Looking for some engaging permaculture reading for the summer? Here are some of our old and new favorites…
Reviews: Books by Starhawk
How did I not know “Ecotopian” was a genre of novel? It’d been far too long since I’d picked up some fiction, but when a coworker described this book to me I immediately got myself a copy. A review on the jacket from a California senator says this book “is wisdom wrapped in drama” and I completely agree with this in-a-nutshell review. Written in 1993 and taking place in the not-too-distant future of 2048, the best of humanity has come through to produce a garden city where no one goes hungry or thirsty, everyone has enough, all are housed and productive in the ways they choose to be. But they are in danger of being wiped out by the worst of humanity, which has held power over the rest of the land for the past 20 years.
The descriptions of the attitudes of the fundamentalist capitalist armed forces are eerily familiar. The troubles that have come to pass and what our everyday heroes endure are so recognizable, you’ll start to wonder if this book is a relatively accurate foretelling of the future. What it really is, is a warning and an inspiration. This book will get you wondering how you will bring more magic and intuition into your everyday, because it’s described here with such realism and practicality you’ll likely remember a few precious moments you’ve experienced yourself that you can’t easily describe to anyone else. The peaceful way of life that’s been formed in the city is explored through characters involved in Council meetings, working as healers with the aid of Earth’s energies and scientific improvements, as well as the formerly imprisoned, outcast, and escapees.
The most important message of this book is profound and appropriate to this moment. How can we make peace with those who believe we are enemies? How do we endure in harmony? How do we begin to recognize the sacred? I have been recommending this book to everyone, and have been coming across folks who read it years ago and want to pick it up again. Hard to put down and heartening to the spirit, The Fifth Sacred Thing will immerse you in a world in which you’ll wonder what your role would be and what it is now.
After finishing The Fifth Sacred Thing, I was longing for more of this wisdom wrapped in story and immediately searched for a used copy of the sequel. As I started reading Walking to Mercury I realized I’d erred and this was the prequel. Whoops! Much of the book takes place during the Vietnam War era and there are notable scenes of characters experiencing moments on LSD. The story’s action isn’t nearly as thrilling as the realistic futurism of The Fifth Sacred Thing and it mostly revolves around personal dramas Maya (the Elder in The Fifth Sacred Thing) experienced.
While reading, I felt like I was reading a form of Starhawk’s autobiography. Knowing little about her actual life and reading the depth to which we get to know Maya through 20 years of her life led me to feel that way. There is a wonderful turning point when we get to know how Maya became attuned to occult knowledge. This gives you a taste of what becomes foundational magical reality in The Fifth Sacred Thing. This is when the book becomes something much more interesting and invokes mad curiosity to delve more deeply into what Maya is learning about. I wish the story spent more time here but it veers back to folks having conversations with each other about their relationships.
If you know someone who would be interested in reading about Vietnam War protesters and their interpersonal relationships, this book is for them. Perhaps they’re not quite into Paganism and Ecotopian guidebook novels, and Walking to Mercury would pique their interest to read the next book in the series, where the magic really happens. I hope I find the actual sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing at some point, but what reading Walking to Mercury made me realize is that I really want to pick up The Spiral Dance next, which is Starhawk’s nonfiction guide to making your own magic and rituals.
By the way, acquiring previously read books by way of borrowing from a friend or purchasing from a local used bookstore is encouraged. I often am too impatient for this and go to Alibris.com to find a used copy of what I’m looking for. I’ve heard Thriftbooks works too.
Did you catch our amazing webinar with Starhawk last year? Please enjoy it and pass it along!
New Books by PAN Members
Permaculture Design Notes, by Delvin Solkinson and Grace Solkinson, is a beautiful book and a labor of love. Delvin is a proud and active member of the PAN community.
Sharing a clear, concise and accessible synthesis of permaculture design from the Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC) curriculum as well as a teaching manual sharing top tips for teaching any subject. Includes best practices for planting, seed saving, food preservation, medicine making and green building.
Delvin entirely volunteers to produce this work. The book is a free download online. It is also available as a cloth bound, foil stamped, hand numbered, limited edition collectible book printed on Forest Stewardship Council Certified (FSC) 100% recycled paper. As of April 2021 there are 300 of these books available. Get on the ground team and help support this project by ordering a copy. All proceeds go towards reprinting this book.
Check out Delvin’s chat with Scott Mann on the Permaculture Podcast.
Bonita Eloise Ford has joined the PAN team as our new board coordinator and we are so grateful for her work and dedication. We’re also happy to uplift her new book, Embers of Hope: Embracing Life in an Age of Ecological Destruction and Climate Chaos, which is about how to cope with, respond to, and live meaningfully in the face of ecological crisis.
If you’d like to get to know Bonita and hear how a difficult personal journey brought her from a place of grief and pain to one of gratitude and persistence, give a listen to this episode of the Permaculture Podcast.
Recommended Books from the Region and Beyond
Regenerative Design for Changemakers by Abrah Jordan Dresdale
Change Here Now by Adam Brock
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown
For the Love of Pawpaws by Michael Judd
The Carbon Farming Solution by Eric Toensmeier
Farming the Woods by Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel