Great Green Books: non-fiction and essays

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Essential essays, non-fiction and reference on environmental issues. Got your own recommendations? Let us know!

Chernobyl Prayer

Svetlana Alexievich, 2016

This deeply affecting book presents the voices of locals, scientists and clean-up workers in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. Through Alexievich's characteristic use of oral testimony, this is an unforgettable portrayal of the reality of catastrophic environmental events.

Silent Spring

Rachel Carson, 1962

Impossible to omit on a green booklist, this commanding book is widely credited as one of the first pieces of modern environmental writing. Exposing the destruction of wildlife through the use of pesticides, Carson presents a compelling reminder that human beings are only a part of the living world.

Extreme Cities: the peril and promise of urban life in the age of climate change

Ashley Dawson, 2017

Home to the majority of the Earth's population, and the source of the majority of carbon emissions, cities are one of the hinges of the climate emergency. Looking at finance, architecture and public policy, Ashley Dawson explores how cities play a role in the worsening climate crisis, and how they might be re-imagined.

Earth Heros: twenty inspiring stories of people saving our world

By Lily Dyu, 2019

Lily Dyu has compiled the stories of 20 ‘earth heroes’ who are pioneering to solve and mitigate environmental problems faced around the globe. This timely book celebrates their work and inspires readers to join in the movement and become a climate activist. Elaborating on the consequences of flooding, pollution, deforestation and drought, Dyu uncovers the solutions being made by 20 incredible individuals.

Standing Rock: greed, oil and the Lakota's struggle for justice

Bikem Ekberzade, 2018

Journalist Bikem Ekberzade uncovers the history of the struggles at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, talking to activists and the guardians of the oral history of the Great Plain about their extraordinary fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The Great Derangement

Amitav Ghosh, 2016

In this masterclass of environmental communication, Ghosh explores why climate change is so difficult to write about, and issues a clarion call to writers, artists and thinkers to apply their imaginations to the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.

As Long As Grass Grows

Dina Gilio-Whitaker, 2019

As Long as Grass Grows explores climate resistance from an Indigenous perspective, highlighting a key fact that is only now reaching colonial eyes but which Indigenous protesters have written about for a long time: climate struggle and the struggle for rights are one and the same.

(Recommendation by Housmans Bookshop)

Modern Nature

Derek Jarman, 1991

Filmmaker Derek Jarman's journals chart a year in his life building his gardens on the bleak coast of Kent, UK in the shadow of his HIV diagnosis and the local power station. This mournful, loving diary is an insight into an extraordinary spirit and unconventional approach to environmental stewardship. Donate to protect his gardens here.

What Does Rain Smell Like? 100 fascinating questions on the wild ways of the weather

Simon King and Clare Nasir, 2019

King and Nasir explore the captivating ways in which weather works, answering questions on extraordinary phenomena, the elements and the future role of weather on the impacts of climate change. It is written clearly and concisely for anyone to pick up and read, and answers baffling questions from what the shape of a raindrop is to how air flows around the world.

Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

Paul Kingsnorth, 2017

Challenging, profound and ultimately uplifting, this collection of essays charts the change in Kingsnorth's attitude towards environmentalism during a lifetime of activism. He presents his theory of 'dark ecology,' which stands firmly in opposition to the belief that technology can save us.

This Changes Everything

Naomi Klein, 2014

Naomi Klein is a brilliant writer and This Changes Everything shows that the major social justice struggles of our time are directly related to the climate crisis. Klein argues that all kinds of injustices – including poverty, racism and gender discrimination – have the same solution: smashing capitalism and the neoliberal system.

(Recommendation by Housmans Bookshop)

Sustainability: without the hot air

David MacKay, 2008

Before his death in 2015, physicist David MacKay gifted us with a manual on energy consumption, changing our habits, and green number crunching. While the statistics may be out of date, his refreshingly clear approach is a fantastic primer on strategies to mitigate climate change, and on how to talk about them. It's also free online.

Merchants of Doubt

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, 2010

Scientific historians Oreskes and Conway uncover the huge misinformation campaign on climate change that has infiltrated our thinking in the last decades. Though 10 years old, Merchants of Doubt remains a powerful reminder of how deep the roots of denialism go.

Losing Earth: the decade we could have stopped climate change

Nathanial Rich, 2019

While the female players are mysteriously thin on the ground, this is an important book charting the arrival of climate change in political and charitable circles in the 70s, and provides a fascinating insight into the drivers behind its treatment today.


Isabella Tree, 2018

Beloved of gardeners and millennials alike, this bestseller by the improbably-named Isabella Tree traces the changing ecosystem of her parkland, Knepp, in England's West Sussex, after she and her husband allow it to rewild. A passionate call for us to take 'the road to a wilder, richer country'.

Need a climate science 101? Try Lewis and Maslin, The Human Planet: how we created the anthropocene (2018).

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