanding that policymakers and government leaders take immediate action to address the dire outcomes predicted by climate science. Those inheriting our planet’s environmental problems expect to encounter challenges, but they may not have the skills to grapple with the feelings of powerlessness and despair that may arise when they confront this seemingly intractable situation.

Drawing on a decade of experience leading and teaching in college environmental studies programs, Sarah Jaquette Ray has created an “existential tool kit” for the climate generation. Combining insights from psychology, sociology, social movements, mindfulness, and the environmental humanities, Ray explains why and how we need to let go of eco-guilt, resist burnout, and cultivate resilience while advocating for climate justice.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

Sarah Jaquette Ray Why did I love this book?

Reading Emergent Strategy was a transformative experience for me. It changed the way I think about my purpose on this planet, my role as a teacher, what was ailing my students, and what is needed in this historical moment. Some key insights that I’ve implemented in myriad ways, personally and professionally, are “small is all, small is good”, “critical connection is more important than critical mass”, and “what you pay attention to grows.” The book helped me bring the existential insights of social movements to my work with the climate generation as an environmental studies educator. Brown asks the driving question of our lives: “What would it take to thrive in a climate-changed world?”

By Adrienne Maree Brown,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Emergent Strategy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the tradition of Octavia Butler, radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help to shape the futures we want.

Inspired by Octavia Butler's explorations of our human relationship to change, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invites us to feel, map, assess, and learn from the swirling patterns around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. This…

Book cover of Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis

Sarah Jaquette Ray Why did I love this book?

Kelsey builds an air-tight case for why the planet needs us to get more in touch with our emotions. Emotions dictate all our behavior and action in the world, and so we ought to know which emotions are most effective and in what situations to catalyze actions for climate justice. Because Kelsey is a scientist herself, she buttresses her case about the role of emotions in saving the planet with powerful data. We don’t need more books on “ten things you can do to save the planet.” What we do need is more books like this, which show us why doom and gloom isn’t the only game in town.

By Elin Kelsey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hope Matters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This book comes at just the right moment. It is NOT too late if we get together and take action, NOW." -Jane Goodall

Fears about climate change are fueling an epidemic of despair across the world: adults worry about their children's future; thirty-somethings question whether they should have kids or not; and many young people honestly believe they have no future at all.

In the face of extreme eco-anxiety, scholar and award-winning author Elin Kelsey argues that our hopelessness-while an understandable reaction-is hampering our ability to address the very real problems we face. Kelsey offers a powerful solution: hope itself.…

Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Sarah Jaquette Ray Why did I love this book?

I cried a lot reading this book, so beautiful is Kimmerer’s writing. Don’t get me wrong; the book isn’t sad per se, it’s just that Kimmerer is able to make me feel like I’m in direct contact with the marrow of life. If the junk of capitalism and all the evils of the world start to clog me up, I open this book again, anywhere, and just start reading. And breathing. And remembering how beautiful and precious life on this planet is, and how we’re all here to serve, and how that’s what matters. Also, since my own area of expertise is the environmental humanities, with a focus on justice, I love the way Kimmerer translates complicated disciplinary discussions into compelling, relevant stories that we can then see happening all around us. From motherhood to language to growing beans, Kimmerer takes us through the doors of seemingly mundane topics on a journey of what it means to be alive on this planet today.

By Robin Wall Kimmerer,

Why should I read it?

43 authors picked Braiding Sweetgrass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Called the work of "a mesmerizing storyteller with deep compassion and memorable prose" (Publishers Weekly) and the book that, "anyone interested in natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love," by Library Journal, Braiding Sweetgrass is poised to be a classic of nature writing. As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer asks questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take "us on a journey that is…

Book cover of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Sarah Jaquette Ray Why did I love this book?

What do the California wildfires and our addictions to smartphones have to do with each other? How to Do Nothing spells it out. The book isn’t really about doing nothing, but like a zen koan, it offers a paradox: we live in a society that treats productivity in a particular (capitalist) way, and this kind of productivity is both damaging to ourselves and to the world. Against that grain, “doing nothing” is a kind of resistance. And in the process, we might actually “do” something really great for the world, like for starters, notice it in the first place. Where we put our attention every single moment of every single day has significance beyond our mental health.

By Jenny Odell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked How to Do Nothing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

** A New York Times Bestseller **

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: Time • The New Yorker • NPR • GQ • Elle • Vulture • Fortune • Boing Boing • The Irish Times • The New York Public Library • The Brooklyn Public Library

"A complex, smart and ambitious book that at first reads like a self-help manual, then blossoms into a wide-ranging political manifesto."—Jonah Engel Bromwich, The New York Times Book Review

One of President Barack Obama's "Favorite Books of 2019"
Porchlight's Personal Development & Human Behavior Book of the Year

In a…

Book cover of All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

Sarah Jaquette Ray Why did I love this book?

This book has something for everybody—from poetry to pieces by leaders in climate action. The focus is on women’s work in the movement, and on an approach to climate action that centers on community, art, our emotional lives. Does it get better than that? This reframing of climate work around courage and community is a needed antidote to all the doomsday climate books (often by white men). The contributors are diverse—in ability, race, age, religious affiliation, profession, and so on—which models to readers that the frontlines for climate justice are everywhere, and everyone can participate. While it often feels like we’re on the slippery slope to hell, perhaps it’s better to think of being in “a womb, not a tomb,” and start building together the world we desire, as if our lives depended on it.

By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (editor), Katharine K. Wilkinson (editor),

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked All We Can Save as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Provocative and illuminating essays from women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward.

“A powerful read that fills one with, dare I say . . . hope?”—The New York Times

There is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration. While it’s clear that women and girls are vital voices and agents of change for this planet, they…

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Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

Book cover of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

Antonieta Contreras Author Of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a trauma therapist and dedicated researcher, I love uncovering valuable insights within lesser-known books. There are hidden gems, free from the pressure of commercial success, crafted by authors deeply committed to research, understanding, and the art of writing itself. Their dedication resonates with me, as I believe in the profound value of information and the power of critical thinking. Through my own book, Traumatization and Its Aftermath, I aim to emphasize that psychological concepts often lose their depth in translation and my mission is spreading awareness and fostering a deeper understanding of trauma and its intricate facets. With that idea in mind, I chose these five titles. 

Antonieta's book list on uncovering the human experience and exploring the depths of trauma

What is my book about?

A fresh take on the difference between trauma and hardship in order to help accurately spot the difference and avoid over-generalizations.

The book integrates the latest findings in brain science, child development, psycho-social context, theory, and clinical experiences to make the case that trauma is much more than a cluster of symptoms to be tamed, but instead best understood as development gone off course, away from growth and towards (only) survival.

This book prompts a profound shift in perception, inviting to view trauma as an intricate and diverse experience, a point of view that ultimately leads to sharper treatment and, hopefully, more healing. It encourages a transition from asking, "What happened to you?" to the deeper question, "What is your relationship with what happened to you?"

Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

What is this book about?

The book is comprehensive, bold, and practical-a much-needed resource for the assessment and treatment of trauma. Instead of the traditional focus on the overall importance of healing, Traumatization and its Aftermath decodes why some people don't heal as easily as others, analyzes the various failures of diagnosis, and explains how to make therapeutic interventions truly effective.

This book offers a systemic deep dive into traumatization that clarifies myths and misinformation about the entire spectrum of trauma and provides both clinicians and non-clinicians with the right level of validation, preventive measures, conceptualization methodology, assessment tools, and healing facts that have not…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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