The best environmental and cli-fi adventure books

Why am I passionate about this?

I learned to love nature early, from the tadpoles in the swamps of ‘my’ New York woods to the scarlet tanagers that came through in the spring and the old tilted oak where I sometimes slept. In college in California, I became acquainted with the myriad ways in which we humans are still degrading the natural environment that is the prime source of our worldly and spiritual subsistence. Ever since, I’ve worked to protect the natural world, first as an activist, then a government official, then as a diplomat, and now as I write fictional intrigues set in the world we all need to conserve. I hope you’ll enjoy this latest effort.

I wrote...

Jaguar's Claw

By Brooks B. Yeager,

Book cover of Jaguar's Claw

What is my book about?

Jaguar's Claw is the story of a former environmental diplomat who plunges into the hottest environmental challenge on the planet – the threat of forest fire in the Amazon rainforest. Taz Blackwell isn’t looking for trouble – he’s more interested in pursuing a budding relationship with a saucy wildlife scientist who’s hiding a dangerous secret. Then an old friend from his diplomatic days recruits him to help Brazil build its first-ever wildland fire response system. The mysteries Taz encounters in the forest will test him in ways beyond his wildest imaginings and change his life forever. And the enemy he makes will return to haunt him and try the strength of his new but rocky romance.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Snow Leopard

Brooks B. Yeager Why did I love this book?

Matthiessen shows you why extraordinary men and women risk their lives and their sanity to meet nature on its own terms, and what they stand to gain by doing so. The story of his expedition to the western Himalayas in pursuit of the elusive snow leopard is full of color and excitement, but that’s not all – the book has many levels. It’s just as much a meditation on our role as humans in the natural world, and in what makes a spiritual life, as it is an adventure. But it’s a hell of an adventure. Matthiessen is a celebrated novelist, and the quality of his writing shows it. As a writer whose fiction is rooted in the environmental struggles of our time, which is how I conceive what I’m up to, he’s an inspiration. 

By Peter Matthiessen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A beautiful book, and worthy of the mountains he is among' Paul Theroux

'A delight' i Paper

This is the account of a journey to the dazzling Tibetan plateau of Dolpo in the high Himalayas. In 1973 Matthiessen made the 250-mile trek to Dolpo, as part of an expedition to study wild blue sheep. It was an arduous, sometimes dangerous, physical endeavour: exertion, blisters, blizzards, endless negotiations with sherpas, quaking cold. But it was also a 'journey of the heart' - amongst the beauty and indifference of the mountains Matthiessen was searching for solace. He was also searching for a…

Book cover of Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind

Brooks B. Yeager Why did I love this book?

If you’ve ever felt the sensation of being hunted by a predator who’s higher on the food chain than you are – a man-eater – Quammen's book will bring it all back to you. If you haven’t had that particular pleasure, the book’s discussion of the planet’s most exotic predators – crocodiles, lions, bears, and tigers – will fascinate and educate you. The focus here is not just the ‘big, fierce animals,’ but also the human communities that interact with them, fear them, track them, and try to understand them. In one desperately drawn passage, Quammen describes a tracker ‘who followed a single tiger for more than forty-five days... feeding himself from the leftovers of the tiger’s kills when his food stocks got low.’ Wow. 

By David Quammen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The beasts that have always ruled our jungles and our nightmares are dying. What will become of us without them? For millennia, lions, tigers, and their man-eating kin have kept our dark, scary forests dark and scary, and their predatory majesty has been the stuff of folklore. But by the year 2150 big predators may only exist on the other side of glass barriers and chain-link fences. Their gradual disappearance is changing the very nature of our existence. We no longer occupy an intermediate position on the food chain; instead we survey it invulnerably from aboveso far above that we…

Book cover of Blood of the Tiger: A Story of Conspiracy, Greed, and the Battle to Save a Magnificent Species

Brooks B. Yeager Why did I love this book?

Those of us who wage the battle to conserve wildlife don’t always do so in the field. A successful conservation strategy starts with good science, but it often requires effective communication and political strategies as well. J.A. Mills, the author of Blood of the Tiger, is a master at both. Mills, who researched and battled illegal wildlife trade for traffic and the World Wildlife Fund for two decades, gives the reader an often thrilling and always insightful look at the still unfinished battle to save wild tigers from extinction at the hands of poachers and Chinese moguls. She is as expert in describing the politics of CITES – the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species – as she is in detailing the operations of the Chinese markets where tiger parts are sold. Full disclosure: Although Ms. Mills and I have worked in very different domains of the global environmental struggle, we were colleagues at WWF and I am happy to count her as a friend. 

