The best books about near-future community-building amid the ruins of capitalism

Who am I?

I've been in love with ecological writing, the effort to communicate love for and grief over the destruction of the profound beauty of the natural world, since I wrote my first play about rainforest clear-cutting in fifth grade—if not before. In 2016, I started Reckoning, a nonprofit journal of creative writing about environmental justice, because I wanted to encourage others doing this work, to provide an independent platform for it in ways profit-driven traditional publishing wasn't, and to build a community where those writers could share and inspire each other. Seven years later, that community defines me; it's the most rewarding thing I've ever done.


I wrote...

Night Roll

By Michael J. DeLuca,

Book cover of Night Roll

What is my book about?

Aileen Dupree is single mother to a very tiny baby, both of them insomniac and sweltering in a near future Detroit summer. When her only real friend in town disappears, Aileen finds herself drawn into a community of cyclists pursuing a mythic figure on a kind of Wild Hunt through the night city. 

Night Roll is a surreal novella that explores how intentional community and radical kindness can work right in amid sinister corporate capitalism to redefine a resurgent, ruinous city. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Brown Girl in the Ring

Michael J. DeLuca Why did I love this book?

Nalo Hopkinson's first novel swept a bunch of awards when it came out in 1999. At the time, there was nothing else like it. The novel puts structural racism and the systemic abandonment of urban Black people in the 20th century front and center, framing them against a struggling, post-collapse future inner city Toronto drenched in West African myth and magic. I think of it as an ur-text of modern solarpunk. This book opened my eyes to the repressed history of environmental injustice in North American cities; it got me started on the research quest that would one day give me the tools to begin to understand Detroit.

By Nalo Hopkinson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Brown Girl in the Ring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The rich and the privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways -- farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother. She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.


Book cover of Telling the Map

Michael J. DeLuca Why did I love this book?

Christopher Rowe's prose is beautiful, vivid, and engrossing. His vision of a future mid-South dominated by rogue artificial intelligence conceals amid its wild phantasmagoria a surprisingly perceptive tenderness for the ways people cling together as they struggle to adapt and make space for each other in a complex and massively changed world. These stories also communicate an engrossing, evangelical love for bikes and cycling like nothing else I've read.

By Christopher Rowe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

There are ten stories here including one readers have waited ten long years for: in new novel-la The Border State Rowe revisits the world of his much-lauded story The Voluntary State. Competitive cyclists twins Michael and Maggie have trained all their lives to race internationally. One thing holds them back: their mother who years before crossed the border into Tennessee.

Praise for Christopher Rowe:

"Rowe's stories are the kind of thing you want on a cold, winter's night when the fire starts burning low. Terrific."
Justina Robson (Glorious Angels)

"As good as he is now, he'll keep getting better. Read…


Book cover of Arboreality

Michael J. DeLuca Why did I love this book?

In this profound and devastating novella, Campbell gives us a complex, multi-generational window on a post-warming, post-collapse world rebuilding itself. A cathedral grown, not built, out of living trees. A masterwork violin made from dying old-growth Sitka spruce that will long outlast the hand of its creator. A decaying library salvaged, its wealth of knowledge distributed to the living hands that need it most. Through these touchstones of human resilience and ingenuity, we're shown a path forward into a new world that doesn't escape loss or ignore it, but is burgeoned up by it into new vitality.

By Rebecca Campbell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NOVELLA-LENGTH EXPANSION OF THE 2020 THEODORE STURGEON MEMORIAL AWARD WINNER

A professor in pandemic isolation rescues books from the flooded and collapsing McPherson Library. A man plants fireweed on the hillside of his depopulated Vancouver Island suburb. An aspiring luthier poaches the last ancient Sitka spruce to make a violin for a child prodigy. Campbell's astonishing vision pulls the echoing effects of small acts and intimate moments through this multi-generational and interconnected story of how a West coast community survives the ravages of climate change.


Book cover of The Annual Migration Of Clouds

Michael J. DeLuca Why did I love this book?

Another short novel about people forging community in a world rendered almost unrecognizable by climate collapse and the devastating consequences of environmental injustice, this one provides a close focus on what it's like to be young, lost, and angry in the ruins of choices made before you were born. Nobody trying to live forward in these uncertain times should be without that perspective. As a parent struggling to come to terms with sending a kid out to grow up in this world, I know I've been desperate for it, and Mohamed's intensely close point of view makes it impossible not to inhabit. It's scary, but essential.

By Premee Mohamed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Annual Migration Of Clouds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novella set in post–climate disaster Alberta; a woman infected with a mysterious parasite must choose whether to pursue a rare opportunity far from home or stay and help rebuild her community


The world is nothing like it once was: climate disasters have wracked the continent, causing food shortages, ending industry, and leaving little behind. Then came Cad, mysterious mind-altering fungi that invade the bodies of the now scattered citizenry. Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to get away — to move to one of the last remnants of pre-disaster society — but…


Book cover of Sherwood Nation

Michael J. DeLuca Why did I love this book?

A ridiculously fun and eerily prescient folktale, about the rise of a Robin Hood figure and the community that rallies around her in a droughted, post-warming Portland, Oregon, I can basically never not recommend this book. Like Brown Girl in the Ring, this is one of the books that made me want to read and write about speculative community-building and environmental justice. Parzybok's clever, inviting prose makes this substantial novel a deceptively fast and joyful read, and I'm never not sad when it's over.

By Benjamin Parzybok,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Chosen for the 2016 Silicon Valley Reads program.

"Parzybok does this thing where you think, 'this is fun!' and then you are charmed, saddened, and finally changed by what you have read. It's like jujitsu storytelling."—Maureen F. McHugh, author of After the Apocalypse

In drought-stricken Portland, Oregon, a Robin Hood-esque water thief is caught on camera redistributing an illegal truckload of water to those in need. Nicknamed Maid Marian—real name: Renee, a twenty-something barista and eternal part-time college student—she is an instant folk hero. Renee rides her swelling popularity and the public's disgust at how the city has abandoned its…


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Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

By Michael Ruse,

Book cover of Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

Michael Ruse Author Of Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Teacher (professor) Author Darwin specialist Charles Dickens fanatic

Michael's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Why We Hate asks why a social animal like Homo sapiens shows such hostility to fellow species members. The invasion of the Ukraine by Russia? The antisemitism found on US campuses in the last year? The answer and solution lies in the Darwinian theory of evolution through natural selection.

Being social is biology’s way of ensuring survival and reproduction. With the coming of agriculture 10,000 years ago, new conditions – primarily much-increased population numbers – meant that sociality broke down as we battled for our share of much-reduced resources. But, as cultural change brought about our troubles, so culture offers prospects of a future where our social natures can emerge and thrive again.

Why We Hate: Understanding the Roots of Human Conflict

By Michael Ruse,

What is this book about?

An insightful and probing exploration of the contradiction between humans' enormous capacity for hatred and their evolutionary development as a social species

Why We Hate tackles a pressing issue of both longstanding interest and fresh relevance: why a social species like Homo sapiens should nevertheless be so hateful to itself. We go to war and are prejudiced against our fellow human beings. We discriminate on the basis of nationality, class, race, sexual orientation, religion, and gender. Why are humans at once so social and so hateful to each other? In this book, prominent philosopher Michael Ruse looks at scientific
understandings…


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