Must-Read Books About Sustainability

By Charlotte Rickards

1 year ago

A green reading list

New research from Wob reveals more than half of adults (52 percent) experience bouts of eco-anxiety. How better to ease it than to escape with a good book? Whether you’re looking for factual information, opinions or practical tips, there are a whole host of good reads about sustainability out there. Here we share some of our top picks, covering everything from fast fashion to the psychology behind change. While the figures are undoubtedly distressing, the overriding message throughout the books below is one of optimism: there’s still time to create a better future, but we need to act now.

The Best Books About Sustainability

Britain's Living Seas book cover

Britain’s Living Seas

Hannah Rudd

Hannah Rudd is a young marine biologist whose first book is a wide-ranging survey of the seas surrounding the British Isles. It is an illuminating read, simultaneously inspiring and dispiriting. Rudd provides a tour of the wonders of Britain’s coastal and maritime world, the geology, ora, and fauna, terrestrial and aquatic, covering easily digestible science with lots of eye-catching photographs. At the same time, she spares the reader nothing in describing the devastation we have wrought on our maritime environment. Pollution, coastal development, overfishing, deep-sea mining, and climate change are just some of the ways in which we are destroying the oceans on which we all depend. But the book is also a plea for action as all is not (yet) lost: ‘even small changes can turn the tide’ of maritime degradation. Review by Richard Hopton

BUY IT: £15.29,

Urban Jungle book cover

Urban Jungle

Ben Wilson

Ben Wilson’s new book explores the wild side of cities: ‘the natural part of cities is as restless, fast-paced and cosmopolitan as the human.’ His thesis is predicated on the idea that far from being ‘sterile or deadening, urban areas … are stunningly diverse, often far more so than nearby countryside.’ Urban Jungle is a beguiling and beautifully written tapestry of history and ecology examining how cities and the natural world of plants, trees, birds, animals, and insects have coexisted, beneficially and otherwise, since time immemorial. He charts the appalling damage rampant and ill-considered urban expansion has done to cities’ natural environments and the threat this poses to their future. The book also examines how many cities are now embracing nature. ‘Cities,’ Wilson writes, ‘should be the conservation sites of the twenty-first century.’ Review by Richard Hopton

BUY IT: £17.27,

Ghosts in the Hedgerow book cover

Ghosts In The Hedgerow

Tom Moorhouse

‘Hedgehogs,’ writes Tom Moorhouse, ‘are unquestionably Britain’s favourite mammal.’ We all love Mrs Tiggy-Winkle but hedgehog numbers are now in a steep decline. This new book, framed as the denouement of a murder mystery, examines the potential causes of this drop in the population. Road kill, badgers, human carelessness, and habitat destruction as a result of agricultural intensification and urbanisation are all suspects. Despite its light-hearted presentation, Ghosts has important things to say about the way we treat our natural environment. ‘Modern life has ganged up on a beloved animal,’ writes Moorhouse, but it’s an observation that applies to species everywhere: ‘Hedgehogs are simply a prominent victim.’ The book ends on a practical and mildly optimistic note with some ideas for mitigating the hedgehog’s plight – and that of other species. Review by Richard Hopton

BUY IT: £14.09,

Nature Is A Human Right

Edited by Ellen Miles

Having access to nature is a human right. But access is getting harder as urban development spreads; harming the health and wellbeing of hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The book comes out of a campaign by Ellen Miles, collating the thoughts of scientists, climate activists (and many more), each giving their own take on why nature should be a protected human right.

BUY IT: £14.99,

Live Green

Jen Chillingsworth

Live Green is a practical guide of 52 sustainable living changes – one for each week of the year – everyone can make to be more self-sufficient, and to reduce your impact on the environment. From your cleaning routine to home furnishings, food shopping to fashion choices, natural beauty to Christmas, Live Green has all the ingredients to help you achieve a more sustainable year.

BUY IT: From £4.79,

Jane Goodall's Book of Hope

The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for an Endangered Planet 

Jane Goodall & Douglas Abrams

The legendary naturalist and conservationist Jane Goodall has spent her lifetime amplifying the need for climate action. Here in this work, Goodall uses the armoury of hope to guide us through creating a better path forward.

BUY IT: £16.99,

The Overstory

Richard Powers

An uplifting story to ease eco-anxiety through fiction, The Overstory follows four people from different times and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by trees. The characters are brought together in a last stand to save the few remaining acres of virgin forest. There is a world alongside ours – vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive and almost invisible to us.

BUY IT: From £9.90,


Green Ideas Slipcase, by Penguin

It’s widely agreed now that the environmental movement is a new canon of literature. Luckily enough, Penguin has now curated a covetable set of essential books about sustainability that will get you well on your way to learning more about climate change. The aesthetic rainbow-coloured reads range from gardening, technology, art, to activism, from activists like Greta Thunberg and Bill McKibben.

BUY IT: £95,

Turning The Tide On Plastic 

Lucy Siegle

An accessible, practical and ultimately inspiring book that provides a much-needed call to arms to end the plastic pandemic. This book also gives useful tools on how to make meaningful change in our everyday lives and advice on how to demand long-lasting action.

BUY IT: From £3.49,

Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change & Consumerism 

Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change & Consumerism 

Aja Baba

As often with the problems of climate change, it often intersects with wider historical and societal woes. Aja Barber pulls the wool from our eyes in Consumed; detailing our uncomfortable history with the textile industry; our insatiable appetite to consume and how this is links back to our colonial past. One of the first steps to tackling climate change is understanding our behaviour in it’s full entirety — Consumed is a brilliant place to start.

