Practical Books on Green Living

You may recall that I sometimes copy here samples of correspondence we do with customers with book questions. One very good friend, who is widely read and theologically mature, asked for some basic guides to living more faithfully in the whole area of creation care, stewardship and “living greenly.” She had read a title we had previously announced, Barbara Kingsolver’s intriguing memoir about eating locally grown food, wonderfully called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and was both delightfully challenged and not fully convinced. Regardless, it inspiried her, as good books do, to think about taking steps towards greater fidelity.
I commended an article I wrote for the website in April, and then listed a few helpful books. Without much editing I wanted to share it, here. Let us know what you think.

Well, this question surely is a big one. There are so many books…. some are, of course, very practical, with little tips about insulation and gas milage and the like. I call them handbooks of hints.
And then there are those that offer the theology of Earth-care, books about creational stewardship . If you want a bit of my story, and the books we read in the 70’s and 80’s (especially) and a few that have been important to us just lately, please see the monthly Review Article that I did in April over at the website. It is somewhat autobiographical and yet lists batches of eco books, from Small Is Beautiful and Francis Moore Lappe to the latest Zondervan title by Matthew Sleeth. I commend the very weighty new book by Bob Goudzewaard, there, too which is so very important; we helped as an early reader, and although a serious read, Hope for Troubled Times gives the largest of pictures in these hard times. The forward by Desmond Tutu is pretty remarkable, too.
Here are some that may be more substantive and enjoyable than the handy guidebook sort, but more practical than the foundational ones I describe in the April column.

Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective edited by Michael Schut (Living the Good News) $14.95 This is a gloriously handsome collection of essays, articles, talking points, stories, with a great study guide. Contributors includes Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster as well as Juliet Schor, Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, and Cal DeWitt. Highly recommended on simple lifestyle, stewardship and such.

Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread edited by Michael Schut (Living the Good News) $14.95 A must, I’d say, for anyone who enjoys Kingsolver. This is an equally charming and challenging compendium (and good study guide) on eating well, with insights from mystics and cooks, theologians and gardeners, stuff about global poverty and the joy of feasting. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about food, or should!

Living the Good Life On God’s Good Earth Edited by David Koetje (Faith Alive) $11.50 This is a great collection of brief essays on different aspects of faithful living: on clothing, on eating, or homes, on energy consumption, on rest & enjoyment, even the plants we choose to grow. My, my, this is spectacular in it’s solid insight, brevity and breadth, and usefulness for a study group. Many of the authors are in the CRC/Calvin College orbit, but not all. I love this and there really is nothing quite like it in print. A good forward by Ron Sider.
EarthTrek: Celebrating and Sustaining God’s Creation Joanne Moyer (Herald Press) $11.99 Created and promoted by MCC this is a lovely and very useful guidebook to a journey–almost like a daily devotional, with a guide into doing things each day. (It gives you four “weeks” (sessions) for each of the seven days of creation. Not everyone likes this structured way of taking steps but it does have a ton of good information, basic facts and things to do (Some are quite do-able, some, well, less so, like “plant trees.”) It was first an on-line study which got good reviews, and has been designed by the same folks who did two earlier ones called Basic Trek: Venturing Into A World of Enough and Parent Trek Nurturing Creativity and Care in Our Children.
Sustainable Living for Dummies Michael Grosvenor (Wiley) $21.99 I hope you don’t mind me saying that these Dummies books are usually very good. I’m not at all troubled by them (the way some people seem to be, thinking they are too silly and, well, dumb.) Actually, I find them very solid (C.S. Lewis for Dummies for instance is great!) Here they give plain descriptions of the key ideas in the sustainability movement and while it may not be as rugged or detailed as the old Foxfire books, it does give plenty of really practical stuff around a number of key areas (home, water use, shopping, energy use, etc.) Nicely done, packed with info.
Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth Mathis Wackernagel & William Rees (New Society Publishers) $14.95 Gotta hand it to these radical Quaker types for thinking critically about the biggest issues; this offers tools to actually measure impact, to think creatively about bio-regions and communities, and would be helpful not only for families, but for academics, planners and activists. Whew!
An Earth Careful Way of Life Lionel Basney (Regent College Press) $18.95 You may recall this book by a beloved English prof at Calvin College who drowned a few years ago. IVP eventually let it go out of print—it was ahead of its time, I’m afraid—-and the good folks at Regent in Vancouver re-issued it. What a marvelous telling of an ordinary family (well, not so ordinary, it turns out, being a writer and Earth-keeper.) This does have some practical suggestions, but it is mostly his warm narrative and reflections on the meaning of their efforts.

4 thoughts on “Practical Books on Green Living

  1. Oh, and can you provide a link for the article you mention (in which it seems you discussed the Zondervan book by Sleeth)?

  2. I loved the Kingsolver book, with a few reservations also. And thanks for these additional selections. One of my favorites, which is a bit more philosophical, for those who design products and architecture, is McDonough and Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

  3. Living the Good Life on God’s Good Earth is all Byron says, and more–I am looking forward to finding a way to introduce it to a small group study. For recent college graduates looking at decisions that will affect both their lives and the whole world around them, this is a wonderful place to start discussions.

  4. Thanks for the recommendations, Byron. Always helpful. I’ll probably be putting in an order for some of these (and Opitz’ book) in the next few weeks.

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