Earth Day Reading Recommendations
Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has asked us all to pause and consider the impact that human beings are having on our planet. If you’re not out planting trees, why not curl up with a good book? To celebrate, Paperbark has some recommended reading.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Many have called this the book that started the modern environmental movement. Serialized in three parts of The New Yorker and published in 1962, Carson presents six years of research of how humans misuse power and pesticides to generate significant damage and environmental impact. The canonical title is perfect for anyone looking to read more about the historical context of Earth Day, and the formation of the modern rhetoric around climate change.
A Line Made By Walking by Sarah Baume
Twenty-five-year-old Frankie suddenly quits her art gallery Dublin job and moves to her grandmother’s house in rural Ireland. Through continual observations of her surroundings, from nature to the ever-aging house, Frankie explores her own interaction with the world both physically and internally.
The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River by Richard White
Historian Richard White explores the human relationship with the Columbia River in the larger history of the Pacific Northwest in order to uncover what brings people to the river physically and also in relation to labor and work.
The Death of Grass by John Christopher
When a mysterious virus leaves the world with mass starvation, rioting, and unrest the British government lies to its citizens about its plans for resolution. This dystopian novel from 1956 may sound strangely familiar and unsettlingly possible. You’ll soon want to plant gardens full of root vegetables...
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
“The novel is a heady exploration of climate change, along with media exploitation and political opportunism that lie at the root of what may be our most urgent modern dilemma. Set in Appalachia, a region to which Kingsolver has returned often in both her acclaimed fiction and nonfiction, its suspenseful narrative traces the unforeseen impact of global concerns on the ordinary citizens of a rural community. As environmental, economic, and political issues converge, the residents of Feathertown, Tennessee, are forced to come to terms with their changing place in the larger world.” - Barbara Kingsolver
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood -- she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity and changed her life. (From Grove Atlantic)
Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
Elizabeth Kolbert's environmental classic Field Notes from a Catastrophe first developed out of a groundbreaking, National Magazine Award-winning three-part series in The New Yorker. She expanded it into a still-concise yet richly researched and damning book about climate change: a primer on the greatest challenge facing the world today.
But in the years since, the story has continued to develop; the situation has become more dire, even as our understanding grows. Now, Kolbert returns to the defining book of her career. She has added a chapter bringing things up-to-date on the existing text, plus three new chapters--on ocean acidification, the tar sands, and a Danish town that's gone carbon neutral--making it, again, a must-read for our moment. (From Bloomsbury)
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Robin Wall Kimmerer proposes that the awakening of an ecological consciousness cannot occur without also acknowledging the human relationship with nature as reciprocal, and a celebration of that interaction.
Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment edited by Elizabeth DeLoughry and George B. Handley
Postcolonial Ecologies is the first edited collection that examines postcolonial literature and the environment. The collection includes often overlooked Caribbean, Latin American, African, and South Asian writers, scholars, and activists who work on global environmentalism. Works of analysis included are by J. M. Coetzee, Zakes Mda, and Derek Walcott.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
Lauren Olamina is an 18-year-old black woman in California in 2025 living with “hyperempathy”, a condition that forces her to feel the pain experienced by others as her own. As chaos ensues in her community and her family is killed, she is forced to learn to survive among scavengers, and people under the influence of a drug that causes them to rape, murder, and burn fires everywhere. The only option is to migrate and consider a new alternative the the world she knows.
Happy Earth Day and happy reading!