Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County almanac, and sketches here and there. Oxford University Press, 1987 (originally published 1949).
By the father of modern environmental consciousness, and an archetypal Natural Patriot. A uniquely inspirational classic.
Carson, Rachel. 1964. Silent spring. Fawcett Crest.
A seminal work by the mother of of modern environmentalism (and a marine biologist!); a wake-up call that galvanized the American public into awareness of the downside of modern industrial wonders, and led to the (still controversial) banning of DDT use in the USA.
Brown, Lester R. 2006. Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. Norton.
Everywhere you turn, bad news about the state of the world. The refreshing thing about this book (the first half of which presents the best summary of that news I’ve seen yet) is that it offers a specific and unexpectedly inspiring plan for solving the mess we’re in. Ted Turner was so impressed that he bought over 3500 copies to distribute to his closest friends and associates among the world’s movers and shakers. If it all seems so overwhelming that you’ve sunk into depressed paralysis, this book may be the kick in the pants you need to get out of it.
McKibben, Bill. 1990. The end of nature. Viking.
One of a small number of truly classic books on the relationship between humanity and the earth. Beautifully and soulfully written, McKibben argues that, whether we choose to recognize it or not, human actions have replaced what used to be called Nature as the major force on earth, and that this entails both a profound responsibility and a major philosophical shift in our way of thinking.
McNeill, John Robert. 2001. Something new under the sun: An environmental history of the twentieth-century world. Norton.
A compelling, rigorously documented, and scrupulously balanced synthesis of the unprecedented transformation of planet earth and humanity during the most important century in world history. A treasure trove of information and, given its encyclopedic content, surprisingly hard to put down.
Wilson, Edward O. 2006. The creation. Norton.
An eloquent and inspirational plea for cooperation among religious and secular people in humanity’s greatest common challenge, to save our natural heritage.
Louv, Richard. 2006. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books.
The book documents the profound changes that have occurred over a single generation in the relationship between people and nature, and their profound implications for nearly every aspect of modern life: our physical health, psychological health, spiritual identity, and sense of community. With a seamless blend of scientific documentation and heartfelt, poetic prose Louv makes a compelling case that many of the new problems of modern childhood ultimately stem from their estrangement from nature and the outdoors. But the greatest beauty of the book is that, rather than generating angst and sadness, this book makes many positive suggestions for how to fix the problem, and documents solutions already underway. It is a beacon of hope.