Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (Penguin £9.99)

My 'to-read' pile is always pretty high. I have lists everywhere of books I have been recommended. But I am so pleased I finally got round to reading Silent Spring.

This book is so important: iconic and constantly referred to in reverential tones by those active in the fight for a better environment. It is shocking and tough to read at some points because the case studies are all true: appalling acts of environmental apocalypse that actually happened.

Carson catalogues some of the most starkly devastating effects of mass chemical spraying that could be imagined. She is recording occurrences mainly from the 1950s when chemicals like DDT and dieldrin were commonly used by farmers and agriculturists across the USA.

Encouraged by big chemical companies, these toxins were marketed as a wonder cure for the bugs and beetles that threatened farmers’ crops. The annihilation of so much more than just the insects that were being targeted was a side effect that seemed to be being ignored or brushed under the carpet.

That is why it is so important that Carson came along to stand up and shout the truth. A scientist and writer herself, she was a credible, sensible voice. She doesn’t need overly emotive prose as she is just narrating the truth, setting out the problem and possible solutions in a clear and pragmatic way.

As Linda Lear says in her afterword, this book launched the environmental movement, Carson warning against the arrogance and lack of humility of some scientists, and the need to recognise life on the planet as a whole. The questioning of government policy and government links to the businesses behind the science is very relevant today, when it comes to the problems caused by oil companies' climate denial.

Philippa Morris