Books we read

Our favourite pop science reads that keep us fascinated and inspired…


Changing Tides

Changing Tides: An Ecologist’s Journey to Make Peace with the Anthropocene

by Alejandro Frid (2019)

Recommended by: Rachel Munger

As an admirer of Frid and his role with the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA), I could not resist this book. At the intersection of scientific questioning, indigenous knowledge, and political resource management, Alejandro Frid takes stock of the Anthropocene in a “glass half full” perspective, through deep story-telling of his personal experiences. Reading this book left me feeling a strong sense of place and an even stronger responsibility to protect the surrounding lands and waters for life after my own. His stories take the reader through many territories along the BC coast, where each unique tale is rich with science-informed decision-making that is rooted in traditional practices. You can almost smell the sea-salty air coming off the cover, and might even catch yourself imagining that the turn of a page will hold a rockfish otolith or some sticky herring eggs.


invisible womenInvisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men

by Caroline Criado Perez (2019)

Recommended by: Isabelle Côté

What does the snow-clearing policy of a small town in Sweden, personal protection equipment for firefighters, and the charts outlining the well-recognised signs of heart attack have in common?  They were all designed by men and for men, and they either don’t apply or disadvantage women. This data-rich book was a real eye-opener to the fact that virtually every aspect of the world we live in has been designed using men as the default human to represent all of us. Part of me is grateful for this book, but an equal part is depressed and angry about the insidiousness of the invisibility of women in society.


carboncodecoverThe Carbon Code: How You Can Be a Climate Change Hero

by Brett Favaro (2017)

Recommended by: Isabelle Côté

I obviously couldn’t resist reading this first book by a TMEL alumnus. I was really impressed (in an unbiased way, honest!) by the positive message.  This is not a book that makes you feel depressingly guilty about driving or flying. Instead, Brett gives advice on how to make small changes in individual behaviour that can collectively have a large impact on the global carbon footprint.  This is an empowering book that should convince people that everyone can help.

shadowmtnShadow Mountain: A Memoir of Wolves, a Woman, and the Wild

by Renée Askins (2002)

Recommended by: Luis Malpica Cruz

This is certainly not a marine book; however, it brings together a very inspiring conservation story and a beautiful narrative, just as if you were chatting with Renée over a few beers at the pub after work. Through her journey to defend the cause for lost apex predators in North America, and particularly to reintroduce the mythic gray wolf (Canis lupus) back to Yellowstone and the Midwest, Renée takes us from challenges to failures and successes. Her story should help to motivate and potentially teach us a lesson or two to all those involved in the conservation movement.

Cod-KurlanskyCod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

by Mark Kurlansky (1997)

Recommended by: Frances Robertson

I read this book so many years ago that I don’t remember exactly when. But this book has always stuck with me. Growing up in the UK, and studying marine biology in Aberdeen, Scotland, I could not escape learning about cod, once the mainstay of the North Sea fishing fleets. The story of cod is woven through the centuries – it is the story of a fish that had immense influence on the world, as the title implies. This small book is one that I can read over and over again.

animalsmartsAre We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

by Frans de Waal (2016)

Recommended by: Isabelle Côté

The answer is: barely. This book is a fascinating journey into the study animal cognition. We have vastly underestimated how ‘intelligent’ animals because we have tested them with experiments that are only relevant to human abilities. However, when subjected to the right experiments, animals show a huge range of complex cognitive behaviours, from future planning, to episodic memory and delayed gratification. In hindsight, this is not surprising since these behaviours are the products of evolution. This is not a book just about primates: elephants, dolphins, birds, and even the ‘lowly’ fishes and octopuses make appearances and get to show their cleverness.


Beyond the Outer Shorescover_rain3.jpg

by Eric Enno Tam (2005)

Recommended by: Brett Howard

Beyond the Outer Shores is the incredible biography of a (mostly) unsung hero of marine ecology on the West Coast. Ed Ricketts was an entrepreneur, adventurer, and not-so-amateur natural historian. He was also one of John Steinbeck’s greatest friends and appears as a character in almost every book he wrote. There was so much in this book that connected with my love of the west coast and exploring the intertidal at low tide.


51m-ZvSLo4L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgHooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish

by G. Bruce Knecht (2006)

Recommended by: Luis Malpica Cruz

I came across this book on an actual long-liner boat, not for fishing but for science (mako and blue shark tagging off the Channel Islands in California). I enjoyed it because it shows the consequences and complexities behind fishing practices that are nowadays illegal and how a deep-water fish in South America ends up as the base of a sophisticated entree in a high-priced restaurant in New York, with neither the fisher nor diner necessarily being aware of this.

The-Fire-in-the-Turtle-HouseFire In The Turtle House: The Green Sea Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean

by Osha Gray Davidson (2003)

Recommended by: Brett Howard

This has been on my favourites list possibly longer than any other non-fiction book I’ve read. Davidson delves into one of the least-appreciated problems in conservation: wildlife disease. This book is a fascinating investigation into the etiology and impacts of the tumor-causing fibropapillomatosis virus in sea turtles, wrapped up in a beautiful narrative about conserving one of the planet’s most charismatic reptiles.

The Bafut BeaglesTheBafutBeagles

by Gerald Durrell (1954)

Recommended by: Fiona Francis

This book fueled my passion for animals as a young child. As a zoologist during the golden age of species discovery and collection, Durrell recounts his numerous adventures around the world in search of weird and wonderful animals. The Bafut Beagles describes Durell’s 1949 collecting expedition to the Cameroons and sweeps the reader up using witty dry humour and compelling storytelling into a world where midnight toad chasing and giant squirrel herding are the norm.

4fishFour Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

by Paul Greenberg (2010)

Recommended by: Brett Howard

This book feels like the literary offspring of Cod by Mark Kurlansky (which I haven’t yet read) and The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. It takes a very honest look at four of the most economically and gastronomically important fisheries  in the ocean: salmon, sea bass, tuna, and (of course) cod. One thing I really appreciated about this book was its very even-handed treatment of finfish aquaculture and the significant challenges in making the industry both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Silent SpringSilent_Spring_First_Ed

by Rachel Carson (1962)

Recommended by: Luis Malpica Cruz

I was only able to read this one a couple of years ago. It opened my eyes as to how far back in time we as a society have been impacting the environment and continue to do so despite evidence that we should do otherwise. It is particularly striking that despite that this book was written more than 50 years ago it is still very current, especially considering the current use of GMO agricultural practices and the continued debate around their impacts on the environment and public health.