ImageIt is the last weekend in June, and a late morning low tide has brought me down to the bay to relax and slow down.

Last week, a Great Blue Heron, or two, or three, could be seen fishing along the edges of the exposed mud flats. Most likely the herons were trying to catch some Killies or Spearing, or other small fish. Today the numbers have greatly increased; I spot at least eight Great Blue Herons this morning. The adult birds are once again fishing and are joined by three Least Terns. The terns fly down quickly to the shallows to catch some fish and then fly off swiftly towards the tip of Sandy Hook with a bunch of petite fish lined up in beaks to feed their young.

The birds are working hard this morning seeking food. In contrast, I am taking it easy. I am sitting in my favorite beach chair with a good book in hand underneath a sunny summer sky listening to the waves gently crash onto the edge of the shore. Is there anything better than spending a sunny day along the bay with a good book in your hand?

As many people allow themselves now to have some more free time to take it easy, lots of folks look to relax by reading a few enjoyable books. Summer seems to be a good season to disconnect from the technological online world and vanish into a book to engage the imagination.

With many people already enjoying the outdoors during the summer, the season seems perfect to call attention to the environment and the natural world around us. Certainly, it is true that one way to appreciate nature is to read books about the environment. The more people that understand and appreciate our earth, the more likely society will want to preserve our green spaces and clean up our waters and air for all species to enjoy.   

Below, I share a list of some non-fiction, environmental books that I have recently read and took delight from. There are other books in my pile that I'm hoping to get to before long, but odds are I won't make before the leaves change color.

Have a safe, happy, and environmentally friendly summer! Enjoy reading a good book along the Jersey Shore!

The below five books are in no particular order of preference:


  • The Unnatural History of the Sea, by Callum Roberts, published by Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2007.

Dr. Callum Roberts, a Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of York in England, provides a startling historical work that illustrates just how long people have been fishing our oceans unsustainably, and how productive the oceans could be. Using centuries-old firsthand accounts of sea adventures from explorers, fishermen, pirates, merchants and travelers, this book covers hundreds of years of exploration and exploitation of the sea and makes a case against policies that permit overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution. In this gripping and carefully researched book, Professor Roberts provides an enthralling account of man's relationship with the sea, and argues that with smarter management of resources, the oceans can once again be rich and abundant with life.


  • The Human, The Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World, by Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, published by Bloomsbury, 2007.

The book is classic Cousteau! Any fan (including me!) of Jacques Cousteau's many wonderful undersea films during the 1960s and 1970s knows the legendary explorer was a master storyteller. This book, finished before his death in 1997, provides a unique outlook on personal underwater exploration, the natural environment all around us, and people's power to influence and change the environment to suit short-term goals. If you don't have this book on your summer reading list, I humbly think you should.



  • Heartbeats in the Muck: A Dramatic Look at the History, Sea Life, and Environment of New York Harbor, by John Waldman, published by The Lyons Press, 1999.

In my opinion, this is one of the best books written about our local environment in the Bayshore region.  Writer and Ichthyologist, John Waldman, uncovers the history of the harbor from the 17th century, when it teemed with fish, dolphins, and whales through the abundant oyster industry in the early 19th century to today's pollution and many brown tides. Despite the dark undertone, the book has a positive outlook about the bay, and most importantly - it is just a fun and insightful read! 


  • Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future, by Jeff Goodell, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.

Perhaps one of the most compelling and gripping books you will read this summer. I heard about this book two years ago and found it to be an eye-opening adventure on just how powerful, vast, and influential the coal industry is in America. Think about it, coal provides more than half of the electricity consumed by Americans today (including right here in New Jersey). Every time we flip a light switch or turn on the television, we burn a chunk of coal. Unfortunately, there is a real dark-side to our use of coal, from the destruction of the environment to the destruction of people's lives. Read this book and find out for yourself the hidden truth about this fossil fuel.


  • Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 And How It Changed America, by John M. Barry, published by Simon & Schuster, 1997.

With yet another great flood causing enormous damage and havoc to the people who live along the Mississippi River, it is worth looking back to re-examine the great flood of 1927 that provided the promise by the federal government of "never again." Of course, it has happen again many times, and will continue to occur until people learn to live with Mother Nature rather than always wanting to try to control her. This book is a classic piece of environmental history and shows the awesome power of the natural world and how it has the potential to change many people's lives forever. It is a reality that we often forget even in the face of some great modern disasters.