Environmental Reads For Cozy Nights
When Naturalist Educator Isabella Buffalini began telling her Student Stewards Program (SSP) teammates about some of the books she had read, they jumped in with suggestions on other reads she might enjoy. Lead by Isabella, the Student Stewards Program Team decided to compile reviews of some of their favorite environmental books, both fiction and non-fiction, so they could be shared with others. Whether you're looking for your next read or need a gift idea for the bookworm in your life, we hope you learn about something that interests or inspires you in this list!
In September, after driving 40 hours across the country to begin my new job as an AmeriCorps service member with Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation, I arrived in Reno and tried to find something cool and memorable to do on my first day in the city. I was looking for something relaxing and comforting after feeling so transient, but also solidifying my space in a new chapter of my life. So, I stopped at the Downtown Reno Library and got my library card!
In the spirit of our shared love of reading, myself and other Student Stewards Program Team members have compiled a short list of environmental reads for some cold weather reading inspiration, or as a gift for your favorite nature lover during this holiday season.
The Overstory by Richard Powers, review by Isabella Buffalini
The Overstory entwines the stories of nine people, five trees, and how they all fit together to address modern deforestation in America. It won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Although fictional, the sense of urgency it instills in our climate-changing world feels real; it is real, and it is already impacting us. Powers’ masterful imagery and scientific knowledge of trees has caused me to look at them in a completely different way. Trees are dynamic, communicative, and awe-inspiring, which is something we take for granted since we see them daily. He reminds us to find beauty in the simple, wonder in the common, and activism with purpose. This is one of the books that I wish I could read again for the first time, but the next best thing I can do is pass this experience on to someone else.
A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, review by Hannah Lansverk
Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac is a blend of personal essay and philosophical discussion that will make you feel as if you're reading his nature journal--or is it your own?--as he draws you in with vivid, thoughtful, meditative, and endlessly fascinating descriptions and anecdotes of the plants and animals he encounters. Though centered around the ecology near his farm in Wisconsin, this work will stir up your connections to the natural world until you are 'walking' your own favorite trail as you read.
This unassuming book considered to be one of the most significant environmental works of the 20th century will teach you how to be a natural historian and to think deeper about humans' connection to the natural world, our place in it, and how to take conservation to heart.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, review by Julie Johnson
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and environmental biologist. Her perspective is incredibly insightful and she insists on treating the Earth as a beloved friend rather than an unlimited resource. Her teachings perfectly stitch together modern scientific practices with indigenous wisdom to connect with nature on an emotional and spiritual level. She believes our relationship with the Earth is reciprocal. In order to truly live sustainably, we need to work in harmony with the Earth instead of continuing to use its resources.
“Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us." - Robin Wall Kimmerer
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, review by Isabella Buffalini
In Flight Behavior, a woman living on a farm in rural Appalachia makes an incredible discovery - millions of monarch butterflies are living on her land. The incredible discovery is underlined by fear for this animal’s future and the dichotomy of monetizing it, reflecting conflicts in our modern day society. Intertwining themes of faith and resilience, Barbara Kingsolver spins a tale that educates us on the beauty and life cycle of monarch butterflies and the importance that they have to different cultures, but also on alarming symptoms of global climate change that manifest in their populations. Pick up this book for its visually acute descriptions of a landscape far from Reno, and a thoughtful, nuanced approach to decision making in the face of impending climate disaster. Kingsolver’s message rings clear: if we all cared a little more and screamed about it a little louder, we might have a chance to avoid disaster.
One of the best and most sustainable ways to experience these reads is by using your free county library system. After you get a library card, you have access to hundreds of thousands of books in both physical and electronic copies. Information about registering for a library card in Washoe County can be found here. You can also browse the Washoe County Library System Online Database here.
Some other books on my “To Read” list were brought to my attention by Nevada Reads, a statewide book club that lets us bookworms “read selected works of literature and then come together in [our] communities to share ideas and perceptions inspired by the books [we] have read.” (Thisisreno.com) In 2021, Nevada Reads is featuring two environmental memoirs that feature unlimited copies available to borrow using the county’s online library system. If you download the app ‘Libby’ and link your Washoe County Library Card, you can download Miracle Country by Kendra Atleework and World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. You can read more about the 2021 Nevada Reads program here.
If you are interested in purchasing any of these books, you can find them locally at Sundance Bookstore and Music. Make sure to check used book stores before purchasing them new, which is more earth-friendly and cost effective. Happy reading!