The best books on the state of the world we live in

Who am I?

Walking the rims of remote crater lakes in Uganda to map a tiny piece of terra incognita was a big childhood dream coming true. I then went from a geography master to studies of conflicts, development & journalism. This brought me to the DRC, India, and Nepal, where I covered war, aid, and revolution. Since 2009 I combine professional environmentalism with freelance journalism, publishing books, and giving lectures. With a great global team of researchers and activists I co-created the largest database of environmental conflicts in the world, which doubled as fieldwork for my book Frontlines.

I wrote...

Frontlines: Stories of Global Environmental Justice

By Nick Meynen,

Book cover of Frontlines: Stories of Global Environmental Justice

What is my book about?

Every unpacked frontline is one cutting edge of an economic system and political ideology that is destroying life on earth. Revealing our ecosystems to be under a sustained attack, Nick Meynen finds causes for hope in unconventional places. Frontlines is a journalistic inside story of the global movement for environmental justice and how it is transforming the world. It is a call to action to join the resistance.

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, said that “This book harnesses the power of lived experience to bring our most urgent, high-stakes policy debates to life, and it deserves a wide international audience.”

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Brother Mendel's Perfect Horse: Man and Beast in an Age of Human Warfare

Why did I love this book?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading nine of Westerman's books, some of them twice. This is literary contemporary history. Aside from a place, a period, and a prism through which to look, Frank combines award-winning literary skills with a journalistic journey. His stories are both big and small, personal and universal. Here he follows a fascinating 20th-century journey of the so-called ‘most pure’ horses of Europe. Through that story, you will find yourself cantering through the nature versus nurture debate that defined much of Europe’s recent history. On top of all that, I also recognise his journey through life, from his studies to ‘development’ work to foreign journalism to literary non-fiction writing on the big issues at the people & places interface. 

By Frank Westerman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brother Mendel's Perfect Horse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

' "When you touch a Lipizzaner, you're touching history," Westerman was once told. His elegant book offers fascinating proof' Financial Times

Frank Westerman explores the history of Lipizzaners, an extraordinary troop of pedigree horses bred as personal mounts for the Emperor of Austria-Hungary. Following the bloodlines of the stud book, he reconstructs the story of four generations of imperial steed as they survive the fall of the Habsburg Empire, two world wars and the insane breeding experiments conducted under Hitler, Stalin and Ceausescu.

But what begins as a fairytale becomes a chronicle of the quest for racial purity. Carrying the…

Book cover of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

Why did I love this book?

This book changed everything for me too. I met Naomi after a lecture and started producing articles for her. As I weaved her arguments against capitalism together with the frontline stories I was capturing, the pieces of the puzzle for my own Frontlines book fell into place. Naomi knows how dirty power plays at corporate and state levels shapes our lives, but by linking all this with the state of play in the living world, she gave the environmental movement the shock therapy it needed. A perfect present for anyone concerned by the war on nature, which by definition is also a war against all of us. Whether you like it or not, environmentalism is a social and political struggle. And it really does matter on what side you're on.

By Naomi Klein,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked This Changes Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Naomi Klein, author of the #1 international bestsellers, The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, returns with This Changes Everything, a must-read on how the climate crisis needs to spur transformational political change

Forget everything you think you know about global warming. It's not about carbon - it's about capitalism. The good news is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.

In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein, author of the global bestsellers The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the…

Book cover of The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

Why did I love this book?

This may seem a niche choice for India-geeks only, but that just doesn't do justice to the scope of this book from a Nobel Prize in Economy winner. While working in zero-tourist rural India for a local NGO, this book was the Bible that kept me going. Sen helped me to make sense of “it all” and gave me depth, hope, and mindblowing insights about what I have come to see as a shared history we Europeans have with Indians, since he goes 1000s of years back. Hence, even if you're only vaguely interested in the culture, identity, and politics of what is soon the most populous country in the world: you'll get to learn a lot about a massive part of humanity.

By Amartya Sen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian Culture, History and Identity brings together an illuminating selection of writings on contemporary India.

India is an immensely diverse country with many distinct pursuits, vastly different convictions, widely divergent customs and a veritable feast of viewpoints.

Out of these conflicting views spring a rich tradition of skeptical argument and cultural achievement which is critically important, argues Amartya Sen, for the success of India's democracy, the defence of its secular politics, the removal of inequalities related to class, caste, gender and community, and the pursuit of sub-continental peace.


Book cover of The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate

Why did I love this book?

As a geographer specialized in conflicts, the title in itself is enough to pick it up. But the reason for reading and rereading this book is that even after two readings, I'm still torn between defending or debunking the controversial author. Like him, I feel frustrated by the neglect of physical geography in so many discussions of the conflicts in this world and Kaplan really opens eyes and puts things in a much needed context. At other times, his determinism and his “America first” undertone irritates me. But to understand the world better, this and his book Monsoon. The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power are truly eyeopeners.

By Robert D. Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this “ambitious and challenging” (The New York Review of Books) work, the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts offers a revelatory prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world.

In The Revenge of Geography, Robert D. Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers of the near and distant past to look back at critical pivots in history and then to look forward at the evolving global scene. Kaplan traces the history of the world’s…

Book cover of How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Politics, Equality, Nature

Why did I love this book?

Politics, nature, society, identity, money, work, energy...Monbiot doesn't only touch a whole lot, I almost always agree with him. This selection of his best essays is like a box full of brain candy and one should treat it accordingly: do not swallow it all in one go. In one of his small-group talking rounds right after a big lecture, I witnessed his never appease-able hunger to bounce ideas off, get to the bottom of things, identify flaws in assumptions that most of us didn't even know we had. Monbiot doesn't allow social or political conventions to get in his way. His goal is clear: unpacking the reality of the world of today, no matter how dark this needs to be. 

By George Monbiot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Did We Get Into This Mess? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Leading political and environmental commentator on where we have gone wrong, and what to do about it " Without countervailing voices, naming and challenging power, political freedom withers and dies. Without countervailing voices, a better world can never materialise. Without countervailing voices, wells will still be dug and bridges will still be built, but only for the few. Food will still be grown, but it will not reach the mouths of the poor. New medicines will be developed, but they will be inaccessible to many of those in need. " George Monbiot is one of the most vocal, and eloquent,…

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