10 books like Waste and Want

By Susan Strasser, Alice Austen (photographer),

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Waste and Want. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

By Margareta Magnusson,

Book cover of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter

Dealing with a lifetime’s worth of possessions feels like a heavy task—heavy in every sense. In this breezy book, Margareta Magnuson reminds readers that it doesn’t have to be a drag. Figuring out what to do with all your things can be cathartic, liberating, even fun, a chance to relive some of the highlights of your life and celebrate where you’ve landed. It’s also a kindness to your nearest and dearest. As she wisely observes, “A loved one wishes to inherit nice things from you. Not all things from you.” I wish I could go back in time and give a copy of this book to my mother with that passage highlighted. 

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

By Margareta Magnusson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Soon to be a major TV series*

Dostadning, or the art of death cleaning, is a Swedish phenomenon by which the elderly and their families set their affairs in order. Whether it's sorting the family heirlooms from the junk, downsizing to a smaller place, or using a failsafe system to stop you losing essentials, death cleaning gives us the chance to make the later years of our lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Whatever your age, Swedish death cleaning can be used to help you de-clutter your life, and take stock of what's important.

Radical and joyous, eighty-something Margareta…


Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir

By Roz Chast,

Book cover of Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir

Anybody who’s had to clean out a family home knows what a messy, emotional, tedious, painful, sometimes lonely, occasionally humorous process it can be. Cartoonist Roz Chast captures all of that in this graphic memoir about helping her elderly parents move out of the New York City apartment they’d lived in for decades. Like me, Chast is an only child. That made a tough job even tougher, and she’s astonishingly frank about the ups and downs. If you find yourself having to help a loved one downsize, this book will make you feel less alone, no matter how many siblings you have. It helped me get through the worst of cleaning out my mother’s house.

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir

By Roz Chast,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller
2014 National Book Award Finalist
Winner of the inaugural 2014 Kirkus Prize in nonfiction
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Winner of the 2014 Books for a Better Life Award
Winner of the 2015 Reuben Award from National Cartoonists Society

In her first memoir, New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast's memoir is both comfort…


Animal City

By Andrew A. Robichaud,

Book cover of Animal City: The Domestication of America

I love the way Andrew Robichaud brings to life the animal ghosts that haunt our modern cities. In ways that we often forget today, animals were integral to the development of urban spaces in ways that were much more visible in the nineteenth century, whether they were horses pulling carriages or pigs and cows herded down the street toward slaughterhouses. The laws governing how cities were organized typically began with debates over where animals were welcome. Robichaud does a great job of recreating the ecologically diverse nineteenth-century American cities in ways that make it easier to understand urban spaces and our relationships with animals today.

Animal City

By Andrew A. Robichaud,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why do America's cities look the way they do? If we want to know the answer, we should start by looking at our relationship with animals.

Americans once lived alongside animals. They raised them, worked them, ate them, and lived off their products. This was true not just in rural areas but also in cities, which were crowded with livestock and beasts of burden. But as urban areas grew in the nineteenth century, these relationships changed. Slaughterhouses, dairies, and hog ranches receded into suburbs and hinterlands. Milk and meat increasingly came from stores, while the family cow and pig gave…


Pests in the City

By Dawn Day Biehler,

Book cover of Pests in the City: Flies, Bedbugs, Cockroaches, and Rats

One of the things I quickly began to realize while researching my book is how much the animals we label pests reflect problems within our own society. They might reflect attitudes toward animals, yes. But they also often reflect our attitudes towards each other, and highlight social inequalities. Pests in the City is a study of different pests and how they highlight issues of social justice in urban environments. It’s educational and eye-opening, and you’ll never forget what you learn. 

Pests in the City

By Dawn Day Biehler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From tenements to alleyways to latrines, twentieth-century American cities created spaces where pests flourished and people struggled for healthy living conditions. In Pests in the City, Dawn Day Biehler argues that the urban ecologies that supported pests were shaped not only by the physical features of cities but also by social inequalities, housing policies, and ideas about domestic space.

Community activists and social reformers strived to control pests in cities such as Washington, DC, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, and Milwaukee, but such efforts fell short when authorities blamed families and neighborhood culture for infestations rather than attacking racial segregation or…


Arcadian America

By Aaron Sachs,

Book cover of Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition

While some of us like to imagine humans as separate from nature, one moment where that boundary dissolves is with death. Inescapably, we will all eventually decompose and become a part of our environment. In Aaron Sach’s book, nineteenth-century Americans reckon with death through the creation of carefully landscaped cemeteries. What I particularly love about Arcadian America is how Sachs weaves his own memoir about his encounters with mortality in with the history he’s telling, making it a gripping page-turner.

