The best novels seeking hope after the end of the world

Why am I passionate about this?

Can stories bring a human scale to something as all-encompassing as climate change? In 2011, I began an MA in Literature and Environment with this question weighing on my mind. I finished my degree two years later with a draft of my debut novel, Under This Forgetful Sky. I’ve come to understand the climate crisis, in many ways, as a crisis of imagination. Its enormity tests the limits of the imaginable. What if the world as we know it ends? What would life look like on the other side? The books on this list reckon with the fears these questions bring while also gesturing beautifully, unsentimentally, courageously toward hope. 


I wrote...

Under This Forgetful Sky

By Lauren Yero,

Book cover of Under This Forgetful Sky

What is my book about?

Under This Forgetful Sky is a near-future story of star-crossed love and resistance set in a world divided by walls. Rumi Sabzwari has spent his entire life behind the armored walls of St. Iago, which protect its citizens from the outside world’s environmental devastation. But when rebels infect his father with a fatal virus, Rumi escapes St. Iago, desperate to find a cure. In the ruined city of Paraíso, Rumi meets fifteen-year-old Paz, who agrees to guide him on his journey. But Paz knows more about Rumi’s father’s illness than she’s saying and has her own agenda. With powerful forces putting them at odds, can the two learn to trust each other—enough to imagine a different world?

"Heartbreaking and heartfelt." - Kirkus starred review

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Ship Breaker

Lauren Yero Why did I love this book?

Kicking off this list are a few stand-out young adult titles in the climate fiction (or “cli-fi”) genre.

Ship Breaker is a speculative YA novel set in a not-too-distant future on the Gulf Coast of the United States. Ecological disaster, increasing social inequality, and resource scarcity have led to a world in which most people have no choice but to work in extremely hazardous environments while the hyper-rich jet-set around the globe.

The novel follows a boy named Nailer who works as a scavenger on the marooned oil tankers of the previous era (a.k.a. the “Accelerated Age”). It’s a dark and dystopian novel, but at its heart is the story of how one person can set in motion meaningful, systemic change. 

By Paolo Bacigalupi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ship Breaker 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?

Nailer's time is running out. He's getting too big for his work - stripping copper wire from old oil tankers - and once he's off the crew he's on his own, stuck in a shack on the beach with no food, no money and no way of earning his keep.

He has one last chance. The thing all crew members dream about, a lucky strike, has hit in the shape of a clipper ship beached during the last hurricane. If he can hold off the rest of the scavengers long enough to get the oil out, he might just have…


Book cover of The Ones We're Meant to Find

Lauren Yero Why did I love this book?

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a young adult dystopian eco-thriller that tells the story of two sisters across alternating timelines.

One timeline follows Cee, who wakes up one day colorblind and devoid of memories, stranded on a deserted island. The other timeline follows Kasey as she tries to understand her sister’s disappearance from within the rank-based eco-city she calls home (a city that rewards citizens who demand the least of the Earth’s dwindling resources).

Though the novel takes impending ecological doom as its ever-present backdrop, it tells a complex, surprising, human story about the quest for meaning and responsibility in an intricately interconnected world.

By Joan He,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Ones We're Meant to Find 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?

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Perfect for fans of Marie Lu and E. Lockhart, The Ones We're Meant to Find is a twisty YA sci-fi that follows the story of two sisters, separated by an ocean, desperately trying to find each other in a climate-ravaged future.
Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it's up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.…


Book cover of War Girls

Lauren Yero Why did I love this book?

War Girls is YA sci-fi that takes place in war-torn Nigeria at the end of the 22nd century.

The world as we know it has ended because of runaway climate change and nuclear disaster, and two sisters, Onyii and Ify, live together in a makeshift colony of traumatized former child soldiers. After a devastating raid on their camp, the sisters are separated—each believing the other was killed—only to find themselves on opposing sides of the conflict.

This is a book about the world-shattering horrors of war, but it’s also about colonial violence, about sisterhood and solidarity, and about small moments that forever shape how the protagonists view each other and themselves. It’s also a complex, character-driven story that tenaciously searches for hope in ruins and aftermaths.

By Tochi Onyebuchi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked War Girls 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?

Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther-inspired Nigeria. The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and…


Book cover of Parable of the Sower

Lauren Yero Why did I love this book?

