Words To Act On – The Reading List for Adults!

By Ecology Action
March 31, 2017

Read and grow stronger!


Aside from being out in nature, hanging with our loved ones, and working at Ecology Action, one of our favorite places to be is a good book store — and Bookshop Santa Cruz is one of the best anywhere. So, it’s natural that we’re partnering with them on their Words to Act On series to bring you recommendations for what we think are the best books written on nature and the environment.

We believe that reading great books helps us participate in the development and exchange of ideas that make a culture great. Sometimes a book can even change the world, as one of our very favorites on the list below attests — the environmental movement as we know it was largely brought about by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, written back in 1962. All of the books on this list will challenge and inspire you in similar ways. So, read, share and discuss.

Don’t miss the equally great list of books for kids. If you make it through both lists and are hungry for more, check out the full list of books for kids and adults here. Bookshop Santa Cruz generously donates a portion of the proceeds from each book on these lists they sell to Ecology Action in support of our community programs.

Speaking of community programs, join us at one or all of our events that we’re co-sponsoring with Bookshop Santa Cruz. Hope to see you soon — and bring a good book!


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Paperback)

By Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History Cover Image

In the long history of our planet, there have been five great extinctions. Now, humans are causing a sixth extinction. In this engaging, thoroughly researched Pulitzer Prize winner, Kolbert takes you through the past five extinctions while outlining the sixth. Informative but never dull, this book is non-fiction at its best – the kind that makes you want to take action. – Flannery


This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Paperback)

By Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate Cover Image

This book is a real eye-opener into how tightly the fossil fuel industry has weaved itself into every aspect of modern life and how difficult, and necessary, it is to unwind from it. Many shocking revelations but offers glimmers of hope and blueprints for change. – Bookshop Santa Cruz Customer Review


Flight Behavior (Paperback)

By Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior Cover Image

In Flight Behavior, one can clearly sense Barbara Kingsolver’s origins as a biologist through her taut and beautiful descriptions of nature. There are no simple answers in this book. – S.M.C.


Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (Paperback)

By Terry Tempest Williams

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place Cover Image

Ms Williams book helps us understand our deep connection to nature and how it is an important, sustaining part of our well being. – Bookshop Santa Cruz Customer Review


Silent Spring (Paperback)

By Rachel Carson, Linda Lear (Introduction by), Edward O. Wilson (Afterword by)

Silent Spring Cover Image

Silent Spring is based on science and was ahead of its time. A heartfelt example of paying attention to research and intent to inform.


Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (Mass Market Paperbound)

By Edward Abbey

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness Cover Image

Edward Abbey is a grumpy, offensive desert rat. It is this boldness and direct attitude that makes this book so good. His short, punchy prose is packed with both interesting facts about the Utah desert and his own brand of radical environmentalism, but it’s his vivid descriptions of the desert that make you want what any good nature book should make you want: to get outside! – J


Braiding Sweetgrass (Paperback)

By Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass Cover Image

Beautifully written merging of science and indigenous knowledge and how the two do not need to be exclusive, but can compliment each other very well. Fascinating narrative on how culture shapes our worldview and how we relate to the natural world and view our place in it. – Bookshop Santa Cruz Customer Review


The Water Knife (Paperback)

By Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water Knife Cover Image

Aaah, another Bacigalupi. The Windup Girl was one of the best sci-fi novels I’ve read over the last decade, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting his next adult SF work. (His young adult stuff has also been fantastic.) Bacigalupi’s new one, The Water Knife, reminds me of early Gibson, but the playing field is the water-parched Southwest rather than the online world. Like The Windup Girl, it has a hard-hitting environmental theme. – Dave


The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (Hardcover)

By J. Drew Lanham

The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature Cover Image

By turns angry, funny, elegiac, and heartbreaking, The Home Place is a remarkable meditation on nature and belonging, at once a deeply moving memoir and riveting exploration of the contradictions of black identity in the rural South–and in America today.


The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Moterey Bay Area (Paperback)

By Malcolm Margolin, Michael Harney (Illustrator)

The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Moterey Bay Area Cover Image

Clearly and accessibly written, uniquely alive and at the same time informed, this well-loved classic vividly recreates the lost world of the Indian people who lived here such a short time ago.


Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet (Paperback)

By Julie Dunlap (Editor), Susan A. Cohen (Editor)

Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet Cover Image

Coming of Age at the End of Nature explores a new kind of environmental writing. This powerful anthology gathers the passionate voices of young writers who have grown up in an environmentally damaged and compromised world.

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