Booklist: Travel, Natural History, Science, Critical thinking, Psychology, History, American history, Evolution, Agriculture, Food, Anthropology, (Auto)biography, Health, Cults/Religion, Politics, Economics, Fiction

Preface. Just a few of the best books I read walking 8-10 miles (round-trip) a day to work and back, reading all the way.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report



  • R. Sapolsky. A Primate’s Memoir
  • W. Ferguson. Hokkaido Highway Blues
  • A. Frater. Chasing the Monsoon: A Modern Pilgrimage through India
  • J. Troost. Sex Lives of Cannibals. Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
  • N. Chagnon. Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes
  • M. Owens. Cry of the Kalahari
  • S. Orlean. The Orchid Thief. A true story of beauty and obsession.
  • K. House. On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future.
  • J. Campbell. The Final Frontiersman. Heimo Korth & His Family
  • L. Stetson.  The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures
  • F. Hatfield. North of the sun. A memoir of the Alaskan Wilderness.
  • T. Horwitz. Confederates in the Attic. Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
  • E. Becker. Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism.
  • S. Gallaher. Sisters. Coming of Age and living dangerously in the Wild Copper river
  • J. Kane. Savages.
  • D. Grann. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
  • S. Mehta. Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
  • D. King. Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival
  • R. Conniff. The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth
  • R. O’Hanlon. In Trouble Again: A Journey Between Orinoco and the Amazon.
  • M. Tidwell. The Ponds of Kalambayi: An African Sojourn
  • S. Erdman. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village
  • J. McPhee. Coming into the Country
  • S. Huntington. Shadows on the Koyukuk. An Alaskan Native’s Life along the river
  • A. Lansing. Endurance. Shackleton’s incredible voyage.
  • W. Heat-Moon. Blue Highways. A Journey into America.
  • P. Allison. Don’t Run whatever you do. My adventures as a Safari Guide
  • G. Packer. The Village of Waiting

Natural History & Science 

  • R. Conniff.  The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide
  • B. Bryson. A short history of nearly everything
  • E. O. Wilson. Consilience. The unity of knowledge. 1998
  • J. Sterba. Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds
  • S. McCarthy. Becoming a Tiger: How baby animals learn to live in the wild
  • J. Burger. The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship
  • J. Tresl. Who Ever Heard Of A Horse In The House
  • B. Krause. Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the origins of music in the world’s wild places
  • J. McPhee. The Control of Nature.
  • C. Safina. Eye of the Albatross. Views of the Endangered Sea
  • A. Weisman. Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?
  • P. Ward. Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe
  • C. Slobodchikoff. Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals
  • D. Haskell. The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature
  • D. Bodanis. The Secret House.
  • C. Combes. The Art of Being a Parasite
  • M. Roach. Stiff. The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.
  • M. Roach. Gulp. Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.
  • M. Roach.  Packing for Mars. The Curious Science of Life in the Void.
  • N. Jablonski. Skin, A Natural History
  • D. Wolfe. Tales from the Underground: A Natural History of Subterranean
  • C. Tudge. The Bird: A natural history of who birds are, where they came from, & how they live
  • M. Derr.  A Dog’s History of America
  • S. Ellis. The Man who lives with wolves
  • C. Zimmer. Parasite Rex. Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures
  • J. Smith. Nature Noir A Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra
  • B. Heinrich. Mind of the Raven. Investigations & adventures with Wolf-birds.
  • C. Mooney. The Republican Brain. The Science of why they Deny Science–and Reality
  • J. Gould. Animal Architects: Building and the Evolution of Intelligence
  • S. Hawking. A brief history of time.
  • M. Novacek. The biodiversity crisis: Losing what counts.

