Good Books for Troubled Times

Author: Kirsten Bradley
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In the wake of Australia’s recent election, many around us have been asking ‘what can we do now’? It’s time to research, act and organise as a community, my friends. With good books for troubled times.

Since our recent election I’ve been asked for book recommendations about organising grassroots change, but have also watched on as many (so many) folks have asked each other… I guess it’s up to us then, isn’t it? We’re going to have to do this ourselves – we can’t wait for the government anymore… 

The answer, as we see it, is a resounding YES PLEASE to community response and organisation and action. Action for community-owned renewable energy projects, for community futures, for resilience and permaculture skills and how we can do this, fix this, this climate and this inequality and this future, together.

Happily, there’s already heaps of resources out there to get you started, and thinking, and organising. I point out that this is just the tippy-tip-top of the iceberg of good books to read, right now. As always, check your library first for all of these titles and if they don’t have a copy, request one!

The Transition Handbook

Never seen this one before? Seriously, check it out. Got it on your bookshelf already? Put the kettle on, it’s time to re-read.

Rob Hoskins’ classic text about how communities can transition to a low-carbon economy was written with adapting to peak oil in mind back in 2008. However, this is a book that works just as well for nutting out strategies for creating low-carbon communities – for any reason, in any decade. Check the references too, there’s so many great books and resources leading out from this book, in all sorts of directions.

The Transition Handbook by Rob Hoskins | Website | Buy in Australia | Buy rest of world.

Hope in the Dark

“With Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit makes a radical case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable.

Drawing on her decades of activism and a wide reading of environmental, cultural, and political history, Solnit argues that radicals have a long, neglected history of transformative victories, that the positive consequences of our acts are not always immediately seen, directly knowable, or even measurable, and that pessimism and despair rest on an unwarranted confidence about what is going to happen next.”

Argh. I love this writer (please read her everything). You should read this. It will have you punching the air with newfound gumption.

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit | Website | Buy in Australia | Buy rest of world.

Farming Democracy

Probably the freshest little book in this list! A curation of Australian farmer’s recent stories, heartfelt and candid, in their common quest towards a truly regenerative agriculture – one that sustains communities, families AND landscapes.

Created by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, this book is a great reminder that there’s plenty of folks on the land doing their very best to feed our communities ethically and properly (Northern Hemisphere friends may want to check out The Greenhorns’ New Farmers Almanac for stories of similar direction).

Plus if you buy a copy of this book, you’re supporting the important advocacy that AFSA do for food systems across Australia so there’s that, too. Highly recommended.

Farming Democracy – radically transforming the food system from the ground up | AFSA website | Buy in Australia.

Braiding Sweetgrass

Possibly one of my favourite books of all time. Scientist and Potawatomi woman Robin Wall Kimmerer unwraps our relationship to the natural world, both past, present and future, better than any writer I know of. Her stories and scientific observations bring together an alternate way of seeing how we fit into ecosystems and into the history of this planet.

She somehow manages to witness all that has occurred while still describing and encouraging us to see our collective future as a garden of possibility, entwined with the places we live in. So bloody dense and so bloody good. Also, listen to this podcast where Robin outlines the mindblowing history of corn. Then come back and read this book.

Braiding Sweetgrass – indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants – Robin Wall Kimmerer | Webpage | Buy in Australia | Buy rest of world.

The Weed Foragers Handbook

One of the best antidotes to feeling powerless or despondent about our political situation is definitely to GO OUTSIDE and do something useful while you’re at it. Learning a new edible weed, or five, definitely fits this bill.

This little Aussie handbook is a pearler. It’s full of many of the urban weeds that you’ll find in Australia, plus what to use them for, and why. You can literally turn your street block from Boring Centre of Urban Doom into a Urban Edibles and Medicine Wonderland with this book! Ok, maybe not a wonderland, but you get my point. Learn about where you live. The plants can help you. Northern Hemisphere friends, this book is still awesome for you, and also check out the esteemed The Forager Handbook for northern wilds.

The Weed Foragers Handbook – a guide to edible and medicinal weeds of Australia – Adam Grubb + Annie Raser-Rowland | Website | Buy in Australia | Buy rest of world


Billed as ‘The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming’, this book is based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world… “At this point in time, the Drawdown book is exactly what is needed; a credible, conservative solution-by-solution narrative that we can do it. Reading it is an effective inoculation against the widespread perception of doom that humanity cannot and will not solve the climate crisis. Reported by-effects include increased determination and a sense of grounded hope.” —Per Espen Stoknes, Author, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming…

And what the top 100 solutions are, might just surprise you. This book is also great for teachers and organisers – it throws some curve balls into popular thinking, which is just what we need. Also read Hawken’s Blessed Unrest – tales of social and environmental justice, that started from the ground up.

Drawdown – edited by Paul Hawken | Website | Buy in Australia | Buy rest of world.


Ok so you may know this one if you hang out with us much – you may even own a copy. But DAMN there’s some good stuff in here!  This book is dangerous. In its essence, Retrosuburbia invites and inspires us all to stay right where we are. Turning our suburbs upside down, to make the world we want.

Solutions and case studies for the DIY suburban revolution – households and communities adapting to a low-carbon future, right where they already live. Here’s our fulsome review from last year. Also, there’s a facebook group to connect with other would-be downshifters.

Retrosuburbia – the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future – David Holmgren | Website | Buy in Australia | Buy rest of world


Yes ok so this is our book, it’s true, BUT I’ve put it in here because…. the need to write Good Books for Troubled Times is EXACTLY why we wrote this.

And honestly, we wrote this book because alongside the Drawdowns and the Transition Handbooks… we all need simple and welcoming home-based solutions and ideas. Topics that we can start investigating and doing RIGHT NOW with our own two hands – without waiting for anyone, or anything.

Tasks and new habits that can inspire us all to get outside and use our hands to begin creating the world we want, today. And so we chose five of our favourite habits/topics – keeping bees, growing tomatoes, foraging, growing mushrooms, and using seaweed, to get folks inspired to begin creating a handmade, heartfelt life that sits alongside your commitment to direct action, community initiatives and big, society-wide solutions.

To help you create a kitchen bench full of simple, doable projects and a bubbling wild stew, with a table piled high with books full of big ideas (like the ones above) and small ideas with big effects, too.

Milkwood: real skills for down to earth living – Kirsten Bradley + Nick Ritar | Buy from us (signed!) | Buy rest of world 

And more…

Another few books I couldn’t find today to take a photo of, probably because I’ve lent them to someone. All essential reading…

Alrighty, that’s the tippy top of our list. Now, we want to know – what’s your top books for right now?

Please share below, we would LOVE to hear what you’re reading that’s making positive change in your heart, home and community… thanks in advance x

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Good Books for Troubled Times

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