The most recommended environmental issue books

Who picked these books? Meet our 44 experts.

44 authors created a book list connected to environmental issues, and here are their favorite environmental issue books.
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Book cover of Cattle Colonialism: An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawai'i

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?

Cows are not typically centered in histories of imperialism and colonialism, but John Ryan Fischer presents the case that bovines transformed the societies of California Indians and native Hawaiians in the nineteenth century.

This book helped me think about how to connect histories of livestock and land seizures, and helps us think about animals as malleable creatures of empire that are repurposed by Indigenous nations.   

By John Ryan Fischer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the nineteenth century, the colonial territories of California and Hawai'i underwent important cultural, economic, and ecological transformations influenced by an unlikely factor: cows. The creation of native cattle cultures, represented by the Indian vaquero and the Hawaiian paniolo, demonstrates that California Indians and native Hawaiians adapted in ways that allowed them to harvest the opportunities for wealth that these unfamiliar biological resources presented. But the imposition of new property laws limited these indigenous responses, and Pacific cattle frontiers ultimately became the driving force behind Euro-American political and commercial domination, under which native residents lost land and sovereignty and faced…

Book cover of The Howling Storm: Weather, Climate, and the American Civil War

George C. Rable Author Of Conflict of Command: George McClellan, Abraham Lincoln, and the Politics of War

From my list on the American Civil War beyond the usual battles.

Who am I?

I have been researching and writing about the era of the American Civil War for something over half a century. My passion for the subject remains strong today, having just published my seventh book. Given the seemingly endless amounts of material from soldiers and civilians alike, I have enjoyed deeply researching neglected subjects and writing about them in a way that appeals to both historians and general readers. For me the Civil War never grows stale, there are always little-used sources to research and fresh ideas to consider. The American Civil is omnipresent in my life—not excluding weekends and holidays!   

George's book list on the American Civil War beyond the usual battles

George C. Rable Why did George love this book?

Weather has always been a constant topic of conversation, and this was certainly true for the Civil War generation. But it was also a matter of serious concern as it greatly affected the conduct of military campaigns. 

With careful attention to the science of weather and meticulous research, Kenneth Noe has crafted what amounts to a “weather history” of the American Civil War that brings new perspectives to the war’s course and would certainly have resonated with everyone from generals to privates to the folks at home. 

Noe’s book makes a striking contribution that assesses the impact of weather along with certain unusual climate conditions on the conduct of the war generally and specifically on strategy and logistics. For students of the Civil War, and with apologies to Bob Dylan, we need Ken Noe to know which way the wind blows.

By Kenneth W. Noe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Traditional histories of the Civil War describe the conflict as a war between North and South. Kenneth W. Noe suggests it should instead be understood as a war between the North, the South, and the weather. In The Howling Storm, Noe retells the history of the conflagration with a focus on the ways in which weather and climate shaped the outcomes of battles and campaigns. He further contends that events such as floods and droughts affecting the Confederate home front constricted soldiers' food supply, lowered morale, and undercut the government's efforts to boost nationalist sentiment. By contrast, the superior equipment…

Book cover of Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Economy: Transforming Nature in Early New England

Eric H. Ash Author Of The Draining of the Fens: Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England

From my list on early modern environmental history.

Who am I?

I am a historian of early modern Europe, especially 16th- and 17th-century England, and my work pulls together threads from different historical disciplines, including political history, the history of science and technology, and environmental history. I am fascinated by the ways that human history is intimately linked with the environment, and I am most interested in how early modern European states and empires worked to understand, manage, and profit from the natural world, especially with respect to using and conserving natural resources such as water, wood, and wildlife. I have chosen books that explore these issues in innovative and exciting ways.

Eric's book list on early modern environmental history

Eric H. Ash Why did Eric love this book?

A superb history of a particular landscape in the midst of profound political, economic, and environmental transformation; it is a wonderful example of interdisciplinary research.

The book explores the Connecticut River valley in colonial New England, and shows how the economic needs and interactions of the Native American and European inhabitants completely reshaped the ecology of the region.

My favorite chapter is Roberts’s brilliant analysis of the lucrative trade in beaver pelts, which not only shifted the balance of power between Native Americans and European settlers, it also eradicated the beavers and their extensive network of dams, erasing the vast wetlands of the region and leaving the river itself unrecognizable.

