Reading and Relaxing
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— By Jessica Hallstrom —
What’s the last book that changed your life?
Each one of us has a few of them—a favorite book that touched us profoundly, enough to see the world in a new light and permanently shift our trajectory.
Our team tends to find that experience in books about the natural world—about the unique inner lives of the animals and plant life that share the planet with us, and how we can rebuild our relationship with nature to protect thriving habitats for all. These are just some of the books that have inspired us to take action, in our work and personal lives:
Kinship with all Life, Allan Boone, 1954
Starting with his unexpected and powerful bond with Strongheart, the famous German Shepherd who starred in many films (including the 1925 version of White Fang), Allan Boone explores his “unconventional relationships with animals, reptiles, insects, and even bacteria” and the priceless wisdom these beings shared with him “…whenever I was properly humble and willing to let something beside a human be my instructor.”
The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben, 2016 and
To Speak for the Trees, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, 2019
What trees can teach us about living as an interconnected community seems to be endless. Through his own work in forestry, Peter Wohlleben has learned how trees experience life and communicate with one another, revealing “just how vital undisturbed forests and woodlands are to the future of our planet and how our appreciation for trees affects the way we interact with the world around us.” Botanist and biochemist Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s ancestors were carriers of ancient Celtic tradition; as a child, she was taught by elders about the fundamental sacredness of the natural world. Those teachings inspired her own research exploring how every living being is dependent on the health and wellbeing of the earth’s forests—and how understanding our relationship to trees can help us combat the rise of climate change.
The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery, 2016 and
What a Fish Knows, Jonathan Balcombe, 2016
At Earthfire, we thrive on new research that speaks to what we know to be true—that all living beings are unique individuals with a story to tell and the power to teach. After Naturalist Sy Montgomery wrote a magazine article called “Deep Intellect” about her unique bond with Athena the octopus, she dove into a fuller exploration of the emotional and physical world of the octopus, the deep connections they can form with humans, and what they can teach us about ourselves and the planet. In What a Fish Knows, Balcombe explores the complex inner lives of our “underwater cousins”—revealing how fish are not only sentient beings, but more like us than we could have ever imagined.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, 2007 and
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver, 2008
In different ways, both of these groundbreaking books explore how the food we choose to consume affects not only our own health but the health of the entire planet. Pollan traces how modern farming—bolstered by government policy—has robbed our food and our soil of nutrients, urging us to return to sustainable agriculture and to follow three simple guidelines: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” Barbara Kingsolver’s seminal narrative follows her own family’s journey as they commit themselves to eating only locally-grown food—primarily produced on their own small farm with their own hands—rather than relying on commercial agriculture.
Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein, 2011
Eisenstein shows how our money-based economy has pitted us against one another and against the planet, demanding the endless and unsustainable growth causing many of the ecological crises we are experiencing today. As these current systems reach a point of collapse, he believes we can find opportunities to heal—and build an economy based on the sacredness of Life resulting in a stronger, interconnected community on Earth.
Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv, 2008
In the age of technology, entire generations are losing their connection with nature, putting not just their own health but also the health of the planet in peril. Louv’s exploration of “nature deficit disorder” and its connection to conditions ranging from obesity to depression calls on us to heal the broken bond between ourselves— particularly our children—and the natural world.
Interested in purchasing one of these extraordinary books? Consider supporting independent booksellers. Here in Idaho we use Iconoclast Books & Gifts—a wonderful local business that supports our community and economy. We’ve created a bookshop collection with these books here, and you can explore their other sections here! Happy reading!
Jessica grew up in rural Pennsylvania in a farmhouse full of beloved animals. As far back as she can remember, she was set on caring for any dog, cat, horse, or wild creature that crossed her path—and on creating a more compassionate world for all of them. Jessica shares a home with her husband and three rescued pit bulls, and can be found walking dogs at the Animal Humane Society in her spare time.