Nature Nonfiction

Earth Day Book Recommendations

Happy Earth Day, everyone! To celebrate, I put together a list of books I’ve read recently that pertain to life on our planet. I read these before I started my book review blog, so I don’t have any of my own reviews to share. But these are books that taught me new things and that I hope the greater book community may enjoy as well. The descriptions accompanying each book are from their Bookshop.org.

Please note that any links in this post are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

The enthralling true story of the rise and reign of O-Six, the celebrated Yellowstone wolf, and the people who loved or feared her.

Before men ruled the earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction in the lower 48 states by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West.

With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, O-Six, a charismatic alpha female named for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother. She is beloved by wolf watchers, particularly renowned naturalist Rick McIntyre, and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world.

But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ear of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park’s stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley.

These forces collide in American Wolf, a riveting multigenerational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the ongoing cultural clash in the West–between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring one of the country’s most iconic landscapes.

Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink by Seth M. Siegel

New York Times bestselling author Seth M. Siegel shows how our drinking water got contaminated, what it may be doing to us, and what we must do to make it safe.

If you thought America’s drinking water problems started and ended in Flint, Michigan, think again. From big cities and suburbs to the rural heartland, chemicals linked to cancer, heart disease, obesity, birth defects, and lowered IQ routinely spill from our taps.

Many are to blame: the EPA, Congress, a bipartisan coalition of powerful governors and mayors, chemical companies, and drinking water utilities–even NASA and the Pentagon. Meanwhile, the bottled water industry has been fanning our fears about tap water, but bottled water is often no safer.

The tragedy is that existing technologies could launch a new age of clean, healthy, and safe tap water for only a few dollars a week per person.

Scrupulously researched, Troubled Water is full of shocking stories about contaminated water found throughout the country and about the everyday heroes who have successfully forced changes in the quality and safety of our drinking water. And it concludes with what America must do to reverse decades of neglect and play-it-safe inaction by government at all levels in order to keep our most precious resource safe.

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth by Rachel Maddow

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia–including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove–was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.

With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.”

Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world’s most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, “Democracy either wins this one or disappears.”

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