100 books like Laying Waste

By Michael Harold Brown,

Here are 100 books that Laying Waste fans have personally recommended if you like Laying Waste. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster

David DeKok Author Of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire

From my list on environmental catastrophes.

Why am I passionate about this?

David DeKok became interested in environmental disasters in his native Michigan in 1974, when PBB, a fire-retardant chemical, was accidentally mixed with animal feed, entered the food chain, and then most people in the state, probably including himself. As a journalist in Pennsylvania, he wrote extensively about the Centralia mine fire and the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and is the author of four books. He tends to write about small towns and small-town people in crisis.

David's book list on environmental catastrophes

David DeKok Why did David love this book?

The world continues to consider nuclear power, despite the devastation to the nuclear industry caused by the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Nuclear power can play a part in fighting climate change, but we need to be aware of the risks as well as the rewards. Beyond that, it is a well-researched and dramatic story about the trauma that ensues when human communities are beset by environmental disasters.

By Adam Higginbotham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Best Book of the Year
A Time Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Winner

From journalist Adam Higginbotham, the New York Times bestselling “account that reads almost like the script for a movie” (The Wall Street Journal)—a powerful investigation into Chernobyl and how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the history’s worst nuclear disasters.

Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering one of the…


Book cover of A Civil Action

Elie Honig Author Of Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away with It

From my list on making the law come to life.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father was a lawyer, so people sometimes assume that I wanted to follow in his footsteps. In fact, it was the opposite; I saw how hard he worked and how much of a grind the job could be. What really sparked my interest was the great books and movies about the legal profession. Eventually, I was lucky enough to spend fourteen years as a prosecutor, and let me tell you: the job is even better than you’d see on the page or on the screen. I loved the work while I had the job, and now I love telling stories. I hope you’ll be as entertained and inspired as I was by these books.

Elie's book list on making the law come to life

Elie Honig Why did Elie love this book?

Civil lawsuits often get second-billing to criminal cases, but this book about a case of mass environmental contamination in a small town in Massachusetts one has all the traits of a legal thriller: an astonishing injustice, stunning twists and turns, and enormous consequences for all involved.

More than once, I gasped while reading this, and it’s one of the few books I ever re-read. This has since become a major-release movie (starring John Travolta), but the book is even better.

By Jonathan Harr,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Civil Action as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of a lawyer's battle to win compensation from two of America's largest industrial giants. He fought on behalf of 21 families whose lives were wrecked by illness and death due to the alleged poisoning of their town well. This case became renowned in American legal history.


Book cover of Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter's Story

David DeKok Author Of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire

From my list on environmental catastrophes.

Why am I passionate about this?

David DeKok became interested in environmental disasters in his native Michigan in 1974, when PBB, a fire-retardant chemical, was accidentally mixed with animal feed, entered the food chain, and then most people in the state, probably including himself. As a journalist in Pennsylvania, he wrote extensively about the Centralia mine fire and the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and is the author of four books. He tends to write about small towns and small-town people in crisis.

David's book list on environmental catastrophes

David DeKok Why did David love this book?

While this is not a comprehensive history of the TMI accident and its aftermath—none exists––you can happily read this book and understand the seriousness of what happened. It is not encumbered with anti-nuclear ideology, like some of the books written immediately after the accident were. It has many photos, a glossary of nuclear terms, and an index. 

By Wilborn Hampton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It was 5 a.m. at the nuclear power plant on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River. Suddenly an alarm shrieked. Something was going wrong inside the plant. Within minutes human error and technical failure triggered the worst nuclear power accident in the United States and within hours, the eyes of the world were on Three Mile Island. Wilborn Hampton transports the readers to this pivotal moment in American history, telling the hour-by-hour story of covering the nuclear accident as a U.P.I. (United Press International) reporter. His fascinating account will compel readers to consider one of the most…


Book cover of We Almost Lost Detroit

David DeKok Author Of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire

From my list on environmental catastrophes.

Why am I passionate about this?

David DeKok became interested in environmental disasters in his native Michigan in 1974, when PBB, a fire-retardant chemical, was accidentally mixed with animal feed, entered the food chain, and then most people in the state, probably including himself. As a journalist in Pennsylvania, he wrote extensively about the Centralia mine fire and the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and is the author of four books. He tends to write about small towns and small-town people in crisis.

David's book list on environmental catastrophes

David DeKok Why did David love this book?

We Almost Lost Detroit was published in the mid-1970s  at a time of growing concern over nuclear power in America that would reach a boiling point with the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. There was no love lost between the two sides. Utility executives were believed to be liars trying to save their investment in a costly, difficult technology. Nuclear critics were portrayed by the industry as deluded tree-huggers. It was a real debate with real consequences, and this book shows why. The cover of the Ballantine paperback edition shows the terrified face of a man inside a radiation protective suit.

By John G. Fuller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Almost Lost Detroit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A valuable contribution to the debate over nuclear power, this book documents the Fermi accident that so frightened the AEC and nuclear industry that they did not want the details and significance leaked to the public. At the time of the publication of this book, many critics of nuclear power were demanding to know all the pertinent information regarding the safety of nuclear reactors.


