The best books for transforming climate grief into climate action

The Books I Picked & Why

The Overstory

By Richard Powers

The Overstory

Why this book?

In order to transform grief into action, you first need to allow yourself to grieve. Richard Powers’s magnificent novel, The Overstory, was the book I needed to grieve for deforestation. I have always been a tree-hugger, but this book made me appreciate trees on an even deeper level, infused as it is with meticulously researched botany, forestry history, and dire climate warnings. Each of the novel’s eight protagonists have profound relationships with individual trees, and the struggle to save an old-growth forest is what ultimately brings their stories together. It’s a 500-page book about trees, a slow burn will make you sob for all that’s already been lost in the world’s forests and all we still stand to lose. Maybe that sounds like a bummer, but I found it an incredibly healing read. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape

By Raja Shehadeh

Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape

Why this book?

Palestinian Walks is a hiking memoir by Raja Shehadeh, who invites you to wander with him and mourn for the loss of an irreplaceable wilderness and the rights of the people who’ve lived there for millennia. Over six hikes, spanning a quarter-century, Shehadeh chronicles how his beloved hills outside Ramallah have been violently transformed by Israeli colonization. Fortress-like settlements have replaced rolling hilltops; highways have fractured ecosystems and human communities alike; streams have filled with garbage as development outpaces infrastructure; and the simple act of walking has been transformed, as it becomes both illegal and life-threatening for the author to explore the hills of his ancestors.

Shehadeh’s prose is searingly beautiful and inspired in me a profound love for this biome, which I have never visited. The climate movement must center indigenous voices, and Palestinian Walks is particularly deft at shedding light on the connections between indigenous land rights, colonization, and climate change.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Braiding Sweetgrass

By Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass

Why this book?

I placed this book at the center of this list as a powerful fulcrum that will lift you from the depths of climate despair to a place of soaring hope for the future. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, a botanist, a professor, and a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation, and she brings the full wisdom of all these identities into Braiding Sweetgrass. In this collection of essays, she asks profound questions like, "Why do purple and yellow flowers look especially beautiful together? And why does rain sound different when it lands on moss?" She answers such questions with a wealth of botanical, historical, spiritual, and personal insights. She’ll make you feel unprecedented awe and reverence for the natural world—and also horror at what’s been done to it, in sacred places like Lake Onondaga, where decades of industrial sludge are only beginning to be mitigated.

Kimmerer also shares story after story of people living in a positive relationship with the natural world. She shares an inspiring vision for how we can live in reciprocity with our environment, as indigenous people have for tens of thousands of years. She invites settlers to Turtle Island to become “naturalized” to this place, rather than invasive—contributing to our local biomes rather than devouring them. In short, immediately after reading this book, I started digging up my front lawn and planting a native prairie.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

A Spy in the Struggle

By Aya de Leon

A Spy in the Struggle

Why this book?

At this point in the reading list, hopefully, you’re feeling more grounded in your climate grief and energized to fight for what’s left of the natural world. A Spy in the Struggle is a fast-paced novel about activism at the intersection of racial and environmental justice. Yolanda Vance is a ruthless, capitalist FBI agent who infiltrates a Black activist group organizing against a biotech corporation that’s poisoning their neighborhood. 

By making the protagonist start off as an enemy of the climate movement, De León demonstrates the kinds of experiences and messaging that can win over new allies. This book also centers the Black communities that are doing some of the most critical organizing against environmental racism in the U.S. and reveals the interconnectedness between police brutality, racial capitalism, and the climate crisis. In most cities in the U.S., you’ll find communities of color organizing against environmental racism, and I hope this book will inspire you to join their movements! 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth

By The Red Nation

The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth

Why this book?

Now that you’ve committed yourself to doing something for the climate movement, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start. There are countless organizations and initiatives to join, all fighting for your limited dollars and volunteer hours, and it’s hard to know where your efforts will be most helpful. 

The Red Deal goes far beyond “The Green New Deal” in calling for a comprehensive reordering of society and full decolonization. The Red Deal argues that environmental devastation is inevitable under capitalism, and only by decolonizing and discarding the profit motive can we live in positive relation with the rest of the natural world. The Red Deal also contains a list of five key areas of struggle for activists to move us towards a better world, alongside recommendations for specific policies and actions to support in each area. Reading this book helped me hone my vision for the future and figure out which causes and organizations were most aligned with that vision.



When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists