WEST OF EDEN: COMMUNES AND UTOPIA IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA (PM PRESS, 2012, $24.95)
Edited by Iain Boal, Janfrie Stone, Michael Watts, and Cal Winslow, this fresh history of radical communitarians and their cultural impact includes essays that encompass the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Alcatraz occupation, and the Black Panthers, as well as famed (and doomed) communes like the Albion Nation along the Mendocino coast and Morning Star in Sonoma. There's an emphasis on storytelling, roots activism, and personal relation to the earth here, as well as a bracing re-evaluation of what it meant to "get away from it all" and live free in the '60s and '70s.
THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY BY ELIZABETH KOLBERT (HENRY HOLT, 2014, $28)
Environmental staff writer at The New Yorker and author of the essential Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Kolbert turns an epochal eye toward our environmental fate. Proposing that, after the five major extinctions that have occurred in the history of life, the sixth one is us, her book guides us through the devastating effect we're having on most of the planet's species — and provides startling examples of animals almost gone, like the Panamanian golden frog and the great auk. After reading this, you will never snort ground-up black rhino horn as a party drug again.
THE BAY AREA FORAGER BY MIA ANDLER AND KEVIN FEINSTEIN (FORAGING SOCIETY PRESS, 2011, $24.95)
Miner's Lettuce! Prickly Pear! Sour Clover! Blue Dicks! Where to find them, how to find them, when to use them, and how to eat them — all is revealed (along with some kick-ass recipes) in this wonderfully illustrated tome.
IN THE SIERRA: MOUNTAIN WRITINGS BY KENNETH REXROTH, EDITED BY KIM STANLEY ROBINSON (NEW DIRECTIONS, 2012 EDITION, $16.95)
Beloved San Francisco poet Rexroth (1905-1982) brought his cosmic playfulness and sly, erotic wit to his encounters with nature. Snow-freckled granite, wrinkled tableland, peaks like refrigerated teeth, "the ventriloquial belling of an owl" mingling with nighttime waterfalls: Rexroth maps out a familiarly strange mountainscape with an ethereal astrolabe. Selected prose writings, including those from his columns in the Bay Guardian and the Examiner, take on winter camping, the history of the Sierra Club, and proper furniture for horses.
CLIMATE CHANGE: WHAT IT MEANS FOR US, OUR CHILDREN, AND OUR GRANDCHILDREN (MIT PRESS, 2014, $22.95)
The folksy title of this MIT Press title may belie the eagerness of top scientists to reach everyday people before it's too late. Edited by law professor and writer Joseph F.C. DiMento and energy specialist Pamela Doughman, the essays in Climate Change lays out up-to-the-minute information on the impending and present impact of our activities in practical terms of housing prices, taxes, and other relatable measurements in non-technical language.
A CALIFORNIA BESTIARY (HEYDAY, 2010, $12.95)
The pairing of writer Rebecca Solnit and muralist Mona Caron would cause major excitement even if it involved a book on differential equations. Here, however, is a gem-like compendium of iconic Golden State natives like the Chinook salmon, California condor, desert tortoise, and Mission butterfly. All seen through two of most important artists' eyes. (Marke B.)
All titles available at Green Arcade Books (1680 Market, SF. www.thegreenarcade.com).