Critical Thinking

  • N. Oreskes. Merchants of doubt. How a handful of scientists obscured the truth
  • C. Sagan. The Demon-Haunted World:  Science as a Candle in the Dark
  • S. Singh. Trick or treatment.  The undeniable facts about alternative medicine.
  • R. Moynihan. Selling Sickness.
  • S. Salerno. Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless
  • Dietrich Dorner. The Logic of Failure
  • Nicholas Capaldi. The Art of Deception: An Introduction to Critical Thinking.
  • R. Cialdini. Influence: The Art of Persuasion
  • M. Shermer. Why People Believe Weird Things. Pseudoscience, superstition
  • M. Shermer. The Science of Good & Evil. Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care,

Psychology / Self-help

  • J. Harris. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do
  • J. Harris.  No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality
  • B. Ehrenreich. Bright-sided: How relentless promotion of positive thinking undermined America
  • R. Baumeister. Willpower: rediscovering the greatest human strength
  • C. Duhigg. The Power of Habit. Why we do what we do in life and business.
  • J. Baraz. Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness
  • J. Wise. Extreme Fear. The Science of Your Mind in Danger.
  • B. Kipper. 14,000 things to be happy about
  • P. Orenstein. Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture


  • J. Perlin. A Forest Journey: The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization
  • J. Weatherford. Genghis Kahn and the Making of the Modern World
  • E. Lev. The Tigress of Forli. Renaissance Italy’s most courageous and notorious countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici
  • M. Levinson. The box: how the shipping container made the world smaller (my note: this is what made globalization possible)
  • S. LeBlanc.  Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage
  • D. Landes.  Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor
  • J. Weatherford. Secret History of the Mongol Queens
  • B. Bryson. A Short History of Nearly Everything.
  • R. Ekirch. At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past
  • D. Cordingly. Under the Black Flag. The Romance & the reality of life among the Pirates
  • B. Tuchman. Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century
  • D. Berreby. Us and Them. Understanding Your Tribal Mind.
  • M. Maren. The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid International Charity
  • B. Ward-Perkins.  The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization.

American History

  • C. Johnson. The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic
  • D. Priest. Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State
  • L. Lessig. Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It
  • N. Reding.  Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town
  • T. Wolfe. The Right Stuff.
  • J. Barry. The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History
  • M. Kalish. Little Heathens. Hard times, high spirits on Iowa Farm during great depression
  • J. Stratton. Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier
  • W. Rorabaugh. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition
  • R. White. It’s Your Misfortune & None of My Own. A new history of the American west
  • S. Ambrose. Undaunted Courage. Merriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson
  • S. Pyne. Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire
  • P. Fussell. Product Details Class: A Guide Through the American Status System
  • V. Jenkins. The Lawn. A history of an American Obsession





  • J. Toth. The Mole People. Life in the Tunnels beneath New York city
  • T. Flannery. Throwim’ Way Leg: Tree-Kangaroos, Possums, and Penis Gourds
  • B. Chatwin. The Songlines.
  • C. Boehm. Blood Revenge: Conflict in Montenegro & other Tribal Societies


  • B. White. Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living
  • J. Walls. The Glass Castle: A Memoir.
  • F. McCourt. Angela’s Ashes. A Memoir.
  • E. Gilbert. The Last American Man.
  • M. Twain. Life on the Mississippi.
  • B. Harris. Mississippi Solo.
  • J. Krakauer. Into Thin Air. A personal account of the Mt. Everest disaster.
  • D. Eggers. A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
  • J. Berendt. Midnight in the garden of good & evil. A Savannah Story.
  • H. Hickam. Rocket Boys
  • W. Whitman. Leaves of Grass.
  • T. Wolfe. The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test.
  • J. Harr. A Civil Action.
  • J. Browne. Charles Darwin. Voyaging.
  • G. Grandin. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City
  • O. Gentile. Life List: A Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds
  • H. Pearson. Shadow Of The Panther: Huey Newton & the price of black power in America
  • R. Massie. Peter the Great. His life and world
  • R. Massie. Catherine the Great. Portrait of a woman.
  • J. Herriot. All Creatures Great and Small.
  • E. Abbey. Desert Solitaire.
  • D. McCullough. Truman.
  • D. Goodwin. No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: Home Front in WW II
  • D. Donald. Lincoln.
  • R. Rhodes. John James Audubon: The Making of an American
  • M. Farmanfarmaian. Blood and Oil: memoirs of a Persian Prince
  • R. Hine. Second Sight.
  • M. Swearingen. FBI Secrets. An Agents Expose.
  • J. Chang. Wild Swans. Three daughters of China
  • H. Thompson. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • E. Saks. The center cannot hold: my journey through madness
  • I. Beah. A Long Way Gone. Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
  • F. Mayes. Under the Tuscan Sun.
  • H. Jacobs. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
  • Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
  • M. Karr. The Liars’ club. A memoir.
  • N. Evans. The Horse Whisperer.
  • P. Read. Alive.


