100 books like Climate Optimism

By Zahra Biabani,

Here are 100 books that Climate Optimism fans have personally recommended if you like Climate Optimism. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

Anne Louise Burdett Author Of Dirt Gems: Plant Oracle Deck and Guidebook

From my list on nerdy science books that break your heart and put it back together again.

Why am I passionate about this?

Working with the natural world has long been my life’s compass. I have been dedicated to conservation, education, and management of terrestrial and marine ecosystems for my entire career. I strongly believe we must approach the crisis that we now live in with humor, joy, and devotion, and we must be able to fall in love with this world over and over again, even if it breaks our hearts. This is why I write, and this is how I live. I love reading science books that allow this connection, that lead me into the complexities of why we must never stop feeling wonder at this magnificent world.

Anne's book list on nerdy science books that break your heart and put it back together again

Anne Louise Burdett Why did Anne love this book?

If I’m being completely honest, I bought this book because of my very large professional crush on both of the editors. I work in climate science, so I have signed up to have my heart destroyed over and over again. I read about all the species that are dying and threatened, the ecosystems collapsing, the fishermen fighting for their livelihoods, and the coastal communities slammed by storms.

This book covered all these topics, but if you’re going to learn about this, (as we all should), we also have to be given the reasons to keep at it. We have to not lose the will to fight or the ability to see beautiful, generative, and imaginative solutions and outcomes. This book helps with that, too. 

By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (editor), Katharine K. Wilkinson (editor),

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked All We Can Save as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Provocative and illuminating essays from women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward.

“A powerful read that fills one with, dare I say . . . hope?”—The New York Times
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE

There is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration. While it’s clear that women and girls are vital voices and agents of change for this planet, they…


Book cover of Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard

Carrie Firestone Author Of The First Rule of Climate Club

From my list on non-fiction to inspire community conversations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm co-founder of a grassroots social justice, civic engagement, and service organization called ForwardCT, which I started with my friend and current state representative Eleni Kavros DeGraw with the intention of mobilizing community-centered action. Our work centers on these four pillars: Connect, Inform, Serve, and Lead. Those pillars guide my work as chair of my town’s Clean Energy Commission, as teacher and facilitator of workshops and events, and as an author of books for young people. I'm drawn to the powerful use of storytelling as a tool for starting conversations, stirring up “good trouble,” and inspiring activism. Read a book, approach your library or town to host a community conversation, leave with actionable takeaways, repeat!

Carrie's book list on non-fiction to inspire community conversations

Carrie Firestone Why did Carrie love this book?

This book has literally changed the way I see the world.

The premise is simple – our pollinators are in trouble and we can help them (and entire ecosystems) thrive by creating tiny “Homegrown National Parks” in our own yards and neighborhoods. After reading this, I began learning about invasive plants, the importance of planting native species, the dangers of “pristine” lawns, and the climate and public health impact of pesticides, herbicides, and lawn machinery.

I’m loving the process of planting native plants and watching all kinds of wildlife visit my yard. I’m currently organizing a Nature's Best Hope community book talk in my own town and my amazing local library has booked Doug Tallamy for our discussion event. I hope you’ll join the Homegrown National Park movement! 

By Douglas W. Tallamy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Nature's Best Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Douglas W. Tallamy's first book, Bringing Nature Home, sparked a national conversation about the link between healthy local ecosystems and human well-being. In his new book Nature's Best Hope, Tallamy takes the next step and outlines his vision for a grassroots approach to conservation. Tallamy advocates for homeowners everywhere to turn their yards into conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats and mitigate the effects of development and corporate agriculture. This home-based approach doesn't rely on the federal government and protects the environment from the whims of politics. It is also easy to do, and readers will walk away with specific…


Book cover of The Optimist's Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age

Carrie Firestone Author Of The First Rule of Climate Club

From my list on non-fiction to inspire community conversations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm co-founder of a grassroots social justice, civic engagement, and service organization called ForwardCT, which I started with my friend and current state representative Eleni Kavros DeGraw with the intention of mobilizing community-centered action. Our work centers on these four pillars: Connect, Inform, Serve, and Lead. Those pillars guide my work as chair of my town’s Clean Energy Commission, as teacher and facilitator of workshops and events, and as an author of books for young people. I'm drawn to the powerful use of storytelling as a tool for starting conversations, stirring up “good trouble,” and inspiring activism. Read a book, approach your library or town to host a community conversation, leave with actionable takeaways, repeat!

