The most recommended fossil fuels books

Who picked these books? Meet our 16 experts.

16 authors created a book list connected to fossil fuels, and here are their favorite fossil fuels books.
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Book cover of Ending Fossil Fuels: Why Net Zero is Not Enough

Why am I passionate about this?

I got energized about the environment, climate, and energy as a physics undergrad during the first energy crisis. Since then, I’ve worked in activist groups (Anti-nuclear, the wrong side: Now I fight climate change as penance for the sins of my youth), held policy positions in the governments of the United States and Canada, worked in two international organizations, and taught energy, climate, and environmental policy at Harvard, Michigan, and now UCLA. There’s so much written on climate change that it’s a rare pleasure to find something that cuts through the noise and says something original or important. So I’m delighted to recommend these, which include a couple of overlooked gems.

Edward's book list on deepening your understanding of climate change, what it means, and what to do about it, and give you hope

Edward A. Parson Why did Edward love this book?

I find reading this book like sitting with a wise friend who gently tells you you’re making a big mistake, but you can still fix it, and it can be OK.

Recent climate policy has gone off the rails with the idea of “net zero,” a sleight-of-hand that makes it look much easier: We don’t actually have to stop emitting; we can just offset emissions by removing them from the atmosphere later to pay back the debt. Yeah, right. This is true in theory but deeply problematic in practice: risky, and prone to error and deception. Some emissions can continue to be offset by removals to get to global net zero or net negative. But the current net-zero bandwagon, with everyone pretending their emissions can continue, is dangerous madness.

Buck brings her clear insight and ruthless honesty to this deeply confused area. She gently holds the popular delusions up for…

By Holly Jean Buck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Around the world, countries and companies are setting net-zero carbon emissions targets. But "net-zero" is a term that conveniently obscures multiple futures. There could be a version of net-zero where the fossil fuel industry is still spewing tens of billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, and has built a corresponding industry in sucking it back out again. Holly Buck argues that focusing on emissions draws our attention away from where we need to be looking: the point of production.

It is time to plan for the end of fossil fuel and the companies that profit from them. Fossil…


Book cover of Alligators in the Arctic and How to Avoid Them: Science, Economics and the Challenge of Catastrophic Climate Change

James K. Boyce Author Of Economics for People and the Planet: Inequality in the Era of Climate Change

From my list on the political economy of the environment.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I started teaching a course on the Political Economy of the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, little had been written that made the connection between environmental quality and economic inequality. Happily, this has changed over the years. The books recommended here mark the rise of a new environmentalism founded upon recognition that our impact on nature is interwoven closely with the nature of our relationships with each other.

James' book list on the political economy of the environment

James K. Boyce Why did James love this book?

Fifty million years ago, alligators lived north of the Arctic Circle.

We humans evolved in a much cooler world. Today Earth’s climate is changing radically, to our own peril, as we spew long-buried carbon into the sky by burning fossil fuels.

In this sophisticated yet readable book, Peter Dorman lays out the political economy of climate change, explaining why to address this unprecedented threat we must redress the inequalities of wealth and power that plague modern society.

The bad news is that this will be hard work; the good news is that it is possible. Dorman’s book is a tour de force, a sobering call to action graced with rays of hope.

By Peter Dorman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Alligators in the Arctic and How to Avoid Them as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Climate change is a matter of extreme urgency. Integrating science and economics, this book demonstrates the need for measures to put a strict lid on cumulative carbon emissions and shows how to implement them. Using the carbon budget framework, it reveals the shortcomings of current policies and the debates around them, such as the popular enthusiasm for individual solutions and the fruitless search for 'optimal' regulation by economists and other specialists. On the political front, it explains why business opposition to the policies we need goes well beyond the fossil fuel industry, requiring a more radical rebalancing of power. This…


Book cover of The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior

Sue Burke Author Of Semiosis

From my list on making you love plants.

Why am I passionate about this?

A house plant in my living room attacked another plant, wrapping itself around it and killing it. Then another plant tried to sink roots into a neighbor. I began to do a little research, then a lot of research, and learned that plants accomplish amazing feats. They can tell by the angle of the sun when spring is coming, and they can call parasitic wasps to rid themselves of caterpillars. Plants vastly outweigh and outnumber animals, so they run this planet. What if, on another planet, they could think like us… and that’s why I wrote a novel.