  • M. Moss.  Salt, sugar, fat. How the food giants hooked us.
  • D. Kessler. The end of overeating: Taking control of the insatiable American appetite
  • Merrill Goozner. The $800 Million Pill. The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs
  • S. Glantz. Tobacco War.
  • J. Bennett. Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth
  • M. Nestle.  How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
  • L. Garrett. Betrayal of Trust. The collapse of global health
  • E. Whitney, et al.  Nutrition for Health and Health Care

Cults, Religion, Communes, etc.

  • J. Sharlet. The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power
  • T. Kizzia. Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A true story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
  • J. Kirsch. God Against the Gods: History of the War Between Monotheism & Polytheism
  • D. Kimbrough. Taking Up Serpents: Snake Handlers of Eastern Kentucky
  • J. Hill. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape
  • R. Hine. California’s Utopian Colonies.
  • L. De Camp. The Great Monkey Trial.
  • V. Bugliosi. Helter Skelter. The true story of the Manson murders.
  • D. Eagleman. Sum. Forty Tales from the Afterlives [fiction].
  • T. Kizzia. Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier

Politics & Economics & Miscellaneous

  • J. Bageant. Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War.
  • J. Bakan. The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power
  • F. Pearce. The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth
  • B. Ehrenreich. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
  • D. Rushkoff. Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back
  • C. Mooney. The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality
  • N. Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death.
  • A. Stewart. Flower Confidential: The Good, Bad, & the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers
  • T. Wolfe. The Painted Word.
  • M. Naim. Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, & Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy
  • D. Dorsey. The Force.
  • 40 books in this list at Amazon (the max allowed, many good ones missing) Fraud & Greed:  Wall Street, Banks, & Insurance book list
  • B. Demick. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
  • R. Rosenbaum. How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III
  • M. Sperber. Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Education
  • J. Ryan. Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: Making and Breaking of elite gymnasts & figure skaters
  • D. Ackerman. The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story
  • R. Courland. Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story
  • T. Thwaites. The Toaster Project: Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch
  • C. Mooney. Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future
  • J. Diamond. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
  • E. Gibbon. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
  • J. Doyle. Taken for a ride: Detroit’s big three and the politics of pollution.
  • J.C. Scott. Seeing like a state. How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed.
  • J. Hogshire. You Are Going To Prison.

I rarely read fiction anymore because there are so many better written, and more interesting biographies, natural history, travel adventures, anthropology, history, science, and other books.  Usually I feel like I’ve wasted my time.  But I love poetry that takes you quickly and deeply into the soul of the poet.  Especially when spoken aloud.   I especially enjoyed Marianne Betterly’s book  “The return of the bees”.


  • T. Wolfe. The Bonfire of the Vanities.
  • S. Rushdie. Midnight’s Children.
  • L. Serafini. Codex Seraphinianus.
  • F. Warren. All the Kings Men.
  • J. Smiley. A Thousand Acres.
  • C. Hiaasen. Tourist Season.
  • I. Doig. This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind
  • L. Tolstoy. War and Peace.
  • T. Pynchon. Gravity’s Rainbow

Book Reviews: Why I Write Them, How I Find Them

Believe it or not, the books above are what I consider to be light reading.  If you’re interested in the energy crisis, war & violence, collapse of civilization, and more, then you’ll want to see my other lists at:

Booklist: overview, energy return on energy invested. Peak oil, coal, natural gas & uranium. Coal-to-liquids, tar sands, nuclear power and waste, biofuels, kerogen, methane hydrates

book list: energy, ecology, evolution, extinction, war, natural resources, carrying capacity, infrastructure, agriculture, politics and more

Alice Friedemann

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