Carrie's book list on non-fiction to inspire community conversations

Carrie Firestone Why did Carrie love this book?

As someone who hoarded toilet paper weeks before the 2020 shortage, I relate to the frustration of watching history repeat itself (or at least rhyme with itself) because people are often too distracted to focus on planning for looming crises.

Bina Venkataraman gets to the “why” of this often-fatal flaw as she explores the nature of human decision-making. This book provides tangible narratives as a springboard to answer these questions: How can we use wisdom from our ancestors to better inform our personal, professional, and policy decisions? How can we incentivize (or glitter bomb) long-term planning? And how can we see ourselves as future ancestors in order to be better stewards of the planet?

A perfect selection for corporate, government, and non-profit retreats and professional development conferences!  

By Bina Venkataraman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Optimist's Telescope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book of 2019 by NPR

“How might we mitigate losses caused by shortsightedness? Bina Venkataraman, a former climate adviser to the Obama administration, brings a storyteller’s eye to this question. . . .  She is also deeply informed about the relevant science.” —The New York Times Book Review

A trailblazing exploration of how we can plan better for the future: our own, our families’, and our society’s.  

Instant gratification is the norm today—in our lives, our culture, our economy, and our politics. Many of us have forgotten (if we ever learned) how to make smart decisions for…


Book cover of Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change

Carrie Firestone Author Of The First Rule of Climate Club

From my list on non-fiction to inspire community conversations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm co-founder of a grassroots social justice, civic engagement, and service organization called ForwardCT, which I started with my friend and current state representative Eleni Kavros DeGraw with the intention of mobilizing community-centered action. Our work centers on these four pillars: Connect, Inform, Serve, and Lead. Those pillars guide my work as chair of my town’s Clean Energy Commission, as teacher and facilitator of workshops and events, and as an author of books for young people. I'm drawn to the powerful use of storytelling as a tool for starting conversations, stirring up “good trouble,” and inspiring activism. Read a book, approach your library or town to host a community conversation, leave with actionable takeaways, repeat!

Carrie's book list on non-fiction to inspire community conversations

Carrie Firestone Why did Carrie love this book?

I chose Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change because I live in Connecticut and my own family and friend group have been gravely impacted by tick-borne infections. In fact, the subplot of my novel focuses on the frustrating story of a family seeking answers to this “mystery” illness.

We are at a moment where climate change is accelerating new and worsening pathogenic diseases and public health isn’t catching up fast enough. Mary Beth Pfeiffer provides a well-researched glimpse into the politics and pain of tick-borne infections in a climate-changing world.

I recommend this book as a community conversation starter because, more and more, citizens are coming together to share medical resources and put pressure on the public health community to act. 

By Mary Beth Pfeiffer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Superbly written and researched." -Booklist
"Builds a strong case." -Kirkus
Lyme disease is spreading rapidly around the globe as ticks move into places they could not survive before. The first
epidemic to emerge in the era of climate change, the disease infects half a million people in the US and Europe each year,
and untold multitudes in Canada, China, Russia, and Australia.
Mary Beth Pfeiffer shows how we have contributed to this growing menace, and how modern medicine has
underestimated its danger. She tells the heart-rending stories of families destroyed by a single tick bite, of children
disabled, and of…


Book cover of Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy

Timothy Beal Author Of When Time Is Short: Finding Our Way in the Anthropocene

From my list on facing the climate crisis without losing your shit.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love being a college professor, teaching and learning from young adults. In fact, I wrote When Time Is Short in close conversation with my students. As climate crisis and collapse loom ever larger on the horizon, more and more of them are sharing experiences of climate anxiety and even climate trauma. They are not alone. Many of us are almost paralyzed by such feelings. We need help processing and moving through them in order to find hope—deep hope, as opposed to shallow optimism, which easily slides into despair. These books, most of which I've used in my "Religion and Ecology" class, can help show us the way.

Timothy's book list on facing the climate crisis without losing your shit

Timothy Beal Why did Timothy love this book?

Joanna Macy is an environmental activist and a scholar of Buddhism and deep ecology. Her writing is at once direct and gracious, inviting us to explore new ways of understanding ourselves and our world. Central to her message of hope is what she calls the "Great Turning," a revolution in which humankind will turn from industrial capitalism, which seeks infinite growth through extraction, to a sustainable civilization of compassion and interdependence. This new edition of Active Hope, co-authored with Chris Johnstone, acknowledges that the Great Turning may in fact happen in the midst of a massive societal and ecological collapse, a "Great Unravelling." Yet, even in the midst of collapse, we can find deep hope by investing heart, mind, and strength in the Great Turning. "What's the best we can hope for? And how can we be active in making that more likely or even possible?"

