The best books to inspire action to solve the climate crisis

Who am I?

I am obsessed with books about people fighting for social justice—particularly around racism and the climate crisis (which are definitely interconnected). I have two main approaches: people with longstanding commitments to making change who take increasingly bold steps to fight for justice, and the accidental activists, who had no intention of taking on injustice, but found themselves in unexpected circumstances and rose to the occasion. I write stories about people—mostly women of color—who are part of teams and movements who fight to make the world right, and win. I think of myself as trying to create roadmaps for us to win in the fight against racism and the climate crisis in the real world.


I wrote...

A Spy in the Struggle

By Aya de Leon,

Book cover of A Spy in the Struggle

What is my book about?

When the FBI raids Yolanda Vance’s prestigious Manhattan law firm, Yolanda turns in her corrupt bosses to save her career—and goes to work for the Bureau. Soon she's sent undercover at Red, Black, and Green—an African-American “extremist” organization back in her California college town fighting for climate justice and Black Lives.

She’s anticipating a career win – not for an unexpected romance to open her heart and a suspicious death to open her eyes. Corporate money forces will do anything to bury Yolanda and the movement. As the stakes escalate, and one misstep could cost her life, Yolanda will have to decide between betraying the cause of her people or invoking the wrath of the world’s most powerful law enforcement agency.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Running

By Natalia Sylvester,

Book cover of Running

Why this book?

When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes. Throughout his successful political career, he has always had his daughter’s vote, but the campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family. As Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions—particularly some very questionable stances on the environment— she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was. As the climate crisis escalates around them in Florida, she begins to connect with activist teens.

I love how this novel traces a young woman’s political awakening, and how sometimes standing up for what you believe in begins with standing up to your family.


Depart, Depart!

By Sim Kern,

Book cover of Depart, Depart!

Why this book?

When an unprecedented hurricane devastates the city of Houston, Noah Mishner finds shelter in the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball arena. Though he finds community among other queer refugees, Noah fears his trans and Jewish identities put him at risk with certain “capital-T” Texans. His fears take form when he starts seeing visions of his great-grandfather Abe, who fled Nazi Germany as a boy. As the climate crisis intensifies and conditions in the shelter deteriorate, Abe’s ghost grows more powerful. Ultimately, Noah must decide whether he can trust his ancestor — and what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to survive.

I love the way that this novella offers a deeply intersectional view of the climate crisis, and how critical it is to find solidarity among vulnerable populations whose vulnerability increases during disasters.


Waiting for the Night Song

By Julie Carrick Dalton,

Book cover of Waiting for the Night Song

Why this book?

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface? An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farmworkers and locals.

I love how Carrick-Dalton gives us parallel storylines about a secret buried by her protagonist and the truth of the climate crisis that the fossil fuel industry wants to bury.


How Beautiful We Were

By Imbolo Mbue,

Book cover of How Beautiful We Were

Why this book?

Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Told from multiple perspectives, it explores how the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold on to its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.

I love how this book is largely told in first-person plural, the “we.” It models for all of us how the climate crisis will require all of us to move toward boldness and heroism, and that when we fight, we can win.


On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal

By Naomi Klein,

Book cover of On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal

Why this book?

For more than twenty years, Naomi Klein has been the foremost chronicler of the economic war waged on both people and planet—and an unapologetic champion of a sweeping environmental agenda with justice at its center. This collection gathers more than a decade of her impassioned writing, and positions the battle for a greener world as indistinguishable from the fight for our lives. On Fire captures the burning urgency of the climate crisis, as well as the fiery energy of a rising political movement demanding a Green New Deal.

This book is critical to giving us the clarity of what we are up against and holding the perspective that we already have the solution to the crisis, and now we need to create the political will to make it happen.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in climate change, environmental degradation, and secrets?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about climate change, environmental degradation, and secrets.

Climate Change Explore 13 books about climate change
Environmental Degradation Explore 17 books about environmental degradation
Secrets Explore 98 books about secrets

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis, Forecast: A Diary of the Lost Seasons, and The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming if you like this list.