6 motivating books on living sustainably for your summer to-be-read list

Jul 11, 2024by Alice Ojeda
6 motivating books on living sustainably

One of my summer loves is a big to-be-read list. No pressure, just a stack of books waiting to be dipped into. Or, more often than not, a list of gems to order from my local Cardiff library. Slipped in there, I like to have a few books to help me think differently and feel motivated to make a positive change. For me, that's what living sustainably is.

Think of this post as a sprinkling of spice for your summer reading list. I've included books that have challenged me, inspired me or made me see what I previously never noticed. I'm writing as the founder of a small business, Authentic House, creating skincare and candles for a sustainable home. I'm also a literature graduate and bona fide book lover. So here's my July offering: 6 motivating books on living sustainably for your summer bookshelf.

1. A powerful book about women, myth and land

I still get tingles when I think of If Women Rose Rooted. I read this book by Sharon Blackie years ago when I first started thinking about living sustainably. This book has many layers of meaning. It's a journey around the UK and Ireland, Celtic myths unfolding around the caves, paths and wishing wells that are still here today.

What does mythology have to do with sustainability?, you might ask. Well, that's what makes this book so interesting. Sharon Blackie's showing how we can choose older mythologies of our land that empower us. They're stories of powerful women, protecting nature and drawing energy from place.

Weaved into all of this are real stories of women who are living this and have made brave decisions to live in connection to the land, and protect it.

2. A book on finding peace with being human in an uncertain world

This Here Flesh by Cole Arthur Riley is a beautiful memoir for the moments when the world feels too much. On the surface, each chapter is a reflection on experiences that make us feel alive and embodied, no matter what. They're dignity, place, belonging, fear, lament, liberation and more.

Within these chapters, Cole Arthur Riley tells her own story, layered with the stories of her grandmother and father. What's most beautiful is how they inspire her by turning trauma, racism and abuse into love for her. If you've thought about living sustainably as beginning within you and linked to your own process of healing, this is a brilliant book to pick up.

3. A business book to help you put meaningful change at the heart of your work

If you're thinking of starting a business, run one or work in one, get this book now! I have Do Purpose by David Hieatt with me on my desk, well thumbed with beautiful pictures and quotes that I've kept to heart - none moreso than 'You can't get to wonderful without passing through alright.' Thank you Bill Withers.

This is a book I've read many times and treasured since starting Authentic House. Incidentally, I went to a talk around 2018 and was inspired by David Hieatt, an entrepreneur from West Wales I'd never heard of till then. He told stories of creating Howies, selling it to Timberland and now reviving an M&S jeans factory through Hiut Denim all from his hometown of Cardigan. He encouraged us all to want and envision more for Wales.

Back to Do Purpose. It's essentially a handbook for how to create a brand that's making a change in the world. David Hieatt packs in lots of advice on how to use your time, make mistakes, rest, tell your story and work with others. With few words, bold lettering and big pictures, this is the kind of book you can let sink into you and how you think. putting you in a stronger place to make positive change where you spend most of your time - probably at work!

 4. A book to help you live in harmony with the ecosystem in your garden

First of course, we aren't all lucky enough to have a garden. You could translate this though to any patch of land around your home, plant pots or your windowsill. The Garden Awakening is a guide to designing a garden that's a haven for your local ecosystem and supports you in living sustainably too.

Mary Reynolds has a really interesting story. As an up-and-coming garden designer and winner at the Chelsea Flower Show, she soon became aware of how humans stamping our 'designs' onto gardens was harming the wildlife that also calls them home.

This is a fascinating book that goes from the nitty-gritty how to lay a garden path or make a hugelkultur (raised beds fertilised by old logs), all the way to choosing edible plants, creating a pond and the Celtic mythology around our land. You'll also learn about biodynamic gardening with ideas like walking the perimeter of your garden and creating a wishing tree. Or, my favourite, asking the slugs to please stay to one side of the garden. I live in hope, but it's a loving reminder that every garden is a shared space.

5. A revolutionary book for access to nature

You don't hear this enough, but in England we have public access to only 5% of our land and 3% of our rivers! The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes is a call to action and a story of the gradual enclosure of our common land playfully and rebelliously told one trespass at a time.

As Nick Hayes travels over fences, off paths and down waterways, he unpicks the culture of 'keep out' signs, private land and the history of estates. In doing so, he unlocks and illustrates the expanses of land and nature on our doorsteps, shut off from us by fences, but easily ventured into if only we dare.

Reading The Book of Trespass completely changed my idea of the land, what is ours and what should be. It's a wonderful book to read if you've ever thought about venturing off-path, exploring the landscapes around you or protecting access to the land like The Stars Are Ours campaign in Dartmoor.

6. A wildcard: a novel that celebrates multiplicity and that there's no one kind of 'people'

I've included this novel for two reasons. First is that celebrating people sometimes goes missing from talk around living sustainably or protecting nature. I think the two go hand in hand. Secondly, I don't want this to be a reading list of just non-fiction. I love novels too, and they also have a way of getting to the heart of ideas we're only just starting to put into words.

So Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo is my final recommendation in my books for living sustainably. It's a fantastic, fast-paced story written like poetry, balancing twelve mostly black women across the UK whose lives are incredibly different and yet intertwine in unexpected ways.

I chose this novel for my list because it's a felt reminder that ideas like the 'girl', 'woman' or 'other' in the title tell us basically nothing. So many identities fall within and are written with love. It's like a blueprint for what Britain is and can be, and how prejudice means we can shut ourselves off from it.


And there you have my 6 motivating books on living sustainably for your summer to-be-read list. Have you read any of these and would you add a book to my list? I'd love to hear your favourites too.

If you enjoyed this post, bookmark my best books on sustainable living to come back to and read later. Or share it with a friend to read together. For more thoughts and recommendations on living sustainably and creating an eco-friendly home, make sure to subscribe to my weekly Ideas Book newsletter.

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