The best books about regeneration, our relationship with the landscape, and restoring ecological health

Who am I?

Ever since my childhood growing up off-grid in rural Maine, I’ve been fascinated by the natural world. Out of that fascination grew an abiding interest in weaving people and the landscape back together, something I’ve focused on and explored for over two decades, both personally and in my capacity as a landscape designer. The books I’ve shared here all provided me with know-how and perspective that has inspired me to pursue ecological regeneration. If you’re interested in these topics you won’t be disappointed! 

I wrote...

Lawns Into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape

By Owen Wormser,

Book cover of Lawns Into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape

What is my book about?

Landscape designer Owen Wormser explains how to replace the dead scapes we call lawns with attractive, eco-friendly meadows. This is a how-to book on meadow-making that's also about sustainability, regeneration, and beauty. In a world where lawns have wreaked havoc on our ecosystems, meadows offer a compelling solution. Meadows establish wildlife and pollinator habitat, are low-maintenance and low-cost while also sequestering significant amounts of carbon.

Wormser describes how to plant a meadow that’s right for your site. His book includes guidance on designing your meadow, preparing your plot, and planting without using chemicals. Wormser draws on his own stories that led him to landscape design and meadow making, including his childhood growing up off the grid in rural Maine.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

Why did I love this book?

This book reveals the critical role mushrooms play in maintaining ecosystem health. Research has uncovered the stunning degree to which fungi regulate life on this planet. Paul Stamets shares that here while also explaining myriad ways mushrooms can be used to repair the web of life that we have damaged. For example, oyster mushrooms have been shown to be effective at digesting hydrocarbons such as diesel and motor oil, rendering them inert and non-toxic. The information and perspectives provided in this book are downright eye-opening; Mycelium Running invariably inspires while at the same time also pointing to practical solutions.   

By Paul Stamets,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mycelium Running as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mycelium Running is a manual for the mycological rescue of the planet. That’s right: growing more mushrooms may be the best thing we can do to save the environment, and in this groundbreaking text from mushroom expert Paul Stamets, you’ll find out how.
The basic science goes like this: Microscopic cells called “mycelium”--the fruit of which are mushrooms--recycle carbon, nitrogen, and other essential elements as they break down plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil. What Stamets has discovered is that we can capitalize on mycelium’s digestive power and target it to decompose toxic wastes and…

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

By William McDonough, Michael Braungart,

Book cover of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Why did I love this book?

Cradle to Cradle lays out a clear and actionable approach to balancing our modern industrial systems with the health of all living things on this planet. Unlike so many perspectives that pit technological progress against ecological health, this book makes it clear how we can have both without sacrificing our own health or the health of other living things. When I was first beginning my landscape design practice, this book inspired me greatly. Now, over two decades later, it still inspires me because the perspective shared on these pages is more relevant than ever.   

By William McDonough, Michael Braungart,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cradle to Cradle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How can we avoid environmental disaster? Nowadays, in the home, most of us do our bit: we recycle. But what about industry, where the real damage is done? The strategy is the same: 'reduce, resize, reuse' - we try to minimize the damage. But there is a limitation to this well-intentioned approach: it maintains the one-way, 'cradle to grave' manufacturing model of the Industrial Revolution, the very model that creates immense amounts of waste and pollution in the first place.What we need is a major rethink, a new approach which directly combats the problem rather than slowly perpetuating it. An…

Book cover of The Sunflower Forest: Ecological Restoration and the New Communion with Nature

Why did I love this book?

Written by the founder of the Society for Ecological Restoration, this book explains perspectives that are foundational to human-initiated ecological regeneration. The Sunflower Forest paints an accessible and inspiring picture of how we can collaborate with nature to create beneficial results for all living things. In this book, William R. Jordan III also explains how, with the right perspective, anyone can learn to speak the language of nature that underpins all ecological regeneration.

By William R. Jordan III,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sunflower Forest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ecological restoration, the attempt to guide damaged ecosystems back to a previous, usually healthier or more natural, condition, is rapidly gaining recognition as one of the most promising approaches to conservation. In this book, William R. Jordan III, who coined the term "restoration ecology", and who is widely respected as an intellectual leader in the field, outlines a vision for a restoration-based environmentalism that has emerged from his work over twenty-five years. Drawing on a provocative range of thinkers, from anthropologists Victor Turner, Roy Rappaport, and Mary Douglas to literary critics Frederick Turner, Leo Marx, and R.W.B. Lewis, Jordan explores…

Book cover of Healing Earth: An Ecologist's Journey of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship

Why did I love this book?

John Todd is one of the preeminent ecologists on the planet. Over the course of his 5-decade career, he has been innovating and exploring ways in which we can work with nature to find solutions for major environmental conundrums. In this book, Dr. Todd explains the theory behind ecological design while also sharing inspiring examples of his work, ranging from restoring ocean fisheries, cleaning wastewater in hopelessly polluted ponds, to providing inexpensive access to sewage treatment in shantytowns with open, untreated sewers. This book shows that with the right mindset and commitment, ecological solutions are readily available for almost any situation. 

By John Todd,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A true pioneer and respected elder in ecological recovery and sustainability shares effective solutions he has designed and implemented.

A stand-out from the sea of despairing messages about climate change, well-known sustainability elder John Todd, who has taught, mentored, and inspired such well-known names in the field as Janine Benyus, Bill McKibben, and Paul Hawken, chronicles the different ecological interventions he has created over the course of his career. Each chapter offers a workable engineering solution to an existing environmental problem: healing the aftermath of mountain-top removal and valley-fill coal mining in Appalachia, using windmills and injections of bacteria to…

Book cover of Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England

Why did I love this book?

When European colonists settled North America, they began to significantly alter the landscape in ways that were deeply ignorant of ecological health. Now, over 400 years later, that impact has not lessened. However, over that time, there have been significant ebbs and flows in the landscape relative to how it’s used (or not used). This fascinating book follows that trajectory as it explores the environmental history of New England. Even for those not familiar with this particular region, this book offers a unique window into how dynamic and fluid landscapes and ecosystems can be over the course of time.  

By William Cronon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Changes in the Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The book that launched environmental history, William Cronon's Changes in the Land, now revised and updated.

Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize

In this landmark work of environmental history, William Cronon offers an original and profound explanation of the effects European colonists' sense of property and their pursuit of capitalism had upon the ecosystems of New England. Reissued here with an updated afterword by the author and a new preface by the distinguished colonialist John Demos, Changes in the Land, provides a brilliant inter-disciplinary interpretation of how land and people influence one another. With its chilling closing line, "The people…

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