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.

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The books I picked & why

Place: New Poems

By Jorie Graham,

Book cover of Place: New Poems

Why did I love 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.

By Jorie Graham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Graham’s poetry is among the most sensuously embodied and imaginative writing we have.”
—New York Times

“One of the most important living poets.”
—Library Journal

Place is a new collection of poems from Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham. An extraordinary American artist whom The New Yorker calls “a mesmerizing voice” Graham is renowned for poetry that is startling, original, and deeply relevant, and has been placed in the poetic lineage of such masters as T.S. Eliot and John Ashbery. In Place, Graham explores the ways in which our imagination, intuition, and experience aid us in navigating a world moving towards…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Wendell Berry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Art of the Commonplace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Here is a human being speaking with calm and sanity out of the wilderness. We would do well to hear him." ―The Washington Post Book World

The Art of the Commonplace gathers twenty essays by Wendell Berry that offer an agrarian alternative to our dominant urban culture. Grouped around five themes―an agrarian critique of culture, agrarian fundamentals, agrarian economics, agrarian religion, and geobiography―these essays promote a clearly defined and compelling vision important to all people dissatisfied with the stress, anxiety, disease, and destructiveness of contemporary American culture.

Why is agriculture becoming culturally irrelevant, and at what cost? What are the…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Robin Wall Kimmerer,

Why should I read it?

39 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 Be Holding: A Poem

Why did I love 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.

By Ross Gay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of PEN America Jean Stein Award

Through a kind of lyric research, or lyric meditation, Be Holding connects Dr. J's famously impossible move from the 1980 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers to pick-up basketball and the flying Igbo and the Middle Passage, to photography and surveillance and state violence, to music and personal histories of flight and familial love.

Be Holding wonders how the imagination, or how our looking, might make us, or bring us, closer to each other. How our looking might make us reach for each other. And might make us be reaching for each…

Book cover of Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet

Why did I love 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.

By Thich Nhat Hanh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


“When you wake up and you see that the Earth is not just the environment, the Earth is us, you touch the nature of interbeing. And at that moment you can have real communication with the Earth… We have to wake up together. And if we wake up together, then we have a chance. Our way of living our life and planning our future has led us into this situation. And now we need to look deeply to find a way out, not only as individuals, but as a collective, a species.”

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

We face…

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