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Best Books about Climate Change for 2019 (annotated list)

(Last Update on October 31, 2019) A few years ago I put together a list of books about climate change. For over a decade I’ve been reading a lot of things on the subject. For this edition, I’m going to divide into different categories. Tip: A lot of these books are expensive as ebooks, but if you create price alerts using ereaderiq, you can usually be notified whenever it goes on sale. Also, because Verso books carries a lot of environment & economics books, I recommend subscribing to their newsletter. They have regular sales on their ebooks; once or twice a year they discount a huge swathe of ebooks to 99 cents. Fivebooks.com has several listicles about climate change (much better than this list!) Also, Lithub has a long listicle called Every Day is Earth Day: 365 Books to Start Your Climate Change Library. Here is Part 1 (The Classics), Part 2 (The Science), Part 3 (Fiction and Poetry) and Part 4 (The Ideas).

Fiction and Poetry (Cli-Fi)

Strangely despite my background in writing and publishing fiction, I have not read all that much. But I keep tabs on everything. I briefly communicated with Dan Bloom (who coined the term cli-fi). Bloom’s listicle of best cli-fi is excellent.

Top of Bloom’s list of recommendations is Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior which he called a “poetic fable, with a strong cast of memorable characters… The vision of the monarch butterflies at the beginning of the story is almost mystical, religious, spiritual. It’s pure storytelling with no false moves.”

Bloom also recommends: Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy, James Bradley’s Clade, Claire Vaye Watkins’s Gold Fame Citrus, Ling Ma’s Severance and Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow, Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide.

Anthologies: I’m With the Bears Short Stories from a Damaged Planet Edited by Mark Martin and Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction. by Robert Sassor (Author), Mary Woodbury (Editor), Michael Rothenberg (Foreword)

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Lamentations of Zeno: A Novel by Ilija Trojanow

Solar by Ian McEwan. (2009) (A novel). I don’t consider this to a masterpiece, but it is the first attempt to describe global warming as a cultural influence. Solar is a social satire of environmentalists, professional deniers and how academia cossets both types. By the way, I am writing a sort of comic novel about climate change as well. I didn’t think the novel worked overall, but several of its set pieces were effective and provocative.

Treasures that Prevail by Jen Karetnick. A fine collection about climate change and its effects on Miami. The narrators are two unnamed women, married with a teenage daughter and a teenage son, who live in a part of Miami that will be underwater unless action is taken.

Economics, Policy and Climate Change.

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy by Hal Harvey. A very recent detailed policy discussion. (An excerpt, with long interview is here).

Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era (2011) by Amory Lovins is an excellent in-depth analysis about energy needs, business innovation and policy. It has the depth and research about the subject and covers a wide variety of topics. It has a good holistic view of the subject. The Best Book on the Subject

Drawdown: Most Comprehensive Plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. Edited by Paul Hawken

Climate Change Politics and Denialism

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. Oreskes and Conways are science historians who found direct connections between the propaganda effort to sell smoking and the effort to sell fossil fuels. Although the book doesn’t try to do media criticism, Oreskes is famous for her study which found no disagreement from the science consensus in journals while significant controversy in articles written for news publications. I’ve seen several of Oreskes’ public lectures on youtube.

This changes everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein. Provocative/polemical/political book by Klein. Glad to see Klein tackling climate change.

General Introductions

Earth: The Operator’s Manual by Richard Alley (2011). In preparation for the PBS Science series, Alley wrote a science book for the general audience.  This was a very thoughtful and generally nonpolitical book which nonetheless lays out the evidence for climate change in a seemingly incontrovertible way.

Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air by David JC MacKay.  (2009)When I started reading this book, I immediately grasped its usefulness.  It defines terms about how to measure the effectiveness of various policy measures and how scientists calculate things like energy efficiency. It also explains the scientific principles and formulas for gathering data.  It doesn’t necessarily make policy recommendations, but clarifies how to have an honest debate without getting lost in quantitative analysis and semantics.  The full book is available for online reading and also downloadable as a PDF… for free!

Power Shift: From Fossil Energy to Dynamic Solar Power by Robert Staynton.  This is a great introduction to the science of power generation and an almost anthropological analysis of human’s precarious relationship to the power they generate. Recommended!

Losing Earth: A recent History by Nathaniel Rich was originally a NYT cover story about how scientists studied climate change in the 1970s and reached the conclusions we have today. Mostly a very well written magazinish account, it’s important to note that Rich is a novelist who also wrote the distinguished novel, Odds Against Tomorrow.

Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change edited by Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman

Special Scientific Topics in Climate Change

Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert and Ends of the World by Peter Brannen are two wonderful books about how the earth is marked by

The Two Mile Time Machine (2001) by Richard Alley gives a first person account of how scientists use ice core samples from glaciers to estimate the carbon levels and temperature levels of previous millenia. This book is over a decade old, but well-beloved by people in the climate change field.

Philosophy and Ethics of Climate Change

Falter by Bill McKibben. 2019. McKibben has been writing deep thoughtful essays and books about climate change and the philosophical/political consequences. He’s been at the center of climate change protests. Falter is gloomy prognastication but essential reading. Important to note that McKibben has written several (three?) other climate change titles.

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future by Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright

Shock of the Anthropocene by Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptist Fressoz

Fossil Fuel Industry (History, etc)

Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming by Andreas Malm. A good historical discussion of fossil fuel power.

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