52 books like Waste and Want

By Susan Strasser, Alice Austen (photographer),

Here are 52 books that Waste and Want fans have personally recommended if you like Waste and Want. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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

Jennifer Howard Author Of Clutter: An Untidy History

From my list on to read when you’re decluttering.

Who am I?

I didn’t choose clutter as a topic—it chose me. Around the time Marie Kondo became a tidying-up sensation, my mother suffered a breakdown and could no longer live in her dangerously cluttered house. I’m an only child, so it fell to me to figure what to do with it all. So much stuff! It got me wondering: How did clutter get to be such a huge problem for so many people? The books on this list helped answer that question and made me feel less alone in the struggle with stuff. I hope you find them useful too.

Jennifer's book list on to read when you’re decluttering

Jennifer Howard Why did Jennifer love this book?

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. 

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…


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

Jennifer Howard Author Of Clutter: An Untidy History

From my list on to read when you’re decluttering.

Who am I?

I didn’t choose clutter as a topic—it chose me. Around the time Marie Kondo became a tidying-up sensation, my mother suffered a breakdown and could no longer live in her dangerously cluttered house. I’m an only child, so it fell to me to figure what to do with it all. So much stuff! It got me wondering: How did clutter get to be such a huge problem for so many people? The books on this list helped answer that question and made me feel less alone in the struggle with stuff. I hope you find them useful too.

Jennifer's book list on to read when you’re decluttering

Jennifer Howard Why did Jennifer love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Animal City: The Domestication of America

Catherine McNeur Author Of Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City

From my list on histories of nature in unexpected places.

Who am I?

Catherine McNeur is an award-winning historian, interested in the ways that issues of power impact how humans understand and transform their environments. She has long found the books, art, and other creative expressions that mischievously push at the edges of what we consider “nature” compelling, whether it’s a celebration of the beauty of weeds in an abandoned lot or nature writing on the flora in our guts. After having written about social and environmental battles in New York City, she is now researching the lives, work, and erasure of two forgotten female scientists from nineteenth-century Philadelphia. She lives in Oregon where she is a professor at Portland State University.

Catherine's book list on histories of nature in unexpected places

Catherine McNeur Why did Catherine love this book?

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.

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…


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

Christopher Michael Blakley Author Of Empire of Brutality: Enslaved People and Animals in the British Atlantic World

From my list on animal and environmental history.

Who am I?

I’m a scholar of environmental history with a focus on human-animal relationships. I’ve also studied the histories of slavery and the African Diaspora, and in my book I’ve fused approaches from these two fields to look at how human-animal relations and networks shaped the expansion of slavery and slave trading from West Africa to the Caribbean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. My scholarship is also an outgrowth of my teaching, and I regularly teach American environmental and cultural history at California State University, Northridge. I finished my PhD in history at Rutgers University, and my research has recently been funded by the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William & Mary.

Christopher's book list on animal and environmental history

Christopher Michael Blakley Why did Christopher love this book?

Pests like cockroaches, rats, ants, and fleas are social constructions, meaning they are only pests to humans because they often outcompete humans for space, food, and shelter.

Dawn Day Biehler’s book further shows that pests and urban infestations of animals categorized as pests reinforced racist ideas about “dirty” communities in cities like New York and Chicago.

By Dawn Day Biehler,

Why should I read it?

3 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…


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

Catherine McNeur Author Of Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City

From my list on histories of nature in unexpected places.

Who am I?

Catherine McNeur is an award-winning historian, interested in the ways that issues of power impact how humans understand and transform their environments. She has long found the books, art, and other creative expressions that mischievously push at the edges of what we consider “nature” compelling, whether it’s a celebration of the beauty of weeds in an abandoned lot or nature writing on the flora in our guts. After having written about social and environmental battles in New York City, she is now researching the lives, work, and erasure of two forgotten female scientists from nineteenth-century Philadelphia. She lives in Oregon where she is a professor at Portland State University.

Catherine's book list on histories of nature in unexpected places

Catherine McNeur Why did Catherine love this book?

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.

