For years, my plant bible has been the Sunset Western Garden Book. Filled with listings of specific plants (over 8,000 in the 2011 edition) that detail plant characteristics, growth habits, and zone requirements, this is a must-have if you garden in the west. The book includes information about both edible and ornamental plants and trees. Of course, this is region specific and works for me; if you’re east of the Rockies I’d love to hear about your favorite regional reference book.
In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Barbara Kingsolver chronicles her family’s year of eating only homegrown food (supplemented by locally grown products, on occasion). It’s an inspiring look at the possibilities of living self-sufficiently. I particularly loved reading that even though this was her idea, even though she wanted to live this way, it was hard for her to actually begin. She worried that the spring months would offer spare produce for her family’s table, and she was right. I found reading about her choices in sustainable living to be an education in itself.
Hungry Planet may seem like an odd choice for a sustainability site, but the images in the book are a visual reminder that the way we eat in industrialized nations is far from sustainable. The book features photos of families from around the world in their kitchen or eating area, surrounded by the food they will eat in a week’s time. Compare an image of an American family seated amid takeout pizza, potato chips, and Coffee Mate with that of a family from Chad sitting proudly with bowls of grain, freshly butchered chickens, fruit and vegetables, and milk from the family cow. The sustainability and nutritional value of food eaten in our wealthy nation pales in comparison to the food served in some of the third world countries pictured. How did we become so far removed from our food?? Some of the photos from the book are featured in this TIME magazine photo essay, What the World Eats.
I love The Harrowsmith Reader. Sadly, it’s out of print and not one that’s easily found, but if you’re a fan of scouring used bookstores for bargains, this is one to watch for. It’s an anthology of articles from Canada’s Journal of Country Living and it’s chock-full of information about independent living. I have the second anthology, covering raising poultry, wind power, ponds, bread making, raising cattle, and more.
I’ve had The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies on my shelf for years. My kids call it my “woo-woo” book. It’s filled with alternative remedies for all kinds of ailments. From insomnia to athlete’s foot, the book suggests treatments from herbalism and aromatherapy to homeopathy and vitamins. When we have a non-emergency health problem, it’s a great resource.
Those are the books on my shelves that I recommend. Just for fun, let me share a few of the books that are on my wish list:
- Homesteading: A Back to Basics Guide to Growing Your Own Food, Canning, Keeping Chickens, Generating Your Own Energy, Crafting, Herbal Medicine, and More
- The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!
- The Encyclopedia of Country Living
- Where there is No Doctor
- Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World
Your turn. What’s the must-have sustainability book on your shelf? What book would you like to add to your shelf?