The best books about protecting the environment

1 authors have picked their favorite books about protecting the environment and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Book cover of Children of the Earth... Remember

This book is breathtakingly beautiful and illustrates the need for us to take care of our planet. The message is simple yet impactful. A great book to introduce young children to caring for our environment. Parents and teachers can initiate conversations without having to delve deeply into complicated issues. It’s one of my all-time favorite books even as an adult. 

Children of the Earth... Remember

By Schim Schimmel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Children of the Earth... Remember as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Children of the Earth Remember is a tender lesson of sharing and protecting the Earth, enhanced with stunning artwork.

Who am I?

I have been an educator for over 20 years teaching elementary-aged children. The environment is a passion of mine. After reading the book Plastic Ocean and meeting the author Charles Moore, I realized that the issues facing our environment are going to be best solved by the upcoming generation of children. They understand how important it is to preserve our planet. Combining my love of writing with my education background, I started writing books to teach children about the environment and inspire them to make lasting changes. I love recommending books that have the same mission. Small actions equal great changes! 


I wrote...

Midnight Mission: An Eco Avengers Series

By Dawn Wynne,

Book cover of Midnight Mission: An Eco Avengers Series

What is my book about?

When Mindy, Frankie, and Jagger discover a baby sea turtle far from the ocean they rush against time to return it back to sea. However, when they arrive at the beach, they stumble upon a startling discovery that may hinder the turtle's survival. Will the turtle be stranded on land forever? And what does the future hold for the rest of the sea turtles?

A fun, engaging book that will entertain children while also educating them about endangered sea turtles. 

The Control of Nature

By John McPhee,

Book cover of The Control of Nature

In a series of long-form journalist pieces, McPhee visits places where human beings are at war with natural forces: the long attempt to control the course of the Mississippi River and its floods, Icelanders trying to control lava flows with hoses, and a system of hardened channels and containments for massive mud and debris flows pouring down from the mountains behind Los Angeles. McPhee is at the height of his powers in this book, with his acerbic wit allowing the heroic futility of these manipulations to speak for itself.

The Control of Nature

By John McPhee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Control of Nature is John McPhee's bestselling account of places where people are locked in combat with nature. Taking us deep into these contested territories, McPhee details the strageties and tactics through which people attempt to control nature. Most striking is his depiction of the main contestants: nature in complex and awesome guises, and those attempting to wrest control from her - stubborn, sometimes foolhardy, more often ingenious, and always arresting characters.


Who am I?

Jordan Fisher Smith spent 21 years as a park and wilderness ranger. He is the author of the ranger memoir Nature Noir, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of 2005 pick, and an Audubon Magazine Editor’s Choice. His second book Engineering Eden won a 2017 California Book Award and was longlisted for the 2016 PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing. He has also written for The New Yorker, Men’s Journal, Discover, and others and was a principal cast member and narrator of the film Under Our Skin, which was shortlisted for the 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.


I wrote...

Engineering Eden: A Violent Death, a Federal Trial, and the Struggle to Restore Nature in Our National Parks

By Jordan Fisher Smith,

Book cover of Engineering Eden: A Violent Death, a Federal Trial, and the Struggle to Restore Nature in Our National Parks

What is my book about?

In the summer of 1972, 25-year-old Harry Walker hitchhiked away from his family’s Alabama farm to see America. Nineteen days later he was killed and partially eaten by an endangered grizzly bear at Yellowstone National Park. An environmental activist convinced Harry’s parents—simple dairy farmers who’d never even contested a traffic ticket—to sue the federal government for mismanagement of the grizzly that not only caused their son’s death, but threatened to drive the great bear to extinction in the 48 contiguous United States. When the case went to trial, two of the greatest wildlife biologists of the twentieth century testified against each other in what became a referendum on some of the most fundamental issues we face today in conserving nature:  When we have disrupted nature, how do we go about repairing it? How much should we try to control or manipulate it in order to heal it?

