Our Only World by Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, $24). I urge you to read all of Wendell Berry's books — fiction, essays, and poetry — but this latest collection of 10 essays is a great start. Loving common sense from my favorite farmer-wizard.
The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead, $16). A ripping good tale of a modern-day Davy Crockett: Eustace Conway, who for the past three decades has chosen to live and thrive off the land in the Appalachian woods of North Carolina. In her 2002 book, Gilbert proved herself a humorous and tenacious author, committing to no small amount of wilderness living herself in order to chase her story over its long arc.
Why We Make Things and Why It Matters by Peter Korn (Godine, $20). I love books about making things, and this one is exceptional. Korn is a woodworker and teacher, but the philosophy and spirituality in his writing transcend the limitations of any one material, inspiring the reader to consider the tactile and all-encompassing rewards of making items for oneself.
The Tenth of December by George Saunders (Random House, $15). Saunders, one of our most hilarious and incisive living writers, is another author whose entire canon I can recommend with enthusiasm. I suggest reading this masterful book of short stories twice; the interconnectedness of the themes seems even more profound on the second pass.
Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte (Back Bay, $16). Royte's 2005 book and her 2008 follow-up, Bottlemania, should be required reading for all Earthlings, but especially us Americans. Royte gets literally to the bottom of trash removal, sewage systems, and the recycling business. Fascinating and urgently informative.
A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams by Michael Pollan (Penguin, $17). If you haven't read Pollan's food and botany books, by all means, hie thee to the bookstore. This little memoir about building himself a writing studio in the woods behind his house in Connecticut, though less acclaimed, is both charming and fascinating.
—Nick Offerman, of NBC's Parks and Recreation, is an actor and woodworker. His new book, which honors rebels from George Washington to Yoko Ono, is Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom With America's Gutsiest Troublemakers.