The Cottage Eco Bookshelf

This is a topically organized list of print and online resources, using the blog categories as a starting point. Within each category are more specific topics.

I will add to this list as I conduct research for my blog posts. Click on a category in the table of contents to be taken there, or scroll down.  

This is a curated list, not an all-inclusive bibliography. My aim is to steer people toward some of the best expert information on a topic.

Should you choose to buy rather than borrow from a library, please consider ordering through your local independent bookstore, or directly from the publisher.

Eventually, I would like the information here to be relevant to a global audience. Initially, however, the literature will reflect that I currently live in New England (Vermont at the moment and maybe Western Massachusetts soon), in the Eastern United States. 

If you know of experts that you think I should include here, please send me a note. 

Table of Contents


Documentaries and Eco-Inspired Movies

I will list visual media title-first, so that they are alphabetized by title. 

Dirt! The Movie (2009), by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow. Based on William Bryant Logan’s book Dirt, the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, this documentary discusses how humans are mismanaging the earth’s soil resources. The first fifty minutes include some scenes of conflict (and dead bodies), so my ten-year-old daughter found it a bit much, but the last half-hour lightens up with inspiring stories and hopeful trends. 


Richard Powers, The Overstory. This novel integrates a large amount of true ecological and social information into its fictional narrative, resulting in realism that blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction. It does have human characters and a central plot, but Powers seems to be challenging us to see the story in the world beyond the pages of his book. This is a profound work about human-environment relations that deserves a close reading. 

Food: Baking

Jeffrey Hamelman, Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. A solid guide to baking by a professional baker with many years of experience. 

Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread, and Tartine Book No.3: Modern Ancient Classic Whole. Robertson’s first book provides a detailed look at the processes and techniques involved in producing lofty, light, artisanal sourdough bread. His third book carries these techniques over to whole-grain breads. If you are serious about sourdough and want to attain a springy, light crumb, Robertson is a good guide for you. 

Food: Beverages

Lindy Wildsmith, Artisan Drinks: Delicious alcoholic and soft drinks to make at home. This book helped me understand how impoverished modern industrial societies are in terms of beverage choices. Nettle beer, redcurrant water, lavender spritz, apple wine: So much is possible when you make your own beverages. Wildsmith is based in the UK, but the techniques in these recipes can be applied wherever you are. 

Food: Fermentation

Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation. This is a larger, updated book on fermented foods following after his success with Wild Fermentation, an earlier and slimmer volume. Katz has been influential in raising awareness of the virtues of food fermentation in North America, where an industrial food system nearly eliminated live microbes from people’s diets during the twentieth century. 

René Redzepi & David Zilber, The Noma Guide to Fermentation. Redzepi is the famed chef of Noma, for a time the top-ranked restaurant in the world. If you want to understand the creative impulses of top chefs playing with kōji fermentation, this book is for you. Consider this a master class in flavor manipulation, with techniques for making lacto-ferments, vinegars, misos, garum, black garlic and more. 

Rich Shih and Jeremy Umansky, Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation. When I was an exchange student in Japan in 1989 and 1993, I was fascinated by kōji and all the foods and beverages that it makes possible: sake, soy sauce, miso, amazake, rice vinegar, etc. Japanese cuisine is based on a studied appreciation of umami, a savory richness that seems to be connected with free amino acids signaling to our bodies the potential to build proteins. Whereas European foods get much of their umami from meat, cheese, and yeast (sourdough), East Asia has been putting umami into foods using an ingenious method: breaking down starches and proteins with the enzymes of molds. Finally we have, in English, a book that details these East Asian techniques. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike can now tap into the enormous potential for boosting the flavors and nutrition of our foods with these mold cultures. 

Kirston K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey, Miso•Tempeh•Natto & Other Tasty Ferments: A Step-by-Step Guide to Fermenting Grains and Beans. This book includes not only detailed instructions for making the ferments in the title, but also recipes for some ferments that are still less familiar to most North Americans, such as Korean doenjang and gochujang, as well as some from Myanmar. Beautiful photos. Notice also the “Meet the Maker” profiles of people who have started ferment-based businesses. 

