POLIS Holiday Reading Guide 2022

Recommended reads from the POLIS team

Published On: December 14th, 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, here is a selection of reading recommendations from members of the POLIS team. Each title relates to the broad theme of ecological governance. And (no surprise!) many of them have to do with water. We hope you might take some inspiration from these authors that we’ve been reading.


Sacred Nature: Restoring Our Ancient Bond with the Natural World
by Karen Armstrong

Since the beginning of time, humankind has looked upon nature and seen the divine. In the writings of the great thinkers across religions, the natural world inspires everything from fear to awe to tranquil contemplation; God, or however one defined the sublime, was present in everything. Yet today, even as we admire a tree or take in a striking landscape, we rarely see nature as sacred.



Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds
edited by Yvonne Blomer

Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds gathers the voices of poets from across Canada, the US, and the UK who write of water. Bottled, clouded, held in rain, in river, estuary and lake, sweet water is the planet’s life force and the poets here examine it from every angle―the pitcher plant, the beaver and the American Bull Frog, rain, clouds, smog, the many ducks and the salmon and the last lake sturgeon.



Law’s Indigenous Ethics
by John Borrows

Law’s Indigenous Ethics examines the revitalization of Indigenous peoples’ relationship to their own laws and, in so doing, attempts to enrich Canadian constitutional law more generally. Organized around the seven Anishinaabe grandmother and grandfather teachings of love, truth, bravery, humility, wisdom, honesty, and respect, this book explores ethics in relation to Aboriginal issues including title, treaties, legal education, and residential schools.



In the Shadow of the Red Brick Building
by Raymond Tony Charlie

Elder Raymond Tony Charlie (Penelukut Tribe) shares his personal story as a residential school survivor and his journey to healing. As a child, Elder Charlie attended both Kuper Island residential school on Penelakut Island and St. Mary’s residential school in Mission, B.C. His book is one of several ways that he has patiently shared about his tragic experiences, ensuing struggles, and healing journey to help people understand what really happened at these institutions, and to support others in their own healing. In sharing his story in his way, Elder Charlie touches our spirits and brings us closer to our own humanity.

You can also watch the recording of the In the Shadow of the Red Brick Building book launch celebration co-hosted by POLIS and the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria in June 2022.



The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water
by Charles Fishman

Praised as “an entertaining and torrential flow of a book” by Nature magazine, The Big Thirst is a startling examination of the passing of the golden age of water and the shocking facts about how water scarcity will soon be a major factor in our lives.



The Mighty River
by Ginalina and Kelley Wills

Kids will learn a wide array of names of wild creatures from frogs and insects, to four legged mammals as well as a wide variety of birds and wild plants that live in the river’s ecosystem. The illustrations are lively and engaging. In her debut book, Ginalina weaves together look-and-find excitement and early ecosystem observations to celebrate community within nature.



Permanent Astonishment: Growing Up Cree in the Land of Snow and Sky
by Tomson Highway

Permanent Astonishment is Tomson’s extravagant embrace of his younger brother’s final words: “Don’t mourn me, be joyful.” His memoir offers insights, both hilarious and profound, into the Cree experience of culture, conquest, and survival.



All We Can Save: Truth, Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis
edited by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson

All We Can Save is an anthology of writings by 60 women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward.



We Are Water Protectors
by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption―a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.



Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Learning from Indigenous Practices for Environmental Sustainability
edited by Melissa K. Nelson

This book examines the importance of traditional ecological knowledge and how it can provide models for a time-tested form of sustainability needed in the world today. Addressing the philosophical issues concerning Indigenous and ecological knowledge production and maintenance, they focus on how environmental values and ethics are applied to the uses of land. Grounded in an understanding of the profound relationship between biological and cultural diversity, this book defines, interrogates, and problematizes the many definitions of traditional ecological knowledge and sustainability.



The Ministry for the Future
by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us. Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his favourite books of the year, this extraordinary novel from visionary science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson will change the way you think about the climate crisis.



Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise.”



True Reconciliation: How to Be a Force for Change
by Jody Wilson-Raybould

There is one question Canadians have asked Jody Wilson-Raybould more than any other: What can I do to help advance reconciliation? It is clear that people from all over the country want to take concrete and tan­gible action that will make real change. We just need to know how to get started. This book provides that next step.




The Unlikely Detective: The Salmon People 

Chris Bennett runs Blackfish Lodge, 300 kilometres north of Vancouver where Canada’s West Coast crumbles into the Pacific Ocean. His guests are from all over the world. They come to see B.C.’s wildlife, but especially the salmon. Chris was out with a group of tourists when he looked into the water alongside his boat and noticed young salmon—called smolts—acting strangely. He drove down the coast with a few smolts in a bucket to show to Alexandra Morton, a neighbour who studied orcas. It was the first clue in a mystery of disappearing salmon, and Alex, an unlikely detective, stepped up.