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Great green reads of 2023

Words: Cecily Layzell

Main illustration: Paper Trident via Adobe Stock

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2023 has been a bumper year for eco literature. From inspiration and innovation to action you can take, we’ve got your next green read covered.

Best for inspiration

Tenacious Beasts – Wildlife Recoveries that Change How We Think about Animals by Christopher J. Preston

More than 900 species have become extinct since industrialisation. As bleak as this sounds, there are glimmers of hope. Bears in Italy, bison in North America and whales in the Atlantic are back from the brink, sometimes in startling numbers. How has this happened? In Tenacious Beasts, Christopher J. Preston draws on personal stories from the scientists, activists and Indigenous people who know the animals best to uncover the mysteries and challenges behind these remarkable comebacks. He also argues passionately for the changes in attitude necessary for a future in which humans and animals can once again coexist.

Fandom Acts of Kindness by Tanya Cook and Kaela Joseph

Making a difference while having fun: that’s the main idea behind this fandom-inspired guide to activism and advocacy. Written by a clinical psychologist and sociology professor – don’t be alarmed! – this accessible resource is for would-be heroes looking to motivate others, harness collective action and maybe even save the world. Using examples from Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and other pop culture franchises, the book describes fandoms around the globe. United by story and community, these groups have fed thousands of hungry children, built schools and coordinated natural disaster responses. Although not specifically related to sustainability, the book can be used as a tool by anyone who wants to become more involved in causes they care about – and have a blast doing it.

Plastic Free by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and Joanna Atherfold Finn

In July 2011, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz challenged herself to go plastic free for a month. Just over a decade later, the Plastic Free July movement she founded has grown into a 250-million strong community across 177 countries. It empowers people to reduce single-use plastic consumption and create a cleaner planet. Plastic Free looks at the movement’s success and shares stories of how ordinary people have created change in their homes, communities and workplaces, one piece of plastic at a time.

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Best for innovation

Urban Jungle: The History and Future of Nature in the City by Ben Wilson

If you live in a city – around 55% of us now do – you’ll know that nature can sometimes feel remote or artificial. In his latest book, historian Ben Wilson looks at how nature has been systematically pushed out of built environments. He argues that bringing it back may be the key to helping cities survive a changing climate. Packed with fascinating trivia (did you know that London pigeons take the underground to travel between their nests and food sources?) and examples of innovative urban rewilding projects around the world, the book provides a hopeful view of cities – not as areas of environmental degradation but as dynamic ecosystems where nature thrives.

It’s Not That Radical by Mikaela Loach

Mikaela Loach is part of a new generation of activists tackling the climate crisis on their own terms. Although practical and inspiring, Loach’s debut book makes it into our ‘innovation’ category for reframing the climate change debate around social and racial equality. The climate crisis came from the same systems of repression that cause people harm today, Loach argues. What’s needed is climate justice, she says. By opening up the whole world to transformation, climate justice offers solutions that “will not only prevent climate breakdown, but also make for a better world for all of us”. Ultimately, the book is a call to build bridges between movements and harness the power of coalitions, which, as the book’s title suggests, is not that radical.

Working to Restore – Harnessing the Power of Regenerative Business to Heal the World by Esha Chhabra

The negative environmental and social impacts of our current profit-driven business model are becoming increasingly evident. In Working to Restore, journalist Esha Chhabra profiles the pioneering entrepreneurs who have built thriving businesses while also promoting responsible production and consumption, creating equitable opportunities, encouraging climate action and more. For instance, we learn about Marius Smit, founder of Plastic Whale, the first company to build boats made entirely of plastic waste removed from oceans and waterways. We also hear from Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, co-founders of Veja, a shoe brand whose mission is to make the most ecologically sensitive footwear possible. Chhabra highlights how their work has moved beyond sustainability into a new era of regeneration and restoration.

Best for action

Climate Optimism by Zahra Biabani

People are doing good things for our planet all over the world, and climate activist Zahra Biabani wants us to know about them. When the Texas native learned that 56% of Gen Zers believe humanity is doomed, she started posting weekly positive climate news stories online. Now, only a couple of years out of college, she is the founder of a sustainable fashion software start-up and has published a book. In Climate Optimism, she celebrates some of the most promising climate solutions out there and offers practical ways for us to get involved with them ourselves.

Thanks for Sharing: How I Gave Up Buying and Embraced Swapping, Borrowing and Renting by Eleanor Tucker

Does less stuff mean less happiness? That was the question Eleanor Tucker set out to answer when she – and her rather reluctant family – pledged to buy as few new things as possible for a year and instead to swap, borrow and rent whatever they could. In each chapter of this entertaining dive into the sharing economy, Tucker introduces a different type of sharing into her life, from food and clothes to furniture, cars and even pets. Using various apps, she shows how tech has revolutionised an age-old practice. She also offers tips for those of us interested in living more affordable, sustainable and, she suggests, ultimately more fulfilling lives.

The Darkness Manifesto by Johan Eklöf

Of all the environmental problems we face, light pollution is the easiest to solve – at least technically. So writes Swedish ecologist Johan Eklöf in The Darkness Manifesto. “We, as private individuals, can, with little cost, reduce the amount of our light pollution. With light shades, downward-facing light sources low to the ground, and dim lighting, we can reduce the cities’ total amount of light, as well as the artificial light scattered in the atmosphere,” he says. In this love letter to the dark, Eklöf describes the impact of too much artificial light not just on humans but on every living thing. He hopes his book will inspire us to rethink our relationship with the dark and take steps to preserve it. Watch this space for our upcoming interview with the author to find more simple ways to decrease your light footprint.

We’re able to tell stories like this because of people like you. Join others from around the world in supporting Imagine5’s mission towards a sustainable future. Become a member, or donate what you can. Find out more here