Arcadian America

By Aaron Sachs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How a forgotten environmental tradition of the pre-Civil War era may prove powerfully useful to us now

Perhaps America's best environmental idea was not the national park but the garden cemetery, a use of space that quickly gained popularity in the mid-nineteenth century. Such spaces of repose brought key elements of the countryside into rapidly expanding cities, making nature accessible to all and serving to remind visitors of the natural cycles of life. In this unique interdisciplinary blend of historical narrative, cultural criticism, and poignant memoir, Aaron Sachs argues that American cemeteries embody a forgotten landscape tradition that has much…


Bulldozer

By Francesca Russello Ammon,

Book cover of Bulldozer: Demolition and Clearance of the Postwar Landscape

I’ll admit that bulldozers seem like the very antithesis of nature and that’s why I love this book. Francesca Ammon looks at how the cultural embrace of bulldozers following World War II, whether through planning, urban renewal, or even children’s books, reshaped the way Americans dealt with their environment in the second half of the twentieth century. Bulldozers gave Americans immense power to level hills, neighborhoods, and orange groves to create blank slates so they could build highways and redesign cities. This book changed the way I understood the cultural and technological rise (and fall) of this destructive tool.

Bulldozer

By Francesca Russello Ammon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first history of the bulldozer and its transformation from military weapon to essential tool for creating the post-World War II American landscape

Although the decades following World War II stand out as an era of rapid growth and construction in the United States, those years were equally significant for large-scale destruction. In order to clear space for new suburban tract housing, an ambitious system of interstate highways, and extensive urban renewal development, wrecking companies demolished buildings while earthmoving contractors leveled land at an unprecedented pace and scale. In this pioneering history, Francesca Russello Ammon explores how postwar America came…


Stuff

By Randy O. Frost, Gail Steketee,

Book cover of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

Randy Frost and Gail Steketee have done groundbreaking research on hoarding disorder, and their work has helped shift the conversation away from the traditional shame-and-blame approach to the subject. In these case studies, they dig into what drives individuals to accumulate extreme amounts of clutter. Emphasis on individuals—each of these people has a unique, often fascinating story, and Frost and Steketee treat them with compassion and understanding. Stuff helped me understand that forced cleanouts and harsh interventions don’t solve the problem, they only inflict more trauma.

Stuff

By Randy O. Frost, Gail Steketee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller

Acclaimed psychologists Randy Frost and Gail Sketetee's groundbreaking study on the compulsion of hoarding, "Stuff invites readers to reevaluate their desire for things” (Boston Globe).

What possesses someone to save every scrap of paper that’s ever come into his home? What compulsions drive a woman like Irene, whose hoarding cost her her marriage? Or Ralph, whose imagined uses for castoff items like leaky old buckets almost lost him his house? Or Jerry and Alvin, wealthy twin bachelors who filled up matching luxury apartments with countless pieces of fine art, not even leaving themselves room to…


Secondhand

By Adam Minter,

Book cover of Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

This is a revelatory, timely book that details the afterlives of the numerous discarded and recycled objects from around the world. It gave me great insights into where stuff goes once we decide that these are things that we no longer need or want and who are the people and the places who find value in what we leave behind. 

Secondhand

By Adam Minter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of Junkyard Planet, "an anthem to decluttering, recycling, making better quality goods and living a simpler life with less stuff." -Associated Press

Downsizing. Decluttering. Discarding. Sooner or later, all of us are faced with things we no longer need or want. But when we drop our old clothes and other items off at a local donation center, where do they go? Sometimes across the country-or even halfway across the world-to people and places who find value in what we leave behind.

In Secondhand, journalist Adam Minter takes us on an unexpected adventure into the often-hidden, multibillion-dollar industry…


What a Waste

By Jess French,

Book cover of What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting Our Planet

What a Waste is the perfect nonfiction pairing for Dear Earth, packed with in-depth information, not only on everyday habits that hurt our environment, but super important (and simple) actions Earth Heroes, young and old, can take to change these habits. I can just see the kids in Room 5 using this book as a reference each month for their eco-friendly projects.

What a Waste

By Jess French,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this informative book on recycling for children, you will find everything you need to know about our environment. The good, the bad, and the incredibly innovative. From pollution and litter to renewable energy and plastic recycling.

This educational book will teach young budding ecologists about how our actions affect planet Earth and the big impact we can make by the little things we do.

Did you know that every single plastic toothbrush ever made still exists? Or that there is a floating mass of rubbish larger than the USA drifting around the Pacific Ocean?

It is not all bad…


Cradle to Cradle

By William McDonough, Michael Braungart,

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

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.   

Cradle to Cradle

By William McDonough, Michael Braungart,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


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