Sue's book list on making you love plants

Sue Burke Why did Sue love this book?

Here we step into more controversial territory. Is “plant neurobiology” a thing? That is, can they think? Stefano Mancuso says yes, but not like us.

A plant behaves more like a swarm of insects, and each of its parts and cells reacts to changes in its environment, which affect the other cells around it, and in that way, a decentralized intelligence can reach what looks like a decision. Plants find solutions to the problems of life that would never occur to us, and we can copy them to make our own lives better.

Beautiful illustrations will help you fall in love with plants.

By Stefano Mancuso,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"In this thought-provoking, handsomely illustrated book, Italian neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso considers the fundamental differences between plants and animals and challenges our assumptions about which is the 'higher' form of life." -The Wall Street Journal

"Fascinating...full of optimism...this quick, accessible read will appeal to anyone with interest in how plants continue to surprise us." -Library Journal

Do plants have intelligence? Do they have memory? Are they better problem solvers than people? The Revolutionary Genius of Plants-a fascinating, paradigm-shifting work that upends everything you thought you knew about plants-makes a compelling scientific case that these and other astonishing ideas are all true.…


Book cover of The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet

Raghavendra Rau Author Of Short Introduction to Corporate Finance

From Raghavendra's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Professor Cynical with a sarcastic sense of humor SF fan Aikidoka Iaido practitioner

Raghavendra's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Raghavendra Rau Why did Raghavendra love this book?

I read a lot of apocalyptic science fiction, but this is a scarily well-written apocalyptic fact. Jeff writes about a terrifyingly relevant topic today: the heating of the planet.

This is something most of us do not understand at a visceral level. Jeff does a brilliant job using anecdotes, statistics, and just plain great storytelling to describe what happens to humanity in a world where temperatures are inexorably climbing. It is like a punch in the gut and puts the story of a “frog in a slowly boiling pot” into a whole new context.

I have personally changed a lot of my habits after reading this book and have tried to even implement as many heat mitigation strategies in my school as I can.

By Jeff Goodell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heat Will Kill You First as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Most Anticipated Book by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times A Next Big Idea Book Club Selection The New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

Jeff Goodell's "masterful, bracing" (David Wallace-Wells) investigation exposes "through stellar reporting, artful storytelling and fascinating scientific explanations" (Naomi Klein) an explosive new understanding of heat and the impact that rising temperatures will have on our lives and on our planet. "Entertaining and thoroughly researched," (Al Gore), it will completely change the way you see the world, and despite its urgent themes, is injected…


Book cover of Oil, Water, and Climate: An Introduction

Simon Pirani Author Of Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption

From my list on the oil industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by how power and money work, and hopeful that we can change the world for the better by subverting both. In the 1990s, when I started travelling to, and writing about, Russia, I became aware of how completely oil and gas completely dominated Russia’s economy, its power structures, and its people’s lives. I learned about how oil, gas, power, and money relate to each other, and for 14 years (2007-2021) wrote about those interconnections as a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. 

Simon's book list on the oil industry

Simon Pirani Why did Simon love this book?

As a non-scientist, I love reading books written by scientists in language that the rest of us can understand. This is one of the best – and it addresses many of the most urgent questions scientists will keep worrying about through the 21st century, about the interaction between oil production and use, the atmosphere, the oceans, and freshwater systems. Catherine Gautier writes in a clear, accessible style. She is well aware that we can not fence off the study of physical phenomena such as climate change and contamination of water sources from the study of society, economics, and politics.  

By Catherine Gautier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Today's oil and gas are at record prices, whilst global energy demand is increasing from population and economic development pressures. Climate change, resulting in large part from the burning of fossil fuels, is exacerbating the impacts of the excelerated exploitation of our natural resources. Therefore, anxieties over energy, water, and climate security are at an all-time high. Global action is needed now in order to address this set of urgent challenges and to avoid putting the future of our civilization at risk. This book examines the powerful interconnections that link energy, water, climate and population, exploring viable options in addressing…


Book cover of Energy Democracy: Germany's Energiewende to Renewables

Mark Diesendorf Author Of Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change

From my list on for transitioning to a sustainable society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was originally trained as a physicist, but the shock of discovering that my PhD thesis, on physical conditions in the solar interior, was being used to improve the design of hydrogen bombs, changed the direction of my research. I decided to do science in the public interest, instead of for the military and big business, and broadened into interdisciplinary research. Eventually, I became Professor of Environmental Science and Founding Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology Sydney, Australia. Nowadays, I’m an honorary Associate Professor at UNSW Sydney, researching the energy transition, ecological economics and sustainable development. 

