IBI Watch Reading List

My life being extraordinarily busy, I don’t read nearly as many books as I would like.  But I wanted to share the ones that really stick with me. The ones that have built my world view. Mostly science and a little politics here, but even a couple of fiction titles. None of these are brand new, because I am recommending only books I have read thoroughly rather than skimmed. And these are the best of that collection.

I strongly recommend all these titles, and since I am not getting a cut from Amazon or anyone else, I am including a link for each where you could easily buy a copy for yourself or as a mind-opening gift.

If you care at all about my recommendations (surely someone must) well then watch for the designation Most strongly recommended in the listings.

Title Author IBI Watch Recommendation
The Age of American Unreason Susan Jacoby An eloquent cry for common sense and against magical thinking and anti-intellectualism. Covers a lot of ground and is especially tough on religious fundamentalism.
Collapse Jared Diamond The author sifts ancient and recent history for examples of unintentional eco-suicide and unrecognized natural change. Vital lessons, but are we smart enough to apply them?
Deep Blue Home Julia Whitty A citizen’s book on marine biology, plus a “progress” report on our assault on the world’s oceans. Highlight: list of 12 global tipping points. The author is a science reporter for Mother Jones magazine (also strongly recommended by IBI Watch)
Eaarth Bill McKibben The veteran activist and writer who first brought manmade climate change to a mass audience (his book The End of Nature) contends we are already living on a new planet. Hence the new name. McKibben is the founder of 350.org, one of the most prominent organizations fighting for a rational climate policy.
Ecological Intelligence Daniel Goleman This author is famous in many circles for bringing the concept of emotional intelligence to light in many contexts. Here, he appeals to us to learn the impact of everything we do, and act accordingly.  Highlight: a thorough intro to Dana O’Rourke’s GoodGuide site, an indispensable, customizable resource for anyone who gives a damn about issues like environmental impact, sweatshop labor, and personal  health.
Field Notes from a Catastrophe Elizabeth Kolbert If you are looking for a concise intro to climate science and manmade climate change, with an impact far exceeding its heft, this thin volume by the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert is your read. Most strongly recommended.
A Friend of the Earth T C Boyle A novel most to my liking – the dystopic variety.  Written in 2000, this dark satire by my favorite short story writer looks ahead to the environmental devastation of 2025. We are halfway there in too many ways to count. Criticized for his dark projections, the author explained that all he did was weave his narrative around trends already in motion.
The Green Collar Economy Van Jones Launch a massive project to put people to work building green infrastructure and a sustainable system. In a country not ruled by corporations, this man would be a candidate for president instead of a banished cabinet officer.
Ishmael Daniel Quinn Are you a leaver or a taker?  The focus of this novel of ideas is Ishmael, a gorilla who can communicate some of his concerns about humanity’s trashing of the earth. This beast fable has spawned a whole community of caretakers of the natural world.
Overthrow Stephen Kinzer You could look at the outcome of the Iraq and Afghan wars and think of them as unfortunate accidents, even anomalies. The author helps us see the long-term futility of “taking out” the foreign leaders we don’t like. Key learning point – in virtually every one of these “police actions,” the US was looking after the interests of corporations large or small.
The Shock Doctrine Naomi Klein No one tells the story that defines our era more clearly than Naomi Klein. The story of course is how corporate interests use crises such as natural disasters and economic upheavals to consolidate power and push privatization. No crisis? Make one. Brilliant. Most strongly recommended.
Six Degrees Mark Lynas Mainstream media stories on climate change throw numbers around about how high the temperature will go. (Of course, they often create a misconception that the temps will rise to a certain level and then stabilize, but that is another story.) Lynas has done us a wonderful service by documenting the disasters that will ensue as we add each unnatural degree to the perilous pile.
Song of the Dodo David Quammen Anyone who cares about wildlife habitat and how we are taking more and more of it needs to understand  island biogeography. Quammen’s science travelogue retraces the discovery of evolution at the hands of Darwin and Wallace, and shows how we are creating smaller and smaller “islands” where, shock upon shock, the animals just can’t survive. Most strongly recommended.
Under a Green Sky Peter Ward The dark twin of manmade climate change is toxic oceans, and we are well along that destructive path.  Read Ward’s book to learn of extinctions past, which were triggered by volcanism on earth and land. And then remember that our output of greenhouse gases far outstrips the planet’s natural production.
The Weather Makers Tim Flannery This climate change tour de force is remarkable for its author’s clear explanation of all climate change factors and their interaction. But it is even more noteworthy for this – the author and scientist is a self-confessed former climate skeptic. Note that he was a skeptic who was ultimately persuaded by the science. Ideological denialists on the other hand, brook no facts. Big difference, apparent most every day on the likes of Fox News.  Most strongly recommended.
The World Without Us Alan Weisman An intriguing thought experiment. All humans disappear tomorrow without a trace. What happens to all our infrastructure – buildings, subway systems, highways, power stations? Full of surprises and lessons. For instance – every day, 30 million gallons of  ground water are pumped out of the NYC subway system. Most strongly recommended.

3 responses

15 12 2013
hilaryziolsHilary Z.

Thanks for this, Mike. I hope to read some of these in ’14.

26 11 2018
Girma Yismaw

Thank you Mike. Read ‘The Shock Doctrine’ and now i’m reading ‘Collapse’

26 11 2018
Mike Murphy

Good choices, Girma! Great books that tell us so much about what is going on in today’s world. And what we need to do to chart a more sustainable course. If only we have the will.

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