The best eco-fiction books that make you care and give you hope

Why am I passionate about this?

The environment and how we treat it has always been important to me since I was a child. My passion for storytelling morphed into writing, but the underlying spark came through environmental activism. I got a university degree in aquatic ecology, published numerous papers, and now write eco-fiction that is grounded in accurate science with a focus on human ingenuity and compassion. The most meaningful and satisfying eco-fiction is ultimately optimistic literature that explores serious issues with heroic triumph. Each of these favourites intimately connects human to environment. Each moved me to cry, think, and deeply care. 


I wrote...

A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

Book cover of A Diary in the Age of Water

What is my book about?

A Diary in the Age of Water follows the climate-induced journey of Earth and humanity through four generations of women, each with a unique relationship to water.

Centuries from now, in a dying boreal forest in what used to be northern Canada, Kyo, a young acolyte called to service in the Exodus, yearns for Earth’s past—the Age of Water—before the “Water Twins” destroyed humanity. Looking for answers and plagued by vivid dreams of this holocaust, Kyo discovers the diary of Lynna, a limnologist from that time of severe water scarcity just prior to the destruction. In her work for a global giant that controls Earth’s water, Lynna witnesses and records in her diary the disturbing events that will soon lead to humanity’s demise.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Overstory

Nina Munteanu Why did I love this book?

What resonated with me on so many levels was the author’s use of lyrical and beautiful language in describing trees and forests: as characters. I’m an ecologist and I felt a particular kinship with the botanist Patricia Westerford, a disabled introvert who must swim against the hegemonic tide with heretical ideas. When she argues that trees communicate, learn, trade goods and services, have intelligence and society, her scientific peers ridicule her and end her university career. This story is as much her triumph over overwhelming challenges as it is about the dwindling majestic forests that must quietly endure our careless apathy as they continue to offer their gift of life-giving oxygen and medicinal aerosols for hundreds of years. 

By Richard Powers,

Why should I read it?

29 authors picked The Overstory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of-and paean to-the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers's twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours-vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see…


Book cover of Barkskins

Nina Munteanu Why did I love this book?

This 600-year saga about human-environment interaction through the forest industry in Canada evoked emotional connections with my environment, the Canadian forests, and the plight of indigenous Canadians. From the arrival of the Europeans in pristine forest to its destruction under the veil of global warming, Proulx weaves generational stories of two settler families into a crucible of terrible greed and tragic irony. The bleak impressions by the immigrants of a harsh environment crawling with pests underlie their combative mindset of a presumed infinite resource. I was particularly moved by the linked fate between the Mi’kmaq and the majestic pine forests, how both were similarly mistreated and changed. This history is also my legacy. As the daughter of immigrants, I felt both educated and moved.  

By Annie Proulx,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2017

NOW A MAJOR TELEVISION SERIES

From Annie Proulx, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, comes her masterwork: an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about the taking down of the world's forests.

In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a "seigneur," for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters - barkskins. Rene suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to…


Book cover of The Breathing Hole

Nina Munteanu Why did I love this book?

What struck me most was the use of simple language to portray powerful intimacy and connection between human and animal, and by extension, environment. Murphy’s humorous dialogue, together with sparing, often ironic, descriptions, struck deep into my heart. The play starts in 1535 on an ice shelf up north—when an Inuk widow risks her life to save a lost one-eared polar bear cub on an ice floe, and adopts him. In the last scene five hundred years later in the oily waters of the Northwest Passage, the same bear—starving and cruelly injured by eco-tourists on a cruise ship—struggles to keep from drowning. No one on the ship cares. No one weeps for him. But I did. I wept for him and for his world destroyed by apathy. 

By Colleen Murphy, Siobhan Arnatsiaq-Murphy, Janet Tamalik McGrath (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1535, Hummiktuq, an Inuit widow, has a strange dream about the future. The next day, she discovers a bear cub floating on a piece of ice near a breathing hole. Despite the concerns of her community, she adopts him as her own and names him Angu’řuaq. In 1845, Angu’řuaq and his mate Panik wander into a chance meeting between Inuit hunters and explorers from the Franklin Expedition. By 2029, when surveyors and entrepreneurs examine the now-melting land for future opportunities, Angu’řuaq encounters the passengers and crew of a luxury cruise ship as it slinks through the oily waters of…


Book cover of The Windup Girl

Nina Munteanu Why did I love this book?

