Five Fresh Picks for Green Reading

April brings us spring and Earth Day, which I’ve always found fitting. Spring evokes freshness, bright colors, new life, and sunshine (if us Portlanders are lucky)—there is a heightened awareness of the earth. Although I am a proponent of every day being Earth Day, I think using holidays like this to draw attention to environmental issues makes perfect sense.

Maybe you’re not into gardening, or your allergies have you huddled inside your apartment with a bottle of Benadryl and those swanky lotion-infused tissues. Perhaps you’re interested in environmentalism but not sure where to start. Look no further! I’ve compiled a list of books covering everything: the business behind green book publishing, the food we eat, the water we drink (and eat), and the economic implications of a localized business structure. Read, be inspired, and live green. Happy Earth Day!

  1. Rethinking Paper and Ink: The Sustainable Publishing Revolution by Ooligan Press
  2. Curious how books could possibly be considered green? Ever wondered how a book-publishing press could produce their products sustainably? This is the book for you. Even if you’re not in the publishing field, this book contains keen, valuable insight into the business world, as well as tactics and tools for creating a more sustainable and eco-friendly process and product. Carefully constructed with love and dedication by Ooligan Press, Rethinking Paper and Ink is the perfect book to read in celebration of Earth Day.

  3. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
  4. In this book, Foer (an off-and-on vegetarian for many years) delves into the moral implications of how he eats, what he eats, and the food systems in place that make that food available. Foer’s book is introspective and also presents a well-researched and thought-provoking look into the way we eat, as well as the environmental implications and consequences. This book is a great read for veggies and omnivores alike.

  5. Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan
  6. Pollan has become a familiar name in environmentalist circles. I could have filled this list up with his works alone—The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire are two of my favorites. Second Nature is particularly appropriate for Earth Day as it discusses our relationships with nature and encourages us to reconsider the ways in which we interact with the natural world.

  7. When the Rivers Run Dry: Water—The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century by Fred Pearce
  8. Water scarcity often falls by the wayside in discussions concerning the environment, climate change, and natural resources. Pearce brings this to the forefront in a big way in this book. A scientist himself, he travels around the world researching and examining the state of water resources—and the scary reality of the scarcity of such sources.

  9. Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben
  10. Trying to find a book that explains the ins and outs of the business behind food in a way that won’t compel you to throw said book in a pulper can be challenging. McKibben’s book is one of the clearest and most compelling books I have read on the subject. Deep Economy argues for the localization of food markets and a more community-based system rather than the insatiable urge for growth that dominates today.

You Won’t Find These Books on a Kindle

One of the first things we talk about in classes at Ooligan Press is the technology of the book and how it hasn’t changed for centuries. It’s a simple technology: words printed on pieces of paper are bound together. In recent years, while e-books and the digital world seem to be taking over, some authors have been making novel attempts to keep the book relevant. Through these efforts, authors have been creating art out of the archaic book format and giving readers experiences that can’t be replicated in the digital world.

In 2010, Tree of Codes, written by Jonathan Safran Foer, was published by Visual Editions. Foer changed an existing book, The Street of Crocodiles, by removing words from each page to create a new story. Using modern printing technology to create die-cut pages, he turned an ordinary book into a piece of art.

Page from Tree of Codes

Page from Tree of Codes

Last year, we saw the release of S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. S. is intended to look like a book that has been read by numerous people, complete with notes in the margins and postcards stuck between the pages. There is as much to the story within the text as there is to the notes in the margins. It’s an experience that a reader will not be able to appreciate on a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.

On January 7, the publishing world saw the release of two editions of Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead Books). The first edition is a regular hardcover book that has been made available across the country. The second is a signed and numbered limited edition with the first ever 3D-printed slipcase made by Makerbot. The limited edition was available for purchase only through Amazon and Barnes & Noble for around $90 and $150, respectively; they are currently being resold for $300.

On Such a Full Sea Cover

On Such a Full Sea Cover

Lily Rothman wrote a great article about Lee’s novel for Time. She is quick to point out that while the book inside the case isn’t innovative, the slipcase gives readers a new way to look at books and even the printed word. Although it’s impossible to say that the story itself can’t be turned into something digital—there is an e-book version of On Such a Full Sea available—the book’s slipcase, with its new-tech 3D printing, can only be found in the non-digital world.

My one disappointment with this edition of Lee’s book is that numerous media sites, including Time and GalleyCat, said this unique book had a limited run of 200. When I opened my copy, however, I found I had number 483 out of 500. Granted, I still own one of 500 copies of this awesome edition, so I shouldn’t be too downtrodden.

Chang-rae Lee’s signature

Chang-rae Lee’s signature

These recent books are just a few examples of how imaginative authors, publishers willing to try new things, and new technologies can come together to help ensure that books will not only remain in our lives, but that they can also become pieces of visual art. E-books and the digital world are an ever-growing part of our future, but that doesn’t mean the book will disappear.