FOR BOOK READERS, it’s unimaginable that anyone would not get a rush when they crack open the pages of a new volume, inhale that inky smell and feel the crisp paper. In a small village close to where I live, there’s a publisher who prints on site. Tim Inkster, co-owner of The Porcupine’s Quill with his wife Elke, runs his own presses and turns out beautiful books on textured stock that is the paper equivalent of a home-cooked meal.

I’m not alone in revelling in books. In fact, two-thirds of Canadians, according to Statistics Canada, read at least one book for pleasure in 2005. With the introduction of the iPad and the proliferation of free information on the Internet, it will be interesting to see how that statistic changes in the next census. But it’s hard to imagine that books will give way altogether. In fact, our survey discovered that there are more eco-books than ever on bookstore shelves. Moreover, as Stephen Bocking points out in this issue of Alternatives, information is important, but stories are essential.

Bocking reviews a pair of novels written by some of Canada’s best. In Generation A, Douglas Coupland uses a bee sting to launch a series of bizarre events, while Margaret Atwood describes the grim aftermath of genetic manipulation and corporate greed with her trademark precision in The Year of the Flood.

In his tribute to Thomas Berry, University of Toronto professor Stephen Scharper explores the legacy of hope that this Catholic priest bequeathed to humanity. He describes Berry as a “premier sage of the spiritual character of our current ecological malaise.”

And who can ignore the ideas put forward by this trio of women: Jane Jacobs, Frances Moore Lappé and Vandana Shiva. Their works, their words and their inspiring ideas practically jump off the pages of this issue of Alternatives.

In a conversation I had last fall with Bruce Lourie, co-author of Slow Death by Rubber Duck – the surprising bestseller (14 weeks on The Globe and Mail’s list) – I found myself wondering: Why this book? What made it so popular? Upon closer examination, I discovered that it wasn’t the great writing or in-depth research. It wasn’t the authors’ personal following nor their frequent references to pop icons. It was something else altogether.

This issue celebrates the environmental reading available to you. With bookstore shelves now overflowing with titles, we help you wade through your options. Several of Canada’s prominent environmental leaders, including the Pembina Institute’s Marlo Raynolds and PowerUP Canada’s Tzeporah Berman, offer up their recommended reading for PM Stephen Harper and, as always, we surveyed bookstores from across the country to bring you the latest trends in enviro-book sales. Finally, we test your knowledge with a crossword puzzle designed specifically for those who are environmentally inclined. (27 Down - Who looks good in a fig leaf?)

So pull up a chair, find a sunny spot, dive into Alternatives’ third annual review of environmental books. And join me in thanking Fraser Los, our associate editor, for pulling together this eclectic mix of darn good green reading.

Happy Earth Day.

Nicola Ross is the former Editor of Alternatives Journal, and is a member of the editorial board.

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