The Monkey Wrench Gang

By Edward Abbey,

Book cover of The Monkey Wrench Gang

The three books listed above are very serious, as befits the genre. To lighten the mood a little, albeit with sardonic wit, go back to the 1970s, when this novel was first published. The novel became so well known that it spawned the use of the term ‘monkey wrench’ to mean ecologically-motivated sabotage. The four main characters are misfits, led by Vietnam veteran George Hayduke, who target industrial interests threatening the ecosystems of the southwest USA. They burn billboards, sabotage machinery, and eventually plan the destruction of a dam. The law inevitably closes in. It’s good fun but with a serious message—and may well have influenced the current Extinction Rebellion movement.

The Monkey Wrench Gang

By Edward Abbey,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Monkey Wrench Gang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Revolutionary ... An extravagant, finely written tale of ecological sabotage' The New York Times

Audacious, controversial and hilarious, The Monkey Wrench Gang is Edward Abbey's masterpiece - a big, boisterous and unforgettable novel about freedom and commitment that ignited the flames of environmental activism.

Throughout the vast American West, nature is being vicitimized by a Big Government / Big Business conspiracy of bridges, dams and concrete. But a motley gang of individuals has decided that enough is enough. A burnt-out veteran, a mad doctor and a polygamist join forces in a noble cause: to dismantle the machinery of progress through…


Who am I?

I’m an author, journalist, and lecturer. I have a background in newspapers, writing mainly on tourism and environmental issues. I've also written several guidebooks to South America (Ecuador, Galapagos, and Peru), where I lived for over five years. I’ve always been passionate about nature and the environment, and when I decided to write my first novel, I wanted to write a story that reflected these passions. I have chosen books that express the importance of ecological issues effectively within the framework of a good story.


I wrote...

Green Shoots

By Ben Westwood,

Book cover of Green Shoots

What is my book about?

Green Shoots is an eco-thriller— a conspiracy thriller with an environmental focus, set in Britain and South America. A man determined to solve the mystery of his wife's death finds himself drawn into a lethal plot. Grieving journalist John Adamson is brought back from the brink of suicide by a mysterious phone call claiming his wife Christina's death in Ecuador wasn't what it seemed. John is desperate to find out what happened, but is persuaded by the man on the phone to also investigate a series of murders in London. The deaths are connected to industries exploiting the rainforest where his wife was researching—oil, timber, and farming. John has to work out the connections between these killings and his wife’s death, but it's difficult and dangerous.

Book cover of The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection

This book exposes the troubling roots of the American conservation movement and explores how racism continues to keep people out of our public spaces. I’d consider it an illuminating must-read for anyone who loves this planet and its people and wants to usher us into a more inclusive era of outdoor exploration.

The Rise of the American Conservation Movement

By Dorceta E. Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rise of the American Conservation Movement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this sweeping social history Dorceta E. Taylor examines the emergence and rise of the multifaceted U.S. conservation movement from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. She shows how race, class, and gender influenced every aspect of the movement, including the establishment of parks; campaigns to protect wild game, birds, and fish; forest conservation; outdoor recreation; and the movement's links to nineteenth-century ideologies. Initially led by white urban elites-whose early efforts discriminated against the lower class and were often tied up with slavery and the appropriation of Native lands-the movement benefited from contributions to policy making, knowledge about the…

Who am I?

As a journalist who explores the intersection of human health and planet health, I've long been fascinated by how stepping outside into a healthy environment can boost our well-being. I also believe that we are more likely to take positive climate actions when we have a rich connection to the natural world around us, so a lot of my work focuses on helping people get out into nature—whatever that looks like for them.


I wrote...

Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us

By Emma Loewe,

Book cover of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us

What is my book about?

Return To Nature explores how eight distinct landscapes impact our mental and physical health: grasslands, deserts, forests, mountains, oceans, rivers, icy terrain, and cities. The book weaves together new research and ancient knowledge on how every inch of the natural world can be a salve for the stress, anxiety, and burnout of today’s age. Over the course of this landscape-to-landscape guide, you’ll pick up fresh ideas on how to restore yourself in the nature around you—be it a sprawling forest or a row of street trees. You’ll also learn about meaningful actions we can all take to give back to the landscapes that give so much to us.

