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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. If you're feeling outdoorsy, thanks to the summer weather, we have some reading recommendations for you. They come from our series Three Books, where authors pick books that all follow a single theme. Juliet Eilperin is the Washington Post's environmental reporter, and her recommendations are all new and all about the environment.

Ms. JULIET EILPERIN (Environmental Reporter, The Washington Post): Despite being a national environmental reporter, I didn't grow up sporting L.L. Bean or going spelunking with my friends. As a result, I often see reading environmental books as homework. But three new books on store shelves this summer eschew both purple prose and hyperbole to challenge the way we view our planet.

Bill McKibben is one of journalism's premier commentators on global warming, but in "American Earth," he turns back the clock. The anthology collects song lyrics, poetry, political speeches and essays about nature from two centuries of Americans - from early thinkers like Henry David Thoreau to contemporary writers such as Michael Pollan.

Science writer William Stolzenburg takes a more global view of environmental havoc in "Where the Wild Things Were." Scientists and researchers who track large animals are the heroes of this story, but the most thrilling moments of the book are reserved for the beasts themselves. In one passage, a pronghorn antelope races against a truck, keeping pace without faltering. It's a beautiful and haunting scene. The antelope is out of place in a world where there are few predators left to chase this magnificent herd.

While Stolzenburg examines nature on a sweeping scale, former Time journalist Eric Roston drills down to the atomic heart of the planet in "The Carbon Age." I have avoided anything to do with organic chemistry for years, but Roston's book convinced me that the fastest way to understand everything larger than an atom and smaller than a planet is through the element carbon. Roston writes that our use of carbon to create goods has made us more powerful than plate tectonics when it comes to the potential for destruction. While Hollywood filmmakers expect Armageddon to come from the skies, Roston says we should all look inward. We are the meteor.

Reading words printed on dead trees doesn't automatically translate into saving the planet. These three books offer a vision of a different path forward, one that might steer us safely out of the meteor's path.

BLOCK: That was Juliet Eilperin, national environmental reporter for the Washington Post. The books she recommended are "American Earth" by Bill McKibben, "Where the Wild Things Were" by William Stolzenburg, and the "The Carbon Age" by Eric Roston.

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