Top 10 peak oil books of 2011

open book on stack of books

Lots of books came out on energy, climate and the economy this year. Here are the best ones that integrate all three areas.

Welcome to our second annual list of the top ten peak oil books. Most of them are explicitly about peak oil, while others deal with energy depletion as a significant factor in the economy or the environment. A couple titles focus on responses to the myriad conundrums that Richard Heinberg has dubbed “peak everything” and that are now converging to create a perfect storm for global industrial civilization.

Along with Heinberg, we list books by peak oil stalwarts John Michael Greer and Dmitry Orlov along with a few newcomers. Only one of the books this year is fiction, which we regret, since we think that peak oil writers have underused storytelling as a way to reach a wider audience by making complex and sometimes scary issues more accessible and less intimidating. We hope that next year, more novelists and short story writers will be inspired to take on peak oil. If nothing else, it would make a great premise for a variety of genres, from political thriller to science fiction to horror.

Heck, we won’t be satisfied until we’re at the checkout counter at Rite Aid and see peak oil as the background for a bodice-ripper romance. For now, there’s lots of good reading below. Enjoy.

The Crash Course

The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy, and Environment by Chris Martenson

John Wiley & Sons, 317 pp, hardcover, $27.95. More than a million people have watched Chris Martenson’s video series “The Crash Course” to prepare for financial collapse. The new book version is even better.

Read our review »

Lethal Trajectories

Lethal Trajectories by R. Michael Conley

Beaver’s Pond Press, hardcover, 486 pp, $24.95. A political thriller that offers the perfect geopolitical storm for the age of peak oil: threat of war with China, a Saudi coup and economic collapse at home.

Read our review »

Transition Companion

The Transition Companion: Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times by Rob Hopkins

Chelsea Green Publishing, 320 pp, $29.95. Despite a heavy focus on the British Isles, the revised version of the beloved Transition Handbook still offers plenty for Americans and others who would re-localize their town’s economy.

Read our review »

The Wealth of Nature book cover

The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered by John Michael Greer

New Society Publishers, 298 pp, $18.95. A thoroughly engaging and accessible revision of Adam Smith and classical economics that reminds us that wealth from either human labor or financial capital relies on resources that nature provides for free.

Read our review »

Reinventing Collapse

Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects by Dmitry Orlov

New Society Publishers, revised and updated 2011, 194 pp, $17.95. The latest edition of Dmitry Orlov’s doomer classic sees a Soviet-style collapse coming to the US. We won’t handle it as well as they did. But he finds hope if we can wake up.

Read our review »

KunstlerCast book

The KunstlerCast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler…The Tragic Comedy of Suburban Sprawl by Duncan Crary

New Society Publishers, 320 pp, $16.95. Printed adaptations of more than 100 hours of Crary’s online radio interviews with the colorful author of The Long Emergency and the World Made by Hand novels.

Read our review »

The Great Disruption book cover

The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World by Paul Gilding

Bloomsbury, 292 pp, hardcover, $25. This year’s weird weather from the US Midwest to Pakistan could be the climate disasters that environmentalists have said would end denial once and for all. Or not.

Read our review »

The End of Growth

The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality by Richard Heinberg

New Society Publishers, 286 pp, hardcover, $17.95. Heinberg, co-founder of the Post Carbon Institute and author of numerous books on peak oil, now tackles the subject of economic growth. He argues our economy will need to learn to live without growth in the future and that this could be the best thing that ever happened to it.

Read our review »

Urban Homesteading

Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume

Skyhorse Publishing, 304 pp, $16.95. Since most people in the industrial world live in cities, urban homesteading is an increasingly desirable strategy to build household resilience. But it can feel intimidating. What’s it all about? Dig in to this accessible book to find out.

Read our review »

Navigating the Coming Chaos

Navigating the Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition by Carolyn Baker

iUniverse, 201 pp, $25.95. Preparing for the peak-ocalypse involves more than storing cans in the basement. Former psychotherapist Baker provides mental tools for emotional and spiritual preparation. 

Read our review »

— Erik Curren

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  1. says

    That’s a great list of ten fine books, but out ahead in a different league is David Fleming’s ‘Lean Logic – A Dictionary of the Future and How to Survive It’

    Lean Logic does not conform.
    It is a community of essays about inventive, cooperative self-reliance in the face of great uncertainty.
    Lean Logic acknowledges, with honesty, the challenges ahead in finding our way out of an economy that has all but destroyed the very foundations upon which it depends – the climate, the complex ecological system and the community and culture which gives meaning to life.
    But rather than inducing despair, Lean Logic is rare in its ability to inspire optimism in the creativity and intelligence of humans to nurse our ecology back to health, to rediscover the importance of place and play, of community and culture, and of reciprocity and resilience.
    It is not a book to read from start to finish. Begin in the middle, with something, anything, that sparks your interest, and let the signposts pull you through a chaotic web of ideas, brimming with humour and originality, with elegance and contradiction.
    Lean Logic is a dictionary of empowerment..

    Hardback 736 pages £30 from

  2. says

    In addition I would add:
    When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival by Matthew Stein and James Wesley Rawles (Nov 16, 2011)
    The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World by Jeremy Rifkin (Sep 27, 2011)
    Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate ChangeReclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by David Holmgren (Aug 23, 2011)
    The Impending World Energy Mess by Roger Bezdek, Robert Wendling and Robert Hirsch (Apr 12, 2011)
    Fleeing Vesuvius: Overcoming the Risks of Economic and Environmental Collapse by Gillian Fallon, Richard Douthwaite and Richard Heinberg
    Life Rules: Why so much is going wrong everywhere at once and how Life teaches us to fix it

    • Erik Curren says

      Thanks for the suggestions, Three Es. The Third Industrial Revolution just come out and we’re eager to read and review it. Some of these titles actually came out in print in earlier years, though the Kindle Editions may be 2011, and I can also recommend Future Scenarios and Fleeing Vesuvius. And we put The Impending World Energy Mess on our top ten book list for last year:

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