The most recommended books about natural resources

Who picked these books? Meet our 19 experts.

19 authors created a book list connected to natural resources, and here are their favorite natural resource books.
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What type of natural resource book?


Book cover of Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait

Shira Shmuely Author Of The Bureaucracy of Empathy: Law, Vivisection, and Animal Pain in Late Nineteenth-Century Britain

From my list on getting familiar with multispecies history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My fascination and emotional connection with animals have been lifelong. However, it wasn't until my second year as an undergrad student that I realized that human-animal relationship could be examined from philosophical, historical, and anthropological perspectives. Over the past couple of decades, the conversations around the roles of non-human animals in diverse cultural, social, and material contexts have coalesced under the interdisciplinary field known as Animal Studies. I draw upon this literature and use my training in law and PhD in the history of science to explore the ties between knowledge and ethics in the context of animal law.  

Shira's book list on getting familiar with multispecies history

Shira Shmuely Why did Shira love this book?

This is an extraordinary study about life in and around the strait between the Pacific and Arctic oceans, home for Iñupiaq, Yupik, and Chukchi people and many other lively things, before and after the arrival of Russian and American colonial powers.

I admire the nuanced way in which Demuth exemplifies how capitalist and communist resource management transformed not only human but also animal cultures (whales, for example, strategize against whaling ships).

By Bathsheba Demuth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Along the Bering Strait, through the territories of the Inupiat and Yupik in Alaska, and the Yupik and Chukchi in Russia, Bathsheba Demuth explores an ecosystem that has long sustained human beings. Yet when Americans and Europeans arrived, the area became the site of an experiment and the modern ideologies of production and consumption, capitalism and communism were subject to the pressures of arctic scarcity.

Demuth draws a vivid portrait of the sweeping effects of turning ecological wealth into economic growth and state power over the past century and a half. More urgent in a warming climate and as we…

Book cover of FYI: For Your Improvement, A Guide for Development and Coaching

Flora Delaney Author Of Retail The Second-Oldest Profession: 7 Timeless Principles to WIN in Retail Today

From my list on retail managers and owners.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a retail consultant and former executive, I work with retailers like Whole Foods, Best Buy, Tractor Supply, and others across the globe who want to transform and improve their business. Fundamentally, all retail is the same. But how that gets done can separate multi-billion dollar dynasties from “everything must go” banners. I help retailers prioritize their investments and create loyal shoppers. I would do this even if I wasn’t earning a living from it…I guess I'm a retail junkie. We are all shoppers and when people have a great retail experience, it really is memorable. I want more people to have that experience and more workers to feel proud of the work they do. 

Flora's book list on retail managers and owners

Flora Delaney Why did Flora love this book?

As a retailer, you are often critical in a young person’s career. FYI, gives excellent advice for managers looking to give direct feedback and coaching to their team. With outstanding suggestions for how to write clear feedback and suggested development plans, it is the best resource I know when writing performance reviews. 

By Michael M. Lombardo, Robert W. Eichinger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Updated forth edition of the 1996 title (see ISBN 0965571203 for further information)

Book cover of Oil, Water, and Climate: An Introduction

Simon Pirani Author Of Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption

From my list on the oil industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by how power and money work, and hopeful that we can change the world for the better by subverting both. In the 1990s, when I started travelling to, and writing about, Russia, I became aware of how completely oil and gas completely dominated Russia’s economy, its power structures, and its people’s lives. I learned about how oil, gas, power, and money relate to each other, and for 14 years (2007-2021) wrote about those interconnections as a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. 

Simon's book list on the oil industry

Simon Pirani Why did Simon love this book?

As a non-scientist, I love reading books written by scientists in language that the rest of us can understand. This is one of the best – and it addresses many of the most urgent questions scientists will keep worrying about through the 21st century, about the interaction between oil production and use, the atmosphere, the oceans, and freshwater systems. Catherine Gautier writes in a clear, accessible style. She is well aware that we can not fence off the study of physical phenomena such as climate change and contamination of water sources from the study of society, economics, and politics.  

By Catherine Gautier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Today's oil and gas are at record prices, whilst global energy demand is increasing from population and economic development pressures. Climate change, resulting in large part from the burning of fossil fuels, is exacerbating the impacts of the excelerated exploitation of our natural resources. Therefore, anxieties over energy, water, and climate security are at an all-time high. Global action is needed now in order to address this set of urgent challenges and to avoid putting the future of our civilization at risk. This book examines the powerful interconnections that link energy, water, climate and population, exploring viable options in addressing…

Book cover of Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West

Adam M. Sowards Author Of Making America's Public Lands: The Contested History of Conservation on Federal Lands

From my list on bringing the public into the public lands.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started studying public lands by accident in the 1990s for a class project before I really knew what they even were. Since then, I've published hundreds of thousands of words about them, including my latest book Making America’s Public Lands where I’ve brought together much of what I’ve learned. I’m convinced the national forests, parks, rangelands, and refuges are among the most interesting and important experiments in democracy we have. I'm a writer, historian, and former college professor who now calls the Skagit Valley of Washington home. As much as I enjoy studying the public lands, I've appreciated hiking, sleeping, teaching, and noticing things in them even more.

