My Top 10 transition books
I realise that a Top 10 book list is a personal thing. Everybody will have their own favourites, but here's mine:
10. Oriana Fallaci: "A Man", written in '79, translated in 1980, I read it when I was about 15 years old and this book provided me with the role model I was looking for: Aleikos Panagoulis, anarchist and tragic hero. What I learned from this book is to never stop questioning, even (and maybe especially), those on your "own side". Never rest on your laurels, be wary of anybody wielding power and be a PITA to anybody demanding blind trust.
9. Richard Heinberg: "Peak Everything", 2007. I first read "Powerdown", which is great info wise, but "Peak Everything", a collection of essays, had far more of an effect on me. It was the part, "Letter from the future", which I found deeply moving, that turned me into a life-long transitionista.
8. John Michael Greer: "The Long Descent", 2008. There was a period in my life when I lived with a stack of books next to my bed, which all had to be read now or yesterday ( part of my peak oil "moment"). It was such a frenzied time, I don't recall much of most of what I read then, but this one does stand out. A very easy, enjoyable read and strangely reassuring, I guess that the Back to Basics vision of Greer doesn't worry me, I've been there and life was simple and good. His journey through history puts our present predicament somewhat in perspective. Excellent holiday read!
7. Rob Hopkins: "The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience", 2008. I just cannot believe how many people who are involved with a Transition initiative, that have never bothered to read this book or the new "Transition Companion" or Shaun Chamberlin's "Transition Timeline" or even the the very basic and now quite outdated Transition primer. It's like trying to bake a Black Forest Gateau without looking at the recipe, thinking that as it contains lots of chocolate, it'll be allright. Best way to get yourself into a sticky mess, I say. You can get this one secondhand now, or borrow one, there's really no excuse: if you're into transition: READ IT!
6. Joanna Macy: "Coming back to Life", 1998. If the amount of bad news is starting to get to you and keeps you awake at night, this is the book you want to keep by your bedside. Joanna's detached, compassionate take on dealing with our pain for the world is what's needed, from getting to grips with despair to moving into positive action.
5. Starhawk: "The Fifth Sacred Thing", 1994. A real page turner, hard to put down once you get started, thus an ideal holiday read. We have so many apocalyptic visions of the future and so few of what a post transition, socially just society looks like, but here's a good one. I love the way the Council of All Beings is incorporated in this imaginary society's meetings linking it back to Joanna Macy. When David Korten speaks of it being time that humanity grew up and left its adolescence behind and finally starts to take responsability for its actions, this is the kind of community I think of. You may say I'm a dreamer, but if enough of you decide to take a place at our table, anything is possible...
4. Saci Lloyd: "The Carbon Diaries 2015" (and 2017), 2008-2010. One for the teenagers, or that could be your excuse, as I found these two novels incredibly entertaining. Serious topic, but told from the perspective of the youngest daughter in a rather dysfunctional family, where under the strain of the newly imposed carbon rationing, the individual members react in their own, sometimes bonkers but not so unbelievable ways. Very funny, often had me laughing out loud and it was a great way in for me to start talking about the issues of climate change and resource depletion with my then 13 year old daughter.
3. AFRC Institute of Food Research: "Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables", first published in 1929 and now on its fourteenth edition. Well, although the fruit harvest this year will be nothing to write home about, you still might want to try your hand at some homemade jam or chutney and then this guide will be your best friend. Packed with all the British common sense information you need to start developing your own recipes. I've just made my best jam ever: peach and elderflower, yum.
2. Ernest Callenbach: "Ecotopia",1975. What, another novel, I can hear you wonder? Well, it is nearly the holidays after all and this little gem is the right size for the beach bag or backpack. Of course it shows its age a bit, but if anything, it makes it more charming. I found it really funny too, especially when he talks about technology that was then still far out and futuristic, but that is now part of our daily lives. What can I say, I'm a sucker for the uthopian novel; I need to be able to "see" this new paradigm in order to be able to create it.
1. John Jeavons: "How to grow more vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine", 1974. Being a market gardener, of course my number one would be a book on vegetable growing. As I was told by the Cuban Roberto Perez: "If you have food and you have community, then you are very strong! And with John Jeavons's methods, no patch of land, no container even, is too small. Forget "SPIN" (£54), which I think is an excellent example of old paradigm thinking squeezed into a Transition sheepskin, and get yourself the J.Jeavons manual (less than a tenner) and with the money saved, you can buy all the seeds and compost you'll need. In combination with his brilliant tutorials on Youtube (Grow Biointensive), I think even a complete novice could succesfully grow some veg. Of course, just like Permaculture, this is a system developed for a far hotter and drier climate than ours, so you'll have to adjust plant spacings and expectations accordingly, but on the whole there is some information in this book I have found nowhere else, like optimum temperatures for vegetable seed germination and nitrogen uptake. Be prepared to make a bit of a study of this manual, it's not an easy read with lots of glossy pictures to have sitting on the coffee table, but once you get to grips with it, you won't want to be without it.
0. Richard Bach: "Illusions, the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah", 1977. In any walk of life, if you read books, keep in mind the last sentence (before the Epilogue) of this wise little book...