Best book recommendations for Christmas 2020

Best book recommendations for Christmas 2020

If you’re looking for book gifts this Christmas then we have you covered. Here we list some amazing books read by influencers, ecologicc writers and friends of the site. While mainly non-fiction, these are all books that have changed how we live our lives.

But before we get into some unbelievable books it is worthwhile quickly exploring the environmental impacts of physical books and comparing them against e-readers.

Environmental impacts of reading a paper book

The process of making paper requires huge amounts of water and a single sheet of A4 can require anywhere between 2-13 litres of water. Despite this, much of the water taken from local sources can be safely returned without harm to the environment (up to 93% in European factories).

However, there is major concern over the source of paper. If the paper required is not sustainably sourced, then the process may exacerbate deforestation around the world. Major publishers are becoming better and better with their environmental impact so look out for sustainability pledges like Penguin books for example.

There is also major concern over the ink used to print books. The volatile organic compounds in inks are a hugely harmful substance and if they are not disposed of properly can potentially become carcinogenic. 

Not to mention the considerably energy-intensive process of making inks, publishers have to be incredibly careful with how they print.

Yet, generally speaking, the paper and pulp industries are leading sustainability practices in many ways. So much so, that many paper-based items are starting to replace plastic products like in the delivery sector for example.

Check out twosides to see the level of sustainability in the paper and pulp industry but also about how sometimes companies can use greenwashing to mislead customers away from low-carbon intensive paper products.

But all these impacts assume you are buying a fresh new book. For those of you who still use libraries or purchase used books then you are heavily reducing your carbon footprint or what we like to call your carbon bookprint!

In addition, for those of you who prefer audiobooks or e-books, there are some important things to take into account. E-readers, like most electronic devices, require conflict minerals, which have some devastating humanitarian consequences. The manufacturing process is also very wasteful with fossil fuels mainly being used to manufacture these electronic goods.

When taking into account the entire lifecycle of e-readers there are many troublesome impacts of e-waste to consider. Until comprehensive recycling processes are made available for electronics devices, when tablets are thrown away there are still toxic chemicals that may leak into our water systems wherever they are dumped. Considering the ease at which paper can be recycled, e-readers can cause significantly more harm to the planet.


So which type of book is better?

When comparing newly printed books and e-readers, it appears it all comes down to how many books you will read.

Analysis from a number of news outlets has indicated a tablet or e-reader is only worthwhile if you end up finishing between 30-100 books (a big range I know). Any less and you may as well just purchase new physical books due to the carbon footprint of producing an e-reader in the first place.

So if you are considering an e-reader as a gift, perhaps consider if that person is an avid reader or not.

But now let’s dive into some incredible and life-changing books. We are lucky enough to have influencers, environmentalists and writers all share some highly recommended reads!

18 book recommendations for Christmas and a few more…

Our first recommendations are from sustainable fashion guru and influencer Livia Van Heerde. Recently featured in the Forbes 100 UK leading environmentalists, she has successfully showcased that fashion and sustainability can go hand in hand.

United we are unstoppable – Akshat Rathi

As a collection of stories ‘United we are unstoppable’ is an inspirational book, highlighting the work of 60 inspiring young people from around the world. This incredibly motivational book will make you want to become an activist or join your nearest climate charity. Essential reading for young and old alike!

The Carbon Club – Marian Wilkinson

Written by the world-renowned investigative journalist, Marian Wilkinson documents and uncovers some of the most disturbing political and economic movements in Australia’s recent history. The book reveals the truth behind Australia’s two decades of climate inaction despite increasingly extreme forest fires, droughts and floods. An astonishing read.

Content creator, influencer and blogger withameliataylor has been becoming more and more sustainable since starting on instagram around 2 years ago. Check out her vegan and vegetarian content!

Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey‘ is not a novel but a collection of poetry and prose. While it is mainly about love, loss, violence and femininity it is filled with nature metaphors and is in the perfect format to keep by your bed and pick up whenever.

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

This international bestseller eventually is a bit of a tear-jerker and eventually even made it to the big screen so it is definitely a must-read for all those fans of romantic fiction.

Instagrammer, blogger and conservation expert conservation_kate has been sharing wildlife pictures and sustainability lifestyle content for a while so definitely giver her a follow!

The Last Rhinos – Graham Spence and Lawrence Anthony

Named the “Indiana Jones of Conservation” by the Guardian, Lawrence Anthony alongside Graham Spence released this boo to highlight the plight of the Rhinos. It is a heartfelt book that should be essential reading for any budding conservationists.

Invisible Women – Caroline Criado-Perez

Invisible women‘ covers the expansive gender bias that impacts the entire world. While the level of devastating research is shocking, this is also a rallying cry to fight back. A revelation for anyone in policy and decision-making.

Vegan influencer, beekeeper and GIS specialist is probably the most avid reader I know and we are buzzing to share her recommendations with you!

Why we Sleep – Matthew Walker

If someone asks me for my favourite book, it is without a doubt ‘Why We Sleep‘ by Mathew Walker, this book turned my life upside down, I’ve read it twice and will do again. Sleep is such a complex, mysterious and terrifyingly important topic that we should all educate ourselves on even if it’s just a little! 

