Books Worth Reading
On this page you will find reviews on books that enlightened me on many aspects of living a sustainable life. I have personally read all the books on this page and have learned something new from all of them. This list will continue to expand as I read more and more books in a effort to improve me knowledge in all aspects of green living.
Urban Homesteading by Rachel Kaplan and Ruby Blume
Hailed as "ridiculously good" and "a stunner" this book transports you into a world filled with people that are living sustainable self-sufficient lifestyles right in urban landscapes. This book is not a fantasy or a dream for those that imagine a better life but a poignant look at a real subset of American people that are actually doing it. The book takes you step by step through the basic skills of being closer to the land, growing your own food, caring for animals and pretty much anything and everything we have forgotten about living off the land. It provides practical advice to anyone looking to transition from a modern American lifestyle to a more sustainable one. You will find suggestions for composting vegetable scraps and your own waste along with permaculture design specifications that allow to grow fruit tree's in harmony with annual crops. It also offers insight in natural building methods and how to power this new lifestyle without being plugged into the grid. Finally at the end of the book it delves into the more spiritual aspects of working closer to the land and being in touch with nature.
Mini Farming Self Sufficiency on a 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham.
I just finished reading this book and I must say it is a veritable plethora of information. I couldn't truly adsorb it all from one sitting. It is packed with ideas and techniques on how to make the most of a tiny plot of land in urban or rural settings. Covering topics from seed selection and pest control all the way to preserving and selling the harvest. I loved this book so much that as soon as I brought the library's copy back I had one ordered off of Amazon. I have already used some of the information in this book to do my first 'hopefully" successful canning of cucumbers into Bread and Butter pickles. I say hopefully because this is my first time canning anything alone. The books advice and procedure was very helpful for me and I look forward to enjoying the results. If you want to start a mini farm for profit or just to grow some beautiful food I would highly suggest this book.
Mini Farming- Guide to Vegetable Gardening by Brett L. Markham
This companion book to Mini Farming-Self goes further in depth on vegetable and fruit variety’s, there planting directions and pest problems they face. Like his first book this one is very easy to follow and understand with clearly defined directions on how to raise vegetable and care from asparagus to zucchini. I found this particular book to be very useful in my first year of big gardening where I really applied intensive techniques for the first time.
Root Cellaring- The simpleno-processing way to store fruits and vegetables by Mike & Nancy Bubel
This well written easy to follow guide on root cellaring is a must have resources for anyone interested in the art and science that is root cellaring. It offers insights into produce variety’s that keep well including details on when to plant your keepers. It also offers testimonials from successful and not so successful root cellaring attempts and lets us learn from there design and techniques so we don't make the same mistakes. Within it pages are detailed designs of both traditional and non traditional root cellars and designs for shelving and storage bins to place your produce in. It basically is a one stop shop for any root cellaring enthusiast just starting out. It can be found quite cheaply online at place like Amazon.
Homemade Living: Canning and Preserving- by Ashley English
I really enjoyed this short little book about canning and preserving. It parceled out information in easy to "digest" steps and it doesn't overwhelm the reader with lots of information all at once. I also really enjoyed the short recipe section at the back of book it looks like some delicious recipes that I look forward to trying. A very good starter book for those who are just getting into canning or simply wish to learn a little bit about it.
Urban Agriculture- Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution by David Tracey. This witty and highly entertaining book is a fun yet educational read. Packed full of fun facts and useful advice this book is great for growers of all levels and types. Whether you want a balcony full of plants or a half acre to call you own this is a good reference to read and have.
Small Scale Grain Raising By Gene Logsdon
The second edition re-released in 2008 with updated information and more stories from the great grain raiser himself. Considered one of the founding fathers of the modern garden farming and sustainable agriculture Gene Logsdon delivers a educational yet easy to read book on raising your own grains. He gives his weighty opinion on techniques for grain selection, planting, raising, disease concerns, harvesting and storage. For anyone that is even mildly interested in growing grains for themselves or livestock in a small garden setting this is the book for you. I will be adding it my collection just as soon as I can and it will be a well read resource. It can be found at Amazon for easy purchasing
Cubed Foot Gardening - Growing Vegetables in Raised, Intensive Beds by Christopher Bird.
I will be honest this book did not have lots of amazing new information on the concept of raised beds gardening and overall was not to much use to me. It did provide a little insight into building of the beds using 2 x 6 or preferable 2 x 12 lumber and even the use of the green treat lumber to help the beds last longer. While I personally am not a fan of using the green treat lumber due the assortment of chemicals that goes into making it I do not believe at this time that there is any scientific evidence that would prevent you from safely using it.
Overall its a solid book that would be a great primer for anyone that is interested in learning more about intensive garden beds.
