In honor of Earth Day, we’ve compiled 7 fiction & 7 nonfiction books to help deepen your connection to the natural world & help you reevaluate the impact that we are having on our planet.
Some of the books may serve as a wake up call while others are positive, hopeful works. Either way, these 14 reads are perfect for Earth Day, a day celebrated by 1 billion people across 192 countries to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
If you’re also looking to take additional steps on top of reading, check out:
Eight Ways You Can Help the Ocean (an article I wrote for a major publication in honor of World Oceans Day)
A vivid, positive vision of an ecologically sustainable world
“A novel both timely and prophetic, Ecotopia is a hopeful antidote to the environmental concerns of today, set in an ecologically sound future society. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as the ‘newest name after Wells, Verne, Huxley, and Orwell,’ Callenbach offers a visionary blueprint for the survival of our planet . . . and our future.
Ecotopia was founded when northern California, Oregon, and Washington seceded from the Union to create a ‘stable-state’ ecosystem: the perfect balance between human beings and the environment. Now, 20 years later, this isolated, mysterious nation is welcoming its first officially sanctioned visitor: NY Times-Post reporter Will Weston.
Skeptical yet curious about this green new world, Weston is determined to report his findings objectively. But from the start, he’s alternately impressed and unsettled by the laws governing Ecotopia’s earth-friendly agenda: energy-efficient ‘mini-cities’ to eliminate urban sprawl, zero-tolerance pollution control, tree worship, ritual war games, and a woman-dominated government that has instituted such peaceful revolutions as the 20-hour workweek and employee ownership of farms and businesses. His old beliefs challenged, his cynicism replaced by hope, Weston meets a sexually forthright Ecotopian woman and undertakes a relationship whose intensity will lead him to a critical choice between two worlds.“
Climate Change Brought into Stark Relief
“#1 NY Times bestseller ‘The Uninhabitable Earth hits you like a comet, with an overflow of insanely lyrical prose about our pending Armageddon.’ —Andrew Solomon
It is worse, much worse, than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible. In California, wildfires now rage year-round, destroying thousands of homes. Across the US, ‘500-year’ storms pummel communities month after month, and floods displace tens of millions annually.
This is only a preview of the changes to come. And they are coming fast. Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.
In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await—food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today.
Like An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring before it, The Uninhabitable Earth is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation.”
A Haunting Novel from finlanD of Eco-speculation
From the award-winning author of Troll and a powerhouse of the Finnish science fiction and fantasy scene.
“It is claimed Albert Einstein said that if bees disappear from the earth, mankind has four years left. When bee-vanishings of unprecedented scale hit the United States, Orvo, a Finnish beekeeper, knows all too well where it will lead. And when he sees the queen dead in his hives one day, it's clear the epidemic has spread to Europe, and the world is coming to an end. Orvo's special knowledge of bees just may enable him to glimpse a solution to catastrophe: he takes a desperate step onto a path where only he and the bees know the way but it propels him into conflict with his estranged, but much-loved son, a committed animal activist.
A magical plunge into the myth of death and immortality, this is a tale of human blindness in the face of devastation—and the inevitable."
The Classic that Launched the Environmental Movement
A multiple award-winner & an almost instant bestseller as relevant today as it was 50 years ago, Carson penned this nonfiction read with such heartfelt & well-written prose you can’t help but be engaged.
“Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was first published in three serialized excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962. The book appeared in September of that year and the outcry that followed its publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water.
Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century.”
A Enthralling Series about first Contact & Ecological Balance
The Wess’har Wars, the award-winning 6-part series, is an essential environmental sci fi saga
”Three separate alien societies have claims on Cavanagh's Star. But the new arrivals—the ‘gethes’ (humans) from Earth—now threaten the tenuous balance of a coveted world.
Environmental Hazard Enforcement officer Shan Frankland agreed to lead a mission to Cavanagh's Star, knowing that 150 years would elapse before she could finally return home. But her landing, with a small group of scientists and Marines, has not gone unnoticed by Aras, the planet's designated guardian. An eternally evolving world himself, this sad, powerful being has already obliterated millions of alien interlopers and their great cities to protect the fragile native population. Now Shan and her party—plus the small colony of fundamentalist humans who preceded them—could face a similar annihilation . . . or a fate far worse. Because Aras possesses a secret of the blood that would be disastrous if it fell into human hands—if the gethes survive the impending war their coming has inadvertently hastened.”
impossible-to-put-down Nonfiction about mass extinction
“Winner of the Pulitzer-prize in non-fiction - A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.”
The extraordinary novel which brings the forest to life
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction,
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, a
NY Times Bestseller, listed as a “best book” by the Washington Post, Time, & many others
“An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits 100 years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangers―each summoned in different ways by trees―are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.
National Book Award winner Richard Powers delivers a sweeping, impassioned novel of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of―and paean to―the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late 20th-century timber wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. There is a world alongside ours―vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
The Overstory is a book for all readers who despair of humanity’s self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of a homecoming. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? ‘Listen. There’s something you need to hear.’”
Poetry from around the World which Celebrates Nature
A unique collection of brilliant global poets focusing on our world.