BUY IT: £15,

Notes On A Nervous Planet

Matt Haig

In Matt Haig’s book about sustainability, he provides an honest look at the everyday trends feeding our anxieties, conversing with the reader about the way society is geared towards making us feel constantly unhappy. With an ending that will hopefully leave you feeling calmer and more content with the world, this is a must-read for those struggling with eco-anxiety. 

BUY IT: From £4.50,

National Geographic Ocean

Image courtesy of National Geographic

Ocean: A Global Odyssey

Sylvia Earle

The ocean often feels mysterious and overwhelming, especially when it comes to understanding how it’s affected by climate change. Enter: Sylvia Earle. Sylvia is the first woman to become the chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and she’s also a National Geographic explorer. Within this book, Sylvia will guide you through understanding how climate change impacts the ocean and the importance of marine conservation that’s currently taking place. There’s also no cutting corners, and she’ll take you through the scientific nitty-gritty: explaining how the ocean supports multiple-life forms, as well as the seawater makeup.

BUY IT: £35.85,

A Robot Called B4

Wondering how to teach your children about sustainability? New book A Robot Called B4 highlights the damage done to the environment over time and explains how we can help preserve the planet for future generations. It tells the story of two children, Alfie and Ava, who are taken on an epic adventure to the prehistoric era by B4, a robot they find in the garden shed. Available both in hard copy and on audiobook – read by Angellica Bell – A Robot Called B4 aims to show children how they can make a difference in a fun, educational way.

BUY IT: Free to download, and free to order a hard copy.

Earthshot: How To Save Our Planet

Earthshot: How To Save Our Planet

Colin Butfield and Jonnie Hughes

The Earthshot Prize is a new decade-long competition which aims to find inventive new ways to repair our planet, set up by The Duke of Cambridge. To coincide with the launch, environmental experts Colin Butfield and Jonnie Hughes joined forces to put together a book highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis, complete with an introduction from Prince William.

BUY IT: £20,

The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us

Diane Ackerman

‘Our relationship with nature has changed… radically, irreversibly, but by no means all for the bad. Our new epoch is laced with invention. Our mistakes are legion, but our talent is immeasurable.’ Diane Ackerman’s beautifully written book The Human Age explores the fact that the ‘natural’ and the ‘human’ now inescapably depend on one another, taking us on a tour through the ways in which humans are working with nature to try and save the planet.

BUY IT: From £5.19,

Bill Gates, How To Avoid a Climate Disaster

How To Avoid A Climate Disaster

Bill Gates

While a lot of books about sustainability offer a pretty gloomy view of the future, Bill Gates’ non-fiction focuses on practical solutions to reversing the major issues. Following ten years of research, Gates proposes a plan for what we need to do over the next decade and beyond to eliminate greenhouse gases as individuals, businesses and governments.

BUY IT: From £4.30,

The Sustainable(ish) Guide to Green Parenting

Jen Gale

Adding ‘being green’ to a parent’s to-do list is never an easy task. This book provides a judgement-free guide to living green, using simple, practical ideas that you can test, try and (hopefully) apply to work for you and your family. Change your impact without radically changing your life and figure out the small steps you can take that will add up to make a big difference (halo not included)

BUY IT: From £10.59,

Diet for a hot planet

Diet For A Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork 

Anne Lappé

In Diet for a Hot Planet, Anne Lappé predicts that unless we radically change the way we eat, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise and rise. She looks at the global food system: how we farm, how we eat, and how we can shift current trends for a better future.

BUY IT: From £7.79,

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

Naomi Klein

In her provocative 2014 book, Canadian journalist and author Naomi Klein pins the blame for the climate crisis on capitalism. She dispels myths clouding the current debate, and exposes the people and corporations that profit from climate change. Yet despite all the disheartening stats Klein’s overall message is one of hope: that it is still possible to transform our economic system and build something better for the future.

BUY IT: From £3.79,

Minimal: How To Simplify Your Life And Live Sustainably

Madeline Olivia

With so many terrifying statistics circulating about the climate crisis and gloomy books about sustainability, it can all feel pretty overwhelming – so environmentalist Madeline Olivia is here to simplify things. In her book Minimal: How to simplify your life and live sustainably, Olivia aims to make sustainable living attainable for everyone, offering practical tips for everyday life. Topics covered include decluttering, reducing waste, seasonal eating and natural beauty, alongside advice on living more mindfully.

BUY IT: £12.99,

Greta Thunberg, No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference

No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference

Greta Thunberg

If you’re still looking for books about sustainability, why not pick up Greta Thunberg’s short debut? In August 2018, a 15-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg decided not to go to school one day in order to protest the climate crisis. Little did she know, her actions would spark a global movement – and go on to earn her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. No One Is Too Small To Make a Difference collects Greta’s speeches together in one volume, documenting the making of one of the most important – and youngest – figures of this century.

BUY IT: From £3.79,

How To Break Up With Fast Fashion

Lauren Bravo

It’s not news to anyone that fast fashion is bad for the planet. Global clothing production has roughly doubled in just 15 years, and every year 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in UK landfill. So – it’s time to change, and journalist Lauren Bravo is here to help. Her book How To Break Up With Fast Fashion offers realistic advice on repairing and recycling your wardrobe, encouraging readers to embrace more sustainable ways of shopping.

BUY IT: From £5.99,

Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

George Marshall

Many of us recognise climate change is a deeply pressing issue, but do little about it. George Marshall explores the roots of this psychology, with help from the world’s leading climate scientists, liberal environmentalists, Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and activists.

BUY IT: £9.79,

To find more books about sustainability, to ease your eco-anxiety, or just for a dose of escapism, visit ethical preloved bookseller

Main image: Courtesy of National Geographic, sourced from National Geographic Ocean: A Global Odyssey by Sylvia Earle.