The best books using science, nature, and fantasy to keep Earth in the center of the story

Who am I?

As a kid, being shy and often scared witless of monsters under the bed, books were my refuge. I especially loved fantasy and great story-telling, which, at first, just took my mind off of things. Then, sneakily, the stories began to teach me how to find courage when facing monsters, as well as to value hopefulness, invention, and the study of science and nature. The earth is in a pickle now. There are monsters under the bed. We need science to help us find the right tools. We need stories to fire our inventiveness and our courage. Here are some great books for that. They will suit young readers and beyond.

I wrote...

The Tiltersmith

By Amy Herrick,

Book cover of The Tiltersmith

What is my book about?

Inside these pages you will find old myths, new climate chaos, four bickering middle school friends, and a suspiciously charming goat-footed stranger who appears to be trying to knock the earth right off its axis. It’s a story for anybody who’s interested in the mysterious powers of friendship, science, and the world in the back of the world. The one we usually can’t see. All middle schoolers and beyond, welcome!

The Tiltersmith is a stand-alone novel to follow in the footsteps of The Time Fetch.

The books I picked & why

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The Last Cuentista

By Donna Barba Higuera,

Book cover of The Last Cuentista

Why this book?

If I had to choose my favorite odd behavior that makes humans, human, I’d choose story-telling. Not only is it entertaining, all of civilization has grown up upon it.

The spirited protagonist of The Last Cuentista is a fourteen-year-old girl who wishes to become a storyteller like her grandmother, but looming overhead is a comet that will destroy the earth. As Petra boards the spaceship with her parents along with a small colony of other scientists, she fears that storytelling will be of little value in the hard work ahead. But awakened 350 years later, she is horrified to discover that a sinister Collective has taken control of the ship and wiped out everyone’s memories of earth. Except, by accident, her own. Storytelling turns out to be her greatest secret weapon as she works to restore the lost memories of enough allies to fight the Collective and then inspire them to build a new world.

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Book cover of A Wrinkle in Time

Why this book?

If you haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time yet, I envy you the first-time experience! For me, it blew open new worlds and gave me the courage I needed in my early teens. 

The story begins on a dark and stormy night. Teenaged misfit Meg is in the kitchen with her mother and brother, silently wishing that her missing physicist father was with them. Her thoughts are abruptly interrupted by an odd tramplike person who has come out of the storm to deliver some startling news. Before the reader has time to catch a breath, the story is employing science, fantasy, celestial beings, and—for one of the first times in literature—wormholes! It remains an irresistible, noble-hearted story and it carries a warning about earth, as timely now, as it was then.


By Carl Hiaasen,

Book cover of Hoot

Why this book?

There are lots of books now out about the environmental dangers facing our earth. They are full of doom and darkness. For good reason. But I firmly believe we’re also going to need optimism and humor and quick wits if we’re gonna make it through. Hoot is a great place to start looking! The story takes place in Florida and has a wonderful cast of very funny eco-warrior middle-graders, along with greedy developers, bumbling policemen, and a bag of poisonous water moccasins. Most important is the colony of tiny burrowing owls who are about to be bulldozed underground for the sake of a new Pancake House. So, if you are searching for a joy ride along with a big dose of hope for the world, here it is.

The Wild Robot

By Peter Brown,

Book cover of The Wild Robot

Why this book?

I am fascinated by stories of robots evolving into sentient beings. For a change, in this one, the robots do not rise up to destroy their masters. Instead, we are invited into a funny, tender, and exciting tale about a robot who finds herself castaway on a wilderness island and must learn what her purpose is and how to survive. As she and the animals who live there grow closer and closer together, she begins to find a home in the wilderness. A rich story that works on many levels at once. It is a tale about the interdependence of all things in nature, as well as about the perils and possibilities that technology is bringing to us. Best of all, it’s about kindness. 

My Family and Other Animals

By Gerald Durrell,

Book cover of My Family and Other Animals

Why this book?

Some of it may seem fantastical, but Durrell claims it’s all perfectly true. Decide for yourself which bits are exaggerations, but this is the book I’d take if exiled to a distant planet.

In 1935, ten-year-old naturalist, Gerald Durrell, moves with his eccentric family from wet, gray England to the island of Corfu and finds himself in a sun-dazzled paradise of olive trees, animals, and insects. He spends his time collecting a zoo of tortoises, seagulls, toads, praying mantises and geckos, driving his family to distraction. The scorpion, he stores in a matchbox until someone opens it, looking for a match. The heat-stroked water snakes go in the bathtub, while a pair of baby magpies swoop around the house stealing food and family treasures. An unforgettable, hilarious tale of childhood and the preciousness of earth’s beauty. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, owls, and girls?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about survival, owls, and girls.

Survival Explore 112 books about survival
Owls Explore 16 books about owls
Girls Explore 67 books about girls

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Into the Wild, The Outermost House, and Anne of Green Gables if you like this list.