Fresh Food From Small Spaces- The Square Inch Gardeners Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting
A generalized look at the techniques and methods used to make the most of small spaces and urban locations for growing your own food. This book is good for beginners and people who are not familiar with some of the basics of gardening and other techniques for composting, mulching and growing your own seedlings in the spring. The part that jumped out to me the most were the sections on sprout growing and their nutritional qualities and some basic info mushroom production.
The Passive Solar House-by James Kachadorian
This is a perfect book for those just getting interested in passive solar design. Whether that interest is passive (pardon the pun) or active this book is a great primer on using solar energy. It covers the basic principals that must be followed by anyone attempting to build solar and provides a multitude of worksheets and if you buy a new copy computer software that helps you to make accurate calculations to help you determine how to you need to build your home. A very useful and must have book for anyone attempting to build solar. It will be added to my library when I reach that point in my life. One side note is sections of it are fairly heavy on technical and mathematical jargon so rereading or consultation with other sources may be necessary to make complete sense of certain sections.
The Green Self Build Book-by John Broome
This particular book is written by a author in the UK and as such some of the material is not applicable to here in the United States. Such as the building codes and standards that are required as well as the availability of certain materials. I really enjoyed this books for the coverage it did of timber, straw, cob and other uncommon building practices. He also gives a environmental breakdown of a variety of insulating materials and how effective they are in practice. What I really enjoyed were the large glossy photos on most pages of existing eco-homes. Pictures really do tell a thousand words and they help illustrate his point that eco or green doesn't mean these homes are inferior to more conventional homes. What I took from this book is that natural is beautiful and he uses pictures and scientific principals to prove it. A good book to have for inspiration and idea gathering but practical use in the USA could be difficult do to the use of UK weights, measurements and building standards.
The Natural House-by Daniel Chiras
This "Complete Guide to Healthy, Energy Efficient Environmental Homes" is a excellent primer to many types of natural environmental building. The authors covers a variety of topics from straw bales, adobe, Earthships and log homes to name a few. It also covers the topic of sustainable systems like passive solar, renewable energy and siting considerations for your new home. At the end of the book a well organized resource guide awaits those who wish to learn more on natural building and its associated disciplines.
More Straw Bale Building- By Chris Magwood et al.
As a proponent of all natural building this book was great. It takes a reader step by step through the planning, contracting and building process. With this book in hand I do believe that that you could build a straw bale house from the ground up if you wanted to. I do have personal ambitions towards building some sort of straw bale structure and I know that when they time comes this book will become part of my go to collection on the subject. What this book doesn't cover in its pages it gives in its resources section pointing you to whatever reference material you may need.
The Homeowner's Complete Handbook for Add-On Solar Greenhouses & Sunspaces: Planning, Design, Construction by Andrew Shapiro
This book is packed full of information of how to build add on solar heating and greenhouses to you existing home. The book was a excellent and somewhat easy read. I found some of the construction jargon challenging but someone more versed in it should not have any problems. This book was published in 1985 so the cost and some of the techniques could be dated. But for someone interested in building some add on solar this book would a excellent if not there only resource.
The Hand Sculpted House- A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage by Ianto Evans, Micheal G Smith, Linda Smiley
I came across this book at my local library and it immediately captured my attention with its intriguing title The Hand-Sculpted House
Hand Sculpted House...?
How do you sculpt a house? Isn't a house something made of hard, angular material that needs to be cut, beaten, screwed and otherwise forced into a position that will work to protect us and our possessions. This book contends that no a house does not have to be made of wood, sheetrock and concrete and must conform to perfect squares and rectangles. Instead it provides an inside look into the lives of successful earthen home builders that have constructed beautiful, resilient and comfortable homes using the humble materials of rock, sand, clay and straw.
This book was my first serious introduction into cob building or cobbing. Cobbing is a style of building that goes back centuries but has largely been relegated to being primitive and not as effective as other more modern methods. But in the past two decades there has been a resurgence in interest in cob buildings and what they can do to improve the quality of life and the environment.
For practical advice on building using cob look no farther that this book. It provides diagrams, pictures mixture ratios for different types of cob and words of wisdom on how to avoid the common pitfalls of cob building. It also provides a more "spiritual" or earthy perspective of how building in this matter is good for you in physical, emotional and spiritual sense.
All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and plan to add it to my library at the first opportunity.
It can be found online at Amazon.
Earthbag Building by Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer
This excellent book is the one and only thing you need to start using earth bags to build environmental friendly housing for you and your family. It will take you through the brief but successful history of using earth bags and explain and diagram all the techniques that you will need to build you own small house from start to finish.
The book and the building method it touts are considered by many earth building experts as being one of the easiest for owner builders to master quickly and effectively. This makes it ideal for first time attempts at using earth to build.
If you are serious about building your own earth friendly, well built and cost effective house this book deserves your attention.
It can be found online at Amazon.
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