By J. A. Mills,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Blood of the Tiger takes readers on a wild ride to save one of the world’s rarest animals from a band of Chinese billionaires.
Many people think wild tigers are on the road to recovery, but they are in greater danger than ever—from a menace few experts saw coming.

There may be only three thousand wild tigers left in the entire world. More shocking is the fact that twice that many—some six thousand—have been bred on farms, not for traditional medicine but to supply a luxury-goods industry that secretly sells tiger-bone wine, tiger-skin décor, and exotic cuisine enjoyed by China’s…

Book cover of Cold Blood, Hot Sea

Brooks B. Yeager Why did I love this book?

Charlene D’Avanzo is a respected marine ecologist, and her expertise and love for the living creatures of the ocean shine through every page of Cold Blood, Hot Water. But in this, her first novel, she’s after much bigger fish than the ones who swim along with her research vessel. What she reveals to the reader is the real and potentially dire impacts of climate change on the ocean, and the dark motives that drive the energy industry and other malefactors to deny the threat. The wealth of scientific detail in her narrative never overwhelms the human drama of her story, and the result is a riveting tale of science and the sea.  

By Charlene D'Avanzo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cold Blood, Hot Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Sleuths will have to figure out who done it, but the real crime is the backdrop here: the endless heating of a fragile planet."
—BILL MCKIBBEN, author of Falter

A thrilling contribution to the new wave of cli–fi hitting the shelves, Cold Blood, Hot Sea pits climate change scientists against big–energy conspirators. When a colleague is killed aboard the research vessel Intrepid, oceanographer Mara Tusconi believes it's no accident. As she investigates, Mara becomes entangled in a scheme involving powerful energy executives with much to lose if her department colleagues continue their climate change research. Mara's career—and life—is on the…

Book cover of A Parrot Without a Name: The Search for the Last Unknown Birds on Earth

Brooks B. Yeager Why did I love this book?

A Parrot Without a Name is the tale of a quest as primitive and compelling as any grail search from medieval legend. It’s the story of John O’Neill and Theodore Parker, two of the 20th century’s most accomplished birders and ornithologists, and their pursuit of the least known and most elusive birds in the whole of South America. Parker, whose death in a small plane crash in the Ecuadorian mountains cut off one of the most famous and unique escapades in birding – he ended up knowing and recording the calls of more than 4000 bird species – shows up as a colorful character with all the quirks of other great scientific iconoclasts such as Alan Turing and Robert Oppenheimer. 

By Don Stap,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Parrot Without a Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Describes the work of two ornithologists, John O'Neill and Ted Parker, searching for unidentified species of birds in the rain forests of Peru

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Book cover of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Story-lover Middle East expert Curious Iconoclast Optimist

Ethan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Benghazi: A New History is a look back at the enigmatic 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, its long-tail causes, and devastating (and largely unexamined) consequences for US domestic politics and foreign policy. It contains information not found elsewhere, and is backed up by 40 pages of citations and interviews with more than 250 key protagonists, experts, and witnesses.

So far, the book is the main -- and only -- antidote to a slew of early partisan “Benghazi” polemics, and the first to put the attack in its longer term historical, political, and social context. If you want to understand some of the events that have shaped present-day America, from political polarization and the election of Donald Trump, to January 6, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russian expansionism, and the current Israel-Hamas war, I argue, you need to understand some of the twists and turns of America's most infamous "non-scandal, scandal.”

I was in Benghazi well before, during, and after the attack as a US diplomat and co-director of a medical NGO. I have written three books, and have been a contributor to The NYT, Foreign Affairs, Forbes, Salon, The Financial Times, Newsweek, and others.

By Ethan Chorin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On September 11, 2012, Al Qaeda proxies attacked and set fire to the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, killing a US Ambassador and three other Americans.  The attack launched one of the longest and most consequential 'scandals' in US history, only to disappear from public view once its political value was spent. 

Written in a highly engaging narrative style by one of a few Western experts on Libya, and decidely non-partisan, Benghazi!: A New History is the first to provide the full context for an event that divided, incited, and baffled most of America for more than three years, while silently reshaping…

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