For those passingly familiar with the term permaculture, it’s usually categorized as a gardening technique, a system often associated with raised beds. However, for practitioners in the movement, permaculture is far more than this. It’s not just raised beds, nor does it always use raised beds. For that matter, it’s not just gardening.

Permaculture, they say, is a design science, and the techniques not only revolutionize the way we grow food but also reimagine how we might live in cooperation with the natural systems upon which our lives rely. The ideas behind permaculture push beyond sustainability — the current systems have already done their damage — and into full-fledged planetary restoration.

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Introduced in the late 70s by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, permaculture has grown exponentially in the last couple of decades. The system offers an exciting new way to see the world around us and all the right information for making the most of it while doing the most for it.

1. Introduction to Permaculture

intro to permaculture book

Source: Introduction to Permaculture/Amazon

Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison goes over the theoretical basics behind permaculture. This, as the title suggests, introduces the basic ideas behind permaculture design, why such a change is necessary and how anyone anywhere can get started. The late Bill Mollison is one of the originators of the concept, so he is just the person to explain what it is.

2. Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability

Source: Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability/Amazon

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The other founder of permaculture is David Holmgren, who had been Mollison’s student at the time. Holmgren has practiced permaculture for four decades now, and this book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, is a phenomenal look at the philosophical and cerebral leanings behind the practice. There are lots of books on the practical side of permaculture, but this one looks at the mindset.

3. Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual

Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual

Source: Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual/Amazon 

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In all honesty, Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual by Bill Mollison is a difficult book to read. Essentially, it’s a textbook and as dry and technical as textbooks tend to be. Nevertheless, it is the book upon which permaculture courses are meant to be based. There is a lot of information packed in it, and for those ready to dive into action, it is a top-notch reference book for doing so.

4. Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture

Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture

Source: Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture/Amazon 

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Notable not just for the information within it but for the agreeable means by which it is presented, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway is a permaculture classic. It tackles a bit of everything: ethics, ideas, and practical application for the average person. In this way, this book tends to be a tad more approachable and is easy to read than the headier permaculture manuals.

5. The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach

The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach

Source: The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach/Amazon 

Ben Falk is a permaculture consultant and designer who has converted several acres in rural Vermont into a permaculture homestead. The farm produces rice, mushrooms, and vegetables, as well as its own energy and heat sources. The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach reads like practical advice from someone who has started from zero and gotten the job done.

6. Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City 

Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City

Source: Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City /Amazon 

When two plant enthusiasts go wild on a suburban yard, they manage to create both an oasis of food and a tourist attraction. Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City has high marks for readability, with tinges of humor and light-heartedness throughout it. Toensmeier is also the co-author of Perennial Vegetables: From Artichoke to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious, Easy-to-Grow Edibles.

7. The Vegan Book of Permaculture: Recipes for Healthy Living and Earthright Living

The Vegan Book of Permaculture: Recipes for Healthy Living and Earthright Living

Source: The Vegan Book of Permaculture: Recipes for Healthy Living and Earthright Living/Amazon 

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In and of itself, permaculture is not a vegan practice. In fact, most designs incorporate domestic animals into the mix. However, lots of vegans have adopted the techniques that fit within their ethical choices, and Graham Burnett is amongst the most outspoken and well-regarded of them. Check out his book, The Vegan Book of Permaculture: Recipes for Healthy Living and Earthright Living, as well as his website, Spiralseed: positive solutions for regenerative futures

8. Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening: Innovative Techniques for Growing Vegetables, Grains, and Perennial Food Crops with Minimal Fossil Fuels and Animal Inputs 

Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening: Innovative Techniques for Growing Vegetables, Grains, and Perennial Food Crops with Minimal Fossil Fuels and Animal Inputs

Source: Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening: Innovative Techniques for Growing Vegetables, Grains, and Perennial Food Crops with Minimal Fossil Fuels and Animal Inputs /Amazon 

Will Bonsall doesn’t exactly call himself a permaculturalist, but he stands as one of the premier examples of one, especially for vegans. He neither eats animals nor uses animal-derived products in the garden. This book, Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening: Innovative Techniques for Growing Vegetables, Grains, and Perennial Food Crops with Minimal Fossil Fuels and Animal Inputs, is a funny and highly practical guide for small-scale self-reliance.

9. Restoration Agriculture: Real World Permaculture for Farmers

Restoration Agriculture: Real World Permaculture for Farmers

Source: Restoration Agriculture: Real World Permaculture for Farmers/Amazon 

Rather than imagining a permaculture design from the ground up, Mark Shepard looks at how to take today’s malfunctioning agricultural systems and convert them into something that isn’t destructive but restorative. Restoration Agriculture: Real World Permaculture for Farmerslooks at large-scale farming systems and explores how those farmers might work more sustainably and still turn a profit.

10. The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming

The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming

Source: The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming/Amazon 

Considered a classic, The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming follows the Japanese rice farmers who turn the conventional agricultural system, particularly for rice, on its ear. This book reads more like a story than a textbook or guide. Masanobu Fukuoka was a huge influence on and inspiration for Bill Mollison.

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