Mark's book list on for transitioning to a sustainable society

Mark Diesendorf Why did Mark love this book?

Energy Democracy is a history of Germany’s continuing energy transition, its Energiewende. It’s an inspiring case study of how German citizens got their government to support a policy that the public wanted: to transition from fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewable energy. Energy Democracy gives me hope while faced with the situation in my own country, Australia, where the national government is working hand in glove with the fossil fuel industry to slow the transition, against the public wishes as expressed in numerous opinion polls. 

By Craig Morris, Arne Jungjohann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book outlines how Germans convinced their politicians to pass laws allowing citizens to make their own energy, even when it hurt utility companies to do so. It traces the origins of the Energiewende movement in Germany from the Power Rebels of Schoenau to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's shutdown of eight nuclear power plants following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. The authors explore how, by taking ownership of energy efficiency at a local level, community groups are key actors in the bottom-up fight against climate change. Individually, citizens might install solar panels on their roofs, but citizen groups can do…


Book cover of People's Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons

Danny Katch Author Of Socialism....Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation

From my list on winning socialism in our lifetime.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a socialist for my entire adult life and a wise-ass for even longer. As a writer I’ve found a way to combine these two passions, using humor to introduce complex economic and political ideas to a new audience, as well as poke fun at politicians, CEOs, and even myself and my fellow activists. Not all of the books on this list use humor the way I do, but they have all helped me keep my sunny disposition by giving me inspiration that the socialist cause is more dynamic and multifaceted than ever. 

Danny's book list on winning socialism in our lifetime

Danny Katch Why did Danny love this book?

In order to have socialism, we need to have a planet on which to be socialists—preferably a planet that isn’t constantly on fire or under water from climate change. So we need to convert our energy systems from fossil fuels to renewables like solar and wind, but as Ashley Dawson argues in this great book, we can’t afford to then let energy corporations start owning sunlight and air the way they do oil and coal. 

People’s Power introduces us to the age-old idea of commonly owned natural resources and looks to modern examples from around the world where cities, towns, and countries and pioneering ways to make the “energy commons” a reality.

By Ashley Dawson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The science is conclusive: to avoid irreversible climate collapse, the burning of all fossil fuels will have to end in the next decade. In this concise and highly readable intervention, Ashley Dawson sets out what is required to make this momentous shift: simply replacing coal-fired power plants with for-profit solar energy farms will only maintain the toxic illusion that it is possible to sustain relentlessly expanding energy consumption. We can no longer think of energy as a commodity. Instead we must see it as part of the global commons, a vital element in the great stock of air, water, plants,…


Book cover of The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations

Scott B. Macdonald Author Of The New Cold War, China, and the Caribbean: Economic Statecraft, China and Strategic Realignments

From my list on beach reads in an international relations hurricane.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise in Caribbean and Chinese affairs derives from having an interest in the two regions since college, which was then pursued through a MA in Asian Studies from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Connecticut. On the employment front, I worked for 3 regional banks (as an international economist), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Credit Suisse, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, KWR International, and Aladdin Capital Management (as head of Credit and Economics Research) and Mitsubishi Corporation. Since I left Mitsubishi I returned to my two favorite interests, Asia and the Caribbean. 

Scott's book list on beach reads in an international relations hurricane

Scott B. Macdonald Why did Scott love this book?

Yurgin is the grandmaster of global energy politics, starting with his seminal, The Prize, and most recently The New Map. The latter is an amazing sweep of where global energy markets are heading, which takes into consideration the shift away from oil, gas, and coal to green or alternative sources of energy. His outlook is that the transition to a carbon-lite world is going to be much bumpier and more time-consuming than many people wish for, considering the issues of climate change, economic realities, and geopolitics. An insightful and excellent read.

