If you find yourself buried in the choices among books about the climate and its current emergency, all five of these books are great, and each in different ways. It’s easy enough to look at samples of them before reading. I have read all five and recommend them all.
October 29, 2019 | 9:00 AM
Book Club: Five Must-Read Books About the Climate Crisis
It’s the perfect time of year to curl up with a great new book – so be sure to add these climate must-reads to your list.
With the leaves in much of the US past their peak and beginning to fall, hot chocolate and warm mulled cider returning to restaurant menus, and sweaters officially out of storage and back in rotation, the cool comforts of autumn are finally upon us.
Which means it’s also the perfect season to curl up with a great new book.
But with the weather turning cooler, it’s important to not let the urgency of our warming world slip off your radar.
(For the record: Yes, it’s cold. Yes, our climate is (still) changing. Indeed, the climate crisis is almost certainly making bitter cold and snowy conditions in many places worse.)
Ready to put all that extra time spent inside to good use? Learn more about the ways this crisis is impacting the world around us – and what we need to do to fight back – with our list of five climate must-reads below.
The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
By David Wallace-Wells
The Uninhabitable Earth is easily one of the most talked-about books of the year, and its very first line puts the climate crisis into incredible perspective: “It is worse, much worse, than you think.”
The author, a deputy editor and climate columnist at New York magazine, does not mince words on the challenges facing our planet – from the possibility of food shortages and refugee emergencies to climate-driven nation-state destabilization. But he’s also an optimist; one well-aware that the right action today can stave off disaster tomorrow.
Wallace-Wells appeared on last year’s broadcast of 24 Hours of Reality: Protect Our Planet, Protect Ourselves, where he spoke with Rolling Stone journalist Jamil Smith about the health impacts of the climate crisis. Watch:
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power: Your Action Handbook to Learn the Science, Find Your Voice, and Help Solve the Climate Crisis
By Al Gore
A lot of people have heard Climate Reality’s founder and chairman, former US Vice President Al Gore’s message about the climate crisis. But just as important is the message that people around the world can do something about it.
A companion to Vice President Gore’s most recent documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a comprehensive how-to guide full of concrete, actionable ways you can join the movement for solutions and help turn the tide. It’s a powerful reminder of what can happen when people just like you take a stand – when you use your vote, your voice, and your choices to take action when it matters the most.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
By Elizabeth Kolbert
During her angry, historic speech at the United Nations, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg called out world leaders for their inaction, saying, “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.”
New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert might say, “Exactly.”
As Kolbert’s New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner details, the Earth has seen five landmark events in the distant past that wiped out most plant and animal life. But today, we’re witnessing a new phenomenon known to scientists as the “sixth extinction.” Unlike the five previous cataclysms, this sixth one is not a natural event. It’s human-made. And it’s happening right now.
We know it as the climate crisis.
The Sixth Extinction is both a deeply researched exploration of past extinction events and a cautionary tale about the one underway right now. It presents our present situation in stark, plain terms – which is exactly how we need to understand them if we’re going to fight and win.
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
By Paul Hawken (Editor)
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably wondered what it will actually take to halt rising temperatures and solve the climate crisis.
Published in 2017, Drawdown has the answer you’ve been looking for. Well, 80 of them. Compiling meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers from all over the globe and written by an all-star team including Dr. Katherine Wilkinson, the book ranks the 80 most substantive solutions to the climate crisis in one 253-page volume.
Creator and editor Paul Hawken described the robust review process that went into every solution presented in the book in an interview with Diane Toomey of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
“We have 70 research fellows from around the world. Each of them took one or, in some cases, two solutions and wrote basically a master’s thesis on them. They did a literature review. There’s about 5,000 references for those 80 solutions, which are now being published on the website,” he said. “Our goal is transparency. The methodology was a three-step review process. It’s reviewed internally, it’s reviewed by the advisors, then the model is reviewed by outside expert science reviewers.”
Drawdown is a must-read for anyone looking to know exactly how we beat this thing.
While the books listed above are all works of nonfiction, climate is showing up more and more as a major theme in contemporary fiction. (But alas, not on TV.) And there is one important and very notable work that absolutely cannot be overlooked.
Richard Powers’ The Overstory, released in 2018, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The Washington Post, Time, Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, and Kirkus Reviews all named it among the best books of 2018. It is very, very good.
A work of incredible imagination sprawling across centuries and continents, The Overstory tells the, well, story of nine main characters, all existing at different periods of time. But the real protagonists of the novel are not men or women at all. They’re trees.
The Overstory is a novel about the destruction of nature and the need to preserve it – or else. Having written plenty about the role trees, land use, and regenerative farming have to play in the fight against the climate crisis, we have a special place in our hearts for this one.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
After reading these fantastic books, we’re sure you’ll be ready to join the fight for a safe, sustainable future for future generations to come.
Our movement is at a critical turning point in the fight for common sense solutions to the climate crisis. But the good news is that the power to make meaningful progress on climate is in our hands.
Here are three things you can do to take climate action now.
- Click here to join our email list. Sign up today and we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest climate science and all the ways you can take climate action.
- Learn more about becoming a trained Climate Reality Leader. Climate Reality Leaders come from all walks of life, but they all share the same desire to make a difference and help create a sustainable future for the Earth. During a training, you’ll learn what the climate crisis means for you and how you can take action in your community to fight back.
- Join a local Climate Reality chapter. Across the US, Climate Reality chapters are making an impact in the fight against the climate crisis. Join your local chapter and receive announcements and action opportunities in your area.