Ecosocialist Bookshelf

What are the essential books on ecosocialism?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

HELP WANTED: What books would you include on basic and advanced reading lists for red-greens and green-reds?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

HELP WANTED: What books would you include on basic and advanced reading lists for red-greens and green-reds?

Five years ago, I compiled and published a short list of essential books on ecosocialism. That list has been widely read and reposted, but it is now out of date. When I wrote it, there were few books available: there are now many more, so it is time to create a new list.

Because we have so many more to choose from, the new list will be divided in two: essential reading for people who are new to ecosocialism, and essential reading for people who know the basics and want to dig deeper. They will not be all-inclusive lists: I want to keep each list to ten or fewer titles that are must-reading for red-greens and green-reds.

Of course I have some ideas about what to include, but I can’t claim to have read or even seen every title, and I’m sure there are some that I might not include that deserve a second look. I will make the final selection, but I really need your input.

So I’m asking C&C readers: What books would you include on a basic reading list for red-greens and green reds? And what books would you include on an advanced reading list?

The books should be reasonably accessible to all C&C readers. Obviously that excludes titles that are out of print. But it should also exclude books that are only available in prohibitively expensive library editions, and books that are only available on one group’s literature tables.

And please .. don’t just list some  books — suggest one or a few that really ought to make the cut, say whether they are basic or advanced, and explain why you recommend them

If you agree with or disagree with someone else’s suggestions, feel free to do so, but let’s keep the discussion polite!



  • Timothy W. Luke Ecocritque; Barry Smart consumer Society ( Environmental consequences); Noel Castree Nature and Making Sense of Nature; Peter Dickens Reconstructing Nature: Alienation, Emancipation, and the Division of Labour, Society and Nature: Changing Our Environment Changing Ourselves; David Harvey Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference; Carl Boggs Ecology and Revolution; Christian Parenti Tropic of Chaos…Peace!

  • Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach To Ecosystem Restoration, Tao Orion 2015

    Trying to think of some that have yet to be listed and this title comes to mind. Not explicitly ecosocialist by any means, but does deeply convey a “unconscious socialist tendency”, in the words of Marx, that could be a great supplement to some of the more explicit works. The essential critiques are all there, if not always expressed in ecosocialist terminology: humans as part of nature, metabolic rift, current system of production at root cause of ecological crisis, few benefiting from this arrangement at the expense of the many, holistic/systems approach to understanding the crisis, democratic and ecological harmonious based production as necessary path forward. All backed up with well documented science.

    In these respects it is a welcome departure from some of the more glaring oversights of permaculture line of thinking, retaining the best aspects. The focus on a single issue, invasive species, allows for a thorough examination of current human system of of production, who benefits from this arrangement and the place of humanity within and as a part of nature, rather than separated from it.

  • As far as ecosocialism is concerned, Murray Bookchin’s many books and Chris Williams’s Ecology and Socialism cover it well. As for books that deal with humanity’s relationship to nature and capitalist relations, four books that I found helpful are Ted Steinberg’s Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History and Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America, Tom Athanasiou’s Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor, and Frederick Buell From Apocalypse to Way of Life: Environmental Crisis in the American Century. There are many more…but those are a good start!

  • I think one should start with ‘classics’ rather than with more recent, topical, specialized texts. Risk Society of Ulrich Beck is essential for anyone interested in the future of global politics.

  • _This Changes Everything_ by Naomi Klein, because it provides a thorough introduction to climate justice for those not versed in it already, along with critiques of the existing and past movements. Klein sometimes seems ambiguous on whether she is actually as revolutionary as her occasional rhetoric, but I have heard her say (post-Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign in the US) “maybe the time has come to say the words ‘democratic socialism,'” and, “I know this all sounds like ecosocialism” but also “my writing will never be enough for dogmatic Marxists, and I’m cool with that.” It seems to me that she is trying to build a bridge for people who are liberal by default but who have the potential to radicalize in response to the climate crisis (and broader ecojustice struggles) as it worsens. With Harvey and Irma striking as I write this, I think this generous reading of her seems appropriate. In an interview she did after the last international climate accord debacle, she was asked if capitalism might be saved, and she flatly said, “I don’t think we need to worry about saving capitalism, a system which has so to detest about it already. I don’t know what we should call the next system, but I don’t think it will be capitalism.” Although I tend to agree w/Foster’s assessment on C&C that her Leap is too tepid, I think appealing to masses of people sometimes requires a certain gentleness and flexibility w/folks.
    Also: Ecology&Socialism by Chris Williams. Very thorough yet very accessible.

  • -> Environmental Principles and Politics (Sharon Beder) – basically a textbook in navigating the bizarre world of neoliberal “environmental” policy.
    -> The Closing Circle (Commoner) because it was, or should have been, the birth of “ecosocialism” as a movement.
    -> A Sand County Almanac (Leopold). Not particularly socialist at all, maybe too speculative/introspective at times, but worth reading both because it’s been hugely influential, is quite scientific, and is explains magnificently the impact of capitalism (without naming it) on our relations with nature in all aspects, including our own culture.

  • Basic Reading:

    Confronting Injustice: Social Activism in the Age of Individualism by Umair Muhammad

    – In my opinion, this book should be mandatory reading in high school social studies classes. It is written in an exceptionally accessible style and offers readers challenging information in an easy to comprehend, compact little book. High recommendation.

    What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism by Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster

    – In a style perhaps a bit more challenging than Confronting Injustice, nevertheless another incredibly accessible reading here. Pass this off to anyone you know concerned about climate change but also voted for Hillary Clinton. Breaks down in very clear language why and how capitalism is the driving force behind ecological destruction.

    Advanced Reading:

    Why do we need advanced reading? We’re trying to build a mass movement, shouldn’t everything be widely accessible?


  • This is my go-to resource book for teaching students who have no idea about what is happening to the planet. It is written clearly and is easily understandable for high school and college students. It also has the additional benefits of brilliant cartoons that visually help clarify and connect the issues of global warming and capitalism. I strongly recommend this book and the PDF version is free.

    Capitalism and Climate Change: The Science and Politics of Global Warming
    by David Klein, illustrated and edited by Stephanie McMillan. Kindle version available from Amazon.

  • The book that really influenced my thinking is Andreas Malm’s book, “Fossil Capital.” Such a careful historical study of the almost exclusively capitalist motives for the shift to coal in the early 19th century in Britain. Great background for studying Marx’s thinking on the ecological rift.

  • Marx and the earth : an anti-critique
    John Bellamy Foster author. Paul Burkett 1956 May 26- author.
    Leiden ; Boston : Brill 2016

    Marx and nature : a red and green perspective
    Paul Burkett 1956 May 26-.
    New York : St. Martin’s Press 1999

  • A good one is the Socialist Register 2007 volume called Coming to Terms With Nature. It has multiple essays ranging from political economy of Clinate Change to mass left wing movements that support ecosocialism.

  • The Enemy of Nature by Joel Kovel: clearly illustrates for the general reader the role that capitalism plays in the destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems.

  • The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment by John Bellamy Foster.
    The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth by John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York.

  • Post- Scarcity Anarchism, Murray Bookchin
    The Old Ways, Gary Snyder
    The Crying Inside, Susan Griffin
    Communitas, Paul & Percival Goodman
    The Death of Nature, Carolyn Merchant
    ReWeaving the Web of Life, Pam McAllister
    Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

  • Ecology and Historical Materialism, John Hughes,also Marx touches on the subject in Grundrisse.