By Joanna Macy, Chris Johnstone,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Active Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The challenges we face can be difficult even to think about. Climate change, the depletion of oil, economic upheaval, and mass extinction together create a planetary emergency of overwhelming proportions. Active Hope shows us how to strengthen our capacity to face this crisis so that we can respond with unexpected resilience and creative power. Drawing on decades of teaching an empowerment approach known as the Work That Reconnects, the authors guide us through a transformational process informed by mythic journeys, modern psychology, spirituality, and holistic science. This process equips us with tools to face the mess we’re in and play…


Book cover of Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next)

Jordan Flaherty Author Of No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality

From my list on challenging capitalism, racism, and patriarchy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I produced dozens of hours of film and television, including for Al Jazeera’s Emmy, Peabody, and DuPont-award-winning program Faultlines; as well as short and long-form documentaries for Democracy Now and teleSUR, and reporting in The New York Times and Washington Post. I’ve written two books based on my journalism, No More Heroes: Grassroots Responses to the Savior Mentality and Floodlines: Community and Resistance From Katrina to the Jena Six. I produced the independent feature film Chocolate Babies, which was recently added to the Criterion Collection. My latest film is Powerlands.

Jordan's book list on challenging capitalism, racism, and patriarchy

Jordan Flaherty Why did Jordan love this book?

During this moment of pandemic and other crises caused by capitalism, many people have turned to mutual aid as an attempt to help their neighbors and communities. As Spade writes, “Left social movements have two big jobs right now. First, we need to organize to help people survive the devastating conditions unfolding every day. Second, we need to mobilize hundreds of millions of people for resistance so we can tackle the underlying causes of these crises.” This book explains both why and how we can create structures that will change the world. 

By Dean Spade,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Around the world, people are faced with crisis after crisis, from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change-induced fires, floods, and storms to the ongoing horrors of mass incarceration, brutal immigration enforcement, endemic gender violence, and severe wealth inequality. As governments fail to respond to-or actively engineer-each crisis, ordinary people are finding bold and innovative ways to share resources and support vulnerable members of their communities. This survival work, when done alongside social movement demands for transformative change, is called mutual aid.

This book is about mutual aid: why it is so important, what it looks like, and how to do…


Book cover of Revenge of the Red Club

Sonja Thomas Author Of Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence

From my list on kidlit starring spunky girls.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer addicted to reading and writing about spunky female characters of all ages. Even though I’m an introvert (who’s no stranger to depression and anxiety), when I have a goal that I’m really passionate about, no matter how hard or how long it takes, I’m stubbornly persistent to make it happen. I believe that books, especially those from my childhood like Ramona Quimby, helped foster this trait. Spunky characters taught me that it’s okay to feel, express, and learn from my emotions, that no matter what life throws at us we can survive it, and to follow your own path with courage and determination.   

Sonja's book list on kidlit starring spunky girls

Sonja Thomas Why did Sonja love this book?

The title alone intrigued me. Once I learned the premise of this middle-grade novel, I was hooked: a group of students supporting one another through the ups and downs of navigating their periods is shut down by the school administration after receiving complaints. 

As the investigative reporter of her middle school’s newspaper, Riley’s no stranger at going the distance to uncover a story. Using her fact-finding skills, Riley hunts for the truth on who put an end to their club and why. Filled with humor and heart, this book had me up all night to finish in one sitting, cheering Riley and her friends on as they fight to save their club and stand up for their rights. 

By Kim Harrington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Revenge of the Red Club 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?

A tween reporter discovers an important and beloved club at school is being shut down-and uses the power of the pen to try and activate some much-needed social change in this period-positive and empowering middle grade novel about the importance of standing up for what you believe in.

Riley Dunne loves being a member of the Red Club. It's more than a group of girls supporting each other through Aunt Flo's ups and downs; it's a Hawking Middle School tradition. The club's secret locker has an emergency stash of supplies, and the girls are always willing to lend an ear,…


Book cover of Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point

William Watson Author Of Twelve Steps for White America: For a United States of America

From my list on explaining a divided United States of America.

Why am I passionate about this?

