Nature and Environmental Book Reviews

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books


Green Building, Sustainable Design and Sustainable Development

The American ethos has been to believe that we will always have “plenty of everything”: plenty of land, an everlasting supply of water, plenty of electricity, gasoline, trees and other natural resources. Of course we once thought there were plenty of buffalo, and too many passenger pigeons to count . . . learn more about Green Building, Sustainable Design and Sustainable Development»

There is a revolution underway in sustainable design and green building. The books in this section point the way we must go to conserve resources and reduce the human impact on our environment.

Recommended Books on Green Building, Sustainable Design and Sustainable Development

BiomimicryBiomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
Janine M. Benyus

Science writer Benyus demonstrates that nature's solutions to situations have often been the created jumping-off points for individuals seeking solutions, innovations or revitalizing processes or products. She shows the great potential profitability of copying some of nature's time-tested, non-polluting, room-temperature manufacturing and computing technologies. 2002, Harper Perennial

Cradle to Cradle
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Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
William McDonough

In Cradle to Cradle the authors present a manifesto calling for a new industrial revolution, one that would render both traditional manufacturing and traditional environmentalism obsolete. Recycling, for instance, is actually "downcycling," creating byproducts which are then unrecoverable and unuseable. The authors want to eliminate the concept of waste alltogether, while preserving commerce and allowing for human nature. This is a handbook for 21st century innovation. 2002, North Point Press


Design for the Real WorldDesign for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change
Victor Papanek

This inspiring classic on environmental design remains relevant for its cultural critique, its multidisciplinary approach, and the advocacy of creative approaches to design dilemmas. 2005, Academy Chicago; Revised edition

Design on the EdgeDesign on the Edge: The Making of a High-Performance Building
David W. Orr

This story of the Lewis Center at Oberlin College - the first substantially green building to be built on a college campus - tells of the planning and design of the building as part of the larger story about the art and science of ecological design and the ability of institutions of higher learning themselves to learn. Equal parts analysis, personal reflection, and call to action. 2006, The MIT Press

Design with NatureDesign with Nature
Ian L. McHarg

This classic paradigm-changing book offers a practical blueprint for a new, healthier relationship between the built environment and nature. Blending philosophy and science, McHarg shows how humans can copy nature's examples to design and build better structures. A user's manual for our world. 1995, Wiley

EcocitiesEcocities: Building Cities in Balance with Nature
Richard Register

This visionary book by the leader of the ecocity movement outlines a plan for developing existing cities in a way that lessens their destructive impact on the environment and increases their support of healthy social interaction. 2006, New Society Publishers

Ecological DesignEcological Design
Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan

Using examples from architecture, industrial ecology, sustainable agriculture, ecological wastewater treatment, and many other fields, Ecological Design provides a framework for integrating human design with living systems. The book challenges us to create buildings, infrastructures, and landscapes that are truly restorative. 2007, Island Press

The Green Building Revolution
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The Green Building Revolution
Jerry Yudelson

The green building movement, with its principles of human-centered, environmentally sensitive development is showing us how we can have healthier indoor environments that use far less energy and water than conventional buildings do. This book shows readers how to start thinking about designing, building, and operating high performance, environmentally aware (LEED-certified) buildings on conventional budgets. 2007, Island Press


Green DevelopmentGreen Development: Integrating Ecology and Real Estate
Rocky Mountain Institute

This report from Rocky Mountain Institute describes an exciting new field in which environmental considerations are viewed as opportunities to create fundamentally better buildings and communities. It examines every stage of the development process, from market research and design to construction and occupancy. 1998, Wiley

The Green HouseThe Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture
Alanna Stang

This book showcases 30 houses that meet the design goals of a "green house": harmonize with the site; build as small as possible; use natural heating and cooling; be beautiful as well as ecological; located close to work, school, shopping; and refurbish older buildings where possible. Inspirational. 2010, Princeton Architectural Press

The Green ImperativeThe Green Imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture
Victor Papanek

Papanek reiterates his plea first published 40 years ago, for ecologically sound design of everything from food packaging to buildings. He calls upon designers and architects to add the pursuit of innovative ideas for avoiding pollution and other forms of environmental degradation to their remarkable ability to blend the demands of aesthetics with those of technology. 1995, Thames & Hudson

Green UrbanismGreen Urbanism: Learning From European Cities
Timothy Beatley

Beatley feels there is much to learn from the Europeans when it comes to ecological city planning. Livable, walkable, sustainable cities are important for people everywhere and the European cities with a compact urban form without extensive suburban sprawl has much to recommend it. 1999, Island Press

The HOK Guidebook to Sustainable DesignThe HOK Guidebook to Sustainable Design
Sandra F. Mendler, William Odell and Mary Ann Lazarus

This practical reference guide on the integration of sustainable, high performance design emphasizes the project process, cost implications, case studies, and lessons learned from HOK's wide range of project experiences. Invaluable for all those interested in LEED certification. 2005, Wiley

The Nature of DesignThe Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention
David W. Orr

Ecological design is an emerging field that aims to recalibrate what humans do in the world according to how the world works as a biophysical system. The book describes barriers to a design revolution inherent in our misuse of language, the clockspeed of technological society, and shortsighted politics. Orr describes the critical role educational institutions might play in fostering design intelligence. The Nature of Design combines theory, practicality and a call to action. 2004, Oxford University Press

The Philosophy of Sustainable DesignThe Philosophy of Sustainable Design
Jason F. McLennan

This easy-to-read book presents the basics of Sustainable Design. The author gives us a compelling vision of sustainable design in its historical and philosophical context. The book describes the materials, technologies, and methods available to green designers as it highlights the leaders and innovators who are driving the green building movement forward. 2004, Ecotone Publishing

State of the World 2007State of the World 2007: Our Urban Future
Worldwatch Institute

The Worldwatch Institute's award-winning research team focuses on the urbanization of our planet to provide comprehensive analysis of the environmental problems we face, together with descriptions of practical, innovative solutions. The report shows what is needed to foster sustainable cities on a planet where urban areas are home to half the human population and use a far larger share of natural resources. 2007, W. W. Norton

Sustainable Urban DesignSustainable Urban Design
Randall Thomas

This book provides a coherent overview of the important issues in sustainable urban design, focusing on buildings and their engineering systems, landscaping, transport systems, and water and waste systems. The authors include fully illustrated examples of best practice and sustainable urban design. 2003, Taylor & Francis

Whole Earth DisciplineWhole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, and Geoengineering Are Necessary
Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand, co-author of the seminal 1969 Whole Earth Catalog, reflects on lessons learned from more than 40 years as an environmentalist in Whole Earth Discipline, a compelling attempt to inspire practicable solutions to climate change. He exhorts environmentalists to become fearless about following science; his iconoclastic proposals include transitioning to nuclear energy and ecosystem engineering. Brand's fresh perspective, approachable writing style and manifest wisdom ultimately convince the reader that the future is not an abyss to be feared but an opportunity for innovative problem solvers to embrace enthusiastically. 2010, Penguin

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