In today’s society, buzz words such as sustainability, eco-friendly, and organic are thrown around in conversation all the time. But what do they actually mean?


Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

For example, what is sustainability? This term cannot stand alone with a simple definition, and there is no perfect way to describe it. In fact, something such as the idea of sustainability is considered ‘wickedly complex’ (yes this is a true scientific term). In short, something which is wickedly complex is so involved, confusing, and hard to define that no all-encompassing definition exists.

In trying to understand these buzz words flying around, I turned to literature and education to help understand even a small portion of this mega-puzzle. The books I am about to discuss (both fiction and nonfiction) helped develop my ideas about sustainability and would be great additions to any eco-conscious Little Free Library.

Fiction Books:

At first glance, you’re probably asking yourself what on earth these books have to do with sustainability. After all, they don’t really deal with the topic directly. I think they’re still valuable (and fun!) to read since they’re versions of what our tech-crazy world might look like hundreds of years down the road. The George Orwell’s 1984 probably seemed a bit out there when it debuted, too…

  1. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card): Although this book was written in 1985, it is extremely futuristic. Its

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    aliens and space wars may be unrealistic, even 30 years later, but looking in between the lines at the social ideals, status and views of the world bring this book closer to home.

  2. Divergent (Veronica Roth): This extremely popular book (and series) is not only a great read, but also an alternative view of society. To humans at this time, sustainability meant organizing people based on personality for maximum efficiency. Thinking past the inevitable love story of a young adult novel, this book actually poses interesting ideas on social and economic development, along with speculating the consequences of such an organization.
  3. The Rules (Stacy Kade): This is a recent read of mine. It was a quick read, on an airplane to a conference, but I thought it was interesting. This book is about a hybrid human/alien trying to fit into society. While a human/alien hybrid is not a scientific experiment which will be attempted in our lifetimes, the social repercussions (good or bad) of science will be.

Non-Fiction Books:

This list of books deals more directly with the idea of sustainability as it applies to our society, right here, right now.

Cradle to Cradle.

Cradle to Cradle.

  1. How Bad are Bananas (Mike Berners-Lee): This book breaks down the seemingly overwhelming idea of a carbon footprint. It makes a scientific idea into something for everyday people and applies to it to everyday living.
  1. Unquenchable (Robert Glennon): I loved this book! It outlines the very current and real water crisis happening in America.
  1. The World Is Flat (Thomas Friedman): This book takes a revolutionary look at technology and the impact it has had on the world in the 21st  century. It is oddly riveting and a great way to understand what is going on technologically and how it came to be in recent history.
  1. Cradle to Cradle (William McDonough and Michael Braungart): If you get this book, get the hard copy. The physical book is water proof and completely recyclable. In fact, it has a shelf life and will eventually decompose into natural fibers. It’s fun to hold, play with and it redefines the idea of books as we have known it for hundreds of years. Not to mention the revolutionary ideas housed within it…

I hope you enjoy these books as much as I did! Each title would be a great addition to any Little Free Library interested in sustainability and environmental topics.

This guest post was written by Little Free Library super steward and active member of Open Source Ecology – Milwaukee: Rachel Beyer.

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