Food: General cooking

A list of relevant cookbooks could overwhelm this reference list. I will focus on ones that celebrate practical techniques for cooking vegetables (we all need more vegetables), and ones that utilize wild ingredients, since wild-crafted foods establish a direct relationship with our local environments. See also the topic of foraging under Garden. 

Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace. This is not your typical cookbook, but a delightful overview of tips and strategies for cooking simple, wholesome, and delicious foods. Though Adler does give some recipes, her emphasis is on general techniques that can help us put good food on the table, mostly Mediterranean-inspired, without the kind of fuss (and waste) that often accompanies cooking from recipes. Read this for inspiration and give it to young people who are just beginning to cook. There are more meals in these pages than you might think, given the small size of the book. 

Julia Georgallis, How to Eat Your Christmas Tree. Living amongst conifers and curious about how you might incorporate their aromas in your cooking? Georgallis provides lots of creative recipes for savory dishes, sweets, and beverages that utilize the aromas of edible conifers and a few other plants. 

Jane Grigson, Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book. Part food history and part cookbook, this book delivers substance. Grigson’s writing is informative, witty, and fun. The vegetable-by-vegetable presentation allows you to use this as a handy reference for when a vegetable comes into season and you want to know how to make it taste delicious. Grigson was writing in the UK during the twentieth century, drawing upon French and other European culinary traditions; I have also noted a Chinese recipe or two. If you want to better understand techniques for dealing with particular vegetables, such as how to cook beets, this is a great book to learn from. 

Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen. Sherman is doing some inspiring work: revitalizing Native American food traditions and making them accessible to the general public through his restaurant and cookbook. Also check out his website,


Soil Management

Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution. This classic from Japan remains relevant today, challenging us to learn more about our local ecology and use this knowledge to improve our agricultural practices. A fascinating and still under-appreciated message. See the books by Daniel Mays and Michael Phillips, below, for modern expansions of these ideas.

Daniel Mays, The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm: How to Start and Run a Profitable Market Garden That Builds Health in Soil, Crops, and Communities. This book shows how Fukuoka’s ideas can be successfully applied to a farm business in North America. Mays is systematic in the presentation of his methods, covering all key aspects of running a small vegetable farm (not just soil health!). If I wanted to start a farm business, I would closely study the model Mays outlines in this book. His “Selected Bibliography” (pp.226-227) is also a useful list of further reading. 

Robert Pavlis, Soil Science for Gardeners: Working with Nature to Build Soil Health. A clearly organized introduction to the components of soil and their functions by a master gardener.  Pavlis has a refreshing no-nonsense style that helps focus attention on best practices for soil health that are based on current scientific understandings, not ideology.  He also has useful information on his websites: and A good place to start for learning the essential points of soil science.

Michael Phillips, Mycorrhizal Planet: How Symbiotic Fungi Work with Roots to Support Plant Health and Build Soil Fertility. Written in a quirky and accessible style, this book is an inspiring synthesis of knowledge on the beneficial soil fungi that help plants thrive. Phillips walks us through a tour of the science of mycorrhizal fungi and shows us how to use this knowledge to great advantage in supporting the health of garden and orchard plants. Along with the book by Daniel Mays, this can be read as a modern expansion of the no-till practices of Fukuoka, but whereas Fukuoka was distrustful of science, Phillips plugs right into science, just as the roots he describes benefit by tapping into mycorrhizal networks. The result is impressive. Look here for practical insights into soil health, cover cropping, mulching, and orchard sprays, among other topics. 

Steve Solomon with Erica Reinheimer, The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Food. Provides both theoretical and practical tools for delving deeply into issues of soil quality. The basic premise is that the balance of soil minerals is key to producing nutrient-dense foods, which in turn better support human health. The authors give instructions for testing soil, understanding its mineral make-up, and augmenting the soil to achieve optimal gardening results. 

Foraging for Plants

Much foraging, if not most, takes place in fallowed agricultural fields, at the edges of agricultural lands, or in “disturbed areas” that have been altered by human activity. This is why I have located “Foraging” under the Garden heading. There are exceptions, such as mushrooms and fiddleheads, which are often found in forests, but I have chosen to keep foraged plants and mushrooms here in the Garden category. For mushrooms, see the next two topics. For hunting and fishing, see the Forest category.

Pascal Baudar. He has several books out with creative recipes for using foraged foods. Want to know how to ferment acorns into vegan cheese? He’s your man. 

