Bill McKibben’s Reading List

I’m reading less than usual these days, unless you count things read on the screen, which I try not to. I’ve spent much of the last two years trying to figure out how to do large-scale activism—in 2007, with StepItUp, we organized 2,000 demonstrations across the U.S. on climate change, and in 2008 launched a global version, Therefore much of my reading is semi-utilitarian: how have people done this in the past. Gene Sharp’s epic multi-volume account of The Methods of Nonviolent Action, which dates from the 1970s, includes among other things an annotated 198-item list of tactics from “wade-ins” to “protest disrobings.” We’re trying to add quite a few more to the list for a digital age.

For my own writing work, I’m deep into questions of scale at the moment — trying to understand how we became such a gargantuan nation, and what that means for the future. My book table at the moment is piled high with accounts of the Articles of Confederation, all of them a little dry.

And I’ve got a stack of drafts from fellows in our Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism — these are early-career journalists who spend a couple of weeks of the year together, first in Vermont and then in California, working on ambitious pieces that connect with the (broadly-defined) topic of ‘the environment.’ For me, always cursed with more curiosity than time, it’s an excellent way to have ten fresh sets of eyes out in the world, looking hard at things.