By Strother E. Roberts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Economy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Focusing on the Connecticut River Valley-New England's longest river and largest watershed- Strother Roberts traces the local, regional, and transatlantic markets in colonial commodities that shaped an ecological transformation in one corner of the rapidly globalizing early modern world. Reaching deep into the interior, the Connecticut provided a watery commercial highway for the furs, grain, timber, livestock, and various other commodities that the region exported. Colonial Ecology, Atlantic Economy shows how the extraction of each commodity had an impact on the New England landscape, creating a new colonial ecology inextricably tied to the broader transatlantic economy beyond its shores.

Book cover of The Only Kayak: A Journey into the Heart of Alaska

Dave Atcheson Author Of Dead Reckoning: Navigating a Life on the Last Frontier, Courting Tragedy on Its High Seas

From my list on true Alaskan stories of adventure and inspiration.

Who am I?

To me there is a connection to something larger than myself, an overriding sense of spirit that I only seem to encounter in the outdoors, beneath the canopy of old-growth forest, or within the gaze of ancient snow-capped peaks. Since arriving in Alaska over 30 years ago it is something I have continually sought among this state’s striking landscape and in many of my own adventures here. It's an attitude, a sensibility I also seek in the stories I read, an authenticity tied to place, but also an inclination toward hope and optimism, even a tenuous one, that we can all relate to; a sentiment I have always tried to incorporate into my own writing.

Dave's book list on true Alaskan stories of adventure and inspiration

Dave Atcheson Why did Dave love this book?

Though this book is 17 years old, it is still a compelling memoir about a young man’s journey to find his “place” in Alaska, and the exploits he has along the way. Heacox describes in elegant detail his paddling adventures, encounters with wildlife, his work as a ranger, and his struggle with humanity and how we are all, including himself, tampering with the natural world we love. A wonderful personal adventure interspersed with rich characters, history, and internal conflict.

By Kim Heacox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, Kim Heacox, writing in the tradition of Abbey, McPhee, and Thoreau, discovers an Alaska reborn from beneath a massive glacier, where flowers emerge from boulders, moose swim fjords, and bears cross crevasses with Homeric resolve. In such a place Heacox finds that people are reborn too, and their lives begin anew with incredible journeys, epiphanies, and successes. All in an America free of crass commercialism and overdevelopment.

Braided through the larger story are tales of gold prospectors and the cabin they built sixty years ago; John Muir and his intrepid terrier, Stickeen; and a dynamic geology…

Book cover of Soul of a Lion: One Woman's Quest to Rescue Africa's Wildlife Refugees

Britt Collins Author Of Strays: The True Story of a Lost Cat, a Homeless Man, and Their Journey Across America

From my list on non-fiction for cat lovers.

Who am I?

I am an international bestselling author of Strays and a London-based journalist for The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, and other publications. I've written about animals, conservation, and volunteered at sanctuaries around the world, from tending big cats and baboons in Namibia to wild mustangs in Nevada—a labour of love that has inspired features for The Guardian, The Independent, and Condé Nast Traveller. I've raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for many charities through my investigative animal-cruelty stories; as an activist, I helped shut down controversial breeders of laboratory animals in the UK. I also created Catfestlondon, a sell-out boutique festival that rescues and rehomes Moroccan street kittens in the UK.

Britt's book list on non-fiction for cat lovers

Britt Collins Why did Britt love this book?

A beautifully told story about a Namibian family who created a real-life Noah’s Ark in the desert. Marieta van der Merwe and her late husband Nick turned their cattle ranch into a refuge for thousands of wounded or orphaned animals who can’t make it on their own in the wild. This book, full of wonder and gentle souls, has special meaning for me. I met Barbara Bennett, a North Carolina University literature professor, when I was sent to Namibia to write a story about Harnas Wildlife Sanctuary for the Guardian and we were both volunteering. Afterward, I introduced her to my New York literary agent who sold the book. It’s so vividly written that it allowed me to relive my experiences of daily mischief of the baboons, walking full-grown lions in the desert, sleeping with cheetahs under the stars, and watching the giant thunderstorms on the porch with a menagerie…

By Barbara Bennett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It chronicles the unique Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia, where Marieta van der Merwe and her family, former wealthy cattle farmers, have sold land to buy and care for embattled wildlife.

Book cover of Environmental Impact Assessment: Theory and Practice

Angus Morrison-Saunders Author Of Advanced Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment

From my list on environmental impact assessment.

