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Recommended Book List: In Our Nature

Calling all book-lovers! Here is a list of recommended titles that address our Action Book Club theme: In Our Nature, honoring the environment, our planet, and how we connect with the world around us. We think you’ll find something that inspires you.

Everyone can take part in the Action Book Club program. That’s why this list of suggested books—recommended by Little Free Library stewards, communities, and advisers—includes options for young readers, middle readers, and adults. Do you know of another great book perfect for your group? You’re welcome to read that instead; we’d love to hear your book ideas.

For even more book ideas, check out our previous Action Book Club themes on unity, diversity, and more.

 

Young Readers

Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer and Adam Schaefer, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon (36 pp, Chronicle Books, 2016). Because of an acorn, a tree grows, a bird nests, a seed becomes a flower. Enchanting die cuts illustrate the vital connections between the layers of an ecosystem in this magical book. Wander down the forest path to learn how every tree, flower, plant, and animal connect to one another in spiraling circles of life. An acorn is just the beginning. Ages 3-5.

 

The Forest Man: The True Story of Jadav Payeng by Anne Matheson, illustrated by Kay Widdowson (40 pp, Flowerpot Press, 2020). After years of harsh monsoon seasons, a forest on the river island of Majuli is in danger of being slowly washed away. Jadav, a boy living on the island, is determined to save the forest he loves. This is the true story of how one young boy dedicated his life to creating and cultivating an expansive forest that continues to grow to this day. In a world impacted by climate change, Jadav Payeng’s inspirational story shows how one person’s contributions can make a difference in helping to save our environment. Ages 5-8.

 

A Kids Book About Climate Change by Zanagee Artis and Olivia Greenspan (72 pp, A Kids Book About, Inc., 2020). Climate change is a topic that can be overwhelming for kids and grownups. So if you’re looking for the best place to better understand the climate crisis, look no further! This book will give kids the facts about climate change, explain what the state of our planet is, how it got there, and give them hope to fight for their future. Ages 5-9.

 

Jayden’s Impossible Garden by Mélina Mangal, illustrated by Ken Daley (40 pp, Free Spirit Publishing, 2021). Amidst all the buildings, people, and traffic in his neighborhood, Jayden sees nature everywhere: the squirrels scrounging, the cardinals calling, and the dandelions growing. But Mama doesn’t believe there’s nature in the city. So Jayden sets out to help Mama see what he sees. With the help of his friend Mr. Curtis, Jayden plants the seeds of a community garden and brings together his neighbors—and Mama—to show them the magic of nature in the middle of the city. Ages 4-9.

 

My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Francesca Sanna (44 pp, Chronicle Books, 2020). Our friend Earth does so many wonderful things! She tends to animals large and small. She pours down summer rain and autumn leaves. She sprinkles whisper-white snow and protects the tiny seeds waiting for spring. Readers of all ages will pore over the pages of this spectacular book that celebrates everything Earth does for us, all the while reminding us to be a good friend in return. Ages 3-5.

 

Old Enough to Save the Planet by Loll Kirby, illustrated by Adelina Lirius (32 pp, Harry N. Abrams, 2021). The world is facing a climate crisis like we’ve never seen before. And kids around the world are stepping up to raise awareness and try to save the planet. As people saw in the youth climate strike in September 2019, kids will not stay silent about this subject—they’re going to make a change. Meet 12 young activists from around the world who are speaking out and taking action against climate change. Learn about the work they do and the challenges they face, and discover how the future of our planet starts with each and every one of us. Ages 8-12.

 

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (48 pp, Chronicle Books, 2017). A secret underwater world brought to life: In this book, readers will discover the plants and animals that make up the rich, interconnected ecosystem of a mountain pond. Over the pond, the water is a mirror, reflecting the sky. But under the water is a hidden world of minnows darting, beavers diving, and tadpoles growing. These secrets and many others are waiting to be discovered.over and under the pond. Ages 5-8.

 

Planting Peace: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Margaux Carpentier (64 pp, Crocodile Books, 2021). This picture book tells the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, women’s rights activist and one of the first environmental warriors. Wangari began the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in the 1960s, which focused on planting trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. She inspired thousands across Africa to plant 30 million trees in 30 years and was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Ages 7 and up.

 

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (40 pp, Roaring Brook Press, 2020). Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption―a bold and lyrical picture book. Ages 3-6.

 

What a Waste: Trash, Recycling, and Protecting our Planet by Jess French (72 pp, DK Children, 2019). In this informative book on recycling for children, you will find everything you need to know about our environment. The good, the bad and the incredibly innovative. From pollution and litter to renewable energy and plastic recycling. Ages 6-9.

Middle Readers

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty (224 pp, Milkweed Editions, 2021) “This diary chronicles the turning of my world, from spring to winter, at home, in the wild, in my head.” Evocative, raw and lyrical, this startling debut explores the natural world through the eyes of Dara McAnulty, an autistic teenager coping with the uprooting of home, school, and his mental health, while pursuing his life as a conservationist and environmental activist. Ages 13 and up.