Paolo Bacigalupi’s biopunk science fiction novel explores a 23rd-century post-food crash Thailand after global warming has raised sea levels and depleted carbon fuel sources. The main character, Emiko, is a ‘windup,’ a modified human who is vilified and abused by humanity, despite her abilities. I was struck by how well this work of ‘mundane science fiction’ used Emiko as an avatar for a trickster Nature after abuse by humanity through the disrespect of reckless gene-hacking, greedy corporate espionage, and arbitrary foreign takeovers. I cheered Emiko’s breakaway from her oppressors as she emerged from a cloak of obedience and embraced her survival in this changing world of unintended consequences—only realizing later that I was cheering for that changing world and the optimism it promised. 

By Paolo Bacigalupi,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Windup Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE HUGO, NEBULA, LOCUS, JOHN W. CAMPBELL AND COMPTON CROOK AWARDS

The Windup Girl is the ground-breaking and visionary modern classic that swept the board for every major science fiction award it its year of publication.

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's calorie representative in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, he combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets the windup girl - the beautiful and enigmatic Emiko - now abandoned to the slums. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of…


Book cover of Memory of Water

Nina Munteanu Why did I love this book?

This book features a passion of mine as an ecologist and mother: water and how we treat it. Life-giving symbols of water flow throughout this story, which explores a post-climate change world of sea level rise in which freshwater is severely rationed due to scarcity. Water’s very nature is tightly interwoven with the main character, Noria, a tea master who guards a secret spring in the fell by her house against cruel government agents who would kill her for water crimes. In prose both sensual and lyrical, this book explores honor, sacrifice, betrayal, and friendship, and how each can be victimized through commodification in a power play of ideology. I found myself pulled in by the intrigue even as I cherished and lingered in the beautiful metaphoric prose.

By Emmi Itaranta,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Memory of Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

With the lyricism of Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, and the world building brilliance of Atwood, Emmi Itaranta's effortless and poignant debut novel is a coming of age story full of emotional drama and wonderment. 'Where itaranta shines is in her understated but compelling characters' Red star review, Publishers Weekly. Some secrets demand betrayal. 'You're seventeen, and of age now, and therefore old enough to understand what I'm going to tell you,' my father said. 'This place doesn't exist.' 'I'll remember,' I told him, but didn't realise until later what kind of promise I had made. When Noria Kaitio reaches…


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A Theory of Expanded Love

By Caitlin Hicks,

Book cover of A Theory of Expanded Love

Caitlin Hicks Author Of A Theory of Expanded Love

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

My life and work have been profoundly affected by the central circumstance of my existence: I was born into a very large military Catholic family in the United States of America. As a child surrounded by many others in the 60s, I wrote, performed, and directed family plays with my numerous brothers and sisters. Although I fell in love with a Canadian and moved to Canada, my family of origin still exerts considerable personal influence. My central struggle, coming from that place of chaos, order, and conformity, is to have the courage to live an authentic life based on my own experience of connectedness and individuality, to speak and be heard. 

Caitlin's book list on coming-of-age books that explore belonging, identity, family, and beat with an emotional and/or humorous pulse

What is my book about?

Trapped in her enormous, devout Catholic family in 1963, Annie creates a hilarious campaign of lies when the pope dies and their family friend, Cardinal Stefanucci, is unexpectedly on the shortlist to be elected the first American pope.

Driven to elevate her family to the holiest of holy rollers in the parish, Annie is tortured by her own dishonesty. But when “The Hands” visits her in her bed and when her sister finds herself facing a scandal, Annie discovers her parents will do almost anything to uphold their reputation and keep their secrets safe. 

Questioning all she has believed and torn between her own gut instinct and years of Catholic guilt, Annie takes courageous risks to wrest salvation from the tragic sequence of events set in motion by her parents’ betrayal.

A Theory of Expanded Love

By Caitlin Hicks,


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