It’s not a cheery topic, but it is something we all need to read up on: the climate crisis. Luckily, there’s plenty of writing on the environment, from non-fiction explainers to novels exploring climate chaos through a fictional lens. Here is our pick of the best books about the climate crisis to get you started.
Fiction Books About The Climate Crisis
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
From American sci-fi novelist Kim Stanley Robinson comes a cli-fi (climate fiction) novel set in the near future, in which a governmental body is established under the Paris Agreement to advocate for the world’s future generations of citizens as if their rights are as valid as the present generations’. Exploring ecology, economics and human accounts of climate events, the novel is classified as hard sci-fi for its use of scientific accuracy and non-fiction descriptions of history.
The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard
Considered a founding text in the cli-fi genre, this 1962 novel depicts a post-apocalyptic future in which global warming has made much of the planet uninhabitable, and in which London is a lagoon teeming with primaeval reptiles.
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
From £3.36, betterworldbooks.com
Following Dellarobia Turnbow, a farm wife who stumbles across a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire, Flight Behaviour combines considerations of miracle with truth, collating explanations from characters of scientists, religious leaders and the media to explore our precarious planet.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Following nine people living across America – from a farmer to a psychologist, a computer scientist to a deforestation protester – The Overstory interlocks stories from across the nation with a combined effort to prevent the destruction of Earth’s forests.
King Lear by Shakespeare
From £3.49, wob.com
For a much older representation of a fickle climate, try Shakespeare’s King Lear. One of his later plays, recent eco-critical readings note the climate’s strong presence in the story. With Shakespeare living through the Little Ice Age (which affected the Northern Atlantic region from around 1300 to 1850 – also explaining why Charles Dickens’ portrayals of winter in London were so extremely frosty, for example), he wrote King Lear during an especially tumultuous and stormy year. In the play, Lear is ravaged by storms with the crops of his subjects destroyed and many people suffer hunger. Some of the most hopeful scenes take place surrounded by healthy crops.
Non-fiction Books About The Climate Crisis
The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg
From the climate voice of a generation, Greta Thunberg’s new The Climate Book gathers experts from across disciplines – geophysicists, oceanographers, meteorologists, engineers, economists, mathematicians, historians, philosophers and indigenous leaders – to equip its readers with the knowledge we need to combat climate change.
The Unnatural History of the Sea by Callum Roberts
From £21.76, abebooks.co.uk
From marine conservation biologist Callum Roberts comes an unnerving ecological investigation into the marine life we have lost, from the 11th century to the present day. Once brimming with human-size cods, giant sharks, whales and sea otters, Roberts draws on firsthand accounts of explorers, pirates, merchants, fishers and travellers to illustrate what our decimated ocean once looked like.
What We Owe The Future by William MacAskill
New for 2022, What We Owe The Future is a daringly optimistic novel by William MacAskill, professor in philosophy at the University of Oxford. Focusing on the positive changes we can still make to our behaviour, this is a manifesto that vouches for the prevention of catastrophic weapons, an ethical approach to artificial intelligence, and action to secure the longevity of future generations. As the synopsis reads, ‘If we choose wisely, our distant descendants will look back on us fondly, knowing we did everything we could to give them a world that is beautiful and just.’
The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet by Leah Thomas
From the activist who coined the titular term, The Intersectional Environmentalist explores the inextricable link between climate change, activism, racism and privilege, and argues that the fight for the longevity of our planet should move in tandem with the fight for civil rights. A call to action, The Intersectional Environmentalist is a useful primer for those interested in climate justice, looking to create meaningful, inclusive and sustainable change.
Underland by Robert Macfarlane
Written in poetic prose, Cambridge University academic Robert Macfarlane has long expressed his passion for the UK’s nature with books such as The Wild Places (2007) and Landmarks (2015) holding our nation in reverie. In Underland, Macfarlane continues to explore the stories told by our landscapes, this time coloured by an undeniable, irreversible climate change.
Featured image by Anete Lusina via Pexels.