Paul Hawken’s Reading List

I read relentlessly but rather chaotically too, in that I read several books at the same time. Maybe this is an effect of schooling, but right now, here is the list.

The current guilty pleasure is the sprawling novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, wherein the head of the Mumbai mafia speculates on a cold-swept mountain of his native Afghanistan that light is not God, but that “light is the language of God. Light may be the way God speaks…. to us.” Nine hundred pages of metaphysical gangsters by an ex-con who escaped from jail and fled to India.

Ubiquity: Why Catastrophes Happen, by Mark Buchanan seems very apt right now given our inept leaders, corrupted policies, and our refusal to embrace science as being of service to governance and planning.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan reminds me that we need a manifesto as clear and elegant for forests, water, children, oceans, mothers, coral reefs, and deserts.

I am reading Scott Russell Sanders’s A Private History of Awe because it reminds one of the revelations of childhood that are too early or easily put aside.

I am reading for the first time Barbara Novak’s Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting 1825-1875, which chronicles how the magnificence of the American landscape became conflated with God and destiny, only to be dismembered by the Civil War, Darwin, and technology.

I am reading the galleys of Forests Forever by John Berger to be published this year, a wonderful book that places the forests right into the hearth of civilization, what George Perkins Marsh and others have done before.

Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedoms describes the burgeoning world of social networks. Networks are like the atmosphere or water in that they are so familiar and yet we know so little about them. Networks become more mysterious the deeper you delve; yet it is critical to understand networks because the world is attempting to reorganize itself primarily from the bottom up.

First Democracy by Paul Woodruff offers a sobering assessment of what democracy really means, where it comes from, and what it means to enable and sustain one.

Finally, I am reading a pamphlet by The International Forum on Globalization entitled “Manifesto on Global Economic Transitions.” It is a sobering, concise call for global system change signed by some of the truly great thinkers of our time.


  1. Wow, I’m tickled that and author I admire and whose books I count among the most important I’ve read (and have lent to numerous friends and colleagues) is reading/read two books that I very much enjoyed: SHANTARAM and IN DEFENSE OF FOOD.

    Thanks to you I’m adding some books I hadn’t heard of to my reading list — Ubiquity: Why Catastrophes Happen, by Mark Buchanan, First Democracy by Paul Woodruff, and Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedoms.

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