8 Smarter Summer Beach Reads

Wondering what books to pack for your upcoming vacation or next poolside outing? We’ve rounded up eight page-turners perfect for conscious consumers who may be concerned with making safer choices. These titles will guide you to make more-informed shopping decisions, offering compelling reading for downtime during these long summer days.


Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products
and What’s at Stake for American Power

by Mark Schapiro

For the Politically Savvy Eco-Warrior

Schapiro’s exposé is a fantastic primer on the politics behind the American approach to chemical regulations. The book features both concise discussions of the health and environmental hazards in consumer products (such as toiletries, cosmetics, and food) and a clear series of arguments for how the U.S. is falling behind Europe when it comes to regulating toxic chemicals.

Crib Notes

A must-read for anyone already concerned about toxic chemicals in consumer products and looking for more insight on the politics behind our broken regulatory system.


Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

by Florence Williams

For Those Who Like Their Breast Cancer Research With a
Dash of Humor

With a witty and conversational tone, Williams gives readers an environmental history of the breast and a timely reflection on the lack of knowledge about the environmental causes of breast cancer. Synthesizing scientific data and social analyses, the author builds a foundation of the biological function of the breast in order to help clarify the alarming trends in environmental exposure to toxins and the implications they have for breasts and breast cancer.

Crib Notes

An accessible and entertaining format for anyone touched by breast cancer who wants to learn more about the environmental causes of the disease.


The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-Being

by Nena Baker

For Someone Who Wants to Reduce Their Chemical Exposure
but Doesn’t Know Where to Start

The Body Toxic takes a comprehensive look at our everyday exposure to toxic chemicals and the impact these substances can have on our bodies. This book is a great introduction to environmental health issues and is ideal for those who have newly become interested in the topics of chemical contaminants and human health. Baker provides succinct overviews of a number of commonplace sources of exposures and details how and why the U.S. regulatory system is falling behind.

Crib Notes

A great read for anyone who wants to bolster their knowledge of the connections between toxic chemical exposure and human health.


Little Changes: Tales of a Reluctant
Home Eco-Momics Pioneer

by Kristi Marsh

For Parents Who Want to Make Safer Choices for Their Families

Marsh, a breast cancer survivor and mother of three, draws upon her own efforts to reduce her toxic chemical exposure to craft a book that’s filled with advice for like-minded consumers. The book translates the scientific information on toxic chemicals into digestible formats and provides clear insight on how making little changes in your life can have a big impact on your health.

Crib Notes

Part memoir, part how-to guide to help you and your loved ones make safer and healthier choices.


In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

by Michael Pollan

For the Intellectual Foodie

You’ve likely heard it before: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This advice is Pollan’s take-home message in his book, which offers a brief glimpse into the pitfalls of an industrialized food system that has lost sight of the value of real food. Without being overtly political, the book delves into the overlapping dynamics of food marketing, nutrition science, and the rise in processed foods to explore how our contemporary approach to food is anything but nutritious.

Crib Notes

Perfect for when you’re focused on setting lifestyle goals and trying to make good food a priority.


Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children
in an Age of Environmental Crisis

by Sandra Steingraber

For Those Who Crave the Personal Stories Behind Political Activism

Steingraber is a skilled memoirist with a number of books about her personal connections to environmental health issues. All of her work seamlessly weaves scientific research and evidence into clear and compelling narratives. In Raising Elijah, she tackles childhood health issues that have environmental roots—for example, the topic of hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking)—and also provides clear suggestions for policy changes.

Crib Notes

Ideal for environmentally conscious individuals who are concerned about children’s health, this book nicely balances personal stories with politics and science.


Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the
Beauty Industry

by Stacy Malkan

For Women Who Are Ready to Embrace Non-Toxic Cosmetics

This book takes an in-depth look at the cosmetics industry in the U.S. and explores
the link between toxic chemicals in cosmetics and their impact on human health, particularly as it relates to the recent surge in breast cancer rates. Malkan blends scientific research on the environmental causes of breast cancer with important consumer questions about why cosmetics companies continue to profit from toxic products. This critical perspective is made more hopeful as the book offers insights about the options for changes to both the marketplace and the regulatory system.

Crib Notes

A smart read for anyone who’s ready to make the shift away from conventional cosmetics and wants to know more about the interlocking nature of economics and politics in the mainstream beauty industry.


The New Puberty: How to Navigate Early
Development in Today’s Girls

by Louise Greenspan, MD, and Julianna Deardorff, PhD

For Anyone Looking for a New Perspective on Raising Teenage Girls

This book is a critically important investigation of some of the root causes of early puberty in girls (according to the authors, just a generation ago fewer than 5 percent of girls started puberty before the age of 8; today that percentage has more than doubled). Emphasizing the range of environmental and social aspects of these biological trends, the authors also offer strategies for helping girls as they navigate bodily and hormonal changes that can start to happen before they’re socially or cognitively prepared.

Crib Notes

This is both a handbook and a font of information to prepare yourself and the girls in your life for today’s very real changes in adolescent health.

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