POLIS Holiday Reading Guide 2023

Recommended reads from the POLIS team

Published On: December 18th, 2023

 As we wrap up another great year of work, we’ve put Together a list of some of our favourite books, podcasts, and films. Each recommendation relates to the broad theme of ecological governance. We hope you’ll take some inspiration from this selection!


The Monk and Robot Series
by Becky Chambers

Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers’ Monk & Robot is a delightful sci-fi series that gives readers hope for the future. In A Psalm for the Wild-Built, the first book in this philosophically adventurous series, the robots of Panga have long ago achieved self-awareness and retreated into the forests, where they’ve become the stuff of legends and myth. However, when a robot checks in on a tea monk one day, honouring its ancient duty, it cannot leave until the monk answers the simple question: What do you need? “Fans of gentle, smart, and hopeful science fiction will delight in this promising series starter.” —Publishers Weekly






Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast
by John Vaillant

A stunning account of a colossal wildfire, and a panoramic exploration of the rapidly changing relationship between fire and humankind from the award-winning, best-selling author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce. The audiobook version is available here!









There’s Something In The Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities
by Ingrid R. G. Waldron

In There’s Something In The Water, Ingrid R. G. Waldron examines the legacy of environmental racism and its health impacts in Indigenous and Black communities in Canada, using Nova Scotia as a case study, and the grassroots resistance activities by Indigenous and Black communities against the pollution and poisoning of their communities.








Sometimes I Feel Like a River
by Danielle Daniel & Josée Bisaillon

Sometimes I Feel Like a River invites young readers to use their senses to experience their surroundings to the fullest. In each of twelve short poems, a child tells us how or why they feel like the sun, a river, a mountain, a cloud, the rain, a forest, and more. Their deeply felt connections and identification with these wonders point to how much we are all part of the natural world. Each poem comes to life through vivid, playful illustrations that show the children immersed in their surroundings. The book serves as a gentle call to action—to notice, appreciate, preserve, and protect our environment, while delighting in all its beauty.






Living in Indigenous Sovereignty
by Elizabeth Carlson-Manathara with Gladys Rowe

Living in Indigenous Sovereignty lifts up the wisdom of Indigenous scholars, activists and knowledge keepers who speak pointedly to what they are asking of non-Indigenous people. It also shares the experiences of 13 white settler Canadians who are deeply engaged in solidarity work with Indigenous peoples. Together, these stories offer inspiration and guidance for settler Canadians who wish to live honourably in relationship with Indigenous peoples, laws, and lands. If Canadians truly want to achieve this goal, Carlson and Rowe argue, they will pursue a reorientation of their lives toward “living in Indigenous sovereignty”—in an awareness that these are Indigenous lands, containing relationships, laws, protocols, stories, obligations, and opportunities that have been understood and practised by Indigenous peoples since time immemorial.






Crushed Wild Mint
by Jess Housty

Crushed Wild Mint is a collection of poems embodying land, love, and ancestral wisdom, deeply rooted to the poet’s motherland and their experience as a parent, herbalist, and careful observer of the patterns and power of their territory. Jess Housty grapples with the natural and the supernatural, transformation, and the hard work of living that our bodies are doing—held by mountains, by oceans, by ancestors, and by the grief and love that come with communing.








Taking a Break from Saving the World
by Stephen Legault

Taking a Break from Saving the World takes a look at the impacts of eco-anxiety, over-work, and the associated stress surrounding the present and future state of the environment and offers practical and insightful suggestions on how to deal with it. A veteran of burnout himself, Legault looks at the culture of self-sacrifice that permeates the work done by volunteers and paid staff in the environmental conservation movement, and dissects how to manage our own time, energy, and commitment to our causes. Following a river-running metaphor, and proposing a variety of techniques to help with various states of anxiety resulting from burnout, including clarity of purpose, recognition of limits, fitness and diet, mediation and yoga, as well as organizational structural changes such as leave-of-absence policies, Legault encourages readers to find time to “eddy out”—to rest a moment in quieter waters and scout downriver—to ensure our lifetime of engagement is fulfilling, effective, and self-sustaining.





The Earth is our Faculty, the Land is our Healer
by The Return of the Buffalo Podcast

Stan McKay (Walking Buffalo) is a founding elder of the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre. In this wide-ranging conversation, Stan shares about his happy early childhood in the self-sustaining village of Fisher River, about some traumatic memories of residential school, and about his healing journey back to the lodge of his own people. He highlights the healing power of reconnection with the Earth and challenges us to “forget the imposition of fake wealth and security, and to find community and family and our real sense of being a person on the land.”





The Scale of Hope
by Patagonia (director: Josh “Bones” Murphy)

Former White House climate advisor Molly Kawahata reflects on her time in the Obama Administration, her personal struggle with mental health, and her love of alpine climbing to create a positive vision of how we can respond to the climate crisis.








The Swimmers
by Bev Sellars

Salmon have always been an essential ingredient in the health of Mother Earth and her creatures. To Indigenous people the salmon is the Spirit that swims. This film journeys up and down the Fraser, the longest river in British Columbia (1375 km). It shows how many distinct Indigenous groups pay tribute to Mother Nature and the salmon through ritual, potlatches, stories, and celebration ceremonies. It explores how these beliefs and values have been translated into the Indigenous laws that follow the natural laws of Mother Earth, and how they must be integrated into our governing systems if we intend to survive on this planet.