My own collusion with white supremacy and anti-Blackness is a lifelong journey I mitigate for my soul’s redemption. I am a Mississippi-born redneck, alcoholic, psychotherapist, San Francisco Bay Area queer, higher education administrator with a Critical Race Theory doctorate. I first learned democracy by watching my Mississippi parents risk their lives and mine in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Three-Fifths Magazine recently published “My First English: The Vernacular of the KKK.” My book, “Twelve Steps for White America” won the BookFest 1st Place Gold Medal for “Society and Social Sciences: Race Culture Class and Religion.” I work to live in a USA where race no longer predicts outcomes. 

William's book list on explaining a divided United States of America

William Watson Why did William love this book?

I love it when a book comes along that is both accessible and rich with content!

This book continues enriching the “how did we get here” conversation from their previous book, How Democracies Die. I argue that minority rule is an extension of the plantation economy that persists into the present.

This book took me deeply into minority rule, how it is structured, and how it threatens us today. It provided me with a more finely honed framework to not only understand the past but equip my survival in the present.

By Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land

Tom Vater Author Of The Cambodian Book of the Dead

From my list on Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a writer and journalist with an eye on South and Southeast Asia. I first visited Cambodia in 1995, an ill-fated trip into Koh Kong, then a war-torn backwater town. I returned in 2001 to research a TV documentary about the likely effects of tourism on the Angkor monuments, Cambodia’s tourist magnet. I’ve visited many times since, traveled on trucks, motorbikes, beaten-up Toyotas, and by bicycle, and have written extensively about the southeast Asian kingdom’s post-war recovery, popular culture, tragic politics, and seedy underbelly. Cambodia is a small country, but its turbulent past and uncertain future, along with its wonderful people, touched me like few other places.

Tom's book list on Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge

Tom Vater Why did Tom love this book?

Cambodia, Joel Brinkley writes, is the most dangerous country in the world. The first one falls in love with it, then it breaks one’s heart. Cambodia’s Curse is a book of two tales. Brinkley’s retelling of the war years is a little revisionist but the chapters on the post-war reconstruction, the dirty politics, the lack of opportunities for ordinary people, and the venality of the government that remains in place to this day rightly and masterfully lay the blame for countless missed opportunities to create a more equitable society both into the hands of the international community’s attempts to create ‘democracy’ and Hun Sen’s regime.

By Joel Brinkley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cambodia's Curse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A generation after the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia shows every sign of having overcome its history- the streets of Phnom Penh are paved skyscrapers dot the skyline. But under this facade lies a country still haunted by its years of terror. Joel Brinkley won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in Cambodia on the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime that killed one quarter of the nation's population during its years in power. In 1992, the world came together to help pull the small nation out of the mire. Cambodia became a United Nations protectorate- the first and only time the…


Book cover of Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation

Jerome A. Miller Author Of Sobering Wisdom: Philosophical Explorations of Twelve Step Spirituality

From my list on spiritual breakthrough.

Why am I passionate about this?

During my 37 years of teaching philosophy to undergraduate students, most of whom had no prior exposure to it, my purpose was to promote self-examination of the sort practiced and encouraged by Socrates. Such self-examination is upsetting, unsettling. It leads one to insights and realizations one would prefer not to have. But by undermining one’s assumptions, these insights break one open to a whole universe of which one had been oblivious. Breakdowns make possible breakthroughs. My students didn’t realize that, just as I was trying to provoke this kind of spiritual transformation in them, their questions, criticisms, challenges, and insights provoked it in me. 

Jerome's book list on spiritual breakthrough

Jerome A. Miller Why did Jerome love this book?

Because Lear is a philosopher and a psychoanalyst, his book has a more academic flavor than the others on my list. But because he’s a philosopher and psychoanalyst attentive to lived experience, his book draws us into the devastating loss suffered by the Crow Nation, and especially by Plenty Coups, their last great chief, when their culture was stripped from them. This was, of course, an irreparable trauma from which it was impossible to recover. But instead of trying to retrieve what was unrecoverable, Plenty Coups turned to the unknowable, unprecedented future with the “radical hope” that it could be charged with transcendent meaning for his people. Perhaps the spiritual life, especially in these crisis-ridden days, consists in learning how to practice such hope.

By Jonathan Lear,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shortly before he died, Plenty Coups, the last great Chief of the Crow Nation, told his story-up to a certain point. "When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground," he said, "and they could not lift them up again. After this nothing happened." It is precisely this point-that of a people faced with the end of their way of life-that prompts the philosophical and ethical inquiry pursued in Radical Hope. In Jonathan Lear's view, Plenty Coups's story raises a profound ethical question that transcends his time and challenges us all: how should one face…


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