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…


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.


I wrote...

Dear Earth...from Your Friends in Room 5

By Erin Dealey, Luisa Uribe (illustrator),

Book cover of Dear Earth...from Your Friends in Room 5

What is my book about?

Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5 begins when the students in Room 5 write a letter to Earth, asking how they can help our planet, and --spoiler alert—Earth writes back. Their monthly exchange of ideas grows into a lasting friendship, a school club with a surprising president, and, hopefully, lifelong Earth-smart habits.

P.S.  Check out the book jacket that reverses to become a cool poster with twelve months of Earth Hero activities!

Flush

By Carl Hiaasen,

Book cover of Flush

I love Hiaasen’s humor and down-to-earth boy characters. In Flush, Noah is the adult in the father-son relationship. Normally I wouldn’t go for this in a story: Dads should lead by example, even in fiction. But I recognize that in real life that’s not always the case. Hiaasen’s YA novels are clean adventures that often include strong female characters, a solid moral (in this case preserving our environment), and make me want to read them again and again. I know some want to know how readers “feel” when they read a book. Not me. I’m more interested in the adventure and solving the puzzle (who is the bad guy and will he get caught?).

Flush

By Carl Hiaasen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A hilarious, high-stakes adventure involving crooked casino boats, floating fish, toxic beaches, and one kid determined to get justice. This is Carl Hiaasen's Florida—where the creatures are wild and the people are wilder! 

You know it's going to be a rough summer when you spend Father's Day visiting your dad in the local lockup.

Noah's dad is sure that the owner of the Coral Queen casino boat is flushing raw sewage into the harbor–which has made taking a dip at the local beach like swimming in a toilet. He can't prove it though, and so he decides that sinking the…

Who am I?

Fer over ten years I skippered a small book publishing company. During them years I inspected countless book proposals, most which got tossed overboard. I kin quickly gauge whether a manuscript be ripe fer publication. I bring that same skill ter reading YA and middle grade fiction. Ter be honest, it be a good deal easier ter judge the work of others than write great ficiton. But since “voice” be the reflection of the author’s soul, it helps ter know that those who be crafting the tales ‘ave thar moral compass aligned ter true north. These four authors be stand up in my book.


I wrote...

The End of Calico Jack

By Eddie Jones,

Book cover of The End of Calico Jack

What is my book about?

In this YA pirate tale, award-winning author Eddie Jones blends action, adventure, and humor into a fictional retelling of the pirate exploits of Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read.

The End of Calico Jack is a fictional retelling of the pirate escapades of Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read. The story is based on historical research of the life of "Calico Jack" John Rackham. Some liberties have been taken in the telling of the story, but many of the events reflect what historians believed happened to Jack, Mary, and Anne. Also, in real life, those who suffer absence seizures may appear to be in a trance but cannot recall what happens during their episode. The book includes a Pirate Map of Calico Jack's sailing routes and the ports he visited.

Healing Earth

By John Todd,

Book cover of Healing Earth: An Ecologist's Journey of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship

John Todd is one of the preeminent ecologists on the planet. Over the course of his 5-decade career, he has been innovating and exploring ways in which we can work with nature to find solutions for major environmental conundrums. In this book, Dr. Todd explains the theory behind ecological design while also sharing inspiring examples of his work, ranging from restoring ocean fisheries, cleaning wastewater in hopelessly polluted ponds, to providing inexpensive access to sewage treatment in shantytowns with open, untreated sewers. This book shows that with the right mindset and commitment, ecological solutions are readily available for almost any situation. 

Healing Earth

By John Todd,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A true pioneer and respected elder in ecological recovery and sustainability shares effective solutions he has designed and implemented.