Who am I?

I have been teaching and researching environmental impact assessment for over 30 years and it is still a topic that excites me. After all, what could be more challenging or relevant than figuring out how to deliver sustainable development? Trying to predict the consequences of development and putting in place effective measures to prevent adverse environmental and social effects all in the context of our intriguingly messy world of science, politics, governance, and public engagement is endlessly beguiling. For example, what might sustainable mining look like? I love learning from the wisdom of others, so I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have.

Angus' book list on environmental impact assessment

Angus Morrison-Saunders Why did Angus love this book?

Sometimes, what is old can be new again. This is a great book that lays out the fundamental theory and principles underpinning environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Groundbreaking of its day, many of the chapters provide pioneering insights into the intricacies of EIA that still resonate today. The technical, the theoretical, the art and science and strategy of EIA are all explored by the international contributors, many of whom were founders in the field.

By Peter Wathern (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This comprehensive treatment of environmental impact assessment (EIA) provides an authoritative contemporary review of theory and practice over the past ten years. EIA is viewed as both science and art, reflecting the concern both with technical aspects of appraisal and the effects of EIA on the decision-making process. Adopted in many countries, with different degrees of enthusiasm, since its inception in the early 1970's, EIA is established as a major procedure for assessing the environmental implications of legislation, the implementation of policy and plans and the initiation of development projects. EIA is increasingly an essential part of environmental management

Book cover of Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South

Drew A. Swanson Author Of Remaking Wormsloe Plantation: The Environmental History of a Lowcountry Landscape

From my list on why American parks look the way they do.

Who am I?

I grew up a farm kid and then worked as a park ranger fresh out of college. This background draws me to the history of American preservation, where so much that seems natural also has deep cultural roots. I find the American South—with its combination of irony and tragedy, beauty, and flaws—the most fascinating place on earth to study. Or maybe I’m just pulling for the home team.

Drew's book list on why American parks look the way they do

Drew A. Swanson Why did Drew love this book?

This history of Providence Canyon in southwestern Georgia explores a seemingly ironic state park: one dedicated to preserving a network of massive erosion gullies formed by poor cotton farming. But Providence Canyon is so much more than ironic, as this book beautifully illustrates. Yes, improvident farming harmed the land—as was the case across much of the South—but the spectacular gullies of Stewart County came from the intersection of human abuse and terrifyingly fragile soil structures. And they are somehow sublimely beautiful, despite their grim past. The park is perhaps the perfect place to witness the way in which human and natural actions are always tied together. Come for the gullies, stay for the lessons!

By Paul S. Sutter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Providence Canyon State Park, also known as Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon," preserves a network of massive erosion gullies allegedly caused by poor farming practices during the nineteenth century. It is a park that protects the scenic results of an environmental disaster. While little known today, Providence Canyon enjoyed a modicum of fame in the 1930s. During that decade, local boosters attempted to have Providence Canyon protected as a national park, insisting that it was natural. At the same time, national and international soil experts and other environmental reformers used Providence Canyon as the apotheosis of human, and particularly southern, land…

Book cover of Natives and Exotics: World War II and Environment in the Southern Pacific

Lin Poyer Author Of The Typhoon of War: Micronesian Experiences of the Pacific War

From my list on the indigenous experiences of WW2 in the Pacific Islands.

Who are we?

We are three anthropologists who have focused decades of research on the cultures and histories of the beautiful part of the world known as Micronesia. We wrote this book when we realized that the many volumes of history on War in the Pacific focused on the combatants, and told us little of the experiences of the Islanders across whose lands, seas, and airspace the war was fought. Kwajalein, Enewetak, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Peleliu, Saipan, Guam, Tinian—these were not just battlegrounds, but also precious homelands. Our goal was to combine documentary history with interviews of more than 300 elders to tell the story of the war in Micronesia as it was experienced by Islanders who lived through it.

Lin's book list on the indigenous experiences of WW2 in the Pacific Islands

Lin Poyer Why did Lin love this book?

Bennett has produced an outstanding tour-de-force integrating the military history of the Central and Southwest Pacific with the new field of war and environment studies. Bennett goes beyond the immediate impact of combat to consider the military use of natural resources, the effect of bases on islands that never saw fighting, the movement of people, plants and diseases, and the politics of how Islander people and places were used in the war. From how foreign imaginations about the tropical environment affected military planning, to the conflict’s real long-term effects on lands and seas, this book adds essential depth to our view of the war years in this region.