Adam's book list on bringing the public into the public lands

Adam M. Sowards Why did Adam love this book?

This classic furnishes the best foundation for understanding land, water, and wildlife issues in the American West—and that necessarily means the public lands. Charles Wilkinson tacks from the past to the present, from law to history to ecology, effortlessly. What makes Crossing the Next Meridian so valuable is Wilkinson showing how nineteenth-century laws—the “lords of yesterday” in his apt phrasing—continued to guide the policy and politics around public lands and resources through the twentieth century. Packed with scholarship, legal reasoning, and on-the-ground reporting, Crossing the Next Meridian laid out clearly why the West I have lived in my whole life looks the way it does. Whenever I have a question about the history or law, this is my first stop. (I would love for him to issue an updated edition.)  

By Charles F. Wilkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Crossing the Next Meridian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Crossing the Next Meridian, Charles F. Wilkinson, an expert on federal public lands, Native American issues, and the West's arcane water laws explains some of the core problems facing the American West now and in the years to come. He examines the outmoded ideas that pervade land use and resource allocation and argues that significant reform of Western law is needed to combat desertification and environmental decline, and to heal splintered communities.

Interweaving legal history with examples of present-day consequences of the laws, both intended and unintended, Wilkinson traces the origins and development of the laws and regulations that…

Book cover of The Ultimate Resource 2

Paul Morland Author Of Tomorrow's People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers

From my list on the impact of population on everything.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in demography began when I saw rapid demographic change taking place before my eyes in London, and when I noted the different fertility choices of friends and relations and started to put the pieces together and to understand how demography shapes our changing reality. I have published three books on the subject—the first, a version of my PhD thesis, the second and third captured belowand have broadcast and written articles for the press extensively on these topics.

Paul's book list on the impact of population on everything

Paul Morland Why did Paul love this book?

Simon was something of a prophet who felt that he had a contrarian worldview that the world needed to know about. His basic idea is that the human brain is the ultimate resource and that with the right application and opportunity, humans can solve so many of the serious problems that environmentalism and the limits on resources throw at us. I cannot say that I agree with Simon on everything, nor that his optimism is apt in every situation, but his is an exciting and bracing can-do-ism that sees the best in humanity once it is freed to fulfill its potential.

By Julian Lincoln Simon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ultimate Resource 2 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Arguing that the ultimate resource is the human imagination coupled to the human spirit, Julian Simon led a vigorous challenge to conventional beliefs about scarcity of energy and natural resources, pollution of the environment, the effects of immigration, and the "perils of overpopulation." The comprehensive data, careful quantitative research, and economic logic contained in the first edition of The Ultimate Resource questioned widely held professional judgments about the threat of overpopulation, and Simon's celebrated bet with Paul Ehrlich about resource prices in the 1980s enhanced the public attention--both pro and con--that greeted this controversial book. Now Princeton University Press presents…

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.

Why are we passionate about this?

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 Vast Expanses: A History of the Oceans

Thomas Blake Earle Author Of The Liberty to Take Fish: Atlantic Fisheries and Federal Power in Nineteenth-Century America

From my list on why the history of the ocean matters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I think about the ocean a lot. Teaching in Galveston, Texas, at a university less than a mile from the ocean means it's on my mind most of the time. And it's not just the fish! I’m fascinated by all things ocean and have spent my career trying to understand the place of the watery world in the history of the United States. From fishing in the North Atlantic, to the history of the U.S. Navy, and even surfing on the Gulf Coast my writing, not to mention reading, usually points to the coast and beyond.

Thomas' book list on why the history of the ocean matters

Thomas Blake Earle Why did Thomas love this book?

Helen Rozwadowski draws attention to what should be obvious, the ocean matters not just because of what happens on it, but what happens in it.

In Vast Expanses, Rozwadowski plumbs the depths of the ocean’s history from the geological past to visions for its future to make the point that through trade and fishing, exploration and entertainment the accumulation of knowledge about the seas has defined and redefined the relationship between humans and the ocean.

From reaping natural resources, to expanding state power, and even to rest, respite, and leisure, the connection between society and sea has been a complex one.  

By Helen M. Rozwadowski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Vast Expanses is a cultural, environmental and geopolitical history that examines the relationship between humans and oceans, reaching back across geological and evolutionary time and exploring different cultures around the globe.

Our ancient connections with the sea have developed and multiplied with industrialization and globalization, a trajectory that runs counter to Western depictions of the ocean as a place remote from and immune to human influence. This book argues that knowledge about the ocean - discovered through work and play, scientific investigation, and also through the ambitions people have harboured for the sea - has played a central role in…

Book cover of More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources--And What Happens Next

Alessio Terzi Author Of Growth for Good: Reshaping Capitalism to Save Humanity from Climate Catastrophe

From my list on the relationship between the economy and nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an economist at the European Commission, Adjunct Professor in Paris, former fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and now a first-time author, I thrive at the intersection of academia, think-tanks, and policy-making. My academic soul leads me to seek answers to the big questions: what is economic growth and how does it relate to the success of civilization, to science and technology, to people’s wellbeing, and to nature. My practical focus leads me to draw the policy implications of all this for how we ought to fight climate change. My critics accuse me of being an optimist. I take it as a compliment: the future of humanity is in our hands.

