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The Essential Reading List for Environmental Studies Students

There is substantial literature that centers on the relations between humans and the environment. Here, we have assembled a list of essential readings for Environmental Studies students. These books shaped our own thinking and we hope that they will inspire you as well.  Please explore them as you conduct your research and education program here at Binghamton University. 

Professor Dick Andrus, Environmental Studies 


Bardi, Ugo. Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet.
Looks at resources, their availability and impacts. Excellent overview of minerals and mining.

Berry, Wendell. Our Only World.

Ehrenfeld, David. The Arrogance of Humanism.
A brilliant and quite accessible essayist.

Heinberg, Richard. The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality.
Very influential thinker re: peak oil.

Hopkins, Rob. The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience.
May become much more important as we become more aware of how we are damaging our future.

Jensen, Derrick. Endgame Volume 1.

Jensen, Derrick. Endgame Volume 2.

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.

Kunstler, James Howard. The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century.

Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.
A huge overlooked issue in our IT infatuated world.

McKibben, Bill.  Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

McKibben, Bill.  The End of Nature.

Nikiforuk, Andrew. The Energy of Slaves.
Great writing on the significance of energy in society.

Pollan, Michael.  The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

Schumacher, E.F.  Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.

Tainter, Joseph. The Collapse of Complex Civilizations.
The most important thinker in collapse theory.


Atwood, Margaret. Oryx & Crake.

Kunstler, James Howard. A World Made by Hand: A Novel.

LeGuin, Ursula. The Word for World is Forest.

Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael: A Novel.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Galapagos: A Novel.

Professor Mark Blumler,  Geography

Botkin Daniel. Discordant Harmonies.
Beautifully written meditation by a top ecologist. An absolute must-read for anyone interested in the management of biotic resources (forests, fisheries, etc.)

Botkin, Daniel. The Moon in the Nautilus Shell.
Updates Discordant Harmonies 25 years later.

Bryce, Robert. Power Hungry.
There doesn't seem to be a perfect book about energy; this one hits the major issues and is accessible to undergrads.

Dizard, Jan. Going Wild.
Gets to the heart of the controversy over deer culling.

Leach, Melissa, and Mearns, Robin. The Lie of the Land: Challenging Received Wisdom on the African Environment.
Critiques Western (including scientific) misperceptions re environmental degradation in poor countries.

McPhee, John. Encounters with the Archdruid.
Humanizes environmental debates. Students universally praise this book.

Morgan, Tim. Life after Growth.
The energy-econ nexus.

Morton, Oliver. The Planet Remade.
Makes the case for geo-engineering to mitigate global warming. To my great surprise, he persuaded me.

Ostrom, Elinor. Governing the Commons.
Stands alongside Botkin as essential reading.

Sayre, Nathan. The Politics of Scale: A History of Rangeland Science.
Scientific mismanagement of grazing in the West.

Smil, Vaclav. Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses.
For grads, primarily.

Zhuang, Zhou. Zhuangzi.
Really, should we be restricting ourselves entirely to Western perspectives on environment?


Barks, Carl. The Land of the Pygmy Indians.

Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows.

Professor Juliet Berling, Environmental Studies

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire.

Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods.

Hawken, Paul. Ecology of Commerce.

Kingsolver, Barbara, Kingsolver, Camille, and Hopp, Steven. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral.

Lappe, Francis Moore. Diet for a Small Planet. 

Lewis, Sinclair. It Can't Happen Here.

Oates, Wallace. RFF Reader in Environmental and Resource Policy 2nd edition.

Orwell, George. 1984.

Pollan, Michael.  Omnivores Dilemma. 

Putnam, Robert. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of of American Community.

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation.

Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle.

Steinbeck, John. Grapes of Wrath.

Toensmeir, Eric. Paradise Lot. 

Professor Robert Holahan, Environmental Studies

Ostrom, Elinor Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action.
This is the book for which she won the Nobel for, and it is the book that changed my life when I first read it as an undergrad because it is the anti-thesis to The Tragedy of the Commons. It is not only a transformational book in environmental policy, but it is also a seminal work in the broader field of institutional economics. 

Cronon, William Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West.
A book (though it's long--written by a historian) that defines my view of the environment. It's the story of why Chicago exists where it exists, based on an ecological understanding of trade routes, etc. I think its excellently written and powerful in its explanation. It is the cornerstone of my Sustainability & Urban Policy course.

Professor Louisa Holmes, Geography

Geography books

Sampson, Robert. Great American City. 
Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City.
LeFebvre, Henri. The Urban Revolution. 
Soja, Edward. Seeking Spatial Justice. 
Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums.

Sociology Books

Massey, Doug and Denton, Nancy. American Apartheid.
Wilson, William Julius. The Truly Disadvantaged.

Economics Books

McKibben, Bill. Deep Economy.
Sachs, Jeffrey. The End of Poverty.

Environmental Epidemiology

Preston, Richard. The Hot Zone.

Professor George Homsy, Public Administration

Beatley, Timothy. Green Cities of Europe: Global Lessons on Green Urbanism.
Makes you jealous of their successes.

Bulkeley, Harriett. Cities and Climate Change.
She is one of the foremost researchers on local government sustainability.

Bullard, Robert D. Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality.
Classic and foundational book about environmental justice.

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring.
Published in 1962 by biologist Rachel Carson, this book is credited with bringing national attention to the dangers of pesticides and the need for legislation to protect the environment.

Jacobs, Jane  The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Classic planning book that outlines many urban problems


Professor Neha Khanna, Economics

Conrad, Jon M. Resource Economics (Cambridge Univ Press, 2nd ed). 
This is at a senior or first year MA level.

Tietenberg, Thomas and Lewis, Lynne. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (Pearson, 10th ed). 
This is roughly at a sophomore level.


Professor BrieAnna Langlie, Anthropology

Boserup, Esther. The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change Under Population Pressure. (1965)

Davis, Wade. The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist's Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombies, and Magic. (1997)

Harlan, Jack. Crops and Man. (1992)

Malthus, Thomas. An Essay on the Principle of Population. (1798)

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire. (2002)


Professor Carl Lipo, Environmental Studies and Anthropology

Abbey, Edward Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
Inspirational essays about the relations between humans and the natural world. This book has had a huge influence on my life.

Reisner, Marc Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water.  
This book will shed much light on the nature of politics and communities across the American West.

Snyder, Gary  The Practice of the Wild.
A classic treatise on the nature of wilderness.  

Stegner, Wallace  The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West.

Ward, Peter Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future.
Understanding our future requires deep knowledge about past events.


Professor Molly Patterson, Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies 

Bradley, Ray Global Warming and Political Intimidation: How Politicians Cracked Down on Scientists As the Earth Heated Up.


Professor Kirsten Prior, Biological Sciences

Leopold, Aldo  A Sand County Almanac
The landmark book of the American conservation movement - the first to advocate the idea of "land ethic" - or the responsible relationship between people and the land.


 Professor Susan Ryan, Environmental Studies

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. (1962)

Safina, Carl. Song for the Blue Ocean: Encounters Along the World's Coasts and Beneath the Seas. (1998)

Thoreau, Henry David, Walden Pond. (1854)

Wilson, Edward. Diversity of Life. (1999)

Last Updated: 10/13/17