The best books on the climate crisis

Who am I?

I’m an environmental journalist (BBC, The Guardian, The Sunday Times) and book author, based in the UK. My interest lies in the intersection between human health, the environment, and climate crisis: the actions we can take that not only reduce climate change for future generations but also improve biodiversity, health, and wellbeing right now. That led to me write my first book, Clearing The Air, about air pollution. And I’m now writing my second book, The Last Drop, looking at how climate change is affecting the world’s water cycle and our access to freshwater. My best books list below maybe misses out on some obvious choices (Naomi Klein, Rachel Carson, etc) in favour of more recent books and authors deserving of a wider audience. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End Of Air Pollution

What is my book about?

Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution is my journey to understand what air pollution is, and how it became a global public health crisis that kills some 7-10 million people globally each year. I was living in London, had just become a Dad, and a headline caught my eye on my commute home on the tube that read: “Oxford Street has worst diesel pollution on Earth”. This completely blindsided me, so I set out to answer four key questions: What is air pollution? What causes it? Why is it bad for our health? And – perhaps most importantly – what can we do about it?

My journey for the answers ultimately became this book, and took me to Delhi, Beijing, Paris, Helsinki, and, erm, Milton Keynes. I came across some shocking stories, but I also found optimism and solutions for how we can start clearing the air and see instant results. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made

Tim Smedley Why did I love this book?

Gaia’s book came out at a time when climate change wasn’t a hot literary topic and Greta Thunberg hadn’t yet painted “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” on a sign. The Anthropocene marks a new Geological age, the Age of Humans, and Gaia, an editor at Nature, set out to discover what that means for the planet, her, and us. In her words: "I set out to discover whether our species will survive, and how". In so doing she became the first female winner of the Royal Society science book prize.

By Gaia Vince,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

** Winner of Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2015 **

We live in epoch-making times. The changes we humans have made in recent decades have altered our world beyond anything it has experienced in its 4.6 billion-year history. As a result, our planet is said to be crossing into the Anthropocene - the Age of Humans.

Gaia Vince decided to travel the world at the start of this new age to see what life is really like for the people on the frontline of the planet we've made. From artificial glaciers in the Himalayas to painted mountains in…


Book cover of There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years

Tim Smedley Why did I love this book?

Rather than weaving a literary narrative, Berners-Lee's aim is to offer something more practically helpful: a handbook for climate action. It’s essentially the FAQs page to the climate crisis. What is Ocean Acidification and why does it matter? Should I fly? How could one crop save us over half a billion tonnes of CO2e? He‘s done the calculations so we don’t have to.  

By Mike Berners-Lee,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked There Is No Planet B as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Feeding the world, climate change, biodiversity, antibiotics, plastics, pandemics - the list of concerns seems endless. But what is most pressing, and what should we do first? Do we all need to become vegetarian? How can we fly in a low-carbon world? How can we take control of technology? And, given the global nature of the challenges we now face, what on Earth can any of us do, as individuals? Mike Berners-Lee has crunched the numbers and plotted a course of action that is full of hope, practical, and enjoyable. This is the big-picture perspective on the environmental and economic…


Book cover of Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis

Tim Smedley Why did I love this book?

Alice Bell offers a full history of climate science, from Eunice Newton Foote’s early CO2 experiments in the 1850s, to Thomas Edison, Big Oil, the formation of the IPCC, and beyond. Given such a pressing crisis, we can often get caught up with the here and now – Bell’s book allows us to take a step back and remind ourselves how we got here, and learn the lessons from history. 

By Alice Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Biggest Experiment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Did you know the link between carbon dioxide and global warming was first suggested in the 1850s? Climate change books are usually about the future, but Our Biggest Experiment turns instead asks how did we get into this mess, and how and when did we work out it was happening? Join Alice Bell on a rip-roaring ride through the characters, ideas, technologies and experiments that shaped the climate crisis we now find ourselves in. From an emerging idea of 'greenhouse gases' in the 19th century and, via scientific expeditions across oceans and ice caps and into space, the coining of…


Book cover of Forecast: A Diary of the Lost Seasons

Tim Smedley Why did I love this book?

Joe Shute’s book brings us right up to date, opening with the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, and that strange, momentary blip of nature remerging as humans retreated to their homes. Shute looks at the climate crisis through the window in more ways than one – how seasons and weather patterns are changing, and how that shifts our cultural and ancestral connections with nature. It’s a poetic read told by a true nature lover. 

By Joe Shute,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We all talk about them. We all plan our lives by them. We are all obsessed with the outlook ahead. The changing seasons have shaped all of our lives, but what happens when the weather changes beyond recognition?

The author, Joe Shute, has spent years unpicking Britain's long-standing love affair with the weather. He has pored over the literature, art and music our weather systems have inspired and trawled through centuries of established folklore to discover the curious customs and rituals we have created in response to the seasons. But in recent years Shute has discovered a curious thing: the…


Book cover of Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art

Tim Smedley Why did I love this book?

This is my leftfield choice, as Wragg Sykes’s book is a history of our lost Eurasian ancestors, the Neanderthals. But climate change is a very real and foreboding presence throughout this book. Neanderthals lived through major, rapid changes in climate, from temperate forests to the deep freeze of ice ages, and survived. Reading about how past humans lived through climate crisis gives some hope, but also brings home the sobering reality of what it takes and what is lost.

By Rebecca Wragg Sykes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

** WINNER OF THE PEN HESSELL-TILTMAN PRIZE 2021 ** 'Beautiful, evocative, authoritative.' Professor Brian Cox 'Important reading not just for anyone interested in these ancient cousins of ours, but also for anyone interested in humanity.' Yuval Noah Harari Kindred is the definitive guide to the Neanderthals. Since their discovery more than 160 years ago, Neanderthals have metamorphosed from the losers of the human family tree to A-list hominins. Rebecca Wragg Sykes uses her experience at the cutting-edge of Palaeolithic research to share our new understanding of Neanderthals, shoving aside cliches of rag-clad brutes in an icy wasteland. She reveals them…


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A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

Book cover of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

Janet Hulstrand Author Of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Editor Francophile Minnesotan Once and forever Brooklynite

Janet's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This memoir chronicles the lives of three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel. The story begins in 1992 in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn as the author reads a notebook written by her grandmother nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year search to find her grandmother’s journals and uncover the hidden interior lives of her mother and grandmother.

Her adventures take her to a variety of locations, from a small town in Iowa to New York, Washington, London, and Paris—and finally to a little village in France, where she is finally able to write the book that will tell her own story, intertwined with the stories of her mother and grandmother.

A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

What is this book about?

This story, about three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel, begins in 1992, in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn, as a young writer reads journals written by her grandmother as a schoolgirl nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year quest to uncover the hidden lives and unfulfilled dreams of her mother and grandmother. In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, the author comes to realize that the passion for travel and for literature that has fueled her life's journey is a gift that was passed down to her by the very role models she was…


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Interested in climate change, climate change, and climate fiction?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about climate change, climate change, and climate fiction.

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