The best books that portray the environmental impacts of war

Who am I?

I was a child of the Cold War. When the 20th Century ended, many of my peers and I thought we’d put the specter of annihilation behind us. As much as I’ve always been a fan of all things post-apocalyptic, I must acknowledge that we now face new threats that are just as much of our own making as the nuclear nightmare was. When I think about the future, I don’t see or foresee a dark and dismal end. I envision a bright future that will be a lot harder to achieve than we ever thought. I look forward to creating heroes and heroines who can make that future possible.


I wrote...

Crisis at the Kodiak Starport

By Justin Oldham,

Book cover of Crisis at the Kodiak Starport

What is my book about?

Alaskan fisheries suffer when a mining disaster pollutes Bristol Bay. Governments around the world struggle with drought and famine as climate change becomes real. Nations go to war over dwindling resources on land and at sea. In this era of rising international tensions that lead to regional wars, administrators and staff at the Kodiak starport face the challenge of keeping the promise of manned spaceflight intact for the next generation of explorers and entrepreneurs. Can the gateway to a better future be kept open, or will it close forever when satellites and space stations are destroyed?

The books I picked & why

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The War of the Worlds

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The War of the Worlds

Why this book?

This steam-age portrayal of an alien invasion grabbed my attention when I was in grade school. The author’s description of burning cities and forests painted a picture of ecological horror in my imagination. The impact of that has stayed with me, so much so that I have included the ecological consequences of war in much of what I have written.

The War of the Worlds

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The War of the Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

But planet Earth was not only being watched - soon it would be invaded by monstrous creatures from Mars who strode about the land in great mechanical tripods, bringing death and destruction with them. What can possibly stop an invading army equipped with heat-rays and poisonous black gas, intent on wiping out the human race? This is one man's story of that incredible invasion, from the time the first Martians land near his home town, to the destruction of London. Is this the end of human life on Earth?


On the Beach

By Nevil Shute,

Book cover of On the Beach

Why this book?

As dark and depressing as this Cold War cautionary tale is, the author’s use of creeping ecological doom in the aftermath of a world-shattering war was profound to me. The story is told from several points of view by characters who have different motivations. I found their choices to be just as understandable as they were heartbreaking. This isn’t a “happily ever after” story. Even so, I found myself appreciating the whole story, from start to end.

On the Beach

By Nevil Shute,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked On the Beach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After the war is over, a radioactive cloud begins to sweep southwards on the winds, gradually poisoning everything in its path. An American submarine captain is among the survivors left sheltering in Australia, preparing with the locals for the inevitable. Despite his memories of his wife, he becomes close to a young woman struggling to accept the harsh realities of their situation. Then a faint Morse code signal is picked up, transmitting from the United States and the submarine must set sail through the bleak ocean to search for signs of life.

On the Beach is Nevil Shute's most powerful…


Down to a Sunless Sea

By David Graham,

Book cover of Down to a Sunless Sea

Why this book?

The concept of life and death after a world war is given a twist when cold and darkness are more lethal than nuclear, chemical, or biological residues. Many of the most prominent characters are civilian airline pilots and other aviation professionals. I’ve spent much of my life around military and civil aviation. I don’t encounter characters like these very frequently. I like the way the author drew upon the knowledge and skills of these people to save humanity’s future.

Down to a Sunless Sea

By David Graham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Down to a Sunless Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The six hundred passengers and crew members aboard a jumbo jetliner are left without a destination and a country when nuclear war breaks out and spreads devastation around the world.

A collapsed economy and an increasingly savage society were causing thousands to abandon America. Captain Jonah Scott was a pilot, hired to fly some lucky refugees to London. But once in the air, nuclear war broke out, and Scott became responsible for the entire human race!


Warday

By Whitley Strieber, James Kunetka,

Book cover of Warday

Why this book?

As much as I enjoy the imagery and metaphors associated with large-scale devastation, I also like to imagine how we mere mortals could survive what we have caused. This author takes the time to depict a very humane post-apocalyptic struggle in ways that I still admire. Once you get past the pain and suffering, there’s a lot of hope and optimism on these pages.

Warday

By Whitley Strieber, James Kunetka,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Five years after a "limited" nuclear war, two survivors journey across America. They — and you — will discover what is left of our way of life: the depth of the devastation — and the hopes of a new society desperately struggling to be born.

From Edward Kennedy to Playboy magazine, readers have praised Warday as an absorbing, suspenseful novel — and an important book for every American to read.

"A first-rate novel, as real as snapshots of tomorrow. And as scary." — New York Daily News

"Haunting … horrifying … engrossing … an all too believable look at what…


The Last Ship

By William Brinkley,

Book cover of The Last Ship

Why this book?

I like a good apocalypse just as much as the next reader. As much as I have liked the genre, I haven’t always been as cognizant of the human cost as I think I should be. This author will take you on a journey that is outwardly familiar. His examination and portrayal of what it means to be truly alone in a ravaged world were enough to tear my heart out when I first read it in college. Even when the living do have a good reason to envy the dead, they can still work through their pain to create a future for themselves. That’s a grain of truth I try to put into everything I do.

The Last Ship

By William Brinkley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hailed as "an extraordinary novel of men at war" (The Washington Post) this is the book that inspired the TNT television series starring Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, Adam Baldwin and Michael Bay as Executive Producer.

The unimaginable has happened. The world has been plunged into all-out nuclear war. Sailing near the Arctic Circle, the U.S.S. Nathan James is relatively unscathed, but the future is grim and Captain Thomas is facing mutiny from the tattered remnants of his crew. With civilization in ruins, he urges those that remain-one-hundred-and-fifty-two men and twenty-six women-to pull together in search of land. Once they reach…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in nuclear warfare, Mars, and space warfare?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about nuclear warfare, Mars, and space warfare.

Nuclear Warfare Explore 31 books about nuclear warfare
Mars Explore 55 books about Mars
Space Warfare Explore 30 books about space warfare

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Second World War, The Road, and The Uninhabitable Earth if you like this list.