Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: The Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Workbook by Charlton Hall

The Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Workbook
Charlton Hall, MMFT, LMFT
Self-Published, 2015
242 pages

I’ve enjoyed the older version of this book, The Mindful Ecotherapy Handbook, for a number of years, so I am happy to now be reviewing an expanded text with even more exercises, structure and more overt ecopsychology-based material.

Read more here.

Book Review: Drawdown edited by Paul Hawken

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Paul Hawken (editor)
Penguin Books, 2017
234 pages

My last couple of articles here have dealt with allowing ourselves to grieve for losses in nature, and discussing trauma and resilience in the time of climate change. I wanted to round out the trifecta with a more concrete set of solutions, and these come in the form of one of the best books I’ve read this year.

97% of scientists who are actually studying climate change (as opposed to making armchair claims) have found enough evidence to be convinced that climate change is anthropogenic–caused by humans. And the rate of climate change is so rapid on a geological scale that it’s set to seriously disrupt every system on the planet, from ocean currents to animal migrations to weather patterns. As I’ve mentioned before, this impending scene of doom–which we’re already seeing the first signs of–has a lot of people scared, anxious, angry, even hopelessly nihilistic. Much of that is because we don’t feel empowered to actually do anything, especially when government officials and corporations both seem hell-bent on continuing the trend in the name of money.

This book, then, is a serious antidote to that.

Book Review: The Voice of the Earth by Theodore Roszak

The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology
Theodore Roszak
Simon & Schuster, 1992
368 pages

Ecopsychology as a named concept is now a quarter of a century old, so I decided to go spelunking into some of the foundational texts. This is the book that started it all.

When I was first learning about ecopsychology, my instructor, Dr. Thomas Doherty, described how there are three generations of ecopsychology. The first, coming out of the initial few years of its development, has a decidedly countercultural feel to it. It’s full of criticisms of society as a whole, and something of an aversion to formal research. (Later generations have been more open to studies, as the peer-reviewed journal Ecopsychology demonstrates.)

After re-reading this book, I’m unsurprised by how anti-authoritarian early ecopsychology was. Roszak’s book is a long letter to Western society on how we’ve distanced ourselves from nature and how this has had a devastating impact not just on the planet itself, but on our psyches. It’s far from being simply an accusatory jeremiad, though, for the author draws on a variety of disciplines from philosophy to religion to support his assertions, culminating in a brief but concise description of a potential solution: ecopsychology.

Read more here.

Book Review: The Nature Fix by Florence Williams

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative
Florence Williams
W.W. Norton & Company, 2017
280 pages

Research on why nature is good for us is hardly monopolized by ecopsychology; everyone from neurobiologists to social scientists have been weighing in on the subject for decades with a variety of quantitative and qualitative studies. Some of them seem to be near-repeats of each other; there are multiple studies, for example, showing that we respond better to real nature than to facsimiles like film or plasma screens with live feeds of the outdoors. Other studies go in very different directions; Korean researchers have been putting a great deal of emphasis on the overall sensory experience of nature, leading to surprising results with aromatherapy.

All these studies can feel a little overwhelming, especially for those who don’t want to slog through academic jargon or translate statistics into plain English. Enter The Nature Fix. In it, journalist Florence Williams explores the latest research on the intersection of nature and therapy and explains why it’s important for the everyday person to have access to this information. It’s a wonderfully inviting book, written in Williams’ friendly, humorous, and more than occasionally irreverent tone. (You can’t beat the straight-to-the-point title, either.)

Read more here.

Book Review: Vitamin N by Richard Louv

Vitamin N: 500 ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community and Combat Nature-Deficit Disorder
Richard Louv
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016
278 pages

I admit I’m something of a Richard Louv fangirl. I’ve loved his writing since his first book, Last Child in the Woods, came out in 2008. While I don’t have any children of my own, I still very strongly remember being a kid growing up in the 1980s, running rampant across our small-town Midwest neighborhood. Long summer days of looking for bugs under rocks, exploring the nooks and crannies in moss, and pushing my way through thickets of young Eastern red cedar set the stage for who I am as an adult. I mourn the fact that so many people in the decades since then have missed out on that experience.

This, then, is Louv’s practical antidote to our ongoing disconnection from nature. There really are five hundred ideas in this text, ranging from picking out a particular place in nature to sit and visit every day, to turning your back yard into a butterfly haven, to taking up birding. Many of them are geared toward families with children, but even the young at heart can get behind splashing in puddles, making seed bombs, or going on an expedition to find nearby nature, those parks, gardens and other small oases in an urban neighborhood.

Read more here.