“The poetic concern for nature has been, in the words of Anna Akhmatova, ‘wild in our breast for centuries.’ Now, Poetry for the Earth collects an astonishing diversity of poetic response to the environment, from eras and places as diverse as classical Greece, Elizabethan England, seventeenth-century Japan, contemporary Africa, and modern America. In moods that range from urgent to contemplative, euphoric to indignant, here are poems by: Paula Gunn Allen, Geoffrey Chaucer, Emily Dickinson, Alice Walker, and many others.
From haiku and tribal riddles to blank verse, these poems speak anew to a relationship in crisis, propelling us all toward appreciation and reflection of the planet that gives us life.”
“the first great climate-change novel” - Rollingstone Magazine
“NEW YORK CITY, the near future: Mitchell Zukor, a gifted young mathematician, is hired by a mysterious new financial consulting firm, FutureWorld. The business operates out of a cavernous office in the Empire State Building; Mitchell is employee number two. He is asked to calculate worst-case scenarios in the most intricate detail, and his schemes are sold to corporations to indemnify them against any future disasters. This is the cutting edge of corporate irresponsibility, and business is booming.
As Mitchell immerses himself in the mathematics of catastrophe—ecological collapse, global war, natural disasters—he becomes obsessed by a culture’s fears. Yet he also loses touch with his last connection to reality: Elsa Bruner, a friend with her own apocalyptic secret, who has started a commune in Maine. Then, just as Mitchell’s predictions reach a nightmarish crescendo, an actual worst-case scenario overtakes Manhattan. Mitchell realizes he is uniquely prepared to profit. But at what cost?
At once an all-too-plausible literary thriller, an unexpected love story, and a philosophically searching inquiry into the nature of fear, Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow poses the ultimate questions of imagination and civilization. The future is not quite what it used to be.”
A deft blend of natural history, the environment, & wonder
“Although mammals and birds are widely regarded as the smartest creatures on earth, it has lately become clear that a very distant branch of the tree of life has also sprouted higher intelligence: the cephalopods, consisting of the squid, the cuttlefish, and above all the octopus. In captivity, octopuses have been known to identify individual human keepers, raid neighboring tanks for food, turn off lightbulbs by spouting jets of water, plug drains, and make daring escapes. How is it that a creature with such gifts evolved through an evolutionary lineage so radically distant from our own? What does it mean that evolution built minds not once but at least twice? The octopus is the closest we have come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?
In Other Minds, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a distinguished philosopher of science and a skilled scuba diver, tells a bold new story of how subjective experience crept into being—how nature became aware of itself. As Godfrey-Smith stresses, it is a story that largely occurs in the ocean, where animals first appeared. But what kind of intelligence do cephalopods possess? Drawing on the latest scientific research and his own scuba-diving adventures, Godfrey-Smith probes the many mysteries that surround the lineage. How did the octopus, a solitary creature with little social life, become so smart? What is it like to have eight tentacles that are so packed with neurons that they virtually ‘think for themselves’? What happens when some octopuses abandon their hermit-like ways and congregate, as they do in a unique location off the coast of Australia?
By tracing the question of inner life back to its roots and comparing human beings with our most remarkable animal relatives, Godfrey-Smith casts crucial new light on the octopus mind—and on our own.”
A passionate novel on the effects of present-day global warming
"‘Kingsolver is a gifted magician of words.’ —Time
The extraordinary NY Times bestselling author of The Lacuna (winner of the Orange Prize), The Poisonwood Bible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize), and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver returns with a truly stunning and unforgettable work. Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths. Kingsolver's riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world. Flight Behavior is arguably Kingsolver's must thrilling and accessible novel to date, and like so many other of her acclaimed works, represents contemporary American fiction at its finest.”
A Profound Book about Nature’s Ability to Heal Us
“Emma Mitchell has suffered with depression - or as she calls it, 'the grey slug' - for 25 years. In 2003, she moved from the city to the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens and began to take walks in the countryside around her new home, photographing, collecting and drawing as she went. Each walk lifted her mood, proving to be as medicinal as any talking therapy or pharmaceutical.
In Emma's hand-illustrated diary, she takes us with her as she follows the paths and trails around her cottage and further afield, sharing her nature finds and tracking the lives of local flora and fauna over the course of a year. Reflecting on how these encounters impact her mood, Emma's moving and candid account of her own struggles is a powerful testament to how reconnecting with nature may offer some answers to today's mental health epidemic. While charting her own seasonal highs and lows, she also explains the science behind such changes, calling on new research into the ways in which our bodies and minds respond to plants and wildlife when we venture outdoors.
Written with Emma's characteristic wit and frankness, and filled with her beautiful drawings, paintings and photography, this is a truly unique book for anyone who has ever felt drawn to nature and wondered about its influence over us.”
A Quietly Compelling Novel about FamilY, the Land, & Climate Change
A vivid novel spanning 35 years in the life of an Australian woman on land increasingly burdened by the farming methods of the past while also threatened by climate change.
“When her mother disappears into the bush, ten-year-old Laura makes an impulsive decision that will haunt her for decades. Despite her anger and grief, she sets about running the house, taking care of her younger sister, and helping her father clear their wild acreage to carve out a farm. But gradually they realise that while they may own the land, they cannot tame it, nor can they escape their past.
Anchor Point is an eloquent and arresting Australian novel no reader will easily forget.
A politically charged manifesto for the climate movement
“The most important book yet from an internationally bestselling author & award-winning journalist featuring a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core ‘free market’ ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.
In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods.
Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.
Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.”