The best Australian novels that will help you see nature and climate in a new way

Who am I?

I’ve been writing about climate change for the past 14 years. I have been the Environment and Energy Editor for the news website, The Conversation, and worked for the government in renewable energy and reducing emissions from transport. Now I work for a conservation organisation, protecting land for nature. My first novel, A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, was set in a climate-changed Melbourne and an idyllic past San Francisco. My most recent novel, From the Wreck, is historical fiction set in the 1870s but is also about modern humans’ history of ecocide. I have also written essays and a non-fiction guide The Handbook: Surviving & Living with Climate Change


I wrote...

From the Wreck

By Jane Rawson,

Book cover of From the Wreck

What is my book about?

As George adapts to life back on land, he can’t escape the feeling that he wasn’t alone when he emerged from the ocean that day, that a familiar presence has been watching him ever since. What the creature might want from him – his life? His first-born? Simply to return to its home? – will pursue him, and call him back to the water, where it all began.

From the Wreck is a study of loneliness, loss, and the interrelatedness of all life on earth.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dyschronia

Jane Rawson Why did I love this book?

Dyschronia is strange, complicated, overwhelming, frightening, and occasionally enervating – just like climate change. Jen Mills tells the story of a young woman in a small, dying town who can’t stop seeing horrible futures; or, perhaps, the story of a young woman who compulsively lies. You won’t forget the compelling and sickening scene of a town waking up to find the ocean has disappeared. This one is worth wrapping your brain around.

By Jennifer Mills,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dyschronia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MILES FRANKLIN LITERARY AWARD 2019

"There is a poetry in Mills's writing that shimmers like desert air - and in her storytelling, in the way she captures the moods of time, there is something mystical. Daring, original and ambitious." The Australian

An electrifying novel about an oracle. A small town. And the end of the world as we know it...

One morning, the residents of a small coastal town somewhere in Australia wake to discover the sea has disappeared. One among them has been plagued by troubling visions of this cataclysm for years. Is she a prophet?…


Book cover of The Animals in That Country

Jane Rawson Why did I love this book?

The Animals in That Country has won numerous awards in Australia and was a breakout success in 2020. It’s a completely wild novel about a ‘zoo flu’ plague whose victims can suddenly ‘hear’ everything the animals around them say. The bad news is, the animals don’t like us much. The Animals is based on years of scientific enquiry into how animals think, feel, and communicate, and it’s a riveting, disturbing and hilarious read. If you’ve ever wanted to get inside the head of a kangaroo, now’s your chance.

By Laura Jean McKay,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Animals in That Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE ARTHUR C. CLARKE AWARD

A SUNDAY TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

Out on the road, no one speaks, everything talks.

Hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, and allergic to bullshit, Jean is not your usual grandma. She's never been good at getting on with other humans, apart from her beloved granddaughter, Kimberly. Instead, she surrounds herself with animals, working as a guide in an outback wildlife park. And although Jean talks to all her charges, she has a particular soft spot for a young dingo called Sue.

As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is…


Book cover of Flames

Jane Rawson Why did I love this book?

A riotous traipse across the island of Tasmania, Australia’s southernmost state, Flames follows a young woman whose brother is obsessed with ensuring that when she dies, she won’t return as a natural force the way her mother and grandmother did. Flames is narrated by creatures human and non, with the plot propelled along through stories told by a water rat and a fire, among others. Arnott’s intimate knowledge of the landscapes of his home island comes alive on the page – when you’ve finished Flames, try the brilliant nature parable of The Rain Heron, his latest book.

By Robbie Arnott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Flames as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A strange and joyous marvel" Richard Flanagan

Robbie Arnott's mad, wild debut novel is rough-hewn from the Tasmanian landscape and imbued with the folkloric magic of the oldest fireside storytellers.

A young man named Levi McAllister decides to build a coffin for his twenty-three-year-old sister, Charlotte-who promptly runs for her life. A water rat swims upriver in quest of the cloud god. A fisherman named Karl hunts for tuna in partnership with a seal. And a father takes form from fire.

The answers to these riddles are to be found in this tale of grief and love and the bonds…


Book cover of Wolfe Island

Jane Rawson Why did I love this book?

Lucy is an Australian writer but her second novel, Wolfe Island, is set in the US in a time that might be the very recent past or the very near future. Kitty Hawke and her large, loyal dog are the last inhabitants of a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay; Kitty values her solitude, but when her estranged family is targeted by the US government, she has to decide whether to stand up for what she believes in. Most climate change novels tend toward future dystopias – Wolfe Island is special because it is a firmly realist novel that looks more closely at our current world and reveals all the ways the dystopia is here and now.

By Lucy Treloar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wolfe Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kitty Hawke, the last inhabitant of a dying island sinking into the wind-lashed Chesapeake Bay, has resigned herself to annihilation...

Until one night her granddaughter rows ashore in the midst of a storm, desperate, begging for sanctuary. For years, Kitty has kept to herself – with only the company of her wolfdog, Girl – unconcerned by the world outside, or perhaps avoiding its worst excesses. But blood cannot be turned away in times like these. And when trouble comes following her granddaughter, no one is more surprised than Kitty to find she will fight to save her as fiercely as…


Book cover of Echolalia

Jane Rawson Why did I love this book?

Doyle’s first novel, The Island Will Sink, was a wild ride into a technology-obsessed, nature-depleted future society. Echolalia is situated firmly in present-day, suburban Australia and unlike most climate change novels it recognises that environmental crisis is part of a deeper web: the novel looks at how class, money, and white dispossession of Australia’s first nations people all complicate the way we deal with heat, drought and a frightening future. A compelling portrait of a woman falling to pieces.

By Briohny Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Echolalia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What could drive a mother to do the unthinkable?

Before: Emma Cormac married into a perfect life but now she's barely coping. Inside a brand new, palatial home, her three young children need more than she can give. Clem, a wilful four year old, is intent on mimicking her grandmother; the formidable matriarch Pat Cormac. Arthur is almost three and still won't speak. At least baby Robbie is perfect. He's the future of the family. So why can't Emma hold him without wanting to scream?
Beyond their gleaming windows, a lake vista is evaporating. The birds have mostly disappeared, too.…


You might also like...

The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

Book cover of The Finest Lies

David J. Naiman Author Of The Finest Lies

New book alert!

Who am I?

Anyone with siblings knows the deal. Your sibling becomes your first best friend and closest confidant but also your first competitor and fiercest critic. Navigating that relationship as a teen is fraught with peril. If done poorly, it can leave deep scars. If successful, it can teach you the foundations of how to build healthy relationships for the rest of your life. This theme has everything a writer needs to craft an emotional narrative, and these books do it best.

David's book list on sibling rivalry that will inspire you to reconnect

What is my book about?

A mysterious stranger traps teen siblings in a precarious game where each must overcome their embittered past for the other to survive.

This suspenseful, yet winsome novel explores the power of family and forgiveness. But take heed. The truth can cut like shards of glass, especially for those who’d rather avoid it. Sometimes, only the finest lies will do.

The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

What is this book about?

High schooler Nicole Hallett has just about had it with her brother Jay, so when a mysterious man appears with an offer to replace him with a better one, she doesn’t hesitate. Nicole has always been impulsive, but this time, she finds herself in predicament far worse than anything she’s experienced. Just like that, an average snow day—usually filled with hot cocoa and snowball fights—is commandeered by the stranger, who forces the siblings into a dangerous game.

Confronted by past reflections, tested by present complications, and threatened by future possibilities, Nicole has until the end of the day to disentangle…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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