If there is one book I personally recommend it is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Although set in the 50's rural America and first published as a series in the New Yorker in 1962, the story she tells is a global one and a story that still continues today in Asia. RC writes with eloquence, making complicated scientific theories easy to understand. I was engrossed with this book which was text book reading in one of my Environmental Studies courses. The new edition has a forward by Al Gore who was himself changed as a young man after reading the book when it first came out.
Rachel Carson made environmentalism respectable. Before Silent Spring, nearly all Americans believed that science was a force for good. Carson's work exposed the dark side of science. It showed that DDT and other chemicals we were using to enhance agricultural productivity were poisoning our lakes, rivers, oceans, and ourselves. Thanks to her, progress can no longer be measured solely in tons of wheat produced and millions of insects killed. Thanks to her, the destruction of nature can no longer be called progress.