The best books to expand the way you think about climate change and our place in nature

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up moving around through so many different countries that as an adult I became fascinated with the impact cultural lenses have on the way we think about nature and our place in the world. As a biologist, I’ve found that science is not as objective as it seems, and that my understanding is always deepened by a human context—be it personal, political or cultural. As a young adult, I tried to strip my world of the human context entirelyI worked in many remote field camps as a young adult and wrote a book about my experience in Antarctica.

I wrote...

The Last Cold Place: A Field Season Studying Penguins in Antarctica

By Naira de Gracia,

Book cover of The Last Cold Place: A Field Season Studying Penguins in Antarctica

What is my book about?

Lab Girl meets Why Fish Don’t Exist in this brilliant, fascinating memoir about a young scientist’s experience studying penguins in Antarctica—a firsthand account of the beauty and brutality of this remote climate, the direct effects of climate change on animals, and the challenges of fieldwork.

Naira de Gracia’s The Last Cold Place offers a dramatic, captivating window into a once-in-a-lifetime experience: a season living and working in a remote outpost in Antarctica alongside seals, penguins, and a small crew of fellow field workers. In one of the most inhospitable environments in the world, Naira follows a generation of chinstrap penguins from their parents’ return to shore to build nests from pebbles until the chicks themselves are old enough to head out to sea.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Ministry for the Future

Naira de Gracia Why did I love this book?

Humans need imagination to help us see a way beyond or through problems.

This is exactly what Kim Stanley Robinson’s book provides for climate change. As someone who works in and writes about climate change every day, I found this book deeply optimistic and uplifting.

Stanley Robinson is a genius at creating a realistic political and social landscape, and his storytelling thread pulls you through what meaningfully halting climate change might look like. The first third of the book is very bleak—but hang in there.

The book is impactful because it is rooted in a beginning that feels so realistic—things will get worse before they get better. Stanley Robinson helped me see how small community projects can connect with global movements, how every person’s actions count, and how human ingenuity can be applied to this most ominous problem. 

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?


“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 Lab Girl

Naira de Gracia Why did I love this book?

Lab Girl imbues the practice of doing science with such personal joy and wonder that for anyone who’s involved with science or generally likes learning about plants, this is an irresistible read!

She layers her personal life beautifully with her scientific career, bringing in vivid and enchanting personalities. Science is often presented as objective and impersonal (out of necessity) so it was so refreshing to read a book that imbues findings so thoroughly with a personal passion and subjectivity. 

By Hope Jahren,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Lab Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER •NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist.

"Does for botany what Oliver Sacks’s essays did for neurology, what Stephen Jay Gould’s writings did for paleontology.” —The New York Times

In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary…

Book cover of Climate: A New Story

Naira de Gracia Why did I love this book?

This book shifted the way I think about climate change and made me appreciate a renewed focus on the biodiversity crisis, which is just as urgent.

Eisenstein presents alternative ways of framing and thinking about these issues and always leaves you with something to think about. One small caveat is that there is some science skepticism in here and some less-than-stellar ideas—you’ll just have to use your own judgments.

Eisenstein’s books are always a mixed bag, but I really felt like most of this one resonated with me and challenged me in all the right ways.

By Charles Eisenstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A stirring case for a wholesale reimagining of the framing, tactics, and goals we employ in our journey to heal from ecological destruction
With research and insight, Charles Eisenstein details how the quantification of the natural world leads to a lack of integration and our “fight” mentality. With an entire chapter unpacking the climate change denier’s point of view, he advocates for expanding our exclusive focus on carbon emissions to see the broader picture beyond our short-sighted and incomplete approach. The rivers, forests, and creatures of the natural and material world are sacred and valuable in their own right—not simply…

Book cover of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Naira de Gracia Why did I love this book?

Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book became an instant classic and is a favorite around the world.

Her writing is gentle, and imbued with a deep sense of wonder and responsibility. She offers the wisdom of her indigenous roots throughout and grapples with finding her place as a scientist, indigenous person, and mother in the modern world.

Truly a unique and beautiful book that will no doubt prove to be as relevant and timeless in 50 years as it was when it was released.

By Robin Wall Kimmerer,

Why should I read it?

47 authors picked Braiding Sweetgrass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Called the work of "a mesmerizing storyteller with deep compassion and memorable prose" (Publishers Weekly) and the book that, "anyone interested in natural history, botany, protecting nature, or Native American culture will love," by Library Journal, Braiding Sweetgrass is poised to be a classic of nature writing. As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer asks questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take "us on a journey that is…

Book cover of The Biology of Wonder: Aliveness, Feeling and the Metamorphosis of Science

Naira de Gracia Why did I love this book?

This is such a rich, lush book that will completely reframe the way you think about animals, yourself, and the world we live in.

Weber mixes science with expansive philosophy to argue (among many other things) that every being has an innate subjectivity, experiences pain and pleasure, that life recognizes life, and that the world is co-created by those that inhabit it.

I found myself coming back to this book again and again—the ideas have stayed with me despite having read it over 5 years ago. If you are interested in deeply interrogating the way Western science describes and positions humans within the world, then this is the book for you.

By Andreas Weber,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The disconnection between humans and nature is perhaps one of the most fundamental problems faced by our species today. The schism between us and the natural world is arguably the root cause of most of the environmental catastrophes unraveling around us. However, until we come to terms with the depths of our alienation, we will continue to fail to understand that what happens to nature also happens to us. In The Biology of Wonder author Andreas Weber proposes a new approach to the biological sciences that puts the human back in nature. He argues that feelings and emotions, far from…

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Rewriting Illness

By Elizabeth Benedict,

Book cover of Rewriting Illness

Elizabeth Benedict

New book alert!

What is my book about?

What happens when a novelist with a “razor-sharp wit” (Newsday), a “singular sensibility” (Huff Post), and a lifetime of fear about getting sick finds a lump where no lump should be? Months of medical mishaps, coded language, and Doctors who don't get it.

With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling artistry of an acclaimed novelist, Elizabeth Benedict recollects her cancer diagnosis after discovering multiplying lumps in her armpit. In compact, explosive chapters, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity, she chronicles her illness from muddled diagnosis to “natural remedies,” to debilitating treatments, as she gathers sustenance from family, an assortment of urbane friends, and a fearless “cancer guru.”

Rewriting Illness is suffused with suspense, secrets, and the unexpected solace of silence.

Rewriting Illness

By Elizabeth Benedict,

What is this book about?

By turns somber and funny but above all provocative, Elizabeth Benedict's Rewriting Illness: A View of My Own is a most unconventional memoir. With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling skills of a seasoned novelist, she brings to life her cancer diagnosis and committed hypochondria. As she discovers multiplying lumps in her armpit, she describes her initial terror, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity as she indulges in "natural remedies," among them chanting Tibetan mantras, drinking shots of wheat grass, and finding medicinal properties in chocolate babka. She tracks the progression of her illness from muddled diagnosis to debilitating treatment…

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Interested in climate change, indigenous peoples, and the United Nations?

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