Green Deane, Eat The Weeds and other things, too (website): Deane is an outstanding source of information on foraging. Refreshingly unpretentious yet well-informed. Check out both his blog and Youtube videos. 

Elias & Dykeman, Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods

Stephen Facciola, Cornucopia II: A Source Book of Edible Plants. This is the second edition of a large reference compendium, with information on edible species and listings of major cultivars. Concise entries, no images. Now out of print and becoming rare. For serious research, to be used alongside other botanical tools, like Mabberley. 

Dina Falconi, Foraging and Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook. Encompasses both the gathering and cooking of wild foods. Well researched and beautifully illustrated. Plants are specific to the Northeastern US, but many are common in other temperate climates, too. 

Euell Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962). A classic on foraging in North America, and still relevant today. He weaves together historical anecdotes and practical tips with a thoroughness that is seldom seen in other foraging guides. Stalking the Healthful Herbs (1966). Gibbons inspired many generations of food foragers, and also those who seek out wild plants for their aromatic and medicinal properties. This second book is in the same style as the first and can be considered a companion volume. 

John Kallas, Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate (2010). As much a cookbook as a foraging guide, this book has beautiful photos showing examples of how to turn wild greens into nutritious meals. Kallas uses photographs to good effect, showing details of seeds, look-alike plants, and other useful information. Note the focus on greens and their culinary use. 

Gary Lincoff, The Joy of Foraging (2012). An introduction to foraging by a professional botanist/mycologist. Some say he knows his plants better than he knows how to eat them. I would agree that this book is not up to the standards of his mushroom guides, but there is much good information here nonetheless. This is more of a coffee-table read than a foraging guide. Do consult other references, too, if you plan to forage any of these plants. 

Leda Meredith, The Skillful Forager (2019). This book provides a good introduction to foraging. Rather than discussing plants species by species, as most foraging books do, she has organized her material based on the plant parts that one is foraging, and then gives prominent examples. She has chapters for things like leaves, fruit, sap, mushrooms, seaweed, etc. She also has practical advice on processing and cooking foraged ingredients. Also see Northeast Foraging (2014).

Daniel E. Moerman, Native American Food Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Moerman is the authority for understanding the comprehensive picture of how Native peoples of North America have utilized local plants. This volume on food plants is a handy subset of his more general study, Native American Ethnobotany. He also has a volume on medicinal plants. If you can only afford one book and want more than just food information, get the general study. 

Lee Peterson, Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants

Samual Thayer. Nature’s Garden (2010). Also Incredible Wild Edibles (2017) and Forager’s Harvest (2006). Based on what I have read so far of Nature’s Garden, I am impressed by Samual Thayer’s depth of experience. If “professional forager” is a job title, it fits here. If you plan to forage extensively, Thayer is an excellent source of detailed information on identification, harvesting, and preparation. For example, he gives the most thorough discussion of acorns and their processing that I have seen in any of the sources listed here. He also covers a lot of different species; he has breadth and depth. Awesome. 

Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen, Foraging (2015). Part of the Idiot’s Guides series. This is a well-presented introduction to foraging in North America. Includes a chapter with recipes, the photographs for which look delicious!

Ellen Zachos, Backyard Forager (website): Her blog has a wealth of information on foraging, as well as a good number of recipes. She is the author of several books and teaches workshops. 

Foraging for Mushrooms
David Arora, All That the Rain Promises and More. This little field guide to Western mushrooms is fabulous. It covers the most common edible and poisonous mushrooms, serving as an indispensable introduction to mushroom foraging, especially for Western North America. If you want more detailed information, you can consult Arora’s massive and authoritative guide, Mushrooms Demystified, which is cross-referenced in this little pocket guide. Pay attention as you read, because Arora is hilarious! 
Gary Lincoff, National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. This is a well-designed, highly respected field guide to mushrooms, especially those of the Eastern half of North America. For mushrooms of the Western states and provinces, David Arora’s guides are outstanding. 
Mushroom Farming
Trad Cotter, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation. This is a great book for people who want to grow their own edible mushrooms, either for personal consumption or as a business. Cotter explains both practical and theoretical aspects of mushroom farming, and gives an overview of key varieties. 
Paul Stamets, Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms. I haven’t seen this yet, but Stamets is such an accomplished mycologist that I bet this is a great book. 

