A political blog I read every day just posted a link to Tyler Cowen's blog listing the books that have influenced him most. I thought it would be fun to think back on the books that influenced my thoughts on ecology, water resources, and the like. It would be a snap to list novels that influenced me early in my life (I'll have to include A Wrinkle in Time as a book that greatly influenced me as a child), but I had to think a bit more about non-fiction. Here are ten books about science or the environment (in no particular order) that really influenced me.
1. Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner. This book was actually one that had the biggest impact on my views of water resources. I didn't know anything about the western water wars before I read this book. The detailed history of how the west was settled and how water become much more than a natural resource really changed the way I view many things about water and the west.
2. Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe: This book taught me a great deal about ocean ecology and overfishing. It significantly influenced my eating habits and my interest in ocean life.
3. Collapse by Jared Diamond: I have an interest in ancient cultures and read this book to learn why some of the most well known and developed societies collapsed. Even though some of the theories outlined in this book may not be totally accurate, it really got me thinking about how our own interactions with the environment can influence society.
4. Winter World by Bernd Heinrich. When I first became interested in biology and ecology one of the questions I most wanted to answer was "what happens to all of the animals in the dead of winter?" This book answers that question and gave me a great deal of insight into how animals deal with extreme weather conditions.
5. The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett: This book basically scared the crap out of me. But it sure taught me all about microbiology and emerging diseases, as well as piqued my interest in learning about the link between environment and disease.
6. House of Rain by Craig Childs: This book is really more a history of the Anasazi (sprinkled with the author's personal experiences), but is now one of my very favorite books. Environmental issues are tightly woven into the history of the Anasazi and the book increased my understanding of the harsh environmental conditions people dealt with in the Americas thousands of years ago. I'm visiting Chaco Canyon this fall because of this book.
7. The Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson. Such a great description of our connection to the natural world. Anything by E. O. Wilson is really on my top ten.
8. The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson. Most people know about Carson's book Silent Spring, but I was more influenced by her elegant descriptions of the sea.
9. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. I found the whole concept of this book really intriguing. The book asks the question "what would happen if every single human on earth simply disappeared?"then goes to to answer that question. It's really fascinating and made me wonder about things that had never occurred to me.
10. Evolution by Carl Zimmer. I read this book several years ago when I first learned about the whole evolution vs. creation debate. This book is so readable and interesting that it really helped me figure out how to better explain evolution to other people.
If you love to read, create a list of your own! Recommend your favorite books, too. I'm always on the lookout for fabulous books I haven't read.