The best books that help us make sense of the future

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lecturer in Global Environmental Politics at the University of Edinburgh. My work is driven by the conviction that we need more thorough and realistic maps of possible futures in an increasingly turbulent and uncertain world. Ever since learning about the intersections between climate, energy, and economic crises, I have been fascinated by the question of how our future will unfold and how we might create more just and liveable futures from the wreckage of the present world. And I have been driven to bring down artificial disciplinary divides in order to integrate knowledge across the sciences and humanities in ways that can illuminate the possible pathways ahead. 


I wrote...

Navigating the Polycrisis: Mapping the Futures of Capitalism and the Earth

By Michael J. Albert,

Book cover of Navigating the Polycrisis: Mapping the Futures of Capitalism and the Earth

What is my book about?

It maps out the possible futures of the interconnected yet deeply unequal civilization we call global capitalism. To understand these futures, it shows that we need to follow the coevolution of many different problems simultaneously – including the climate crisis, geopolitical tensions, energy shocks, food system vulnerabilities, pandemic risks, and other risks emerging from new technologies like artificial intelligence and synthetic biology. 

This is where the concept of “polycrisis” comes in, which underscores the fact that our world confronts multiple intersecting problems that can compound and reinforce each other in various ways. Navigating the Polycrisis shows that we can anticipate the broad contours of the future by analyzing how these problems intersect and mapping out their interwoven branching pathways into the future. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency

Michael J. Albert Why did I love this book?

As one can tell from the title, this is not a book for the faint-hearted. But it is a masterful and nuanced synthesis of climate and earth system science that details what is likely to happen if the climate crisis continues unabated.

I loved the way it shows us in a systematic, step-by-step fashion how each additional degree of planetary heating will disrupt our world and steadily push us towards the brink. And it does so in a way that is sensitive to geographical variation and uneven vulnerabilities between the global north and south. This is an essential guide to an over-heating world and a warning of what is to come if we fail to rapidly bring down emissions.  

By Mark Lynas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book must not be ignored. It really is our final warning.

Mark Lynas delivers a vital account of the future of our earth, and our civilisation, if current rates of global warming persist. And it's only looking worse.

We are living in a climate emergency. But how much worse could it get? Will civilisation collapse? Are we already past the point of no return? What kind of future can our children expect? Rigorously cataloguing the very latest climate science, Mark Lynas explores the course we have set for Earth over the next century and beyond. Degree by terrifying degree,…


Book cover of Militarized Global Apartheid

Michael J. Albert Why did I love this book?

This is mainly a book about our dark present, but it can also be read as a window into an even darker future.

What I loved most about it is how it illuminates the entanglements between violent practices of border policing, surveillance, and oppression around the globe – from the US-Mexico border to China’s AI police state in Xinjiang, the EU’s militarized policing of the Mediterranean, the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine, and other regimes of violence around the world.

The book shows how the intersections between climate change, capitalism, and violent logics of racism and militarized borders are giving rise to a globalized security apparatus that Besteman calls “militarized global apartheid.” But it also shows how movements for migrant justice can disrupt these trends and bring down the walls in order to create a more liveable future. 

By Catherine Besteman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Militarized Global Apartheid Catherine Besteman offers a sweeping theorization of the ways in which countries from the global north are reproducing South Africa's apartheid system on a worldwide scale to control the mobility and labor of people from the global south. Exploring the different manifestations of global apartheid, Besteman traces how militarization and securitization reconfigure older forms of white supremacy and deploy them in new contexts to maintain this racialized global order. Whether using the language of security, military intervention, surveillance technologies, or detention centers and other forms of incarceration, these projects reinforce and consolidate the global north's political…


Book cover of Parable of the Sower

Michael J. Albert Why did I love this book?

The recent Octavia Butler renaissance means that the book needs no introduction. It remains a prescient, gripping, ominous, yet inspiring narrative that transports us into a future ravaged by climate change and neo-fascism.

The book is ruthlessly brutal in its account of what a collapse trajectory would look like in a future “United States” (existing in name and memory only). It anticipated a Trump-like figure coming to power well before this was remotely considered by mainstream American political scientists.

