January 14, 2010

my green library

I found it very difficult to post today. My head is swirling with images from Haiti of the devastation that has taken place. Things here seem quite trivial. Thoughts and prayers and hope and aid are needed there. For a list of reputable agencies to donate through visit here. Also DWR is matching donations made to UNICEF and donations to Mercy Corp may be made directly through the amazon.com website.

Happy New Year! I love a new year - and the fresh start it brings. And as a list lover, I am always excited by the prospect of committing resolutions to paper. This year, I think I have made things pretty doable (my list can be found here). The hardest one may be number 10 ("Read the books I have"). I am also a book lover. To the point where our postal carrier recently asked me if I owned a library for the number of books that come to our door. I do, I guess. It is my weakness. And I have made a wager with my husband that I can spend 2010 with the books I have, and not purchase any new.

some favourites

And so I thought I would share with you my top 10 favourite "Green Reads" from my library (in no particular order). Some I have mentioned before, and some are regional, but I think it is a good cross-section of interests. I would love to hear your favourites ... which I can visit our public library for!

1. The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, by John Seymour
Dubbed the "Father of Self-Sufficiency" John Seymour first published this tome in 1976, it has just been reissued and updated by Dorling Kindersley. It covers everything - from laying out your backyard garden (or acre or 5 acres...) to basketry to saving energy to making butter and cream. Oh, and it has great illustrations. I would love to someday take a class at the school named in his honor.

2. In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
There are so many books of this genre (what is this genre called?) that I have enjoyed - The Omnivore's Dilemma (also by Pollan); Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; Plenty: One Man, One Woman and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally; Coming Home to Eat... It was hard to pick just one. So I just picked one. And I'll add that the "rules" Pollan puts forth in this book are good ones that I carry with me: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants". I have Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer on hold at our library and am looking forward to it as well.

3. Alabama Stitch Book, by Natalie Chanin
Carrying the byline "Projects and Stories Celebrating Hand-Sewing, Quilting, and Embroidery for Contemporary Sustainable Style" this book is not only a visual feast - but also has clear directions on recycling cotton tees into objects and garments of beauty. From simple (tea towels) to more intricate (reverse-applique corset). An interview over at the Burda site with Natalie Chanin sheds more light on her ideals of "slow design" and "sustainability".

4. Pat Welsh's Southern California Organic Gardening, by Pat Welsh
This is also a new edition. The earlier edition was on my frequent flier list from the library. I was very happy to receive this new edition as a holiday present. Growing up in central Canada I felt pretty comfortable with a spring to fall growing season - but winter is really prime garden time in Southern California, and I have learned a lot from this month-by-month guide.

5. Care and Maintenance of Southern California Native Plant Gardens, by Bart O'Brien, Betsey Landis, and Ellen Mackey.
I met Betsey Landis in 2006 at a California Native Plant Society meeting and immediately purchased this book, along with her Southern California Native Plants for School Gardens. When we purchased our home it was all lawn and rosebushes - not a tree to be found. That is all gone now - and we have a drought-tolerant garden I am very proud of. It is mostly California natives, and this book is full of valuable information on their care. (Hmm... this seems to be out of print - with crazy prices being asked for used copies over at amazon. I would suspect a new edition is likely in the works.)

6.The Urban Homestead, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
This is another a go-to book for me. After following Kelly and Erik on their blog I was excited to see much of the information discussed there in one place. It's material isn't that different from what is found in the Seymour book, but with the focus on the urban. I like their idea of what they deem "Five Essential Projects" - and their clear instructions on bringing them to fruition.

7. Natural Learning: The Life History of an Environmental Schoolyard, by Robin C. Moore and Herb H. Wong
I am obsessed with ridding our 9 acre elementary school campus of all that asphalt. So far we have taken out over 100 tons - but still have a long way to go. This book, published in 1997, was one of the first I read on the concept of green schoolyards and the notion that our kids need to connect with nature now more than ever. I love Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods - but when I am feeling dreamy I pick this up. It chronicles the transformation of a Berkeley California elementary school in the 1970s. The story doesn't have a happy ending -but it still fills me with inspiration.

8. EcoKids, by Dan Chiras
This is an inspiring read for practical advice on raising children who are aware and thoughtful. I especially like the chapter on combating the media's influence as well as the overarching idea that the best way to teach our kids is through our own actions.

9. A Slice of Organic Life, edited by Sheherazade Goldsmith with an introduction by Alice Waters
This one really falls under the same category as The Self-Sufficient Life and The Urban Homestead. It is nicely designed and very concise in its presentation.

10. Frog Girl, by Paul Owen Lewis
We have quite a few of the 'usual suspects' when it comes to "green kid lit" (The Giving Tree, The Lorax etc.) but this one is by far my favourite. Written and beautifully illustrated by Paul Owen Lewis it is filled with images of the Pacific Northwest and drawing from Haida and Tlingit mythology it reminds us that we are all - the people, the animals, and the earth - connected and it is our responsibility to care for all.

runner up...

The Great Neighborhood Book: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Placemaking, by Jay Walljasper
I kept adding this, then deleting it. But I can't leave it out. Shash's recent post made me pull it out again. I am strong believer in the power of community - and our basic need to connect to ensure our wellbeing. It is full of inspiring case studies and a great list (which I have referred to before).

Oh there were so many more... I wanted to include a cookbook - but will leave that up to you!

A reminder too that Saturday, January 16 is the deadline to send us an email if you are interested in contributing to sewgreen! Details below...


Tam said...

I would be interested in posting - setting myself the challenge of making all my gifts this year - also manage the Bendigo EcoLiving Centre and post regular blogs www.bendigoecoliving.com.au

lisa s said...

hi tracy, i hear you on hati... it's such a tragedy.

thanks for your list of books - there are several i've been meaning to get/read!

Melissa said...

That is a great list, thank you for sharing. We have many similar books but none the same so I now have a new list to take to the library and Chapters.

Rose said...

Thanks for the list! You have a lot of great stuff listed here, and I look forward to looking up some of them at our local library this afternoon.

Regarding Haiti--I hope this doesn't sound too "spammy"--but a lot of sellers on Etsy are donating items to a shop called "Hearts for Haiti" which will donate all proceeds to Doctors Without Borders in Haiti. Here's the link:

Tracy said...

Thanks Rose! Not "spammy" at all!

nicola@which name? said...

oh my goodness! thank you for this list. some of these titles are new to me!

Wendy said...

Loving "A Slice of Organic Life!" Have you read her Christmas book? Great ideas, adaptable to all kinds of celebrations.

Tracy said...

Yes Wendy - love the Christmas book.
Thanks all!

Laurie said...

I just looked at Alabama Stitch online and although I'm trying to swear off buying stuff for a while it is very very tempting to get it. I have so many old raggedy tshirts and I have enough attachment to them that I hate to use them for cleaning rags. Also I have a signed copy of In Defense of Food - I almost had a heart attack getting him to sign it I was so excited! What is funny is that I haven't even read it yet and that was a year and a half ago.

DejahView said...

Great list! We also love Paul Owen Lewis' "Storm Boy". Check it out!