A stand-out from the sea of despairing messages about climate change, well-known sustainability elder John Todd, who has taught, mentored, and inspired such well-known names in the field as Janine Benyus, Bill McKibben, and Paul Hawken, chronicles the different ecological interventions he has created over the course of his career. Each chapter offers a workable engineering solution to an existing environmental problem: healing the aftermath of mountain-top removal and valley-fill coal mining in Appalachia, using windmills and injections of bacteria to…

Who am I?

Ever since my childhood growing up off-grid in rural Maine, I’ve been fascinated by the natural world. Out of that fascination grew an abiding interest in weaving people and the landscape back together, something I’ve focused on and explored for over two decades, both personally and in my capacity as a landscape designer. The books I’ve shared here all provided me with know-how and perspective that has inspired me to pursue ecological regeneration. If you’re interested in these topics you won’t be disappointed! 


I wrote...

Lawns Into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape

By Owen Wormser,

Book cover of Lawns Into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape

What is my book about?

Landscape designer Owen Wormser explains how to replace the dead scapes we call lawns with attractive, eco-friendly meadows. This is a how-to book on meadow-making that's also about sustainability, regeneration, and beauty. In a world where lawns have wreaked havoc on our ecosystems, meadows offer a compelling solution. Meadows establish wildlife and pollinator habitat, are low-maintenance and low-cost while also sequestering significant amounts of carbon.

Wormser describes how to plant a meadow that’s right for your site. His book includes guidance on designing your meadow, preparing your plot, and planting without using chemicals. Wormser draws on his own stories that led him to landscape design and meadow making, including his childhood growing up off the grid in rural Maine.

Tree Beings

By Raymond Huber, Sandra Severgnini (illustrator),

Book cover of Tree Beings

I first became aware of this beautiful book when I shared a stage with the illustrator at a literary event. I was captivated by her cover illustration which is like a ‘Where’s Wally’ tree containing 70 hidden animals. Once I got my copy home (and after I found most of the animals) I flipped to explanations of the superpowers of trees. These are guaranteed to shift your youngsters’ perspectives. Nonfiction stories invite them to imagine themselves in the field with well-known conservationists and activists who have dedicated themselves to saving trees and their inhabitants. I love that so many of these heroes are women which, hopefully, will encourage more girls to embrace science.

Tree Beings

By Raymond Huber, Sandra Severgnini (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner: The Wilderness Society's Environment Award for Children's Literature

We depend on trees for our survival, yet few of us understand just how fascinating these beings really are. With a foreword by the world-renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall, Tree Beings is an adventure through the secret world of trees. Challenging the perception that trees are just 'silent statues', it focuses on four big ideas:

Trees give life to the planet. Trees can help save us from climate change. Trees are like beings. Trees need our help and protection.

Along the way, you'll meet some of the scientists and explorers who helped…


Who am I?

When I was on holiday in Borneo with my daughter, we met an inspirational conservationist who was basically single-handedly saving sun bears from extinction. I asked what I could do to help. “Do what you do best,” he said. Those five powerful words shaped my last decade, most recently prompting the growing series of Wildlife Wong nonfiction children’s books based on his true adventures with rainforest creatures. I feel strongly about the importance of connecting kids to nature. Not only is it good for their physical and mental health, but my generation hasn’t done a particularly good job of environmental stewardship, and we need all the help we can get. 


I wrote...

Wildlife Wong and the Bearded Pig

By Sarah R. Pye,

Book cover of Wildlife Wong and the Bearded Pig

What is my book about?

When he was a boy, Malaysian ecologist Wildlife Wong dreamed of working with animals, and eventually his dream came true. In this exciting story, Wildlife Wong spends three years living in the middle of the jungle trying to trap bearded pigs. Along the way, he meets some crazy characters like Michael, his mate Mary, and their three piglets Pork, Chop, and Bacon!

This unusual book for kids aged 8-12 includes an engaging nonfiction story about a real-life scientist, cool animal facts, and experiments that encourage your youngsters to connect with the world around them.

This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate

By Isabel Thomas, Alex Paterson (illustrator),

Book cover of This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate: 50 Ways to Cut Pollution, Speak Up and Protect Our Planet!

