Creative Time

Suggested Reading List

Please enjoyThe Last Stand recommended reading list, curated by The New York Public Library. The books here draw out the timely and enduring topics present in Sankaram’s project.
The New York Public Library has been an essential provider of free books, information, ideas, and education for all New Yorkers for more than 125 years. Founded in 1895, NYPL is the nation’s largest public library system, featuring 92 locations across the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, including our world-renowned research centers at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Together with our circulating branches, including the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (SNFL)—now open for grab-and-go service and expected to fully open later in 2021—the Library provides an extraordinary richness of resources and opportunities available to all.

The Overstory by Richard Powers
A novel of activism and natural-world power presents interlocking fables about nine remarkable strangers who are summoned in different ways by trees for an ultimate, brutal stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry edited by Camille T. Dungy
The first anthology to focus on nature writing by African American poets, a genre that until now has not commonly been counted as one in which they participated. Dungy has selected 180 poems from 93 poets that provide unique perspectives on American social and literary history to broaden our concept of nature poetry and African American poetics.

Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska by John Luther Adams
The Pulitzer Prize-winning and Grammy award-winning composer shares the formative decades of his life spent in the Alaskan wilderness and the influences that have allowed him to emerge as one of the most celebrated composers of our time. His music was influenced by his time in the mountains, forests, and tundra of the far north.

Appleseed by Matt Bell
An epic speculative novel from NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award-finalist that explores climate change, manifest destiny, humanity’s unchecked exploitation of natural resources, and the small but powerful magic contained within every single apple. Three interwoven narrative strands: 18th century Ohio with a mythical Johnny Appleseed and his brother, a dystopian near-future America ravaged by climate change, a tech company, and capitalism, and a far-future glacier-covered continent and a cyborg being who yearns for civilization and the last bits of nature untouched by technology.

Trees: A Rooted History by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski
Part botany, part history, part cultural anthropology, this book goes beyond the basics to tell readers everything they might want to know about this particular branch of the plant kingdom. It explores the important roles trees play in our ecosystem, takes an up-close-and-personal look at the parts of trees (from roots to leaves), and unpacks the cultural impact of trees from classification systems (like family trees) to art forms (like bonsai trees).

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
The author, a botanist and professor of plant ecology, has spent a career learning how to ask questions of nature using the tools of science. As a Potawatomi woman, she learned from elders, family, and history that the Potawatomi, as well as a majority of other cultures indigenous to this land, consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. She brings these two lenses of knowing together to reveal what it means to see humans as “the younger brothers of creation.” Once we begin to listen for the languages of other beings, we can begin to understand the innumerable life-giving gifts the world provides us and learn to offer our thanks, our care, and our own gifts in return.

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard
This is the fascinating story of how Simard overturned widely accepted beliefs to systematically prove, against all odds, that trees and plants in the forest are connected underground in an immense fungal web , (which Simard calls the Wood Wide Web). That the biggest, oldest trees, the mother trees, are the hubs of the network, with the fungal mycelia, the links. She not only invites us to understand trees in an entirely new way—she also makes clear what we can learn from the natural development of forests, in order to create a more civil and resilient society.

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenshaupt Tsing
A tale of diversity within our damaged landscapes that witnesses the varied and peculiar worlds of the commerce of matsutake mushrooms: the worlds of Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, industrial forests, Yi Chinese goat herders, Finnish nature guides, and more. By investigating one of the world’s most sought-after fungi, this book presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.

The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors by David George Haskell
Scientific, lyrical, and contemplative, a professor of biology and environmental studies, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, visits twelve trees around the world and discusses the biological relationships that sustain life, including bacterial communities, cooperative animals and fungal partners.

The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorceta E. Taylor
In this sweeping social history, Taylor examines the emergence and rise of the multifaceted U.S. conservation movement from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. She shows how race, class, and gender influenced every aspect of the movement, including the establishment of parks; campaigns to protect wild game, birds, and fish; forest conservation; outdoor recreation; and the movement’s links to nineteenth-century ideologies.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
A memoir by an award-winning paleobiologist traces her childhood in her father’s laboratory, her longtime relationship with a brilliant but wounded colleague and the remarkable discoveries they have made both in the lab and during extensive field research assignments. Jahren’s probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page. This book opens your eyes to the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal.

The Nation of Plants by Stefano Mancuso, translated from the Italian by Gregory Conti
A leading plant neurobiologist describes how humans have changed the conditions of Earth so drastically that plants need a voice in the form of a Universal Declaration of Rights of Living Beings to establish norms for all life to coexist. In this playful yet informative manifesto, Mancuso presents the eight fundamental pillars on which the life of plants—and by extension, humans— rests.