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Maura R. O’Connor’s “The Toad,” featured this month, exposes the rapid disappearance of a species of toad along a dammed-up river in Tanzania. Below is her list of books she considers essential for environmental writers to know.

The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes by Peter Matthiessen.

A meditation by Matthiessen on his favorite bird and a brilliant piece of nature-writing.

The Myth of Wild Africa: Conservation Without Illusion by Jonathan S. Adams and Thomas O. McShane.

An important book dealing with the clash on the African continent between Western conservationists ideas about “wilderness” and Africans themselves. Lots of information about Tanzania.

Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution by Caroline Fraser.

A comprehensive look at the generation of conservations attempting to bring back “wilderness” in the world.

The World Bank and the Gods of Lending by Steve Berkman.

A firsthand account of the World Bank’s obsession with lending and its often disastrous consequences.


Maura R. O’Connor is a freelance foreign correspondent. Her work has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Slate, NPR, Global Post, and This year O’Connor was awarded a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship and will be researching and reporting on American foreign aid from Haiti, Afghanistan, and Africa. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School.

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