Workshop (Workspaces)

This category covers workspaces and types of cottage industries. For tools, specifically, please see the category Toolshed, below. 


Emmet Van Driesche, Carving Out a Living on the Land: lessons in resourcefulness and craft from and unusual Christmas tree farm. I am listing Van Driesche’s book in a few places, because it is a multifaceted resource. Through a narrative of his experiences building up a small rural business based on Christmas tree farming, he touches on many key aspects setting up a cottage-industry business. His business includes sales of Christmas trees and wreaths, but also spoon carving, scythe handles, and workshops for teaching his skills to others. Emmet and his family provide a model for how to thrive in rural New England while keeping in harmony with natural ecology. This book is a good starting point for anyone considering starting a small, rural business of this kind. 

Soap Making

Jan Berry, Simple and Natural Soapmaking (2017). I have not seen it yet, but this book seems to be well-received by beginner soap makers. Berry is quite thorough, beginning with simple recipes and then introducing many different ingredients in recipes that include milk, honey, herbs, vegetables, etc.  

Susan Miller Cavitch, The Natural Soap Book: Making Herbal and Vegetable-Based Soaps (1995). A solid introduction to the essentials. Also: The Soapmaker’s Companion (1997). 

Alicia Grosso, The Everything Soapmaking Book (2012). [I haven’t seen this yet, but the table of contents suggest that it is a large book that covers many topics, including details on casting, shaping, decorating, wrapping, and selling handmade soap. Note that this covers only plant-based soaps, so look elsewhere for recipes on soaps with milks or bee products. Still, it is one of the more thorough guides and has been updated at least twice. ]

Robert S. McDaniel, Essentially Soap (2000). The author is a chemist who is able to explain the chemical processes that take place in soap making. 

Merilyn Mohr, The Art of Soap Making (1979). Has recipes for many different types of soap, including medicated and special-purpose soaps like laundry soap, shaving soap, and even toothpaste. 

Anne L. Watson, Smart Soapmaking (2007). A straightforward introduction to making small batches of soap. She gives an easy master recipe to get people started, and a number of variant recipes to help people branch out in different directions. Concise. 



Coming soon. References, that is, not chickens. 



Alison Wright, Simply Hatch (website),  This straightforward introduction to blogging is a good place for aspiring bloggers to start. Blogging can be a powerful tool, but there is a lot of competition out there. Some things work well, others not so much. Despite her many typos, Wright has good experience with the practice of blogging and can help us newcomers avoid major pitfalls.  


SEO, Search Engine Optimization, is important for promoting your website in search rankings. If you want people to find your website, you need to spend at least a little time learning how to manage SEO for your site. There is a lot to learn for this, but the tools below can get you started. After using some of the Yoast SEO tools to improve SEO on my site, I have come to feel that SEO rules are problematic, in that they favor a homogenous, simplistic style of writing that constrains intellectual expression. SEO tools also create a lot of busy work that hampers the creative process. If you poke around online, you will find other people who feel similarly troubled by SEO trends: here, and here, for example. Because SEO rules continue to evolve, do some research online to get a feel for what people are saying about SEO today. Content producers cannot completely ignore SEO if they care to be noticed, but SEO might be best thought of as a support, rather than as an essential activity of blogging. Good content should be the first priority, no?

Neil Patel’s SEO tool, Ubersuggest (website), This website helps you identify keywords that people search for, and shows you their relative utility for helping your site achieve a higher SEO ranking. 

Yoast SEO (WordPress plugin). If you use WordPress, adding this plugin will give you built-in tools for managing SEO on your site. The plugin is available through your WordPress dashboard (click on Plugins, then Add new, and search for it). Yoast will chastise you for using long sentences, difficult words, and too many paragraphs without a subheading. I am starting to ask myself whether playing the SEO game is all that important to me, if it means conforming to so many little rules that constrain my voice. I am a former academic. I don’t feel I should have to simplify all my writing just to score higher in SEO. If you are new to blogging, give some thought to your style and objectives while using Yoast’s tools, so you can find a balance between strict SEO conformity and your own authentic expression. 

