The best books of spiritual ecological thought

Leah Naomi Green Author Of The More Extravagant Feast: Poems
By Leah Naomi Green

Who am I?

Leah Naomi Green is the author of The More Extravagant Feast, selected by Li-Young Lee for the Walt Whitman Award of The Academy of American Poets. She received the 2021 Lucille Clifton Legacy Award for compassion, courage, truth-telling, and commitment to justice, as well an Academy of American Poets 2021 Treehouse Climate Action Poetry Prize. The More Extravagant Feast was named “one of the best books of 2020” by The Boston Globe, is a silver winner of the 2020 Nautilus Book Awards, and was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered”. She lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia where she and her family homestead and grow or find much of their food for the year.

I wrote...

The More Extravagant Feast: Poems

By Leah Naomi Green,

Book cover of The More Extravagant Feast: Poems

What is my book about?

The More Extravagant Feast focuses on the trophic exchanges of a human body with the world via pregnancy, motherhood, and interconnection—the acts of making and sustaining other bodies from one’s own, and one’s own from the larger world. Leah Naomi Green writes from attentiveness to the vast availability and capacity of the weedy, fecund earth and from her own human place within more-than-human life, death, and birth.

Lyrically and spiritually rich, striving toward honesty and understanding, The More Extravagant Feast is an extraordinary book of awareness of our dependency on ecological systems—seen and unseen.

The books I picked & why

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Place: New Poems

By Jorie Graham,

Book cover of Place: New Poems

Why this book?

There is not a better poet writing in English. For Graham, language is a beautiful, purposeful tool and she is using it, without pretense, to dig deeper and deeper into the ground of being. She asks the questions beneath the questions, and though she does not pretend to answer them, the reader shares and marvels in her asking, in her attention to being human and alive.

The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry

By Wendell Berry,

Book cover of The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry

Why this book?

Berry is a touchstone for me. He is one of the clearest thinkers of our time and has always been ahead of it. This collection of essays (Berry’s best genre) has been deeply formative to my writing and thinking life as it is inseparable from my “homesteading” life—that is, my life as a human who wishes, in Berry’s words “to live on the earth without destroying it”. This collection contains the essays “A Native Hill” and “The Whole Horse”. These essays are gifts I’ve been able to pass to many Environmental Studies and Environmental Literature students over the years.

Braiding Sweetgrass

By Robin Wall Kimmerer,

Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass

Why this book?

In this book of essays, Kimmerer offers very accessible entry into very deep environmental understanding. She utilizes and explores both scientific and traditional Potawatomi ways of knowing to give readers a very generous window into her genuine human experience in the more-than-human world. This is a book that both my students and I find genuinely inspiring and important.

Be Holding: A Poem

By Ross Gay,

Book cover of Be Holding: A Poem

Why this book?

In this book-length poem, Ross Gay manages to “talk” to the reader intimately without once “mansplaning” the way that so much of the tradition of “nature writing” has, for centuries, done. With the refrains of “what am I seeing?” and “what am I practicing?” Gay creates what feels like a genuine conversation with the reader, allowing me to ask myself the same questions as I read, to form my own thoughts and feelings, rather than passively receiving his.

In what I find to be his best work yet, Gay offers a genuine invitation to the reader to join into the seeing and feeling and meaning-making, thus making the meaning-making infinitely more meaningful. Be Holding is like a personal letter taken from its envelope, but somehow intended for all of us. It is as intricate as it is accessible and clear.

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet

By Thich Nhat Hanh,

Book cover of Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet

Why this book?

This is the most recent compilation of Thich Nhat Hanh’s thoughts, experiences, and teachings on humans within a more-than-human world, edited and with commentary by his brilliant, passionate student, Sister True Dedication. As always, Thich Nhat Hanh presents very practicable tools for cultural and personal awakening (one in the same). As always, he presents insight rooted more firmly in the ground of being than any other mind I have ever encountered. If there is a path by which the world and its inhabitants will thrive, it is the path that Thich Nhat Hanh walks.

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