While you’re celebrating Mother Earth this Earth Day, consider picking up a green-themed book to read. These ten Earth Day books are guaranteed to inspire and inform. Read one or read them all!
For a complete list of recommended books, visit Green That Life’s Best Environmental Books page.
An Earth Day Classic
Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
Regularly cited as one of the most foundational works of the environmental movement, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring reveals the extremely harmful human and environmental effects of chemical pesticide use, zeroing in on DDT. The success of her book prompted a campaign to ban DDT in the United States and was an impetus to the 1967 creation of the Environmental Defense Fund.
In the introduction of Silent Spring, Carson’s biographer Linda Lear writes, “Carson’s writing initiated a transformation in the relationship between humans and the natural world and stirred an awakening of public environmental consciousness.” The book was named one of the 25 greatest science books of all time by Discover Magazine and has been designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society.
Silent Spring is not only a must-have for your Earth Day books library but is also an essential work for understanding the historical trajectory of environmentalism.
Connecting With Nature
My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir
In this seminal book, John Muir — considered the “Father of the National Parks” and a pioneering environmentalist, explorer, and founder of the Sierra Club — recounts his summer of 1869 shepherding in California’s Central Valley. It was Muir’s experiences connecting with Nature that inspired his lifelong love of the environment and desire to protect the natural beauty of our planet.
This edition of My First Summer in the Sierra, with 30 illustrations, serves as a stunningly beautiful introduction to Muir’s vast collection of works.
Marion Randall Parsons, an organizer of the John Muir exhibit at the Sierra Club, writes about Muir’s writing: “The beauty and freshness of the mountains are wonderfully reflected in this book, which seems to hold within its pages all the brightness and sunny geniality of a Sierra morning warming towards noon.”
My First Summer in the Sierra is a poetic love letter to the beauty of 19th-century nature, written by a legendary naturalist at the outset of his career.
Climate Change 101
What We Know about Climate Change, by Kerry Emanuel
If you’re looking for answers to the basics of climate science, then add this book to your pile of Earth Day books. This recently updated edition of What We Know about Climate Change by Kerry Emanuel is a straightforward, honest account of how human actions have contributed to global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.
Emmanuel sticks to the facts of our changing planet, focusing on the rapid transformations that have occurred since the 1970s due to human activity. The updated edition includes the latest climate data, a discussion of the earth’s carbon cycle, the warming hiatus of the first decade of this century, the 2017 hurricanes, advanced energy options, and more.
Emmanuel also addresses the impediments to climate action and progress, calling out climate deniers, politicians, corporations, and the media for trivializing the climate crisis. John Platt at The Revelator writes that What We Know about Climate Change “offers a concise explanation about what’s going on with global warming and how we can turn the tide.”
The Climate Crisis Laid Bare
The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, by David Wallace-Wells
Labeled “the most terrifying book I have ever read” by Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times, David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth takes an alarmist approach to alert its readers to the real threats of climate change.
In his own book description, Wallace-Wells tells us, “It is worse, much worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible.”
The Uninhabitable Earth outlines global resource wars, economic collapse, and even a pseudo-apocalyptic world that future generations might have to face. This is not a book for the faint of heart, but one that is an essential read to understand the profound challenges we face. Read it and act upon Wallace-Wells’ call to action.
Taking Climate Action
No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, by Greta Thunberg
Time’s 2019 Person of the Year and two-time nominee of the Nobel Peace Prize, 17-year-old Greta Thunberg offers a collection of her most influential speeches from across the globe in this #1 New York Times Bestseller. President Barack Obama called her “one of our planet’s greatest advocates,” and her rallying cry against climate change has inspired every generation to awaken to the issue.
Thunberg’s famous quotation, “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear that I feel every day. And then I want you to act,” is characteristic of her “refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt” rhetoric (Kirkus Reviews). She is an impressive symbol for youth-led activism and continues to unnerve those who have ignored her previous calls to climate action.
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, by Bill Gates
This most recent addition to the Earth Day books collection is already a New York Times Bestseller. In How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Bill Gates combines his technological genius with his decade-long body of research and work in climate change to offer a comprehensive plan for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Gates offers a solution-oriented approach to reassure readers of other, more alarming Earth Day books on this list.
Gordon Brown of the Guardian writes that Gates “favors a green new deal, carbon pricing and heightened corporate responsibility. But Gates’s most important proposals involve new technologies.” The Microsoft co-founder acknowledges that he’s not an expert in environmental policies and politics, but thanks to new technology, he professes a glimmer of hope in reaching zero carbon emissions.
Making a (Green) Lifestyle Change
The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good, by Elizabeth Cline
Did you know that your clothing purchases can contribute to our climate crisis? Elizabeth Cline’s second book, The Conscious Closet, addresses the environmental footprint of the fashion industry and offers solutions with her “thoroughly researched blueprint for making sustainable, humane clothing decisions.”
Cline helps her reader not only make better, on-trend fashion choices but also provides tips for shopping in ways that are both eco- and wallet-friendly. The Conscious Closet is an entertaining and sustainable fashion guide for anyone — from the minimalist looking to splurge to the maximalist looking to maintain those fast fashion prices while staying sustainable.
A Compelling Novel With Environmental Themes
Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
Named 2012’s “Best Book of the Year” by USA Today and the Washington Post, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver is a beautifully wrought, dramatic novel about a bored young housewife whose accidental discovery changes her life as well as the lives of those around her.
Dellarobia Turnbow is a discontented mother and wife living in Appalachia, who, while on her way to beginning an affair, stumbles across millions of monarch butterflies in a valley. Her discovery plummets Turnbow into a competitive world of “religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians,” while simultaneously enlightening the reader to the paramount issues of climate change.
National Public Radio’s review lauds Flight Behavior as a novel that “extols the ecstasy of passionate engagement — with people, ideas and the environment,” and praises its gentle, elegant honesty.
Earth Day Books for Kids: Fiction
The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss’s beloved story The Lorax tells of a fuzzy orange environmental crusader, The Lorax, who tries to convince the Once-ler, who represents the consumer industry, to stop cutting down trees to make a profit.
The Once-ler is naively greedy and manages to decimate his natural resources in the course of the story, but The Lorax is ultimately an uplifting tale where a young child regenerates life with a single, simple act. Offering hope to readers young and old, USA Today writes that “The Lorax. . . has been a perennial favorite of kids and parents since it was published in 1971.”
Earth Day Books for Kids: Non-Fiction
One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, by Anuradha Rao
In One Earth, author and biologist Anuradha Rao takes a trip around the world to interview and research individuals of all different ethnicities. Rao highlights the profiles of People of Color activists to demonstrate the significance of the intersection between culture and the environment.
Kirkus Reviews calls One Earth a “thought-provoking reading for young people figuring out their own contributions. This valuable compilation shows that Earth’s salvation lies in the diversity of its people.” Rao takes readers on a life-affirming journey and introduces us to an array of wildly creative people of all ages. The stories are accompanied by photographs, illustrations, and fun facts. One Earth is a testament to the innovation and power of people to effect transformative change.