The best books about climate disaster

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a speculative fiction writer who often works within the genre of "climate fiction." I grew up in southern Appalachia; my hometown is a lovely place, surrounded by the beauty and wildness of the Smoky Mountains. It also happens to be centered around a chemical company where a large portion of the town works, including my father and, for a brief time, myself. I've been fascinated with the dichotomy of nature and industry for a long time, and have spent years exploring these themes in my own work.


I wrote...

Book cover of Reckoning 2

What is my book about?

Lanny Boykin is determined to get away from her small hometown—away from the paper mill that's slowly killing her dad, away from handsy customers at the diner where she works, away from her school and church and neighborhood and all the other places she's never quite been able to fit in. She's made peace with leaving her best friend behind. She's said goodbye to the trails at Callaway Mountain, which are destined for destruction anyway. She's ready. It's time. Now if only the town would let her go.

"Lanny Boykin Rises up Singing" is a novelette about lake monsters, coal, and growing up in southern Appalachia. It appears in the second issue of Reckoning, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Young Men and Fire

Jess Barber Why did I love this book?

I came across Young Men and Fire when researching for a project of my own, and it immediately became one of my favorite books of all time. It's a meticulous work of investigative journalism, carefully uncovering the circumstances of the deadly 1949 Mann Gulch forest fire, and recounting Maclean's findings in heartbreaking clarity and detail. It's also a book of philosophy and poetry, full of breathtakingly gorgeous reflections on nature, and our place in and relationship to it.

By Norman MacLean,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Young Men and Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Norman Maclean sent the manuscript of A River Runs through It to New York publishers, he received a slew of rejections. One editor, so the story goes, replied, "It has trees in it." Forty years later, the title novella is widely recognized as one of the great American tales of the twentieth century, and Maclean as one of the most beloved writers of our time. Maclean's later triumph, Young Men and Fire, has over the decades also established itself as a classic of the American West. And with this twenty-fifth-anniversary edition, a fresh audience will be introduced to Maclean's…


Book cover of A Fire Story

Jess Barber Why did I love this book?

Another fire, another story, this one a graphic memoir about the 2017 wildfires that ravaged Northern California, claiming dozens of lives and destroying the author's home. It's a beautiful book, illustrated with a simplicity and starkness that pulls you inexorably forward. The night of the fire itself is present in the narrative, but the majority of the book is occupied with what comes after: the unexpected kindness of friends and strangers, the nonlinear progression of grief, the bureaucracy and absurdism of tragedy, and all the questions of how you begin to rebuild.

By Brian Fies,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Early morning on Monday, October 9, 2017, wildfires burned through Northern California, resulting in 44 fatalities. In addition, 6,200 homes and 8,900 structures and were destroyed. Author Brian Fies's firsthand account of this tragic event is an honest, unflinching depiction of his personal experiences, including losing his house and every possession he and his wife had that didn't fit into the back of their car. In the days that followed, as the fires continued to burn through the area, Brian hastily pulled together A Fire Story and posted it online-it immediately went viral. He is now expanding his original webcomic…


Book cover of Master of Poisons

Jess Barber Why did I love this book?

My favorite fantasy books are always ones that use the lens of genre to help us better understand the world we live in, and Master of Poisons accomplishes this with bells on. An epic fantasy set in a world where climate disaster looms, Master of Poisons draws from Hairston's extensive research and experience in West African, African-American, and Indigenous cultures to weave a rich narrative tapestry that casts an unflinching eye on sources of evil and cruelty, while still always finding a way to offer hope.

By Andrea Hairston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Master of Poisons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“This is a prayer hymn, a battle cry, a love song, a legendary call and response bonfire talisman tale. This is medicine for a broken world." —Daniel José Older

Named a Best of 2020 Pick for Kirkus Review's Best Books of 2020

Award-winning author Andrea Hairston weaves together African folktales and postcolonial literature into unforgettable fantasy in Master of Poisons

The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic…


Book cover of Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness: Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia

Jess Barber Why did I love this book?

I grew up in southern Appalachia. Every time I fly home to visit my family, I see the scars of mountaintop removal coal mining as the plane begins to descend over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lost Mountain chronicles the far-reaching effects of this devastating and unethical practice. I truly believe it ought to be required reading for anyone living in America today.

By Erik Reece,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A new form of strip mining has caused a state of emergency for the Appalachian wilderness and the communities that depend on it-a crisis compounded by issues of government neglect, corporate hubris, and class conflict. In this powerful call to arms, Erik Reece chronicles the year he spent witnessing the systematic decimation of a single mountain and offers a landmark defense of a national treasure threatened with extinction.


Book cover of Fever Dream

Jess Barber Why did I love this book?

Not all disasters are big and flashy. Some—most—are quiet, ambiguous, and hard to pin down until well after the fact. Fever Dream is a brilliant, unsettling, deeply claustrophobic story that unfurls this sort of disaster in the subtlest and most terrifying way imaginable. Originally published in 2014 (in Spanish, as Distancia de rescate), Fever Dream has appeared on every list of recommended eco-horror fiction in the last few years, and for absolutely good cause.

By Samanta Schweblin, Megan McDowell (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Fever Dream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE 2017

'The book I wish I had written' Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women and Animal

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a remote Argentinian hospital. A boy named David sits beside her.

She's not his mother. He's not her child.

At David's ever more insistent prompting, Amanda recounts a series of events from the apparently recent past, a conversation that opens a chest of horrors. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.

A chilling tale of maternal anxiety and ecological…


You might also like...

Liddy-Jean Marketing Queen and the Matchmaking Scheme

By Mari Sangiovanni,

Book cover of Liddy-Jean Marketing Queen and the Matchmaking Scheme

Mari Sangiovanni

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Introducing the irrepressible Liddy-Jean Carpenter, a young woman who has learning disabilities but also has a genius plan.

While Liddy-Jean spends her days doing minor office tasks with nobody paying attention, she sees how badly the wand-waving big boss treats the Marketing Department worker bees. So, she takes lots of notes for a business book to teach bosses to be better. Liddy-Jean likes office-mate Rose and Rose’s new friend Jenny, but she doesn’t like Rose’s creepy boyfriend. So how can she save Rose?

Liddy-Jean knows with certainty that love is love, and she concludes that Rose should be with Jenny, bosses should do better, and everybody needs the services of Liddy-Jean, Marketing Queen.

Liddy-Jean Marketing Queen and the Matchmaking Scheme

By Mari Sangiovanni,

What is this book about?

Novelist and filmmaker Mari SanGiovanni introduces readers to the irrepressible Liddy-Jean Carpenter, a matchmaker with special talents who will charm readers with her wit, wisdom, and sensibilities in this warm, enchanting love-is-love office romance.

Liddy-Jean Carpenter has learning disabilities. But she also has a surprisingly genius plan.

While she spends her days doing minor office tasks with nobody paying attention, she sees how badly the wand-waving big boss treats the Marketing Department worker bees. So, she takes lots of notes for a business book to teach bosses to be better.

While compiling pages of bad behavior notes, she finds she…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Northern California, Appalachia, and magic-supernatural?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Northern California, Appalachia, and magic-supernatural.

Northern California Explore 20 books about Northern California
Appalachia Explore 48 books about Appalachia
Magic-Supernatural Explore 613 books about magic-supernatural