 

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman (416 pp, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019). The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers. Until the taps run dry. Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive. Ages 12 and up.

 

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (208 pp, Antheum/Richard Jackson Books, 2000). Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since the divorce. When the plane crashes, killing the pilot, the sole survivor is Brian. He is alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present. At first consumed by despair and self-pity, Brian slowly learns survival skills—how to make a shelter for himself, how to hunt and fish and forage for food, how to make a fire—and even finds the courage to start over from scratch when a tornado ravages his campsite. When Brian is finally rescued after fifty-four days in the wild, he emerges from his ordeal with new patience and maturity, and a greater understanding of himself and his parents. Ages 12 and up.

 

Imaginary Borders by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (64 pp, Penguin Workshop, 2020) Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this installment, Earth Guardians Youth Director and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez shows us how his music feeds his environmental activism and vice versa. Martinez visualizes a future that allows us to direct our anger, fear, and passion toward creating change. Because, at the end of the day, we all have a part to play. Ages 12-17.

 

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (260 pp, DCB, 2017). Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden – but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves. Ages 13-17.

 

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg (160 pp, Penguin Books, 2019). In August 2018 a fifteen-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, decided not to go to school one day in order to protest the climate crisis. Her actions sparked a global movement, inspiring millions of students to go on strike for our planet, forcing governments to listen, and earning her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. No One Is Too Small to Make A Difference collects her speeches and is a rallying cry for why we must all wake up and fight to protect the living planet, no matter how powerless we feel. Ages 13 and up.

 

The Science of Surfing: A Surfside Girls Guide to the Ocean by Kim Dwinell (112 pp, Top Shelf Productions, 2021). Have you ever wondered why the ocean has waves? Why do the tides change with the moon? Can dolphins really “see” using sound? How does surfing actually work? And what can we do to protect the ocean? Cresting from the pages of the beloved graphic novel series Surfside Girls, join best friends Sam & Jade — and Sam’s little brother Peet — as they explore the AWESOME world of ocean science. From physics to marine biology to ecology to surfing lessons, there’s so much to learn… with plenty of fun and jokes along the way! Ages 9-12. 

 

The Story of More (Adapted for Young Adults) by Hope Jahren (208 pp, Delacorte Press, 2021). Hope Jahren, acclaimed geochemist and geobiologist, details the science behind key inventions, clarifying how electricity, large-scale farming, and automobiles have both helped and harmed our world. Jahren explains the current and projected consequences of unchecked global warming, from superstorms to rising sea levels, resulting from the unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gases being released into our atmosphere. The links between human consumption habits and our endangered existence are very real, with consequences leading to a crossroads of survival and extinction. Still, Jahren maintains that our ever-broadening science-based knowledge can help us counter this dilemma. The eye-opening information provided in The Story of More will help readers understand the path we must take. If we collectively make informed choices now, Jahren reassures us, our future can be as bright as we imagine it can be. Ages 12-16.

 

Taking on the Plastics Crisis by Hannah Testa (64 pp, Penguin Workshop, 2020). In this personal, moving essay, youth activist Hannah Testa shares with readers how she led a grassroots political campaign to successfully pass state legislation limiting single-use plastics and how she influenced global businesses to adopt more sustainable practices. Through her personal journey, readers can learn how they, too, can follow in Hannah’s footsteps and lower their carbon footprint by simply refusing single-use plastics. Ages 12-17.

 

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Pérez (384 pp, Puffin Books, 2020). When three very different girls find a mysterious invitation to a lavish mansion, the promise of adventure and mischief is too intriguing to pass up. Ofelia Castillo (a budding journalist), Aster Douglas (a bookish foodie), and Cat Garcia (a rule-abiding birdwatcher) meet the kid behind the invite, Lane DiSanti, and it isn’t love at first sight. But they soon bond over a shared mission to get the Floras, their local Scouts, to ditch an outdated tradition. In their quest for justice, independence, and an unforgettable summer, the girls form their own troop and find something they didn’t know they needed: sisterhood. Ages 9-12. 

Advanced and Adult Readers

The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Jane Goodall (272 pp, Celadon Books, 2021). Looking at the headlines―the worsening climate crisis, a global pandemic, loss of biodiversity, political upheaval―it can be hard to feel optimistic. And yet hope has never been more desperately needed. In this urgent book, Jane Goodall, the world’s most famous living naturalist, and Douglas Abrams, the internationally bestselling co-author of The Book of Joy, explore through intimate and thought-provoking dialogue one of the most sought after and least understood elements of human nature: hope. In The Book of Hope, Jane focuses on her “Four Reasons for Hope”: The Amazing Human Intellect, The Resilience of Nature, The Power of Young People, and The Indomitable Human Spirit.

 

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (456 pp, Milkweed Editions, 2020). As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert).

