A sampling of recent New York Times headlines turns up articles on nail salons and toxic chemicals, melting glaciers, South Korea's "green growth" plans, the cost of renewable energy, and even questions about whether reusable grocery bags are environmentally sound. It's no wonder green topics are ubiquitous in publishing, says Rodale editorial director Karen Rinaldi. "The big issues of our time are environmental degradation and how we can reverse it. People are looking for guidance." And publishers are proving more than willing to provide it, with offerings that range from green cookbooks and interior design manuals to scientific treatises and children's titles. We spoke with four industry players and compiled an annotated listing of new books, from now through May 2011, for grownups and youngsters.
Rodale: Taking a Holistic Approach
Visitors to Rodale's Web site will notice a sprouting plant logo paired with the words "Where Health Meets Green"—a sentiment that's a natural fit with the company behind a host of wellness titles and such magazines as Prevention and Men's (and Women's) Health. Publishing director Karen Rinaldi says that the sentiment is more than just a slogan: "The health of the planet and the health of the self are connected. Our books—the lens to look at the Rodale list—are all about this."
Rinaldi explains that environmental issues are so overarching they touch every part of what the publisher does. "We kept putting the green category up on our board, and kept taking it down," says Rinaldi. "Because there are elements of it in everything—diet, farming, health, politics. Everything. It's not a category." She points to books like Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet, which performed very well for the publisher, as an example of a title that could have been marketed as "green." Instead, the publisher chose to let the author's "passionate, relevant point of view" be the focus.
New Society: Providing Tools for Troubled Times
For more than 20 years New Society Publishers has focused on giving activists the books they need to pursue social and environmental change. Copublisher Judith Plant says that the past decade has only seen that activist community grow. "We provide tools to activists and to engage activists in solutions," says Plant. "There is a growing audience for radical books."
New Society relies on its connections to decide what to publish, attending many activist events and soliciting proposals to identify emerging topics. "We tend to be on the cutting edge. Our backlist sells well because a book is often ahead of its time," says Plant. The publisher takes its values seriously. It has used 100% postconsumer recycled paper and printed with vegetable-based, low VOC inks since 2001, and in 2005 made a commitment to become carbon neutral through annual offset investments.