Hand Tools for Yard Work

Emmet Van Driesche, Carving Out a Living on the Land: lessons in resourcefulness and craft from and unusual Christmas tree farm. His book has a chapter on scythes, with information on types found in North America, how to make a new handle, and how to keep them sharp. 


Land Stewardship

Ian McHarg, Design with Nature. This classic of landscape architecture and urban planning, first published in 1969, is as relevant today as it was then. His method, in a nutshell, was to investigate a piece of land thoroughly, using a number of metrics including ecological and watershed data, and then turn these findings into spatial map layers that when combined would help point toward suitable uses of the land. In other words, rather than forcing the land to conform to human development, he would fit human development goals into an existing environmental context. His ideas have been enduringly influential, yet we still see many cases of poor human development of land that do violence to the local ecology. There is a better way. 

General Botany

James G. Harris and Melinda Woolf Harris, Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary. If you want to use botanical descriptions and keys to identify plants, this book is a must-have. Excellent pen illustrations supplement glossary definitions, showing exactly what is meant by a botanical term. 

David J. Mabberley, Mabberley’s Plant Book: A Portable Dictionary of Plants, Their Classification and Uses. Now in its fourth edition, this is the authority on understanding plant families and genera worldwide. This will not help you identify local species, but if you read and write about plants, this outstanding reference can prove quite useful. 

Eastern US Forests

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America. A tree-by-tree natural history. Profound and delightful to read. Peattie provides fascinating and endearing portraits of each species, with historical details that help explain how our forests became what they are today. There is quite a wealth of information in this book!

Tom Wessels, Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England (1997). It is easy to take the forests of New England for granted, but Wessels shows us how to see the clues that tell the history of our forests: the shape of a white pine indicating abandoned pasture, multiple-trunked trees that can tell us roughly when logging took place, the shape of forest floor that suggests forest continuity, and so forth. This book helps situate us in the long view of ecological change, explaining how historical events––both human and natural––are shaping our forests. Reading the Forested Landscape is fascinating and informative. One can read it casually or use it as a textbook for understanding our local ecology. Wessels also has a small field guide for reading the landscape: Forest Forensics

Hunting & Fishing

Hank Shaw, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (website): I choose to avoid meat, but there are some strong arguments in favor of maintaining hunting and fishing practices as part of human stewardship of our lands and waters. If you do eat meat and want to learn how to utilize wild game, Shaw has a lot of good experience in this area that might help you. See his website for blog posts and information on his cookbooks and podcast. If you don’t eat meat, you might still look at his website, which is professional and a good model for those of us who are just beginning our journey into the world of blogging. 

Shop (On Running A Business)


Ryan Holiday, Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts. Holiday is a high-level marketer who understands what works in today’s world. There is some bloat in his anecdotes, but he makes many useful points. 

Emmet Van Driesche, Carving Out a Living on the Land, is where I learned about the marketing books by Holiday and Vaynerchuk. Van Driesche also provides valuable discussion of marketing in his book, and his examples will probably be far more relevant for readers of Cottage Eco. If you are short on time, read Van Driesche. 

Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy. Anyone who hopes to do business today without using social media would do well to read this book. Whether you are for or against social media, Vaynerchuk will help you understand what it can do for your business if used well. 

Online Business

See, also, the topic of blogging, under Tools.

Style Factory (website), This company helps people grow their online business, but what drew me to them was their clear and impartial reviews of different web platforms. If you are preparing to start a website and trying to decide between WordPress and Squarespace, or if you want to compare Shopify with other e-commerce options, the well-researched reviews on this site could help you decide. Note, though, that if you do go with WordPress, there are tools, like WooCommerce, that this company does not discuss in any detail. Don’t get stuck in the options discussed by this company, but do use these reviews to understand some of the key tools in the world of e-commerce.

Community (On Networking)

Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy, is listed above under the topic of marketing (under Shop), but it also belongs here, because his book is about using social media to build a community of loyal patrons. For those of you who may feel turned off by the idea of showing up on social media for self-promotion, note that Vaynerchuk is actually advising AGAINST this, suggesting that people do better when they are authentic and reaching out to people as a fellow member of a social media community. There is some nuance here that is worth trying to understand. Connecting to people through social media is a skill that needs to be learned, so take some time to look into the different kinds of strategies that have proven effective for others.