Sustainable Bookshelf


Looking for a good read? We turned to our friends at Royal River Books in Yarmouth and Longfellow Books in Portland for their top picks on books about living with compassion for the planet—and they delivered. Here’s a list of recommendations to keep you pondering deeply, laughing frequently, eating superbly, and above all reading—and living —well.

LB = Recommended by Longfellow Books; RR = Recommended by Royal River Books

Outdoors and Environment

hiddenlifetreesThe Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World
By Peter Wohlleben
A beautiful read. Full of fascinating bits like this: one of the oldest trees on Earth is a spruce in Sweden – more than 9,500 years old. That’s 115 times longer than the average human lifetime.

In addition to drawing on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families, the author also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland. -LB + RR

hour-of-the-landThe Hour of the Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks
By Terry Tempest Williams
From the Grand Tetons in Wyoming to Acadia in Maine, Williams creates a series of lyrical portraits that illuminate the unique grandeur of each place while delving into what it means to shape a landscape with its own evolutionary history into something of our own making. Part memoir, part natural history, and part social critique, The Hour of Land is a meditation and a manifesto on why wild lands matter to the soul of America.
on-trailsOn Trails: An Exploration
By Robert Moor
In 2009, while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Robert Moor began to wonder about the paths that lie beneath our feet: How do they form? Why do some improve over time while others fade? What makes us follow or strike off on our own? Over the course of the next seven years, Moor traveled the globe, exploring trails of all kinds, from the miniscule to the massive. Moor interweaves his adventures with findings from science, history, philosophy, and nature writing, and sheds new light on a wealth of age-old questions including: How does each of us pick a path through life? -LB

invention-of-natureInvention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World
By Andrea Wulf
The acclaimed author of Founding Gardeners
reveals the forgotten life of Alexander von Humboldt, the most famous scientist of his age, a visionary German naturalist whose ideas changed the way we see the natural world—and in the process created modern environmentalism. -LB

lab-girlLab Girl
By Hope Jahren
The memoir of a girl who grew up in her father’s lab and loved hugging and climbing trees. She went on to become an acclaimed scientist who built three laboratories in which she has studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Jahren’s first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but also so much more. It is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. -LB

paperPaper: Paging Through History
By Mark Kurlansky
Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. It is a central piece of culture and history, and also an unforgettably dirty neighbor. Along with all the fascinating tidbits, we cannot ignore the ugly ones. Kurlansky proves himself a top journalist once again as he unfolds the history of paper. -LB

Food & Farms

shepherds-lifeThe Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District
By James Rebanks
The story of a family and a family-owned farm in the Lake District in Northern England and the challenges they and the generations of shepherds who came before them have endured in this rare place to sustain their livelihood and landscape. A must read for anyone who has ever farmed or even considered it—or just wants a lovely read. -LB


By Caitlin Shetterlymodified
A personal book about how a mother and journalist discovered the importance of GMOs the hard way. Shortly after she learned that her son had an alarming sensitivity to GMO corn, she was told that she had the same condition, and her family’s daily existence changed forever. -LB


preserving-italyPreserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions
By Domenica Marchetti
Three reasons we included this book in this list: Oil-Preserved Butternut Squash with Mint, Savory Mint Sauce, and Hot-and-Sweet Pickled Peppers. The notion of preserving shouldn’t be limited to American jams and jellies, and in this book, author Domenica Marchetti turns our gaze to the ever-alluring flavors and ingredients of Italy. -LB

deeprunrootsDeep Run Roots:  Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South

by Vivian Howard
Ten years ago, Vivian opened Chef and the Farmer and put the nearby town of Kinston, NC on the culinary map. But in a town paralyzed by recession, she couldn’t hop on every new culinary trend. Instead, she focused on rural development: If you grew it, she’d buy it. Inundated by local sweet potatoes, blueberries, shrimp, pork, and beans, Vivian learned to cook the way generations of Southerners before her had, relying on resourcefulness, creativity, and the traditional ways of preserving food. -RR

Mindful Living

By Mary Oliver
This collection of essays by beloved poet Mary Oliver is part meditation and part spiritual journey. In it, she reflects on her willingness as a young child and an adult to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature. -LB

bookofjoyThe Book of Joy:  Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
Two great spiritual masters share their own hard-won wisdom about living with joy even in the face of adversity. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet. -RR


Esther the Wonder Pig:  Changing the World One Heart at a Time
estherby Steve Jenkins
Unlikely pig owners Steve and Derek got a whole lot more than they bargained for when the designer micro piglet they adopted turned out to be a full-sized 600-pound sow! In the bestselling tradition of pet memoirs such as Oogy, Dewey, and Giant George, the story of Esther the Wonder Pig shows how families really do come in all shapes and sizes. -RR

Do Unto Animals:  A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live and How We Can Make Their Lives Better dountoothers
by Tracey Stewart
Former veterinary technician and animal advocate Tracey Stewart is on a mission to change how we interact with animals. Through charming illustrations, homemade projects, and her humorous, knowledgeable voice, Stewart lends insight into the secret lives of animals and the kindest ways to live alongside them. -RR

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