By Judith A. Bennett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ambitious in its scope and scale, this environmental history of World War II ranges over rear bases and operational fronts from Bora Bora to New Guinea, providing a lucid analysis of resource exploitation, entangled wartime politics, and human perceptions of the vast Oceanic environment. Although the war's physical impact proved significant and oftentimes enduring, this study shows that the tropical environment offered its own challenges. At the heart of ""Natives and Exotics"" is the author's analysis of the changing visions and perceptions of the environment, not only among the millions of combatants, but also among the Islands' peoples and their…

Book cover of The Troubled Empire

Laurie Dennis Author Of The Lacquered Talisman

From my list on entering the world of imperial China.

Who am I?

My background is in journalism, and I have traveled widely in China, including visits to Fengyang, Anhui Province, and other sites important to the Ming founding, though I currently reside in Wisconsin. The Lacquered Talisman is the first in a planned series on the Ming founding, one of the most thrilling and dramatic dynastic transitions in China’s long history. I became addicted long ago to this 14th-century tale, in part because it is such a key moment in Chinese history and yet is so unknown in the English-speaking world. Since I write historical fiction, I have curated a list of both history and fiction about imperial China for you to enjoy.

Laurie's book list on entering the world of imperial China

Laurie Dennis Why did Laurie love this book?

Brooks is a Canadian scholar of Chinese history who specializes in the Ming Dynasty. In this work, he offers an overview of the transition from the Mongol Yuan to the Chinese Ming Dynasty, which is the setting for my own writing, and so is a period I consider to be of unrivaled appeal! Brooks studies, among other things, how extreme weather caused political upheaval and why emperors needed to worry when the locals started reporting dragon sightings. He also offers perspective on the autocratic rule of the Ming founder, “the brilliant and ruthless Zhu Yuanzhang,” and how his example impacted the rest of the dynasty.

By Timothy Brook,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Mongol takeover in the 1270s changed the course of Chinese history. The Confucian empire-a millennium and a half in the making-was suddenly thrust under foreign occupation. What China had been before its reunification as the Yuan dynasty in 1279 was no longer what it would be in the future. Four centuries later, another wave of steppe invaders would replace the Ming dynasty with yet another foreign occupation. The Troubled Empire explores what happened to China between these two dramatic invasions. If anything defined the complex dynamics of this period, it was changes in the weather. Asia, like Europe, experienced…

Book cover of The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City

Andrew Konove Author Of Black Market Capital: Urban Politics and the Shadow Economy in Mexico City

From my list on everyday life in Mexico City.

Who am I?

I grew up hearing stories about Mexico City from my grandmother, who spent her childhood in the 1930s there after emigrating from the Soviet Union. I fell in love with the city’s neighborhoods during my first visit in 2006, and I am still mesmerized by its scale and its extremes. I am especially interested in the city’s public spaces and the ways people have used them for work and pleasure over the centuries. Those activities often take place in the gray areas of the law, a dynamic I explored in the research for my Ph.D. in History and in my book, Black Market Capital

Andrew's book list on everyday life in Mexico City

Andrew Konove Why did Andrew love this book?

This book by Barbara Mundy, an art historian, challenges the idea that the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was instantly transformed into Spanish Mexico City following the conquest in 1521. Using indigenous and Spanish maps, Nahua codices, and archaeological evidence, Mundy shows that many aspects of urban life remained in indigenous hands for nearly a century after the Spanish and their indigenous allies toppled Montezuma and his empire. The book is beautifully illustrated, and Mundy’s writing brings the spaces and rhythms of the sixteenth-century city to life.

By Barbara E. Mundy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the Life of Mexico City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner, Book Prize in Latin American Studies, Colonial Section of Latin American Studies Association (LASA), 2016
ALAA Book Award, Association for Latin American Art/Arvey Foundation, 2016

The capital of the Aztec empire, Tenochtitlan, was, in its era, one of the largest cities in the world. Built on an island in the middle of a shallow lake, its population numbered perhaps 150,000, with another 350,000 people in the urban network clustered around the lake shores. In 1521, at the height of Tenochtitlan's power, which extended over much of Central Mexico, Hernando Cortes and his followers conquered the city. Cortes boasted to…