I’ve read several books this summer that deserve mention:

Deep Economy, by Bill McKibben

This book takes a long, hard look at the way that most of us in the developed countries of the world have been living in the last half century or so, why it isn’t sustainable or healthy, and what we can do to correct our course. The focus is on building resilient communities that can survive shocks to our larger society. It covers many of the same topics that James Kunstler does in The Long Emergency, but avoids Kunstler’s apocalyptic tone.1 McKibben is totally peak oil aware, and this informs his writing. Highly recommended for everyone.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver

This is a very readable story of a family that decided to live for one year exclusively (or nearly so) on locally grown foods. Mrs. Kingsolver is a great storyteller, and the book is entertaining whether or not you arrive at the door with a local-foods agenda in hand. You will read about her family and their adventure, their friends and neighbors; along the way you will learn why local foods are our future, and why we will come to respect and appreciate our farmers and our land (if we don’t already).

Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew

This is a relatively short (215 pgs) but very enlightening and intense work. It is packed with information that will prove extremely valuable in the near future, especially to those on the lower end of the socio-economic ladder. This book is about ‘radical’ sustainability and social justice: when you are mentally prepared to really make a difference, when you are ready to become truly green, this book will be waiting for you. They cover a lot of ground, albeit from the 5000 foot level: personal food production and water supplies, handling waste, generating energy, and even bioremediation (cleaning up contaminated areas so that they are suitable for living and food production). My only complaint is with the title of this book: in no way is this information useful only for those living in the city! The reference section is excellent, and I really enjoyed the illustrations by Juan Martinez.

Recommended? Yes, to the right audience. This book is kinda hardcore: I highly recommend it to those already peak oil aware and thinking hard about the things that they need to do in the next five or ten years. It is the most informative and forward-looking book I’ve come across in a long time. But if you’re a relative newbie to the issues around peak oil and radical sustainability, this book is probably too much for you right now; make a mental note of it and come back in a few months when the larger implications of peak oil have sunk in, and you are wondering about next steps.

Simple Prosperity, by David Wann

This book is in many ways similar to McKibben’s Deep Economy, and covers many of the same issues, but Wann writes in a more personal tone. He offers more of his own life experience, focuses more on the spiritual, and may at times come across as a bit preachy. Still, his message is right on, and I definitely recommend this book for general audiences. He is very well aware of limited fossil fuels, but these considerations don’t dominate his thinking.

Up next on my reading list is Richard Heinberg, although I’m very familiar with his views from online reading… but our local library system does not seem to carry his books… What’s up with that?  :-/

1While Kunstler has proven long-sighted on a number of fronts, I’m hopeful that we will avoid the most dire of his collapse predictions. John Michael Greer provides another useful counterpoint