Book cover of Chattanooga Sludge

Sigrid Schmalzer Author Of Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean: Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong's Work for Sustainable Farming

From my list on inspirational scientists for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a historian of science who specializes in modern China. My professional life revolves around teaching history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and writing for academic audiences. But my not-so-secret dream has always been to write for children. I've been a regular visitor to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, where I've gorged on illustrated books for children. Encouraged by a chance meeting with a publisher’s representative attending an event at the Carle, I decided to distill my academic book, Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China, into a children’s story. I’m proud that my fans now include elementary-school students. (And at least one professional historian admitted he read the kids’ version first!)

Sigrid's book list on inspirational scientists for children

Sigrid Schmalzer Why did Sigrid love this book?

This book is sadly out of print, but readers looking for a lavishly detailed and colorfully illustrated account of technology in the service of ecological restoration should hit the used book market and add this to their home libraries. It tells the story of John Todd, a scientist from Massachusetts who created  “Living Machines” that use biological processes to transform sewage into clean water. Meanwhile, down in Tennessee, factory pollution has turned Chattanooga Creek into a stream of sludge that poisons the land and sickens the residents. The city council invites Todd to visit, and Todd adapts his Living Machines to handle not just ordinary sewage, but toxic waste.

Bang’s illustrations bring the reader to the microscopic level and back again to show just how the ecological principles of the Living Machine work. We learn that success doesn’t come easily, and science alone will not fix every problem, but an…

By Molly Bang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chattanooga Sludge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The true story of John Todd's ingenious plan to clean toxic waste from a Tennessee creek describes the 150 years of pollution buildup that prompted his decision and his construction of the Living Machine. Children's BOMC Feat.


Book cover of Skinny Dip

Mike Player Author Of Hyperloop To Hell

From my list on funny stories (not just barely amusing).

Why am I passionate about this?

I used to make my grandmother laugh at the dinner table, to the annoyance of my mother. My grandmother had a great laugh I can hear to this day. In high school forensics I won the humorous interpretation trophy (first place) for a National Lampoon Parody I performed of the Hardy Boys, beating out 100 other contestants. I knew then, I could do standup, and later, improv. My comedy group in New York was called “wonderful…refreshingly different!” by the NY Post. I produced “The Outlaugh Festival On Wisecrack” years later for MTV’s LOGO network. When we’re all laughing is when we are truly together.

Mike's book list on funny stories (not just barely amusing)

Mike Player Why did Mike love this book?

Carl Hiassen is able to balance humor and suspense in just the right amounts. Since I think of my life as a constant balance of humor and suspense, the attraction was obvious.

So many novelists are advertised as “funny” but succeed in only being vaguely amusing if that. Also, Hiassen has a keen sense of place. Florida. That’s all you need to know, right? Florida. Florida was nuts when he wrote Skinny Dip and it’s nuts squared now. But aren’t we all?

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Skinny Dip as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joey Perrone is a woman with a mission. She's just been pushed overboard from a cruise liner by Chaz, her scumbag husband, and survived to tell the tale. But rather than reporting him to the police, she decides to stay dead and - with a little help from her friends and a few of Chaz's enemies - instead of getting mad, she's going to get even.

Filled with a host of endearingly offbeat characters, and a narrative that is hilarious, romantic and thought-provoking by turns, Skinny Dip takes us on a journey through the warped politics of Southern Florida and…


Book cover of Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City

Thomas Hynes Author Of Wild City: A Brief History of New York City in 40 Animals

From my list on the surprising history of New York City wildlife.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was drawn to the topic because I love everything about New York City. But, I also loved how the topic seemed at odds with itself. New York City wildlife felt like a contradiction of terms. Sure, there might be some rats, pigeons, and cockroaches here, but that was it. Well I was very wrong. Learning about the city’s natural history and legacy of wildlife allowed me to learn about the city in a whole new way. It’s also a great comeback story and it has been so inspiring to learn – and see! – how effective a few short decades of environmental regulations have been in making this a greener city. 

Thomas' book list on the surprising history of New York City wildlife

Thomas Hynes Why did Thomas love this book?

This book revealed a pastoral Manhattan few of us could imagine, including feral pigs that roamed the streets, and horses that transported everything and everyone around town. Set in the transformative 1800s when New York City underwent unprecedented urbanization, this book shows how farmers and other New Yorkers who worked the land were ultimately squeezed from Manhattan for more profitable tenants, and how Central Park, and other open spaces, sought to replicate all that recently displaced nature.   