 

Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven (304 pp, Spiegel & Grau, 2021). When Catherine Raven finished her PhD in biology, she built herself a tiny cottage on an isolated plot of land in Montana. She was as emotionally isolated as she was physically, but she viewed the house as a way station, a temporary rest stop where she could gather her nerves and fill out applications for what she hoped would be a real job that would help her fit into society. In the meantime, she taught remotely and led field classes in nearby Yellowstone National Park. Then one day she realized that a mangy-looking fox was showing up on her property every afternoon at 4:15 p.m. She had never had a regular visitor before. How do you even talk to a fox? She brought out her camping chair, sat as close to him as she dared, and began reading to him from The Little Prince. Her scientific training had taught her not to anthropomorphize animals, yet as she grew to know him, his personality revealed itself and they became friends. From the fox, Catherine learned the single most important thing about loneliness: we are never alone when we are connected to the natural world. 

 

Greenwood by Michael Christie (578 pp, Hogarth, 2021). It’s 2038 and Jacinda (Jake) Greenwood is a storyteller and a liar, an overqualified tour guide babysitting ultra-rich vacationers in one of the world’s last remaining forests. It’s 2008 and Liam Greenwood is a carpenter, sprawled on his back after a workplace fall, calling out from the concrete floor of an empty mansion. It’s 1974 and Willow Greenwood is out of jail, free after being locked up for one of her endless series of environmental protests: attempts at atonement for the sins of her father’s once vast and violent timber empire. It’s 1934 and Everett Greenwood is alone, as usual, in his maple-syrup camp squat, when he hears the cries of an abandoned infant and gets tangled up in the web of a crime, secrets, and betrayal that will cling to his family for decades.

 

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker (224 pp, Beacon Press, 2020). The story of Native peoples’ resistance to environmental injustice and land incursions, and a call for environmentalists to learn from the Indigenous community’s rich history of activism. Through the unique lens of “Indigenized environmental justice,” Indigenous researcher and activist Dina Gilio-Whitaker explores the fraught history of treaty violations, struggles for food and water security, and protection of sacred sites, while highlighting the important leadership of Indigenous women in this centuries-long struggle. As Long As Grass Grows gives readers an accessible history of Indigenous resistance to government and corporate incursions on their lands and offers new approaches to environmental justice activism and policy.

 

The Overstory by Richard Powers (512 pp, W. W. Norton and Company, 2019). The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of―and paean to―the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours―vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

 

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (261 pp, Bloomsbury, 2011). A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn’t show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; she’s 14 and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull’s new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on parenting. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.

 

The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey by Derick Lugo (224 pp, Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2019). Derick Lugo had never been hiking. He certainly couldn’t imagine going more than a day without manicuring his goatee. But with a job cut short and no immediate plans, this fixture of the New York comedy scene began to think about what he might do with months of free time. He had heard of the Appalachian Trail, but he had never seriously considered attempting to hike all 2,184.2 miles of it. Suddenly he found himself asking, Could he do it? The Unlikely Thru-Hiker is the story of how a young black man from the city, unfamiliar with both the outdoors and thru-hiking culture, sets off with an extremely overweight pack and a willfully can-do attitude to conquer the infamous trail.

 

Trace by Lauret Savoy (240 pp, Counterpoint, 2016). Sand and stone are Earth’s fragmented memory. Each of us, too, is a landscape inscribed by memory and loss. One life–defining lesson Lauret Savoy learned as a young girl was this: the American land did not hate. As an educator and Earth historian, she has tracked the continent’s past from the relics of deep time; but the paths of ancestors toward her—paths of free and enslaved Africans, colonists from Europe, and peoples indigenous to this land—lie largely eroded and lost. A provocative and powerful mosaic that ranges across a continent and across time, from twisted terrain within the San Andreas Fault zone to a South Carolina plantation, from national parks to burial grounds, from “Indian Territory” and the U.S.–Mexico Border to the U.S. capital, Trace grapples with a searing national history to reveal the often unvoiced presence of the past.


Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of Our World
by Daniel Sherrell (272 pp, Penguin Books, 2021). From a millennial climate activist, an exploration of how young people live in the shadow of catastrophe. Warmth is a new kind of book about climate change: not what it is or how we solve it, but how it feels to imagine a future—and a family—under its weight. In a fiercely personal account written from inside the climate movement, Sherrell lays bare how the crisis is transforming our relationships to time, to hope, and to each other. At once a memoir, a love letter, and an electric work of criticism, Warmth goes to the heart of the defining question of our time: how do we go on in a world that may not?

Recommended Reading: Previous Themes

Looking for more book ideas? Check out the recommended reading lists for our previous Action Book Club themes:

Read in Color – On antiracism, equity, and inclusion.

Reading All Around – On the joy of reading and the power of literacy.

We Are Family – On families of all kinds and how they shape us.

Moving Forward – On growth, resilience, and well-being for all.

Come Together – On unity, equity, and understanding in a divided world.

Everyday Heroes – On acts of bravery, character, and kindness that transform our world in ways big and small.

Many Voices – On diversity, our differences, and the similarities that connect us all.

Good Neighbors – On the power of community, kindness, and taking action where you live.

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