Faculty Favorites: New Books for the Classroom

We’re deep into the fall semester, which means cooler weather, great views of the changing leaves, and of course, reading for class. The Edge Effects editorial staff asked professors affiliated with the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) what environmentally minded readings they were most excited to share with students this fall. Below are their recommendations, any of which would make a perfect addition to your fall reading list.

William Brockliss

The Illiad by Homer

Course: Greek 910, Seminar on Homer’s Iliad

Recommendation: A.C. Purves’s “Ajax and Other Objects: Homer’s Vibrant Materialism,” in Ramus.

It’s a great combination of some of the latest ecocritical concepts, including those presented in Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter (which calls us to pay closer attention to the role of non-human forces in our world), insights from the ancient commentators, and close engagement with the text of the Iliad.




Richard Keyser

Governing the Commons by Elinor Ostrom

Course: Legal Studies/Environmental Studies 430, Law and Environment

Recommendation: Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action by Elinor Ostrom.

Ostrom’s book examines Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” theory, which states that if a resource is owned by a community, each individual in that community will try to reap maximum benefits from it, leaving less for their neighbors. She looks at Swiss alpine grazing commons, Japanese mountain villages’ communal forests, and irrigated farming in Spain and the Philippines, to try and figure out why some common areas can, contrary to Hardin’s theory, be managed sustainably. Ostrom’s book and her contribution to helping solve issues of sustainability in common areas, won her a Noble Prize in 2009.

Cathy Middlecamp

Trace by Lauret Savoy

Course: Environmental Studies 420, a weekly seminar for the Community of Environmental Scholars (CESP)

Recommendation: Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy.

My CESP co-directors, Rob Beattie, Molly Schwebach, and I picked the book because Lauret Savoy will be visiting the Nelson Institute this fall, giving our students the opportunity to meet her.  Author and activist Terry Tempest Williams wrote of Savoy’s book: “I have never read a more beautiful, smart, and vulnerable accounting of how we are shaped by memory in place.” We agree.


Sarah Moore

Clean and White by Carl Zimring

Course: Geography/Urban Planning 305, Introduction to the City

Recommendation: Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States by Carl Zimring.

This book is a great addition to other Environmental Justice research. Its careful historical argument concentrates to the multiple ways that marginalized populations have been exposed to toxic substances in both their neighborhoods and workplaces.



Larry Nesper

High Stakes by Jessica Cattelino

Course: Anthropology/ American Indian Studies 314, North American Indians.

Recommendation: High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty by Jessica Cattelino.

High Stakes is an ethnography of the Seminole, published in 2008, that directly addresses the relationships between sovereignty and economy revealing the different ways in which the tribe is simultaneously embracing capitalism and reproducing a culturally distinctive indigenous modernity.



Amy Stambach

Made in Madagascar by Andrew Walsh

Course: Anthropology 447, Anthropology, Environment, and Development

Recommendation: Made in Madagascar: Sapphires, Ecotourism, and the Global Bazaar by Andrew Walsh.

Walsh’s clearly written book connects environmental issues to matters of economics, making the interplay between the two apparent. Moreover, the author has agreed to telecom with students this semester, giving them the unique opportunity to speak with him directly about his research.



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