Must-Reads: Wendell Berry’s The Art of the Common Place exhorts readers to return to the land in order to become “at home” in the world and find wisdom, peace, and well-being. “Agrarianism . . . promises a path toward wholeness with the earth, with each other, and with God, a path founded upon an insight into our proper place within the wider universe.” The needs of the natural and human communities that sustain us must take precedence over our selfish desires, transforming us from exploiters into nurturers.
Travelling through Italy, Egypt, and the Holy Land in the footsteps of Saint Francis, Ernest Raymond captures the beautiful and intimate connection Francis had with the world surrounding him. In the Steps of St. Francis includes Francis’ “Sermon to the Birds” and “Canticle of the Sun,” which express the love he had for the Creator and his creation. As Raymond writes, “Here, among the thistles and the stones, were moments of communion, illumination, and knowledge that are of greater importance to our race than the most heralded discoveries of science.” Francis’ impact on science, art, literature, and religion have established him as patron saint of the environment.
American Earth is an anthology of the environmental writings of authors ranging from Henry David Thoreau to Rebecca Solnit. Included in this volume are prominent authors and activists from the 1800s to the present. The writings of historical giants such as John Muir and Rachel Carson share space with more contemporary voices such as Wendell Berry and Paul Hawken, compiled by Bill McKibben into what is possibly the most comprehensive synthesis of environmental literature of the century.
Recommended: In his heartwarming and heartbreaking collection, Arctic Voices, Subhankar Banerjee compiles thirty-nine descriptive essays and accounts by environmental activists. This collection deliberates the Arctic’s natural diversity and beauty, and how it has been exploited and poisoned for decades, endangering the people, plants, and animals that live there. Banerjee shows how climate change in the Far North is interconnected with the places where the rest of us live. These essays demand that we reconsider the environmental war we are waging on our only home.
In the twenty essays of his book, The Soul of the Night, Chet Raymo blends cosmology, astronomy, literature, physics, anthropology, history, mythology, carbon atoms, mourning cloaks, and quasars in his search for knowledge of, and faith in, the invisible Creator. “The pilgrimage is one that each of us must take alone, into the realm of the stars and galaxies, to the limits of the universe, to that boundary of space and time where the mind and heart encounter the ultimate mystery, the known unknowable.” For those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the interconnectivity of science and spirit, this book is a must.
Elizabeth Kolbert’s reporting about ecosystems and species presents a challenging view of the sixth major extinction happening before our eyes. Her book, The Sixth Extinction, describes the details of this approaching apocalypse and paints a vivid global picture of the end of an epoch. Ours. “I try to convey both sides: the excitement of what’s being learned as well as the horror of it,” writes Kolbert. “My hope is that readers of this book will come away with an appreciation of the truly extraordinary moment in which we live.”