When I was a child I was an avid reader. I read 100’s of books. Looking back now I still vividly remember the Little House books, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. These adventures played a big part in shaping my life and probably in part turned me into the adventurer and explorer that I am today. There is little doubt in my mind that reading is one of the most beneficial ways that I spent my time as a child.
I wish I could say that I stayed an avid reader for my whole life but in college I think partying took over to a great extent and in recent years the computer has largely replaced books for me. In 2011 I began a transformation from From Drunk Dude to Dude Making a Difference and that was fueled more by documentaries than anything else. I’ve shared the influential documentaries at 23 films that changed my life. Although documentaries were my greatest source of education and inspiration in my transformation there were also many books that had a profound influence on me. I can’t remember all of them but the following is a list of books that have made their mark in my mind and that I encourage you to read as well. Of course there are many other books out there that could have had a huge impact on me had they come into my hands but these are the books that I have read and that I recommend.
The Moneyless Man, The Moneyless Manifesto, and Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi by Mark Boyle
I first heard about Mark Boyle through my Facebook news feed as I saw a viral article about his year of living without money. His first book, The Moneyless Man, was one of my greatest inspirations to reduce my dependency on money. His second book, The Moneyless Manifesto, taught me how to live without money. And his third book, Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi, forced me to rethink everything, even after half a decade of rethinking everything. I’ve done a writeup on his books here.
The Biography of Mahatma Gandhi
I was sleeping on the streets of downtown San Diego spending time with people with no home and checked out a copy from the public library. I don’t recall which biography it was exactly that I read but every one has great value to it. He was a great inspiration to me before reading his biography but the inspiration grew after this read.
Let My People Go Surfing and The Responsible Company by Yvon Chouinard
Yvon Chouinard is the founder of Patagonia and 1% for the Planet and a huge inspiration to me. Through his business, nonprofit, and personal life he truly is leading the way into a more sustainable world. These books really inspired and informed me on how to carry out my business in an ethical manner. In his mind the answer to living in a healthy world is simple; know the affects of your actions and do what is right. It comes down to living simply, reducing consumption, buying quality products that last, and giving back to what gives to us.
Healthful Foods by Jethro Kloss
This book taught me the basics of nutrition and really helped to get me away from junk food and into eating healthy, whole foods. It was so inspirational for me to learn what happens when I put food into my body and how much I could improve my life through what I ate.
Here I am in Puerto Rico in 2012 with this book and some of the food it inspired me to eat.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food just happens to be the Michael Pollan book that I got my hands on but even having not read any of his other books I would recommend every one of them. He is a brilliant man who explains food so simply yet so deeply. I recommend his books to anyone who wants to know whats going on with the food they are eating.
Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Waste Scandal by Tristram Stuart
Through my years of dumpster diving activism Tristram Stuart has become a great friend of mine. It wasn’t until after we became friends that I finally read this book. I was already widely versed on the topic of food waste this book still managed to teach me so much. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to make an impact in the world of food waste.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Born to Run is likely my single greatest inspiration into living a barefoot life. Highly educational, inspirational, and a compelling story all around.
Into the Wild by John Krakauer
I first saw the movie and a few years later read the book. Christopher McCandless is hugely inspirational to me and I have a lot of respect for him. This is an adventure worth reading and that should get you thinking.
Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Blythe Lappé and Bryant Terry
Along with Healthful Foods, and documentaries like Food, Inc. this book was part of my total lifestyle change when it comes to food.
The Secret History of the American Empire by John Perkins
I didn’t feel good after reading this book. In fact I was quite depressed. But it was an utterly important read in learning about corruption in government, politics, and corporations.
Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko
Do you eat enough greens? This book is pretty convincing that it may be the single most important part of a healthy diet. After reading this you’re probably going to want a green smoothie!
Blink and Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
Both of these were extremely helpful for me in learning how to be successful with affecting positive change through my life work.
Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
A year of eating only local, mostly only food that Barbara and her family grew themselves. This is an experiment that I plan to embark on myself, only to a bit of a greater extreme than them. This book really made me want to dive into growing my own heirloom food and to connect with the soil.
This is the little shelf of books that I kept while I was living at The Teeny Greeny.
Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
Rethink the “standard narrative” of human sexual evolution.
The Joy of Living: Unlocking The Secret and Science of Happiness by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
“An illuminating perspective on the science of meditation—and a handbook for transforming our minds, bodies, and lives. In The Joy of Living, world-renowned Buddhist teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche—the “happiest man in the world”—invites us to join him in unlocking the secrets to finding joy and contentment in the everyday. Using the basic meditation practices he provides, we can discover paths through our problems, transforming obstacles into opportunities to recognize the unlimited potential of our own minds.”
The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C. Cutler
“Nearly every time you see him, he’s laughing, or at least smiling. And he makes everyone else around him feel like smiling. He’s the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, and an increasingly popular speaker and statesman. What’s more, he’ll tell you that happiness is the purpose of life, and that “the very motion of our life is towards happiness.” How to get there has always been the question. He’s tried to answer it before, but he’s never had the help of a psychiatrist to get the message across in a context we can easily understand. Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. Together with Dr. Cutler, he explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life’s obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace.”
More books and authors I recommend:
Michael Pollan– Everything that Michael writes
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
Charles Eisenstein– Sacred Economics, The Ascent of Humanity, The More Beautiful World Our Heart Knows is Possible
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz and his other books.
Permaculture Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren
The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen about Daniel Suelo
Life Without Plastic This book re-invigorated my desire to live a life without plastic. Plus it has given me a deeper understanding of of what exactly what plastic is, the many types of plastic, the human harm it can cause and the impact it has on our world. After just the first chapter I was already going through all of my stuff and sifting out the plastic that had creeped back into my life and wasn’t serving me well! The book is written in a manner that can be read by someone fully immersed in the plastic life today that wants to make their first change, or by someone like myself who is well on their way to a life without plastic, or anywhere in between. It is non-preaching, non-judgmental, meets us all where we are are, and guides us into a happier, healthier and more sustainable life without plastic.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
There are so many thousands of incredible books out there and these are just some of the ones that have had a positive impact on me. And for many of them it was sheerly a matter of luck or coincidence that I ended up reading them. The library is one of my favorite places to spend time and I highly encourage you to support your local library and spend time there. Used book shops are also a great resource for expanding your knowledge.
For more inspiration and education check out these lists of resources that have had a positive influence on me:
33 Facebook pages I recommend
50 people I recommend paying attention to
Nonprofits I recommend and support
23 films that changed my life
23 of my favorite YouTube channels