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…


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

Catherine McNeur Author Of Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City

From my list on histories of nature in unexpected places.

Who am I?

Catherine McNeur is an award-winning historian, interested in the ways that issues of power impact how humans understand and transform their environments. She has long found the books, art, and other creative expressions that mischievously push at the edges of what we consider “nature” compelling, whether it’s a celebration of the beauty of weeds in an abandoned lot or nature writing on the flora in our guts. After having written about social and environmental battles in New York City, she is now researching the lives, work, and erasure of two forgotten female scientists from nineteenth-century Philadelphia. She lives in Oregon where she is a professor at Portland State University.

Catherine's book list on histories of nature in unexpected places

Catherine McNeur Why did Catherine love this book?

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.

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…


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

Jennifer Howard Author Of Clutter: An Untidy History

From my list on to read when you’re decluttering.

Who am I?

I didn’t choose clutter as a topic—it chose me. Around the time Marie Kondo became a tidying-up sensation, my mother suffered a breakdown and could no longer live in her dangerously cluttered house. I’m an only child, so it fell to me to figure what to do with it all. So much stuff! It got me wondering: How did clutter get to be such a huge problem for so many people? The books on this list helped answer that question and made me feel less alone in the struggle with stuff. I hope you find them useful too.

Jennifer's book list on to read when you’re decluttering

Jennifer Howard Why did Jennifer love this book?

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.

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. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

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…


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

Graeme Brooker Author Of 50/50 Words for Reuse: A Minifesto

From my list on interior architecture and reuse of buildings.

Who am I?

Graeme Brooker is a Professor and Head of Interior Design at the Royal College of Art London. He has written and published fifteen books on the histories and theories of inside spaces, many of which focus on the reuse of existing artefacts, buildings, and cities. Apart from teaching and writing, when he isn’t cycling, he is often staring intently at the sea in Brighton, where he currently lives.

Graeme's book list on interior architecture and reuse of buildings

Graeme Brooker Why did Graeme love this book?

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. 

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…


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

Erin Dealey Author Of Dear Earth...from Your Friends in Room 5

From my list on making Earth Day every day.

Who am I?

I am a teacher, author, & parent, determined to help keep our earth healthy for future generations. A few Earth Days ago, my students asked why we only set aside one day a year to practice eco-healthy habits. Good question! As a teacher, I know how crucial it is for authors to get our facts right. Before writing Dear Earth… I read stacks of books and articles on our environment. I am indebted to science expert & author Melissa Stewart, and my friend Patricia Newman (Plastic Ahoy!; Planet Ocean / Lerner), as well. I sincerely hope Dear Earth… and the books on my list inspire Earth Heroes everywhere--every day.

Erin's book list on making Earth Day every day

Erin Dealey Why did Erin love this book?

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.

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. This book is for kids age 7, 8, and 9.

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…


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

Sarah Winkler Author Of Recycling For Dummies

From my list on challenging our understanding of waste.

Who am I?

As a youngster I used to drive my parents crazy because I was so passionate about recycling. I rekindled this passion about five years ago and started Everyday Recycler. Through my website I help people improve their recycling habits by offering actionable instructions with a focus on explaining how recycling works and its intrinsic value. I also advocate strongly for recycled products. I believe that by purchasing recycled products, we can help generate demand for the materials we toss in our recycling bin and contribute to the overall success of recycling. These works have educated and inspired me over the years. I hope they inspire you as much.

Sarah's book list on challenging our understanding of waste

Sarah Winkler Why did Sarah love this book?

Cradle to Cradle challenges conventional approaches to design and sustainability.

The authors present a compelling vision for a world where products are created with a 'waste equals food' philosophy, imitating natural systems by reusing resources and eliminating harmful waste. The books struck me as being both encouraging and depressing at the same time, a sentiment I get from many other sustainable and recycling books.

However this is the reality of the complex world of materials we have created for ourselves and one we must come to grips with. Unfortunately change can be slow, so even though this book was written two decades ago it remains relevant today and offers a pragmatic roadmap for the future. 

By William McDonough, Michael Braungart,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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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