The best, superlative, and wonderful books about climate and plants, from forests to farms

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated with plants. Their shapes, their colors, their beauty, even the plants that are known to be harmful to humans (poison ivy, puncture vine) had appeal to me. Plants are, by far, the most prolific, the biggest, the oldest, the most complex of organisms. And yet, as a pre-med student, classes on botany were never recommended. Sad. These books delve into the complexity, the wonder of plants, and how they interact with humans. From the sheer poetic pronouncements of Michael Pollan to the straightforward prose of Richard Manning, here is a chance to see the breadth and depth; our rewards and struggles with the plant kingdom.  


I wrote...

Greenhouse Planet: How Rising CO2 Changes Plants and Life as We Know It

By Lewis H. Ziska,

Book cover of Greenhouse Planet: How Rising CO2 Changes Plants and Life as We Know It

What is my book about?

Climate change—extreme hurricanes, droughts, and floods—old testament wrath made real. Yet the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) of and by itself will also alter all life. This isn’t based on new or revolutionary science, but the knowledge that CO2 is the source of carbon for plant growth, and that more of it will affect how plants grow and function. Such a direct effect will have, well, consequences. From plant-based medicines to the nutritional quality of rice; from biodiversity of forests, to invasive plant species. This is an overview of these effects, the good, the bad and the OMG, and the current political morass that has made investigating the role of CO2 in plant biology so damn difficult. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

Lewis H. Ziska Why did I love this book?

This is number one on my list. Exceptional in every sense, from the almost poetic language used to describe plant-human interactions to the ability to put a specific plant species (from apples to potatoes) in historical context. It is transformative. A plants-eye view of humans and their botanical favorites.

By Michael Pollan,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Botany of Desire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A farmer cultivates genetically modified potatoes so that a customer at McDonald's half a world away can enjoy a long, golden french fry. A gardener plants tulip bulbs in the autumn and in the spring has a riotous patch of colour to admire. Two simple examples of how humans act on nature to get what we want. Or are they? What if those potatoes and tulips have evolved to gratify certain human desires so that humans will help them multiply? What if, in other words, these plants are using us just as we use them? In blending history, memoir and…


Book cover of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Lewis H. Ziska Why did I love this book?

A well-written erudite work that explores all aspects of civilization relative to the degree and rate of global warming. It illustrates a broad and compelling narrative of all the plant aspects, from Hunger to Policy. It uses language that is incredibly descriptive, and very relatable to bring the impact of climate change home to readers who may be unfamiliar with all of the complexities of climate change.

By David Wallace-Wells,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Uninhabitable Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**SUNDAY TIMES AND THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER**

'An epoch-defining book' Matt Haig
'If you read just one work of non-fiction this year, it should probably be this' David Sexton, Evening Standard

Selected as a Book of the Year 2019 by the Sunday Times, Spectator and New Statesman
A Waterstones Paperback of the Year and shortlisted for the Foyles Book of the Year 2019
Longlisted for the PEN / E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

It is worse, much worse, than you think.

The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says…


Book cover of The End of Food

Lewis H. Ziska Why did I love this book?

If you were ever curious about where your food comes from, the strain and effort and environmental costs associated with it, boy is this the book for you! I learned so, so much from reading this, and I assign chapters to my class every year. It is thoroughly researched, and addresses all the vulnerable points of the current food system—especially in industrial countries. I guarantee you will have a different perspective of where your food comes from after reading this book. It is nothing less than a call to change the current food system if we are to deal with climatic uncertainty.

By Paul Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The emergence of large-scale food production gave us unprecedented abundance - but at a steep and ultimately unsustainable price. Relentless cost-cutting has made our food systems vulnerable to contamination and disease. More than a billion people are overweight or obese, yet roughly the same number are still malnourished. Over-crowded countries like China are already planning for tightened global food supplies. As the world veers back to a time of hunger and uncertainty, Paul Roberts explores the vulnerable miracle of our modern food economy and pinpoints the decisions we must make to avoid the coming meltdown.


Book cover of The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World

Lewis H. Ziska Why did I love this book?

Well-researched with on-the-ground examples of climate change, this provides a food systems outlook that anyone who has ever stepped foot on a farm can relate to.  Easily read and understandable, it provides a global perspective of climate risks from fisheries to the role of GMOs in addressing shortages, it is an excellent primer for anyone interested in the future of food.

By Amanda Little,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


WINNER OF THE 2019 NAUTILUS BOOK AWARD 

In the fascinating story of the sustainable food revolution, an environmental journalist and professor asks the question: Is the future of food looking bleak—or better than ever?
 
“In The Fate of Food, Amanda Little takes us on a tour of the future. The journey is scary, exciting, and, ultimately, encouraging.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sixth Extinction

Climate models show that global crop production will decline every decade for the rest of this century due to drought, heat, and flooding. Water supplies are in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the world’s population is expected to…


Book cover of Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization

Lewis H. Ziska Why did I love this book?

Against the Grain is a one-of-a-kind book. Unlike many hagiographies of agriculture gives a more realistic interpretation of how agriculture came to be; the costs associated with its adoption, and the hold it has over all humankind. It gives insight into that cost through an economic and environmental lens. After you read this book, you will look at what is at the end of your fork very, very differently.

By Richard Manning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this provocative, wide-ranging book, Against the Grain, Richard Manning offers a dramatically revisionist view of recent human evolution, beginning with the vast increase in brain size that set us apart from our primate relatives and brought an accompanying increase in our need for nourishment. For 290,000 years, we managed to meet that need as hunter-gatherers, a state in which Manning believes we were at our most human: at our smartest, strongest, most sensually alive. But our reliance on food made a secure supply deeply attractive, and eventually we embarked upon the agricultural experiment that has been the history of…


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The Truth About Unringing Phones

By Lara Lillibridge,

Book cover of The Truth About Unringing Phones

Lara Lillibridge

New book alert!

What is my book about?

When Lara was four years old, her father moved from Rochester, New York, to Anchorage, Alaska, a distance of over 4,000 miles. She spent her childhood chasing after him, flying a quarter of the way around the world to tug at the hem of his jacket.

Now that he is in his eighties, she contemplates her obligation to an absentee father. The Truth About Unringing Phones is an exploration of responsibility and culpability told in experimental and fragmented essays.

The Truth About Unringing Phones

By Lara Lillibridge,

What is this book about?

When Lara was four years old, her father moved from Rochester, New York, to Anchorage, Alaska, a distance of over 4,000 miles. She spent her childhood chasing after him, flying a quarter of the way around the world to tug at the hem of his jacket. Now that he is in his eighties, she contemplates her obligation to an absentee father.




The Truth About Unringing Phones: Essays on Yearning is an exploration of responsibility and culpability told in experimental and fragmented essays.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in agriculture, climate change, and plants?

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

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