By Daniel Yergin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Wall Street Journal besteller and a USA Today Best Book of 2020

Named Energy Writer of the Year for The New Map by the American Energy Society

"A master class on how the world works." -NPR

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and global energy expert, Daniel Yergin offers a revelatory new account of how energy revolutions, climate battles, and geopolitics are mapping our future

The world is being shaken by the collision of energy, climate change, and the clashing power of nations in a time of global crisis. Out of this tumult is emerging a new map of energy and geopolitics.…


Book cover of Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines

Rebecca E. Hirsch Author Of Where Have All the Bees Gone?: Pollinators in Crisis

From my list on for teens who care about the environment.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of more than eighty books on science for young readers. My books for teens include The Monarchs Are Missing: A Butterfly Mystery, Climate Migrants: On the Move in a Warming World, and Where Have All the Bees Gone? My books have won many honors, including a Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, a John Burroughs Association Riverby Award for nature writing, and a place on Booklist's Top 10 Books on the Environment & Sustainability for Youth for 2020. I hold a PhD in cellular & molecular biology, and my background as a professional biologist informs my writing.

Rebecca's book list on for teens who care about the environment

Rebecca E. Hirsch Why did Rebecca love this book?

Fleischmann's tone is upbeat as he explains how to get above environmental issues and see the bigger political and financial forces at work. He explains different environmental problems, from climate change to the hole in the ozone layer, but also delves into the patterns and principles operating behind the scenes. This book teaches you how to evaluate media, weigh sources, understand an interest group's hidden agenda, and make informed decisions as you engage in the fight to save our planet.

By Paul Fleischman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eyes Wide Open as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Paul Fleischman offers teens an environmental wake-up call and a tool kit for decoding the barrage of conflicting information confronting them.

We're living in an Ah-Ha moment. Take 250 years of human ingenuity. Add abundant fossil fuels. The result: a population and lifestyle never before seen. The downsides weren't visible for centuries, but now they are. Suddenly everything needs rethinking — suburbs, cars, fast food, cheap prices. It's a changed world. 

This book explains it. Not with isolated facts, but the principles driving attitudes and events, from vested interests to denial to big-country syndrome. Because money is as important as…


Book cover of The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World

Why am I passionate about this?

I got energized about the environment, climate, and energy as a physics undergrad during the first energy crisis. Since then, I’ve worked in activist groups (Anti-nuclear, the wrong side: Now I fight climate change as penance for the sins of my youth), held policy positions in the governments of the United States and Canada, worked in two international organizations, and taught energy, climate, and environmental policy at Harvard, Michigan, and now UCLA. There’s so much written on climate change that it’s a rare pleasure to find something that cuts through the noise and says something original or important. So I’m delighted to recommend these, which include a couple of overlooked gems.

Edward's book list on deepening your understanding of climate change, what it means, and what to do about it, and give you hope

Edward A. Parson Why did Edward love this book?

You’re probably wondering, if we can’t do what Buck and MacKay point us to in time to avoid the world that Lynas paints, what then?

I have good news: we’re still not (quite) out of options. It looks possible to cool the Earth a degree or two within a few years by spraying a mist of reflective aerosols – sort of like your plant sprayer – in the upper atmosphere to scatter a percent or so of incoming sunlight. This approach, solar geoengineering, is a band-aid, not a cure for climate change. It doesn’t avoid the need to slash emissions, and it brings a bunch of new uncertainties and potential problems. But it can buy time and might be the only way to avoid Lynas’s world quickly.

Morton digs into these technologies, what we know and don’t know about them, and the controversies, with erudition and wit. I love his…

By Oliver Morton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The risks of global warming are pressing and potentially vast. The difficulty of doing without fossil fuels is daunting, possibly even insurmountable. So there is an urgent need to rethink our responses to the crisis. To meet that need, a small but increasingly influential group of scientists is exploring proposals for planned human intervention in the climate system: a stratospheric veil against the sun, the cultivation of photosynthetic plankton, fleets of unmanned ships seeding the clouds. These are the technologies of geoengineering--and as Oliver Morton argues in this visionary book, it would be as irresponsible to ignore them as it…