Summer is the perfect time to catch up on all those books you’ve been meaning to read, but just haven’t had the time to pick up during the school year. So much incredible writing and learning awaits you, and it’s time to dive in! To start off your summer reading journey, we’ve curated a list of favorite environmental and social justice-themed reads from our intern team. Happy reading!
The Overstory by Richard Powers
What it’s about: The book is essentially a love letter to trees, and portrays that through multiple people appreciating, growing, studying, and fighting for trees over many decades.
Why you should read it: It was incredibly well-written, and made me appreciate trees much more than I ever have. The author makes the different stories and people intertwine beautifully, and while you might not like each character, Powers dives into their psychology so you understand a bit more of where they’re coming from. It’s a story that draws you in from the first page and doesn’t let go until the very last sentence.
All We Can Save by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Catherine Wilkinson
What it’s about: All We Can Save is an anthology of writings by 60 women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward.
Why you should read it: I’ve never read a book before that moved me so deeply. All We Can Save gave me hope of a better future and the tools (and solutions) that we have to get there. Within these pages lies a radical reimagining of what being human is, and the bright possibilities that lie ahead if we come together with compassion and courage.
There’s Something in the Water by Ingrid Waldron
What it’s about: This book explores themes of environmental racism, public health, settler colonialism, and environmental justice, diving into the environmental and racial history of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Waldron examines several Black and indigenous communities in Nova Scotia that are organizing grassroots movements against the people and corporations polluting and toxifying their communities.
Why you should read it: It was incredibly eye opening and gave me a new framework to examine history. I read this book and watched the documentary version on Netflix, and both were extremely educational and impactful. It shared personal narratives of voices that are not typically heard, and while some stories were of loss and deep suffering, there were also stories of hope, love, and optimism.
Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use it by Jamie Margolin
What it’s about: A guide book that lays out steps to become an activist and start a social justice movement for a cause important to the reader
Why you should read it: If you have an interest in activism and don’t know where or how to start, this book is excellent at supporting young social and environmental activists. It discusses how to write letters or lead campaigns, actions that greatly benefit social movements and are critical tools for any activist, young or old.
Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States by Seth Holmes
What it’s about: This book is an ethnography that follows the author as he follows the lives of migrant farmworkers in the U.S. Holmes uncovers the everyday lives and suffering of Mexican migrants in our food system and explores topics like radicalized hierarchies, environmental justice, structural and symbolic violence, bringing to light a component of food justice that is not always discussed.
Why you should read it: This book really opens up consumers’ eyes to the realities of the food system in the U.S and how reliant we are on migrant farmworkers. I have read this for multiple classes and every time I feel more impacted. I think this is a book everyone should read because it covers very important topics surrounding our food system and migrant labor, both of which we are very dependent upon for healthy eating.
The Secret Lives of Glaciers by M Jackson
What it’s about: The Secret Lives of Glaciers explores just what happens when a community’s glaciers slowly disappear. Each chapter unfolds complex stories of people and glaciers along the southeastern coast of Iceland, exploring the history of glacier science and the world’s first glacier monitoring program, the power glaciers enact on local society, perceptions by some in the community that glaciers are alive, and the conflicting and intertwined consequences of rapid glacier change on the cultural fabric of the region.
Why you should read it: This book opened my eyes to the deep complexities of the relationships humans have with the natural world, and the profound ways that climate change is disrupting those relationships. It’s an excellent example of telling compelling stories to make people care about climate change, with a throughline of hope through action.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (check out last month’s review of Braiding Sweetgrass here)
What it’s about: Robin Wall Kimmerer unites science and traditional Indigenous knowledge to share teachings from the natural world.
Why you should read it: The individual essays combine to create a book with various teachings and understandings of ways to view our world and how to interact with it. This book has reminded me of the simple power the grass, bugs, soil, and other beings have and our deep, rooted connection to all life.