This book does exactly what it says, although the chapter entitled "Eat Your Neighbours" did make me wonder if I was reading a different genre. Without being preachy, it gives kids 50 great ideas to help them make a difference to the environment including coming up against climate deniers, rewilding your garden (obviously without the bison, wolves, and wildcats), and buying less stuff including gadgets, clothes, and fast fashion (though I still have some way to go with a certain teenager). If you feel frustrated about how huge a problem climate change is and don’t know where to start, then the book will help you understand what fuels it and gives children some agency over how they choose to live their lives and make a difference.

This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate

By Isabel Thomas, Alex Paterson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Book Will (Help) Cool the Climate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Our planet is heating up, and it needs your help! If you want to learn to reduce your carbon footprint and cool the Earth, here are practical tips and projects that make a difference!

Are you concerned about climate change? The bad news is, global warming is a real problem that won't go away on its own. But the good news is, there are lots of easy ways you can get involved and make a difference! From swapping your stuff to assigning your school some eco-homework, helping to save the planet is within your reach. Arm yourself with info about…

Who am I?

I’ve travelled to the Pantanal and along the Amazon both ways from Brazil and Colombia while I was teaching English in Brazil and will never forget the destruction of the Amazon. A visit to the gaping hole of Serra Pelada, a gold mine, had a lasting effect on me as did the forest fires and scorched earth, devoid of any bird or animal apart from the skinny cattle grazing amongst the blackened trees, stretching for miles. A run-in with a hyacinth macaw egg thief, who was smuggling the beautiful birds into Europe, spurred my interest in writing a children’s series which touches on conservation, endangered species, and illegal wildlife trafficking.


I wrote...

The Mystery of The Missing Fur

By Michele Sheldon,

Book cover of The Mystery of The Missing Fur

What is my book about?

The Mystery of the Missing Fur is the first book in The Missing Fur series and follows Bernard's adventures after he saves three rare Amazonian monkeys and a zoo full of animals from a vain celebrity, a short-sighted trophy hunter, and an endangered species trafficker. Along the way, he makes friends with a giant anteater called Armando, an over-furred cat named Loki, and a human child with an unfortunate name. Together, they solve the not-so-mysterious mystery of the missing fur and, most importantly, what happened to Bernard's parents, famous conservationists.

The heart-warming comedy mystery is set in England with flashbacks to the Amazon and touches on friendship, love, and loss. The Macaw of Doom is the second book in the series. Both can be read as standalone books.

Chattanooga Sludge

By Molly Bang,

Book cover of Chattanooga Sludge

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…

Chattanooga Sludge

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.

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.

Who am I?

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!)


I wrote...

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

By Sigrid Schmalzer, Melanie Linden Chan (illustrator),

Book cover of Moth and Wasp, Soil and Ocean: Remembering Chinese Scientist Pu Zhelong's Work for Sustainable Farming

What is my book about?

Moth and Wasp tells the story of a real Chinese scientist, Pu Zhelong, through the eyes of a fictional village boy—a composite character I created from people I interviewed who grew up in China during the Mao era (1949-1976). Melanie Chan’s illustrations bring the narrator’s memories to life while incorporating traditional Chinese folk art and elements of the Chinese written language.

Pu Zhelong was an insect scientist committed to serving the people by finding environmentally friendly and affordable ways to control agricultural pests. He personified the best of Maoist science, combining Chinese knowledge rooted in the countryside and Western scientific learning from overseas. The villagers are initially skeptical of Professor Pu’s proposal to breed and release parasitic wasps, but the city-born scientist wins them over with his willingness to get his hands and feet dirty. The narrator admires Pu and even makes a contribution to the research. He discovers that a university scientist can be at home in the villages… and a village kid can go to the university and become a scientist himself. 

Or, view all 20 books about protecting the environment

New book lists related to protecting the environment

All book lists related to protecting the environment

Bookshelves related to protecting the environment