Summer Reading List Recommendations

Summer Reading List

We celebrate the arrival of summer by asking long-time Save Mount Diablo supporters and volunteers to share their favorite books about nature or the outdoors that they found inspiring.

Meg Beeler, author, shamanic guide, and Chair of Sonoma Mountain Preservation

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer takes the reader deep into what Save Mount Diablo is all about. Drawing on the world to think about land as home and becoming indigenous to place, here are a few quotes:

  • “Ecological restoration is inseparable from cultural and spiritual restoration.”
  • “Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world . . . [it] transforms relationships from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”
  • “In circular time, stories are both history and prophesy.”

People of the Whale by Linda Hogan revolves around two Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest as they struggle to reconcile the tribe’s time-honored ways in the natural world and the painful moral choices humans make in it.

Bette Felton, Professor Emerita at California State University, East Bay; co-founder of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at CSU East Bay; and serves on Save Mount Diablo’s Development Committee

My favorite nature book this year was The Overstory by Richard Powers. The title is a metaphor for “the big picture” and refers in one way to the overstory/canopy in forests. It is also an allusion to an overlapping links between five people and their stories. The descriptions of how nature impacts their lives are remarkably beautiful, and made me cry and laugh in the same chapter.

Another book I just finished is called The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson. This is an account of a heist of rare birds and the investigation into why, how, and then what. The book is stranger than fiction, and a great read.

Liz Harvey, Chief Development Officer with The Nature Conservancy, and serves as Vice President and Secretary on Save Mount Diablo’s Board of Directors

As a kid, my favorite outdoor book was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. I didn’t know anything about the Channel Islands at the time, but the bravery and resourcefulness of this girl alone in nature really inspired me. As an adult, I enjoy similar stories—Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail come to mind. Most of my recent summer light reading has been in the crime/mystery genre, with some medical backdrop that allows me to learn while being entertained. Fair Warning by Michael Connelly talks about the misuse of testing DNA, the stuff of all organisms.

Keith Alley, Emeritus Professor of Cell Biology at the University of California, Merced; serves on Save Mount Diablo’s Board of Directors

Much of what I read is history, bibliography, and science.

  1. The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wolff. Humboldt is the father of modern ecology. This book traces his studies throughout South America. 
  1. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan traces the decline and rejuvenation of the Great Lakes over the past five decades. 
  1. The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell is about global warming and ocean level rise. 
  1. The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen traces microbial development and gene pool exchange in evolution. 
  1. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells is about global warming and its planetary impacts.  
  1. The Ice at the End of the World by Jon Gertler discusses studies of the Greenland Ice Cap and the effects of global warming. 
  1. The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Johnson is a who-done-it mystery tracing the pilfering of feathers from exotic birds in museums to make fishing lures.

Deborah Wechsler, Retired Chevron geophysicist, Save Mount Diablo Steward, board member of American Association of University Women, Treasurer San Ramon Valley Mountain Bike Club

One of my favorite authors is John McPhee. McPhee is well-known for his evocative descriptions of the geology of the west and southwest. He is able to paint the landscapes and science with prose that someone with no background in geology can readily appreciate. I recommend McPhee’s Annals of the Former World, Assembling California, and Basin and Range.

The following children’s books have good stories and excellent illustrations:

Monika Witte, board member of American Association of University Women

How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature by Marc Hamer is a wonderfully written book about moles, nature and life.

Author Diane Lang has written a number of children’s books about nature. I love them all, but my favorite is Fur, Feather, Fin – All of Us are Kin, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis.

Seth Adams, Land Conservation Director for Save Mount Diablo

My favorite authors include:

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