The best books about environmental catastrophe

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was eight years old, I read a book titled Dar Tellum: Stranger from a Distant Planet, by James R. Berry. It told the story of a boy who communicates with an alien intelligence to save the Earth from… global warming. That was in 1973, and it was the first time I’d heard about “the greenhouse effect”. Some things haven’t changed since then: I still read (and write) sci-fi, and I still have Dar Tellum on my bookshelf. But our climate is changing, and I’ve chosen four books of science fiction and one of science facts that help us think about the future—and present—of our planet.

I wrote...


By Joshua David Bellin,

Book cover of Ecosystem

What is my book about?

In Earth’s distant future, Nature has mutated into the Ecosystem, a planet-wide sentience that has driven humankind to the brink of extinction. While survivors seek shelter in small villages of stone, those known as Sensors—people gifted with the psychic ability to read the Ecosystem’s mind—travel in the wild to gather food, water, and fuel for their communities.

At seventeen, Sarah is the youngest Sensor in her village. She doesn’t fear the Ecosystem, but she hates it for killing her mother when Sarah was a child. Her hunt for revenge leads her into the Ecosystem’s deadliest places, where she discovers secrets that threaten to tear her—and her society—apart.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Drowned World

Joshua David Bellin Why did I love this book?

This classic science fiction novel, first published in 1962, is set in a future earth where the melting of the polar ice caps has turned the world’s cities into jungles teeming with life that hasn’t existed since the primordial past. The vision of a world where society has collapsed and human beings are no different than any animal struggling to survive is vivid and terrifying, and Ballard’s prose has a dreamy intensity that heightens the experience.

By J.G. Ballard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A debut novel, set in London in the near future. The capital city has been flooded and transformed into a tropical location where social aberrations only serve as an indicator of the level of corruption of the modern mentality.

Book cover of Orleans

Joshua David Bellin Why did I love this book?

In the wake of super-hurricanes and the deadly pandemic that follows, New Orleans has been quarantined from the rest of the United States, and those who seek to cross the border wall are killed. Narrator Fen, a member of the clan-based culture that has developed behind the wall, tells the story of her people and her personal quest for freedom in a dialect voice that is both beautifully rendered and brutally honest.

By Sherri L. Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Orleans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

First came the storms.

Then came the Fever.

And the Wall.


After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct…but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.  

Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood…

Book cover of Parable of the Sower

Joshua David Bellin Why did I love this book?

An unflinching portrait of a world plagued by heatwaves, water shortages, shrinking coastlines, and desperate poverty, Butler’s celebrated novel focuses on an African American teen who comes to accept the dire choices facing her and who founds a new religion, Earthseed, that promises hope, but not certainty, for the unknown future. Butler is simply one of the best sci-fi writers of all time, and Parable of the Sower shows her at the top of her game.

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

25 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 Water Knife

Joshua David Bellin Why did I love this book?

Another master sci-fi storyteller shows us a world where climate change runs rampant and mega-corporations have swooped in to monopolize the world’s dwindling supply of potable water. This novel can be particularly grisly, so be warned. If you’re looking for a (somewhat) less dark vision of the future, Bacigalupi has also written an excellent climate change duology for teens, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities.

By Paolo Bacigalupi,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Water Knife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the international bestselling author of the Hugo and Nebula award-winning The Windup Girl, comes an electrifying thriller set in a world on the edge of collapse.


The American Southwest has been decimated by drought, Nevada and Arizona skirmish over dwindling shares of the Colorado River, while California watches.

When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Las Vegas water knife Angel Velasquez is sent to investigate.

With a wallet full of identities and a tricked-out Tesla, Angel arrows south, hunting for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape…

Book cover of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Joshua David Bellin Why did I love this book?

My other choices were fiction; this one is not. Journalist Wallace-Walls assembles the scientific data on anthropogenic climate change and comes to an inescapable conclusion: it’s happening, and we can’t stop it from affecting us. What we can do is decide how bad it’s going to get, and that means making some tough choices in the next decade or two. As he sums up: “What happens, from here, will be entirely our own doing.”

By David Wallace-Wells,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'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…

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A Particular Man

By Lesley Glaister,

Book cover of A Particular Man

Lesley Glaister Author Of A Particular Man

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

About myself: As a novelist I’m crazy for detail. I believe it’s the odd and unexpected aspects of life that bring both characters and story worlds to life. This means that I try to be an observer at all times, keeping alert and using all five – and maybe six – senses. My perfect writing morning begins with a dog walk in the woods or on a beach, say, while keeping my senses sharp to the world around me and listening out for the first whisper of what the day’s writing will bring.

Lesley's book list on relationships and sexuality in post-World War II Britain

What is my book about?

This book is a literary historical novel. It is set in Britain immediately after World War II, when people – gay, straight, young, and old - are struggling to get back on track with their lives, including their love lives. Because of the turmoil of the times, the number of losses, and the dangerous and peculiar circumstances people find themselves in, sexual mores have become shaken and stirred.

But what happened after the war, in the time of healing and settling down? This novel examines the emotional, romantic, and sexual lives of three characters searching for a way to proceed.

A Particular Man

By Lesley Glaister,

What is this book about?

Love never dies in this novel by “a writer of addictive emotional thrillers” (The Independent).

Told from three perspectives A Particular Man is about love, truth and the unpredictable consequences of loss.

When Edgar dies in a Far East prisoner-of-war camp it breaks the heart of fellow prisoner Starling. In Edgar’s final moments, Starling makes him a promise. When, after the war, he visits Edgar’s family, to fulfil this promise, Edgar's mother Clementine mistakes him for another man.

Her mistake allows him access to Edgar’s home and to those who loved him, stirring powerful and disorientating emotions, and embroiling him…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dystopian, climate change, and New Orleans?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dystopian, climate change, and New Orleans.

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