Please Note: A significant amount of permaculture thinking and practice has been heavily influenced by traditional indigenous patterns and practices. Not all of that is easily “referenced” in books, though much of it has been documented in that form and in other media. Permaculture practitioners and authors exhibit varying degrees of transparency when honoring the indigenous and traditional roots of permaculture.
Getting Starting / An Introduction to Permaculture
Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison and Reny Slay. This is the first permaculture book I ever bought (at Carnegie Books in Olympia, WA in 1992!). Still a classic, with inspiring artwork that imparts the spirit of good design.
Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway. Still one of the most accessible books for gardeners who may want to tip over into permaculture. I often give a gift of this book to design clients who are just getting into permaculture.
Getting Started / Foundational Material
One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. To understand the underpinnings of tillage-free systems for annual crops and the desire to grow food “like nature does.” Very influential on permaculture thinking. You can find online videos about Fukuoka as well.
A Pattern Language by Alexander, et al. Ditto as above. This is one to come back to at many different stages of your permaculture journey as its significance will awaken within you as your permaculture lens on the world gets stronger. Esoteric but worth it when considering what “design patterns ” (intentional or accidental) create what kinds of spaces or land use patterns and when considering what works, and why.
Farmers of Forty Centuries by Frank H. King. A classic from earlier in the 20th century that examines agricultural systems in Asia that sustained themselves over very long time-scales.
Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture by J. Russell Smith. Another classic influence on permaculture in which the concept of trees and perennial crops are explored from both an agricultural and cultural perspective.
Edible Forest Gardens Vol I and II by Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeir. Well worth the investment. Over time, it will become evident what a deep and profound gift these books are to our species. If we in the permaculture world are able to affect earth repair changes over the next few generations, it very well could be done based on the explicit and implicit wisdom contained in these volumes. This is not about gardening “in the forest,” but gardening “like the forest.”
Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier. To start understanding what is possible with perennial plants, many suitable for our New England climate. I am especially interested in using these not only for human food but also as animal fodder systems.
Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture by Sepp himself. Inspiring example from a large high altitude cold climate holding. Lots on earthworks, ponds, aquaculture, polyculture and more. Sepp has been living and breathing permaculture all his life, even before the word existed. You can access a considerable amount of free online videos to compliment this book.
Permaculture: A Designers Manual by Bill Mollison. This is “the” black book, not easy to get nor afford. For anyone pursuing permaculture design with any seriousness, you really should have this. Though permaculture continues to evolve as a design methodology, this is part of the canon and should be seen as such. Many practioners have built on this foundation.
Creating a Forest Garden by Martin Crawford. Absolutely excellent with stunning images. Highly recommend for anyone considering a shift – even gradual – away from annual crops to perennial crops. Conveniently organized by “canopy layer” (tall trees, shorter trees, shrubs, herbaceous, vines, etc.) Inspiring and beautifully designed book.
Food Not Lawns by Heather Flores. A great activist-oriented take on permaculture for the people; lots of practical and affordable approaches for implementation. Follow this up with Earth Repair by Leila Darwish if you are especially interested in the techniques available for healing damaged spaces and returning them to health and productivity.
Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren. David is one of the synthesizers of the permaculture concept and, while this book is not light reading, he really extends permaculture into the realms of what it can do, specifically, in a world of peak oil, climate change and volatility in general.
Social & Financial Permaculture
People & Permaculture by Looby McNamara. Another new title to the list, but an extremely important addition that addresses the social side to permaculture, the human element in how we design our world and organize ourselves within our ecosystems. I hope for more social permaculture titles.
Farm-Scale and Broad-Acre Permaculture
The Regrarians Handbook by Darren J. Doherty and Andrew Jeeves. This handbook is being released one chapter at a time electronically and as a full book sometime soon. This methodology – synthesized from permaculture, Holistic Management, and P.A. Yeoman’s “scale of permanence” design approaches – is as robust and thorough a way of design farm enterprises as any I’ve seen. Darren has consulted on and designed hundreds of farms around the world over the last twenty-five years and this handbook is one of the ways he generously shares his knowledge with the farm-scale design community.
Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food & Medicinals in Temperate Forests by Steve Gabriel and Ken Mudge. Since so much of our region is wooded and not every property or design should call for cutting down the majority of trees, we need to figure out how to creatively stack functions in ecologically healthy woodlands. This book is a great resource for anyone with woods who wants to farm “in the forest” rather than farming “like the forest.”
The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk. This is a great, experience-based work by Ben drawing from actual efforts and trials on his hillside homestead in Vermont. Good lessons for any sized permaculture site, especially his pattern language approach.
Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepherd is an inspiring view of how a good size acreage in the middle of corn and soy territory has been converted to a diverse tree crop and livestock silvopastural mix.
Making Small Farms Work by Richard Perkins. A well-documented example of farm-scale permaculture that incorporates CSA, interns and many permaculture techniques. The scale of this farm reminds me of many small farms in Maine.
Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates. Is it possible to write a permaculture cliff hanger? Maybe just permaculture geeks like us will get excited about this book, but it is a very well-written and humble story about the unfolding of a shared permaculture life and urban lot upon which it flowers. I learned a lot.