Bob's reading / recommended list on the broad topic of sustainability - economic, ecological, environmental, political, cultural, social.
** = must read
Food and agriculture
** Michael Polllan, "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals". Seminal book about the food chain and the current state of industrial agriculture and industrial food, and how we got here. From the "corn cycle" to Chez Panisse.
** Michael Polllan, "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto". In Defense picks up where Omnivore's leaves off and further explores industrial food, "scientific nutrition" and the difference between "nutrients" had by way of fresh, organic/free range ingriedients vs. ostensibly equivalent processed foods.
Julie Guthman, "Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California". Academic history of organic farming business, economics, practices and certification. Eye-opening explanation of the differences between the many organic certifying organizations and the significance of what's on the labels of your organic purchases. A must-read if you're interested in the economics of organic agriculture, particularly at a scale larger than the individual small family farm.
Barbara Kingsolver, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life". Captivating diary of a year in a bountiful garden and kitchen, written from the perspective of someone who "gets" Omnivore's Dilemma et. al. Sets the bar for what you can do in a well-planned home garden.
Alisa Smith, J.B. MacKinnon, "Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet". Captivating diary of a year eating locally, without the garden in your back yard. Sets the bar for what you can do as a city dweller.
Michael Polllan, "Second Nature: A Gardener's Education". Pollan's early writing (1991) about his experiences and observations gardening in east coast suburbia, his early relation with garden and nature, and his brief experience gardening on a larger scale (prior to heading west to Berkeley). Explores Pollan's values and the path that led to Omnivore's.
Big-picture Sustainability -- Energy, Ecology, Economics, Politics,
** E. F. Schumacher, "Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered", 1975 classic, still a fresh read - still frames our big-picture economic, ecological and political problems better than anything written since.
The following three are a triumvirate of optimistic books -- what could be, if we get right.
** Thomas Homer-Dixon, "The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization"
** David Korten, "The Great Turning".
** Paul Hawken, "Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice and Beauty to the World".
Paul Hawken, "Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution". Rethinking western free-market capitalism as if the natural environment and resource exhaustion/destruction weren't "externalities". A good background book for the economic aspect of sustainability.
David Korten, "When Corporations Rule the World"
Paul Hawken, "The Ecology of Commerce". In the footsteps of Small is Beautiful ... best described using Small's byline "economics as if people mattered".
Richard Heinberg, "Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World"
James Kunstler, "The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century".
Bill McKibben, "The End of Nature", "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future", "American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau", "Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age", "Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community", "Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living LIghtly on the Earth"
"World Changing", resource/reference book from http://worldchanging.com
Michael Dawson, "The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life". "Trance advertising", media/advertising psychology, the corruption of culture and society through advertising and marketing. Useful insight toward understanding why we are what we are today, and forces that must be overcome or at least ignored to return to healthier political and social values.
Charles Fishman, "The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works - and How It's Transforming the American Economy". Just one of many Wal-Mart expose's, this offers an eye-opening education in the wide path of destruction wrought by the big-box stores, including a well-argued case that Wal-Mart destroys the communities in which it operates.
Stacy Mitchell, "Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses". Overlaps with the above, with ideas and limited success-stories for communities fighting back.
Eric Schlosser, "Fast Food Nation: What the All-American Meal is Doing to the World"
Thomas Pawlick, "The End of Food: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Food Supply - And What We Can Do About It"
Meadows et. al., "Limits to Growth", 1972 classic and "Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update" (2004)
Peter Singer, "Animal Liberation", 1975 classic, still fresh
Wish list - all the Schumacher Society lecture series books
Social, Political, Intellectual, Spiritual Perspectives
** Erich Fromm, "Escape from Freedom". Fromm's seminal 1941 book about democracy and freedom in the industrial age, and its peril at the negative forces of western capitalism. Explores the threat to democracy of the corporate mass media (even in 1941), the be-invisible nature of industrial employment and don't-think-for-yourself public education. Strikingly true and relevant today.
