Which books to read, and which to avoid…. (Non fiction…!)

In the newspaper, we get reviews of new books almost daily. But, it’s mostly fiction. Fake, fantasy. We take refuge in dreams. Once in a while there is an interesting non fiction suggestion, but mostly of the soft kind, about people, and their behavior. But books about science, nature, physics , about how the world really works , rarely come up. Hence my top 10 of very interesting books. ( and a op 10 of books to avoid…).

Top 10 very readable books : ( not necessarily in that order….)

1 The Upside of Down – Thomas Homer-Dixon

Great book, making connections between problems and tensions in society ( population, energy, environment climate and economy) and analyzing, drawing history lessons and exploring solution directions, very coherent and well reasoned. Very readable and inspiring.

2 In the servitude of power – Jean-Claude Debeir et all

Energy only works in 1 direction, so the key is to extract as much work as possible from that unit of energy, because gone is gone. But also no more than that! That energy power comes from the sun, eventually. And via labor. From humans and animals, and how was that historically? Wonderful overview and examples.

3 Sapiens, Yuval Harari

Terrific original take on humans through the ages. Down-to-earth, Harari files old and new insights, placing them in new frames. (oustands his other books….)

4 Value of everything – Mariana Mazzucato

How about money, and capital and means of production, and land? Who claimed what, where and when in the past centuries? A great overview of the development of the (money) economy. And the resulting shortcomings today….

5 Regenesis – George Monbiot

That agriculture needs to change, everyone understands by now, right? George Monbiot’s latest book (previously known also from the book ‘Heat’) is a great advocate of change, and certainly of agriculture, and went looking for answers with all kinds of projects, farmers, and specialists.

6 From eternity to here – Sean Carrol

Actually it’s strange: Thermodynamics shows that everything degrades to dust, to chaos, high entropy. Then why isn’t that on the earth? And then what about the universe as a whole? Its heading for chaos, but then it should have come from a hugely organized state (low chaos) ?

7 How to blow up a pipeline – Andreas Malm

You’re an activist and you want to act. How far can you go? Legal and philosophical exploration of options . ( And so you can blow up Nord Stream …?).

8 The end of Growth – Richard Heinberg

What people can do to prepare for hard times, say an economic crash: Get out of debt, be self-sufficient and live non-consumptively. Irony: Dont buy anything anymore, And the current faulty system is guaranteed to collapse by itself, so that helps. And so be prepared either way.

9 Before the collapse – Ugo Bardi,

I was previously inspired by an older book , Extraction, by Ugo Bardi, a member of the Club of Rome. But with this book he surpasses himself, showing that the collapse is inevitable. We choose ourselves whether it will be fast and hard or slow and softer.

10 Energy Return on Investment – Charles A Hall

Perhaps the author who best understands how physical-energy works. Building on Odum’s work, he introduces EROI, analyzing all kinds of processes. At the same time analyses the pursuit of Max Power, a possible additional thermodynamic law .

In fact, I now realize, this should be a mandatory reading list on schools, in stead of fiction books. Its reading and learning at the same time.


10 books to forget

1 How to avoid a climate disaster – Bill Gates

Another wacko who stripped us from our money ( use Linux!) and now loaded with cash thinks he knows everything and ends up with technological wishful thinking. See my review here: http://www.ronaldrovers.com/faster-to-destruction-with-bill-gates/

2 Drawdown – Paul Hawken

At first glance very useful. But most measures come with investments, in money and materials. So with that money we are going to buy more again, and materials depletion we put into acceleration. That is what you get when you calculate in relative CO2 reductions, a side effect, instead of in real impact , in causes.

3 Enlightment now – Steven Pinker

Perhaps you had not heard of it, this book. Fine, keep it that way. A lot of fragmentary and incomplete analysis comes along.

4 Capital in the 21 st century – Thomas Piketty

His books are the best proof that economics is not a science. Its all about assumptions, suppositions, expectations. Could have been done in 10 pages instead of 700. His conclusion: It can freeze and thaw, and when it freezes it doesn’t thaw, and when it thaws, … etc.

Rather read: The economic growth engine, Ayres et all, How energy and work drive material prosperity

5 0-marginal cost society – Jeremy Rifkin.

No wonder: if you produce more and more and faster, it costs ( in money) less and less. But he ignores that this does not make it a 0-marginal resource society, on the contrary. Money is relative, resources are not. See my review here: http://www.ronaldrovers.com/a-0-marginal-resource-society-does-not-exist/

6 Apocalypse Never – Michael Schellenberger

I understand that environmental people also exaggerate and do not always stick to the numbers. Ok, agree, but even he does not escape, forgets things, such as materials….chaotic book, restless reading.

7 Architecture from prehistory to climate emergency – Nigel Calder.

Not very well argued, the relationship with climate and energy/fossil is always forced in with a side note (‘form follows fossils’), very superficial. Actually it is just a ordinary architecure book, a personal collection of favorite buildings, even missing a lot of interesting architecture and developments in construction history.

8 Metazoa – Peter Godfrey-Smith

Yes, the octopus is inteligent. But much, ( in my opinion) nagging, and mostly speculation. Mind, as an addition to a physical system, which is already complete even without mind. And what “mind” is, or consciousness , remains unclear.

9 Hot flat and crowded – Thomas Friedman

Very disappointing read. Usual bla bla about a growing, better and greener future. A techno-optimist. But whether that will work without fossil fuels is completely ignored.

Then better read ’technofix’ Huesemann, or ‘with both eyes open’ (Allwood et all)

10 Ministry of the future – Kim Robinson

Muddled and confusing mix of a bad novel (fiction) , and fictitious ‘united nations initiatives’. After the necessary disasters over the next few decades, leading to a still happy ending in the form of mostly applying geotechnologies… But what the future is of that geo technological future , remains out of the picture….


If you don’t read these books , it will save time , avoid misunderstandings, and moreover, saves a lot of paper anyway.

Author: ronald rovers