Shifting gears into the adult space, Parable of the Sower is a dystopian Afrofuturist novel of survival and resistance that is, at its heart, about embracing a world of change.

Originally published in the early nineties, it’s a disturbingly prescient novel that tells the story of Lauren Olamina, a teen coming of age in a world of extreme societal unrest, inequality, and environmental catastrophe, where the wealthy live in protected compounds while everyone else lives in a destitute world of addiction, starvation, and fear.

The novel follows Olamina as she leaves the protection of her walled-in enclave, discovers her abilities as a hyper-empath, and founds the religion of Earthseed. It’s a novel of ideas that is, without a doubt, a classic in the genre.

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked Parable of the Sower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The extraordinary, prescient NEW YORK TIMES-bestselling novel.

'If there is one thing scarier than a dystopian novel about the future, it's one written in the past that has already begun to come true. This is what makes Parable of the Sower even more impressive than it was when first published' GLORIA STEINEM

'Unnervingly prescient and wise' YAA GYASI

--

We are coming apart. We're a rope, breaking, a single strand at a time.

America is a place of chaos, where violence rules and only the rich and powerful are safe. Lauren Olamina, a young woman with the extraordinary power to…


Book cover of Oryx and Crake

Lauren Yero Why did I love this book?

This book is light on hope, but if you’re on the hunt for cli-fi dystopias, Oryx and Crake is a must-read.

The novel’s protagonist, Snowman (previously known as Jimmy), finds himself alone (sort of) after a global societal collapse. His story unfolds on either side of this collapse as he searches for answers about what has happened to the world and why.

This book brings together runaway climate change, an apocalyptic pandemic, uncontrolled genetic engineering, mass extinction, and more, dealing with nostalgia for what’s been lost and reckoning with each person’s individual culpability for that loss. And yet it somehow manages to also be a thrilling puzzle box of a story that ends on a note of cautious hope.

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Oryx and Crake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By the author of THE HANDMAID'S TALE and ALIAS GRACE

*

Pigs might not fly but they are strangely altered. So, for that matter, are wolves and racoons. A man, once named Jimmy, lives in a tree, wrapped in old bedsheets, now calls himself Snowman. The voice of Oryx, the woman he loved, teasingly haunts him. And the green-eyed Children of Crake are, for some reason, his responsibility.

*

Praise for Oryx and Crake:

'In Jimmy, Atwood has created a great character: a tragic-comic artist of the future, part buffoon, part Orpheus. An adman who's a sad man; a jealous…


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Legacy of the Witch

By Kirsten Weiss,

Book cover of Legacy of the Witch

Kirsten Weiss Author Of The Mysteries of Tarot: A Work of the Imagination

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

When I joined the Peace Corps in the early nineties, I wasn’t allowed to take much luggage. I decided to bring a Tarot deck, figuring I’d finally have time to learn it while parked in an Estonian forest. That Tarot deck opened up a world of Renaissance mysticism and magic, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Tarot cards and readings feature prominently in many of my cozy mystery novels, not the least of which are the Tea and Tarot mysteries. Now my imaginary Tarot reader from that series, Hyperion Night, has recently written his own Tarot guidebook, The Mysteries of Tarot.

Kirsten's book list on how to read Tarot

What is my book about?

Seeker: As societies grow increasingly fragmented, hopelessness, nihilism, division, and despair are on the rise. But there is another way—a way of mystery and magic, of wholeness and transformation. Do you dare take the first step? Our path is not for the faint-hearted, but for seekers of ancient truths...

Legacy of the Witch is a spellbinding, interactive tale of a woman’s midlife quest to understand the complexities of her own heart. A paranormal women’s fiction murder mystery for anyone who’s wondered if there might be more to their own life than meets the eye…

Legacy of the Witch

By Kirsten Weiss,

What is this book about?

Seeker: As societies grow increasingly fragmented, hopelessness, nihilism, division and despair are on the rise. But there is another way—a way of mystery and magic, of wholeness and transformation. Do you dare take the first step? Our path is not for the faint-hearted, but for seekers of ancient truths.

All April wants is to start over after her husband’s sudden death. She’s conjuring a new path—finally getting her degree and planning her new business in bucolic Pennsylvania Dutch country. Joining an online mystery school seems like harmless fun.

But when a murdered man leaves her a cryptic message, she catches…


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