Alessio's book list on the relationship between the economy and nature

Alessio Terzi Why did Alessio love this book?

All of McAfee’s work is a testament to the power of human ingenuity and technology in changing the world.

This important book marks no exception, addressing the key problem of managing scarce natural resources in spite of a growing human population and economy. In the process, McAfee challenges some widely-held views, such as the idea that ‘you cannot have an ever-growing economy on a finite planet.’

As a matter of fact, you can and the book shows that since the mid-1990s the US economy has continued to expand while extraction of the 72 raw materials tracked by the US Geological Survey, from aluminum to timber, has diminished (even when considering imports).

To me, More from Less is a testament to the power of technical progress.

By Andrew McAfee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Everyone knows we're doomed by runaway overpopulation, pollution, or resource depletion, whichever comes first. Not only is this view paralysing and fatalistic, but, as Andrew McAfee shows in this exhilarating book, it's wrong... More from Less is fascinating, enjoyable to read, and tremendously empowering' Steven Pinker
Bestselling author and co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy Andrew McAfee says there's a new reason for optimism: we're past the point of 'peak stuff' - from here on out, it'll take fewer resources to make things, and cost less to lead a comfortable life.

This turn of events invalidates the…

Book cover of Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence

Matt Zandstra Author Of PHP 8 Objects, Patterns, and Practice: Mastering OO Enhancements, Design Patterns, and Essential Development Tools

From my list on non-fiction that turn their topics upside down.

Why am I passionate about this?

Software developers love to question the assumptions that underpin their practice. Some of the most exciting phases of my career have come about as a result of such questions. Often they are revolutionary in the literal sense that they ask you to turn your thinking upside down – to design systems from the bottom up rather than the top down, for example, or to write your tests before your components. I may not adopt every practice, but each challenge enriches the conceptual world in which I work. Over the years, I have come to look for similar shifts and inversions across other subject areas. Here are some recommendations from my reading.

Matt's book list on non-fiction that turn their topics upside down

Matt Zandstra Why did Matt love this book?

As a coder and a lifelong SF reader, I am fascinated by AI. I've even written a LLM chat client named Shelley. Fascination, though, is not the same as uncritical fanboyism.

It is tempting to treat AI as a natural or magical apparition. Crawford's book turns this illusion on its head and explores AI literally from the ground up, beginning with its vast hunger for natural resources. She describes a similar hunger for training data as well as the implicit (or disguised) biases underlying the systems of classification that drive an AI's "understanding" of the world. 

This is not a book about the future of AI so much as a particular map of the state of the project – a look into the wizard's booth. It offers an essential first step in considering what is to come and how we might negotiate it.

By Kate Crawford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The hidden costs of artificial intelligence-from natural resources and labor to privacy, equality, and freedom

"This study argues that [artificial intelligence] is neither artificial nor particularly intelligent. . . . A fascinating history of the data on which machine-learning systems are trained."-New Yorker

"A valuable corrective to much of the hype surrounding AI and a useful instruction manual for the future."-John Thornhill, Financial Times

"It's a masterpiece, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it."-Karen Hao, senior editor, MIT Tech Review

What happens when artificial intelligence saturates political life and depletes the planet? How is AI shaping our…

Book cover of Critical Path

Matthew Leising Author Of Out of the Ether: The Amazing Story of Ethereum and the $55 Million Heist that Almost Destroyed It All

From my list on tech, media, and finance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer and reporter who has spent two decades covering complicated topics for a wide audience. This started when I covered Wall Street for Bloomberg News, where I spent 17 years as a reporter, and continues to this day with my own crypto media company, DeCential Media. My love of distilling new technologies to their essence is what informs the best of my writing and comes with the added bonus of being able to interview and learn from some of the smartest people in tech and finance. 

Matthew's book list on tech, media, and finance

Matthew Leising Why did Matthew love this book?

Critical Path is a tour de force of structured thought that tackles some of the biggest problems facing humanity. R. Buckminster Fuller is one of the most lucid thinkers of the 20th Century who writes with inimitable style. Absorbing his work helped me to distill the issues facing the 21st century that blockchain technology and decentralized systems are trying to solve.  

By R. Buckminster Fuller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Critical Path is R. Buckminster Fuller's masterwork - the summing up of a lifetime's thought and concern - as urgent and relevant as it was upon its first publication over 20 years ago. Critical Path details how humanity found itself in its current situation - at the limits of the planet's natural resources and facing political, economic, environmental, and ethical crises. Fuller's analysis has been proven correct in many areas since then and his options for the survival of mankind are as compelling as ever. Critical Path is an essential text for any student of humanity.