My Favorite Environmental Books

In honor of Earth Day, environmentalist Bill McKibben picks his five favorite books about nature and conservation. His own book, Eaarth, is out now.

Home Economics by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry is the greatest writer at work in the English language—for five decades, in essay, novel, and poem, he's laid out an alternative version for an America that might actually work. 

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

Wendell Berry always said the rule in his house was no reading Ed Abbey at bedtime because he'd laugh so hard he couldn't sleep. But Abbey was also a great soul, and Desert Solitaire is his classic essay collection, a book we'll read in a century the way we read Walden now.

A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf by John Muir

Muir is most famous for his work in the high Sierras. But on his way to the coast he walked from Louisville to Cedar Key in Florida—and along the way birthed the philosophy that would grow into the wilderness idea. The grammar and vocabulary of our relationship with nature started changing here.

Pepacton by John Burroughs

At the turn of the last century, people talked about the Two Johns, Muir and Burroughs. The latter was the gentler of the two, the poet laureate for the nation of people with cottages in the Berkshires. For four decades the most popular writer in America, and for good reason.

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson really began the assault on modernity with Silent Spring—suddenly progress didn't seem quite so shiny. But before that she'd written some of the most-loved natural history of all time, introducing millions of Americans to the oceans before Jacques Cousteau even wet a swimfin.