By Catherine McNeur,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

George Perkins Marsh Prize, American Society for Environmental History
VSNY Book Award, New York Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America
Hornblower Award for a First Book, New York Society Library
James Broussard Best First Book Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

With pigs roaming the streets and cows foraging in the Battery, antebellum Manhattan would have been unrecognizable to inhabitants of today's sprawling metropolis. Fruits and vegetables came from small market gardens in the city, and manure piled high on streets and docks was gold to nearby farmers. But as Catherine McNeur reveals in this…


Book cover of These Shallow Graves

Leah Lindeman Author Of Wisps of Gold

From my list on history mysteries that keep you jittery in the night.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I began reading, two things have fascinated me the most, that is, history and mystery. My voracious appetite for mystery began with Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. History has always been my best subject in school. To me, history isn’t about people, achievements, and dates. It’s about lives lived through the tragedies and triumphs that we all face and can relate to. It is the origin of stories. History doesn’t have to be boring. It can be the greatest and most intriguing story that you have ever read. Mystery is history’s great friend—to convert a huge range of readers into history lovers.

Leah's book list on history mysteries that keep you jittery in the night

Leah Lindeman Why did Leah love this book?

Jo Montfort cannot be chained by the expectations of others for long. The monumental event of her father’s “accidental” death triggers her to break free to discover the dirty truth that was once veiled in brittle glamour. A strong heroine and scandalous outings in the nights makes this read a thrilling ride to savour in the late-night hours.

By Jennifer Donnelly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked These Shallow Graves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

From Jennifer Donnelly, the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of A Northern Light and Revolution, comes a mystery about dark secrets, dirty truths, and the lengths to which people will go for love and revenge. For fans of Elizabeth George and Libba Bray, These Shallow Graves is the story of how much a young woman is willing to risk and lose in order to find the truth.
    Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing…


Book cover of Some Places More Than Others

Sally Engelfried Author Of Learning to Fall

From my list on middle grade about father-daughter relationships.

Why am I passionate about this?

Father-daughter relationships have always fascinated me. I wrote my first book to explore what it might be like for a girl to have a father with whom communication is, if not easy, possible. Although my own father was around when I was growing up, he was a distant figure. A mechanical engineer, he lost himself in ruminations on machines and mathematics and was made still more distant by his alcoholism. As a kid, I tried to glean from books what having a “regular” father might be like. I still haven’t figured it out, but I love seeing other authors capture the formative effects of this particular parental relationship. 

Sally's book list on middle grade about father-daughter relationships

Sally Engelfried Why did Sally love this book?

It can be difficult for kids to see their parents as real people, and that’s why I love Some Places More Than Others. When Amara finally convinces her parents she should get to go on a trip with her dad to New York City’s Harlem to meet the grandfather she’s only spoken to on the phone, she uncovers the fact that her dad and her grandfather haven’t spoken in twelve years. I love the depiction of Amara’s father as a person in his own right, someone with a history and his own problems and how, as Amara slowly unravels the mysteries of her father’s past, she begins to understand herself better too.

By Renée Watson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Some Places More Than Others as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Newbery Honor- and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Renée Watson comes a heartwarming and inspiring novel for middle schoolers about finding deep roots and exploring the past, the present, and the places that make us who we are.

All Amara wants for her birthday is to visit her father's family in New York City--Harlem, to be exact. She can't wait to finally meet her Grandpa Earl and cousins in person, and to stay in the brownstone where her father grew up. Maybe this will help her understand her family--and herself--in new way.

But New…


Book cover of Local Woman Missing

Laura Wolfe Author Of The In-Laws

From my list on thrillers with killer twists you won't see coming.

Why am I passionate about this?

My fascination with things that go bump in the night probably stems from having read too many scary books in my younger years, when I devoured anything that made me want to hide under the blankets. My love of reading followed me into college, where I earned a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan and later a law degree from DePaul University in Chicago. My passion for reading—and, later, writingpsychological thrillers remained. Today, I write full-time and have five psychological thriller and suspense novels published with Bookouture–Hachette UK, including several that have made it into the Top 100 Books in the Amazon US, UK, and AU Kindle stores!  

Laura's book list on thrillers with killer twists you won't see coming

Laura Wolfe Why did Laura love this book?

I love all of Mary Kubica’s books because of her straightforward writing style and the Chicago-area settings. In Local Woman Missing, a peaceful, suburban neighborhood transforms into a harrowing place where people go missing and we question how well we really know our neighbors. Told from multiple points of view and timelines, the twists abound as the reader uncovers what happened to the missing women and girl. The ending was chilling, and I didn’t see it coming, which is exactly what I want from a psychological thriller. 

By Mary Kubica,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'DARK AND TWISTY' Riley Sager
'A JAW-DROPPING TWIST THAT I NEVER SAW COMING' Joshilyn Jackson

You'll never find her. Don't even try.

When a local mother and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, suddenly vanish, their close-knit suburban community is rocked by fear and suspicion. How could such a terrible thing have happened in their small town?

Then, eleven years later, Delilah shockingly reappears. Everyone wants to know what really happened to her. But there are secrets hidden deep in the past - and when the truth about those missing years begins to surface, no one is prepared for what they're about…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in New York State, environmentalism, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about New York State, environmentalism, and presidential biography.

New York State Explore 730 books about New York State
Environmentalism Explore 190 books about environmentalism
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography