In the age of the internet, I am still a huge believer in the humble natural building book. I can be drawn much deeper into a book, and stay much more focused. On our Hartwyn internship builds, I bring along my bookshelf for the interns to paw over, it’s really lovely to see!

So here, I shall list my favorite natural building books. I suspect this will be a work in progress as more come out (I’m eager to get my hands on Chris Magwood’s new one!).

If you think I have missed an important one, please add a comment!

Natural Building books

Making Better Buildings: A Comparative Guide to Sustainable Construction for Homeowners and Contractors – Chris Magwood

chris magwood building better buildings“Making better buildings” looks at each element of a build (foundations, insulation, roofing), and analyses the options available. Using handy graphics you can quickly see how the options compare to each other and which fits your criteria for construction.

It goes into a small, but concise, amount of detail for each option but will give you a good starting point for further research.


The Natural Building Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction – Jacob Deva Racusin & Ace McArleton

 I first became aware of Jacob and Ace at the International Straw Bale Conference in Colorado. I was hugely impressed by Jacob’s presentation and the level of thought and detail he put into his work. This book is a powerhouse of information – it is a proper read!

Building with Straw Bales: A Practical Manual for Self-Builders and Architects – Barbara Jones

Barbara Jones Straw Bale bookI have been fortunate enough to study and work with Barbara Jones. Barbara has been instrumental in the uptake of straw bale housing in the UK and has helped many people achieve their dreams of building their own home.

The Hempcrete Book: Designing and Building with Hemp-Lime – William Stanwix & Alex Sparrow

The Hempcrete Book: Designing and Building with Hemp-Lime  Alex and Will have created a fantastic guide to aid you to create your own hempcrete house. Their aim was to debunk the myths and throw the technique open to all and they certainly succeed. No library of natural building books should be without it.

Oak-framed Buildings – Rupert Newman

Oak Framed buildingsI have many books on timber framing, yet this one by Rupert Newman is certainly my favorite. It features a good section on the scribe rule, which is an important part of the UK heritage of timber framing.

Using natural finishes – lime and clay based plasters, renders & paints – Adam Weismann & Katy Bryce

natural finishes book

Adam and Katy are exceptionally talented plasters and have done so much to push forward the profile of clay plasters in the UK. This book details clay and lime finishes including paints and plasters.

Earthen Floors – A modern approach to an ancient practice – Sukita Reay Crimmel & James Thomson

Sukita Reay Crimmel was my earthen floor teacher back when I did my first natural building training in Oregon. This book walks you through the process of creating your own floor and will teach you a lot about building with clay.

The hand-sculpted house – Ian Evans, Michael G Smith & Linda Smiley

I was fortunate enough to visit Ianto & Linda at the Cob cottage company whilst living in Oregon. They have been championing cob building as an affordable DIY solution for many years and have developed a unique style. The book is very much in this vein.


Build Your Own Earth Oven: A Low-cost Wood-fired Mud Oven; Simple Sourdough Bread; Perfect Loaves by Kiko Denzer

earthen oven natural building booksThis book is responsible for the vast majority of earthen ovens out there! I had it by my side when I created my first two ovens.  As well as a practical guide, it also serves as an inspiration of what can be done on the artistic side.

Buy Here

Build Your Own Barrel Oven – Max & Eva Edleson

barrel oven natural building book
This great book by Max and Eva Edleson details how to create a barrel oven. The barrel oven is wood fired and based on a standard barrel. it’s a great alternative to a cob oven as it heats up much more quickly and is more like a conventional oven.

Inspirational Building books

Shelter (Shelter Library of Building Books) – Lloyd Khan

shelter book lloyd khanThis, along with all of Lloyd Khan’s books, is builder inspiration at it’s finest. “Shelter” was the first in a long series that looks at all the different people create buildings.

Buy here

I strongly recommend all of the following books by Lloyd Khan:

Green woodworking books

Swedish carving techniques – Willie Sundqvist

swedish carving techniques bookThis is the green woodworking book. It features projects to create with simple diagrams and explanations.

Spôn – A guide to spoon carving and the new wood culture – Barn the spoon

spon-barn-the-spoon bookBarn crams culture, philosophy and technique into this glorious book. An overarching introduction to green woodworking. Focusing on the tools, techniques and designs of the often overlooked spoon.

The man who made things out of trees – Robert Penn

the man who made things from trees book This is a charming tale of the author, Robert Penn, and his quest to make as many items from a single Ash tree. This is a tremendous look at craft and the passing of knowledge. Guaranteed you’ll see Ash tree’s in whole new light.

Miscellaneous books

The Rime of the Modern Mariner – Nick Hayes

Rime of the modern Mariner book

Not a natural building book, but a must read. The most stunning illustration with a strong moral and environmental message.