Deep Work – Cal Newport

Deep Work‘ by Cal Newport (another book I’ve read twice) will inspire you to work harder, more efficiently and make the most out of your time. Before reading this, I would spend ridiculous hours working on projects, riddled with distractions and never truly getting into a deep concentration state. After reading Deep Work I was able to complete my tasks in less than half the time and generate a huge shift in the quality of my work. A seriously motivational book to encourage you to get out of the shallows and into deep work.

How to be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi

This book goes beyond an awareness of racism and teaches us how to contribute to the formation of a just and equitable society. The author explains how growing up in a racist society affected him and that he used to be a racist, this book describes his journey to antiracism. “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination.”

Originals – Adam Grant

If you’ve ever wondered how people come up with revolutionary ideas, policies or practices and voice them successfully, or how leaders can encourage originality in their organisations; this book will give you the courage and insights to reject conformity and change the world.

You may recognise James as he’s a regular writer for the site. His way with words means he obviously has some impeccable book recommendations in his locker.

Uninhabitable Earth – David Wallace

While often depicted as a problematic climate alarmist, this book is a truly terrifying read. It outlines in incredible detail the current state of our planet in a warming world and is meticulously documented. His outlines of the possible futures our Earth may experience just have to be read to be believed.

Tambora – Gillen D’arcy Wood

By exploring the explosive nature of Volcanic activity, this almost first-hand account of how rapid temperature changes derived from just a single volcano can impact the entire world. The book highlights one particularly 200-year-old example that can teach us all so much about the apocalyptic global catastrophe that unfolded so recently in our history.

Probably the first environmental blogger I ever knew, Charlotte gave me the opportunity to write about European politics all the way back in 2018. Now a sustainable shipping specialist, she recommends:

Where the crawdads sing – Delia Owens

The story revolves around a young woman named Kya. After being abandoned at a young age, she has to fend for herself in the marshes of North Carolina. Praised for its celebration of nature, this moving novel is unexpected but I don’t want to give any spoilers away as it is incredible.

Everything I know about love – Dolly Alderton

Dolly Alderton is a columnist for the Sunday Times and podcaster but has also written for every major magazine under the sun. In fact, within its first week, ‘Everything I know about love’ became a top-five Sunday Times bestseller. It is an incredibly funny book that rattles through life experiences that everyone should hear. If you’ve been to university, this will hit you right in the feels.

You may also recognise carbon communications expert Helena who is another writer for the site. She recommends:

Novacene – James Lovelock

James Lovelock needs no introduction in the environmental space as he was also the creator of the Gaia hypothesis. This Sunday Times bestseller takes a different angle to what readers are used to and explores the multi-faceted impacts of artificial intelligence.


Last but not least, these final books are recommendations that just kept appearing among those of writers and friends of the site alike. So I thought I would keep them in a fan favourite section here…

Superior – Angela Saini

This is my most recent read and what an insightful book this is. As a master’s graduate myself, I was continuously shocked by many of the case studies used in this enlightening book. It highlights key moments in history as to how systematic racism is maintained in modern science today. If you were looking for more about this book we wrote a more detailed review in the context of activism and the black lives matter movement.

In case you were not aware, racism in science unequivocally still exists.

Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari

This book needs no introduction as it has been a best-seller for a while. It tells the entire history of mankind, or at least everything we know so far. There are some unbelievably insightful revelations in this book. This recommendation was mentioned many times and was a fan favourite from ecologicc writers as well as friends of the site alike!

Harari has since published ‘Home Deus‘ and ‘21 lessons for the 21st century‘ – both highly rated books.

Prisoners of Geography – Tim Marshall

I had not read a single Tim Marshall book before this one but now I want to read every single one. ‘Prisoners of geography‘ is such an eye-opening book and covers some incredible stories and historical events that has lead to modern geo-political dynamics today.

If a 2015 publish date is too outdated for you as an avid non-fiction reader then I have constantly been recommended his newer book ‘Divided‘. Check them both out!

A life on Our Planet – Sir David Attenborough

Many are calling this Sir David Attenborough’s legacy-defining book. The king of nature TV and steward of our planet has released this incredible book describing his entire life and experiences all into one book. He calls it his “witness statement” and is using it as a call to action for everyone to band together and make this planet the beautiful place that we once inherited.

But this is not his first rodeo. Attenborough has been a successful writer for a while so if you’re looking for a classic book, take a look at some of his older works like ‘The Private life of Plants‘ or the ‘Zoo Quest Expeditions‘.

Finally, there were many books that were not included among peoples first choices but were profound reads nonetheless. These honourable mentions include:

Doughnut Economics – Kate Raworth

Earth MOB – MOB Kitchen

Educated – Tara Westover

Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are? – Frances De Waal

The clever Guts Diet – Michael Mosely 

The Subtle are of Not Giving A F*ck – Mark Manson

Laurie Dalton
Laurie Dalton

MSc Climate Change

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kate Sheridan

    That’s so interesting about books versus e-books! I would recommend borrowing library books if you like physical books and want a more sustainable options, or second hand book stores! Library books are also a cheap way to read as many books as you like, and it helps keep libraries in business (especially after a rough 2020!)

    1. Laurie Dalton

      Too right Kate! Second-hand books are a great shout and renting library books are even better!

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