Books that Helped

This page shares details about books that GreenSpirit members found beneficial in understanding what green wisdom means for them – sometimes in different ways to other members and sometimes choosing the same title as another. Each member was given a limit of three key works of what they saw as important for their green spirituality and practices.

Chris Holmes: It is of course difficult to reduce all of the literary influences down to three books, but here goes: The Death of Nature by Carolyn Merchant (1980), a book which shows how the scientific revolution sustained the exploitation of Nature, commercial expansion and the subjugation of women – forty plus years after publication, still a great read. The Blue Sapphire of the Mind by Douglas Christie (2013). Relates our ecological crisis, early Christian monasticism and spirituality and modern Nature writing. Superb, dense, full of wisdom. The Song of the Earth by Jonathan Bate (2000). About modern Western man’s alienation from Nature and the capacity of the writer to restore us to the Earth, our home. Brilliant.

Joan Angus: Original Blessing by Matthew Fox. It was an introduction to all that GreenSpirit has sprung from and changed my spiritual beliefs to something I could relate to. Wilding by Isabella Tree. I was inspired by the discoveries that were made in this project and encouraged by what could be achieved. Gossip from the Forest by Sarah Maitland. The message she sends is so wise. Children and everyone should be encouraged to play in the forests. I believe this book should be in the school curriculum.

Stephen Wollaston aka Santoshan: My titles might be surprising as I chose writers all from Christian backgrounds… Befriending the Earth by Thomas Berry with Thomas Clarke. It supplied me with insight into Berry’s important ecospiritual beliefs and his take on the work that is needed for our times, which resonated deeply with me. Creativity by Matthew Fox. Similar to the Berry book, it struck deep chords within because of my own creative background and understanding of where Eastern and Western traditions can meet, and gave a succinct overview of Fox’s key teachings on Creation Spirituality, which opened me to a wider inclusiveness and freedom on my spiritual path. I was aware of Fox before but hadn’t fully grasped the importance of what he was highlighting until I read this title, which led me to other works by him. Spirit of Fire by Ursula King is a fascinating biography about the French priest, mystic and palaeontologist Teilhard de Chardin and summarises many central ideas in his writings that are still seen as important by many in discussions around interconnected areas of spirituality and evolutionary and cosmological science. King’s book on de Chardin and Eastern religions is also good.

Jenny Leslie: No Dig by Charles Dowding is an excellent book on how to grow organic vegetables with mulching and minimum soil cultivation. Wintering by Katherine May is a meditative poetic book exploring winter and how the season reflects and encourages our own spiritual and psychological growth. The Love of Thousands By Christine Valters Paintner is a devotional book considering Angels and Saints and how they can accompany us and enrich our spiritual journey.

Ian Mowll: Original Blessing by Matthew Fox. This was a turning point in my spiritual journey from organised religion to an open-hearted green spirituality. The Universe Story by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry. This was a revelation to me – opening me up to the amazing story of our evolutionary journey. The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram. This book had many sides but the main one for me was the author’s articulation of how writing can be ‘set in stone’ and how it can hinder the creative, adaptive and changing process of our spiritual journey and therefore why storytelling is so important.

Judith Bromley Nicholls: The first is Joanna Macy’s World as Lover, World as Self. I read this very many years ago and it confirmed my connection with our planet Earth enough for me to dig deeper and send my roots further in order to embrace more strongly. Then I came across Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places. Again, as Quakers say: ‘It spoke to my condition’. My walks and times spent in the natural world are so important to me as I travel my spiritual journey. I had already found the quote which is used at the beginning of this book: ‘I only went for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in’ – John Muir. I have read Macfarlane’s The Old Ways, Landmarks, and Underland, and notice that he also has a connection with Nan Shephard who wrote The Living Mountain, another of my favourites. More recently I have been reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake, both of which tell of communications and connections between plant life which is beyond human experience.

Piers Warren: The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour. This was the first book I read as a young man that really opened my eyes to how we can live lightly on the Earth. Sacred Earth Celebrations by Glennie Kindred. A great resource to dip into for ideas when celebrating the eight traditional festivals throughout the year. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. A simple but powerful code of conduct to rid yourself of self-limiting beliefs and live a simpler life with less angst.

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Various titles mentioned on this page have reviews in the Book Reviews section of our website.