The best books to deal with catastrophic risks

The Books I Picked & Why

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

By Paul Hawken

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Why this book?

Multiple friends have given me this book as a gift and, after reading it, I understand why. A collaborative, inclusive group assembled by editor Paul Hawken scanned the world for the best approaches to cut harmful carbon pollution. The book answers the essential question of “What is possible?” to reverse the buildup of human-caused emissions in the atmosphere. This inspirational volume provides the answers by identifying the one hundred most promising solutions to combat global warming.


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Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America

By John M. Barry

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America

Why this book?

In 1927, biblical rains caused the levees that line the banks of the Mississippi River to collapse. The floodwaters covered an area about the size of New England, killed more than one thousand people, and left three-quarters of a million residents without food, water, or work. The Great Mississippi Flood was one of the worst natural disasters in American history. It laid bare the deep inequities in American society, which left Black families stranded without drinking water or food while rescuers hauled white families to safety. The flood changed America’s relationship with water forever. Offering a gripping account of the flooding and its lasting impacts, this New York Times bestseller serves as a warning of the harm that results from a lack of preparedness.


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All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Katharine K. Wilkinson

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

Why this book?

An anthology, All We Can Save captures the voices and expertise of sixty women leading efforts to address climate change, ranging from scientists to journalists to farmers. Laced with a sense of hope and possibility, the collection captures nuances, sentiments, and perspectives that are often absent in conversations about climate. The clear-eyed essays and stirring poems make one thing apparent: solving a crisis as complex as climate change requires a much larger negotiating table that gives everyone a seat.


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Odds Against Tomorrow

By Nathaniel Rich

Odds Against Tomorrow

Why this book?

Climate fiction, or “cli-fi” as it is now known, lets readers imagine the world about which scientists are warning, a world where climate-fueled extremes upend humanity’s everyday existence. This book tells the story of a Midwestern math whiz who studies “worst-case scenarios” for a living. When one of those scenarios collides with his own life, action, adventure, and love follow.


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Pale Horse, Pale Rider

By Katherine Anne Porter

Pale Horse, Pale Rider

Why this book?

After the 1918 flu pandemic killed an estimated 675,000 Americans, few novelists dared write about the tragedy. A survivor of the pandemic, Katherine Anne Porter took the plunge in 1939, ultimately winning a Pulitzer Prize for this short novel. The semi-autobiographical tale tells the story of a young newspaper writer who falls ill. As sickness overtakes her, the protagonist’s mind explores the past and the feared future. When the disease finally loosens its hold, she wakes to a new world, one which requires her to persevere in a society changed irreversibly by war and disease.


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