While dark, the book is also inspiring in that it shows how the breakdown of our current world could seed the emergence of new movements of mutual aid, solidarity, and earth-based spiritualities. 

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked Parable of the Sower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The extraordinary, prescient NEW YORK TIMES-bestselling novel.

'If there is one thing scarier than a dystopian novel about the future, it's one written in the past that has already begun to come true. This is what makes Parable of the Sower even more impressive than it was when first published' GLORIA STEINEM

'Unnervingly prescient and wise' YAA GYASI

--

We are coming apart. We're a rope, breaking, a single strand at a time.

America is a place of chaos, where violence rules and only the rich and powerful are safe. Lauren Olamina, a young woman with the extraordinary power to…


Book cover of The Ministry for the Future

Michael J. Albert Why did I love this book?

For those looking for a more hopeful account of how climate activism and progressive policy can co-create a more just and sustainable future beyond capitalism, look no further than this book. It is rightfully celebrated as an essential utopian novel of our time.

Most utopian visionaries merely describe the future they want without describing how we might actually get there. In contrast, Robinson shows us how we might cross what he calls the “Great Trench” that separates the current world from the hoped-for future.

This is not a starry-eyed utopian book: it clearly recognizes the intense political struggles, the worsening climate shocks, the suffering, the setbacks, and the violence that would inevitably accompany any transformation of capitalism.

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The Ministry for the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“The best science-fiction nonfiction novel I’ve ever read.” —Jonathan Lethem
 
"If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future." —Ezra Klein (Vox)

The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us. Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his favorite…


Book cover of The Deluge

Michael J. Albert Why did I love this book?

This is a lesser-known work of climate fiction compared to Ministry for the Future, but it is equally impressive in its erudition, realism, and gripping narrative trajectory. Markley has given us a chillingly realistic and affectively charged account of America’s likely near-term future.

I love the way he weaves together developments in climate, rightwing politics, and Artificial Intelligence to show how the American political landscape is likely to evolve over the next twenty to thirty years. While the climate crisis is the main storyline, Markley also shows us how big data and AI may converge to deliver unprecedented advances in the American surveillance state – while also potentially providing emancipatory tools for activists in unforeseen ways.

It is a long book, but hard to put down – and not recommended reading before bedtime!

By Stephen Markley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"This book is, simply put, a modern classic. If you read it, you'll never forget it. Prophetic, terrifying, uplifting." -Stephen King

From the bestselling author of Ohio, a masterful American epic charting a near future approaching collapse and a nascent but strengthening solidarity.

In the first decades of the 21st century, the world is convulsing, its governments mired in gridlock while a patient but unrelenting ecological crisis looms. America is in upheaval, battered by violent weather and extreme politics. In California in 2013, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, receives a death threat. His fate will become…


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Transforming Pandora

By Carolyn Mathews,

Book cover of Transforming Pandora

Carolyn Mathews Author Of Transforming Pandora

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Creator Meditator Messenger Shopaholic

Carolyn's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Transforming Pandora, women's fiction with a metaphysical undercurrent, is written with humour and a light touch. As the plot slips between two time frames, separated by more than thirty years, the reader explores her life and loves: her ups and downs.

In the opening chapter, Pandora is attempting to come to terms with her husband's death. At a friend's suggestion, she reluctantly attends an evening of clairvoyance, after which her life is transformed by a mysterious spirit who sets her on a new path.

Her romantic life is reignited when she encounters a new man, but complicated by the appearance of a significant figure from her past. At the same time her spiritual life is presented with a challenge when she's offered the chance of enlightenment via a heavenly correspondence course. Her quest in life to find her true purpose is within her reach. Will she grasp this opportunity? Or will she choose love over light?

Transforming Pandora

By Carolyn Mathews,

What is this book about?

Pandora, 51, childless, and still beautiful, is attempting to come to terms with her husband's death. Having a history of being drawn to the esoteric, yet remaining a healthy sceptic, she reluctantly attends an evening of clairvoyance and raises a spirit who sets her on a new path...


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Interested in climate change, the United Nations, and apartheid?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about climate change, the United Nations, and apartheid.

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