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Browse Billy's Book Bag - June Edition

Three books Genii Earth CEO Billy Afghan recommends you consider reading and why

  1. Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for HOPE and HEALING in a Divided World

By Katherine Hayhoe

Published September 2021 

What words, phrases, or even voices, trigger you and shut down your willingness to listen? Can you be courageous enough to explore your underlying motivations? Katherine unpacks and interweaves why we react the way we do when we hear something that triggers us, using sprinkles of stories from her years engaging with all walks of life on the topic of climate change.  She brings to light how we can engage very divided people into useful and aligned action that could save our lives on this planet.  

Hayhoe is uniquely positioned—as a devout Christian and a data-driven world-renowned climate scientist—to reveal the underlying barriers that keep us unwilling to take urgent action. She applies her well-honed listening skills to even the hardest climate deniers to find common ground that moves them to action. As a Canadian living in Texas, the fossil fuel capital of North America, she finds herself in conversations with farmers, energy executives and conservative Christian leaders, perfecting her ability to respond to all that triggers people. She meets people where they are and shows them why they should care. 

This read had me on a roller-coaster of emotion, landing me safely on my feet and ready to engage newly. The first three sections are page-turners, with fascinating anecdotes punctuated by dire statistics and hard-to-hear scenarios. The next section takes me into a deeper understanding of why what we think should work to change hearts and minds doesn’t and what we need to start doing that does.  I deeply appreciate her perspective that shaming and blaming doesn’t create the urgent actions we need, yet she doesn’t pull any punches for fossil fuel companies and doesn’t let them off the hook.  She brings the book to a close with hope and clarity about what we can do and what many major players and innovators are already doing to turn the tide of climate change. I got off the roller coaster more hopeful that we can do this. If you need a realistic yet optimistic take on our existential challenges, this is your book. 

2. Why Fathers Cry at Night:  A Memoir in Love Poems, Recipes, Letters and Remembrances 

By Kwame Alexander  

Published May 2023 

As a parent, what do you still resent, regret, or delight in with how you were raised and how you raised or are still raising your own children? What are the evergreen threads that bind the generations in your family? Many people will know Kwame Alexander from his role as the official National Public Radio (NPR) poet and his more than 35 award-winning children’s books. In his first-ever memoir, Kwame takes a deep and honest look at his own parents and the parent he was and is becoming.  The story is delivered with authentic reflection, felt-regret, pure joy, and humor via poems, letters to his daughters, and childhood recipes that you can almost smell and taste.  By writing this book, Kwame gains a better understanding of his father and brings a reverence and honor to his mother’s memory and the ever-present role she played in his life. The title of the book is taken from his experiences and relationship with his coming-of-age daughter expressed through a heartfelt and vulnerable poem written and slipped under her door at a time when they were not speaking. This touching book reminds us all that there are many perspectives to be appreciated in our family relationships that we don’t always recognize until it’s too late and that the time to love is always right now, whatever that takes.  

I had the pleasure of meeting Kwame for the first time at his Portland book signing last month. He is an open and beautiful communicator who is spellbinding with his words, storytelling, and honest, humorous, and often painful reflections of what it means to be a father. It begs the questions for me: what is still incomplete in my own life, that if revealed, would have me carrying more, more lightly? And who will I need to be for my own children who are finding their way in this complex world?  Love is truly the way. 


3. The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife 

By Nancy Lawson 

Published April 2017 

What does having a garden mean to you?  Is it a respite from incessant screen time? A playground for creativity? A showplace for design? This book is a gentle education on the connection between wildlife and our small patches of land that we call gardens, and how we can create life-sustaining habitats for the precious ecosystems that we influence just steps away from our back door. Through detailed examples, Lawson explains how plants and wildlife (birds, insects and animals) play an intricate and delicately interdependent dance of evolution over thousands of years. She shows us how the flower industry is complicit with unwitting gardeners in cultivating designer species to wow and please the human eye without regard for the impact on thousands of years of evolution. The desire for bigger and bolder blooms and insect-resistant leaves interrupts the symbiotic relationships in the natural world to please humans.  Does the pattern look familiar? She tours us through six regional U.S. gardens, introduces us to the people who care for them, and shifts our lens on gardening, from human-centered to life-centered habitat. The book provides resources for how to find native plants in your own region that will meet and exceed expectations for what a garden can mean for you and for the life around you. 

Do you remember a time when you realized that everyone around you knew something important, and you thought you knew, too, but found out you really had no idea? That is what this book was for me. I have always reveled in the big colorful blooms and season variations I have cultivated in my young (three-year-old) garden.  I get compliments all the time from passersby who think I am some kind of master gardener. I have seen a few neighbors posting small signs in their yards that say “certified native habitat garden” that always looked to me more like walking through a meadow or forest than a garden. I thought they were doing it to be more maintenance-free.  Now I look at them and my own garden with an entirely different lens. As it turns out, they are the master gardeners that have chosen to steward the design of nature to support the whole of life and for beauty.   

I am now creating a 3-year plan to transition my garden to a natural habitat that supports wildlife, hopefully indistinguishable from a wild Willamette Valley meadow. 

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