The best new fiction books about climate change and what we're up against

Sandra K. Barnidge Author Of Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction
By Sandra K. Barnidge

The Books I Picked & Why

A Children's Bible

By Lydia Millet

A Children's Bible

Why this book?

This unflinching novel follows a group of twelve children and teenagers through a world-ending storm and its aftermath. The primary tension is between the teens and their impotent parents, who descend into alcohol, drugs, and orgies as the storm hits and leave their children to mostly fend for themselves. The message embedded in this setup is hardly subtle, but Millet brilliantly incorporates and subverts Christian iconography to craft a startlingly original Book of Genesis for those born into the climate crisis.


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How Beautiful We Were

By Imbolo Mbue

How Beautiful We Were

Why this book?

Non-Western countries already carry a vastly disproportionate share of the burdens of climate change, and Mbue’s novel is among the first and best to tackle this reality head-on. Set in the fictional village of Kosawa in an unnamed country in West Africa, the story follows the villagers in their attempt to fight back against the Big Oil company that has poisoned their water, land, and children’s bodies. Over decades, we follow the village children as they grow up and make complicated choices about their own futures and that of their homeland. This is a thoughtful, clear-eyed, and richly nuanced story that resists easy resolutions about complex environmental and political challenges.


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Migrations

By Charlotte McConaghy

Migrations

Why this book?

Free-spirited Franny Lynch has spent a lifetime wandering away from those she loves — and circling back again and again. A mysterious tragedy prompts her to undertake the biggest journey of all when she joins the crew of the struggling Saghani, one of the last commercial fishing vessels still operating in the midst of the long-predicted global mass extinction of animals on land and in the oceans. Franny convinces the skeptical and superstitious captain to help her track the last migration of Arctic terns to Antarctica, the longest-known bird migration in the world. Franny’s mercurial nature elegantly unfolds over the course of the story, and the devastating ending offers only as much hope as we deserve about our lonely future on this planet.


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Gold Fame Citrus

By Claire Vaye Watkins

Gold Fame Citrus

Why this book?

This speculative dystopia about drought-ruined California is equal parts lyrical gut-punch and surrealist adventure story. Main characters Luz and Ray set up residence in an abandoned celebrity mansion, subsisting on whatever they can scavenge. Their precarious existence is upended when they cross paths with a toddler, and the trio sets off into the Dune Sea in search of a life that offers more than mere survival. A warning: this is not a cool breeze of a read. But if you’re curious about the psychic impact of prolonged heat, thirst, and desperation, Watkins offers a masterclass on the grimy reality of human resilience in a hostile world of our own making.


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Appleseed

By Matt Bell

Appleseed

Why this book?

This remixing of the American legend of Johnny Appleseed with climate science, ecoterrorism, and elements of Roman mythology results in a very big book — literally. At almost 500 pages, there’s a lot of, well, everything. But at its organic core, this is a story about the preservation of our most basic and necessary elements. As the story moves further into the distant future, the fight to protect the scraps and slivers of non-robotic life becomes more focused as it does urgent. By the end, what emerges is the gnawing sense that perhaps the mythology we’ve constructed around technology as our salvation is inhibiting the mysterious yet ultimately more powerful magic of a natural world quite capable of re-propagating itself if only we humans could bring ourselves to stand aside.


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