** Tracy Kidder, "Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World". One man's quest to bring modern health care to the 3rd world in spite of insurmountable problems. Biting commentary on foreign policy and foreign aid, and how it must change to be fair and relevant.
Paul Farmer, "Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor". Farmer in his own words. Quoting from the New England Journal of Medicine: "Pathologies of Power is a jeremiad on how the structural violence of denied opportunities, economic deprivation, violent despots (and the powers supporting them), and international financial organizations harm the health of billions of people who are so distant that they are glibly and uncomprehendingly referred to as living in a third world". The dark side of the World Bank, IMF et. al. and what really has to change for even the West's well-intended aid efforts to be truly fair and relevant.
Naomi Klein, "No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs"
Rebecca Solnit, "Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities",
Wendell Berry, "The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry".
"The Essential Agrarian Reader: The Future of Culture, Community and the Land", Barbara Kingsolver, ed. Norman Wirzba.
Naomi Wolf, "Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries"
Naomi Wolf, "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot"
Naomi Klein, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism"
Noam Chomsky, "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance"
Joe Conason, "It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of
Bush". Can a right-wing populist president, advised by a cunning
political strategist and backed by a cynical alliance of religious
fundamentalists and corporations, use security threats to consolidate
dictatorial powers, destroy civil liberties and establish folksy fascism?
Fritz Stern, "The Five Germanys I Have Known". Fascinating autobiography of a contemporary German historian. I found helpful insight in its perspective of 20th century politics, democracy, freedom.
George Crane, "Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia", "Beyond the House of the False Lama: Travels with Monks, Nomads and Outlaws". Two lovingly-written east-meets-west tales of personal experience.
Pankaj Mishra, "An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World". Truly fascinating biography of the Buddha and the evolution of his effect on ideas and thought over the course of 2500 years.
Pico Iyer, "The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama". The definitive, lovingly-written, east-meets-west analysis of the Dalai Lama.
Dmitry Orlov, "Reinventing Collapse". Orlov takes what for most is a fringe perspective in his prediction of the inevitable collapse of the U.S. and life as we know it, extrapolating from the circumstances of the Soviet collapse.
Other / Fiction
The perils of conservative white male priviledge:
Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged". This 1957 novel is the Libertarian manifesto in the form of a preachy novel. Timely as ever, an allegory about the slippery road of government bailouts, shortsighted social policies, voluntary forfeiture of constitutional rights, taken to the extreme of mass starvation. It's also a celebration of human intelligence and individuality, and the moral/ethical obligation to live up to one's ability. Ponder the balance of her cold-blooded love for raw unregulated capitalism with today's societal, environmental and economic problems.
James Kunstler, "World Made by Hand". Life if we f*** up. I like the interplay with Atlas Shrugged, accidental or not. Certainly, Rand is 50 years ahead of him in thinking through plausible post-oil scenarios.
Jonathan Raban, "Surveillance: A Novel". Life in Seattle as the U.S. uses fear of terrorism to justify becoming a police state, while ignoring problems closer to home that lead to our demise.
Michael Meade, "The World Behind the World", "The Ends of Time, the Roots of Eternity", "The Great Dance: Finding One's Way in Troubled Times". A ... mythological perspective of the "big picture" problems of our time.
The perils of lacking conservative white male priviledge:
Aravind Adiga, "The White Tiger" (fiction). Dark adventure in contemporary India.
Ursula K. Le Guin, "Always Coming Home", "The Dispossessed", et. al. Essential utopian idealist feminist sci-fi fiction. Well-developed societal values as might exist in a rich post-oil life.
T.C. Boyle, "Tortilla Curtain", "Drop City", et. al.
Peter Coyote, "Sleeping Where I Fall". Coyote's autobiography focusing on his hippie idealist commune years.
Cory Doctorow, "Little Brother". Minority teen is in wrong place at wrong time, becomes terror suspect, imprisioned by DHS in secret prision, takes revenge. Fun read, the perils of modern surveillance and the slow road to hell. Written by a champion of ACLU, EFF et. al.