The following are some of the books that had an early influence on my life. I have created an updated book list here
When I was a child I was an avid reader. I read hundreds of books. Looking back now I still vividly remember the Little House books, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. These adventures played a large part in shaping my life and probably, in part, turned me into the adventurer and explorer that I am today. There is little doubt in my mind that reading is one of the most beneficial ways that I spent my time as a child.
I wish I could say that I stayed an avid reader for my whole life, but in college partying took priority to a great extent and in recent years the computer has largely replaced books for me. In 2011, I began a transformation From Drunk Dude to Dude Making a Difference and that was fueled more by documentaries than anything else. I’ve shared the influential documentaries at 23 films that changed my life. Although documentaries were my greatest source of education and inspiration in my transformation, there were also many books that had a profound influence on me. I can’t remember all of them, but the following is a list of books that have made their mark in my mind and that I encourage you to read as well. Of course, there are many other books out there that could have had a huge impact on me had they come into my hands. These are the books that I have read and that I recommend.
The Biography of Mahatma Gandhi
I was sleeping on the streets of downtown San Diego spending time with people with no homes and checked out a copy from the public library. I don’t recall which biography it was exactly that I read but every one has great value to it. He was a great inspiration to me before reading his biography but the inspiration grew after reading the biography.
Let My People Go Surfingand The Responsible Companyby Yvon Chouinard
Yvon Chouinard is the founder of Patagonia and 1% for the Planet and a huge inspiration to me. Through his business, nonprofit and personal life he truly is leading the way into a more sustainable world. These books really inspired and informed me on how to carry out my business in an ethical manner. In his mind, the answer to living in a healthy world is simple: know the effects of your actions and do what is right. It comes down to living simply, reducing consumption, buying quality products that last and giving back to what gives to us.
Here I am in Puerto Rico in 2012 with this book and some of the food it inspired me to eat.
In Defense of Foodby Michael Pollan In Defense of Food just happens to be the Michael Pollan book that I got my hands on but I would recommend every one of his books. He is a brilliant man who explains food so simply yet so deeply. I recommend his books to anyone who wants to know what’s going on with the food they are eating.
Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Waste Scandalby Tristram Stuart
Through my years of dumpster diving activism, Tristram Stuart has become a great friend of mine. It wasn’t until after we became friends that I finally read this book. I was already widely knowledgeable on the topic of food waste, but this book still taught me so much. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to make an impact in the world of food waste.
I first saw the movie and a few years later read the book. Christopher McCandless is hugely inspirational to me and I have a lot of respect for him. This is an adventure worth reading that has the potential to really get you thinking.
Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchenby Anna Blythe Lappé and Bryant Terry
Along with Healthful Foods, and documentaries like Food, Inc. this book was part of my total lifestyle change when it comes to food. Among the many food books that could have influenced me, this is one that just happened to be on the shelves at the book store I visited.
Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
Rethink the “standard narrative” of human sexual evolution.
The Joy of Living: Unlocking The Secret and Science of Happiness by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
“An illuminating perspective on the science of meditation—and a handbook for transforming our minds, bodies, and lives. In The Joy of Living, world-renowned Buddhist teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche—the “happiest man in the world”—invites us to join him in unlocking the secrets to finding joy and contentment in the everyday. Using the basic meditation practices he provides, we can discover paths through our problems, transforming obstacles into opportunities to recognize the unlimited potential of our own minds.”
The Art of Happiness by H.H. The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
“Nearly every time you see him, he’s laughing, or at least smiling. And he makes everyone else around him feel like smiling. He’s the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, and an increasingly popular speaker and statesman. What’s more, he’ll tell you that happiness is the purpose of life, and that “the very motion of our life is towards happiness”. How to get there has always been the question. He’s tried to answer it before, but he’s never had the help of a psychiatrist to get the message across in a context we can easily understand. Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. Together with Dr. Cutler, he explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life’s obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace.”
Life Without PlasticThis book re-invigorated my desire to live a life without plastic. Plus it has given me a deeper understanding of what exactly plastic is, the many types of plastic, the human harm it can cause and the impact it has on our world. After just the first chapter, I was already going through all of my stuff and sifting out the plastic that had crept back into my life and wasn’t serving me well! The book is written in a manner that can be read by someone fully immersed in the plastic life today that wants to make their first change, or by someone like myself who is well on their way to a life without plastic, or anywhere in between. It is non-preaching, non-judgmental, meets us all where we are, and guides us into a happier, healthier and more sustainable life without plastic.
There are so many thousands of incredible books out there and these are just some of the ones that have had a positive impact on me. And for many of them, it was a matter of sheer luck or coincidence that I ended up reading them. The library is one of my favorite places to spend time and I highly encourage you to support your local library and spend time there. Secondhand book shops are also a great resource for expanding your knowledge.