This page is the answer to the age-old question — what do I read when I go to the beach? Except this one has a twist — what do I read when I want to save the planet?
Because there are actually books that help you do that.
The list below comes from conversations within our Climate Steps Facebook group and with my new friends in the Climate Reality Leaders‘ group, as we sought books to (1) help libraries build themed displays/collections about climate change, and (2) help provide fascinating reading for bookclubs.
For those not in the know of what a bookclub is, it is a get-together of folks to discuss books. Usually dinner is involved, and in my last bookclub the topic often wandered towards men, but, hey, we did read books!
One of the best steps you can take for fighting climate change is help other people understand it. Climate-related books can help — via talking libraries into have climate-themed collections at the front door, through gifting to a friend, by talking about in bookclubs, and by building a mini-lending library outside your house, etc.
So here is an initial list – I will list no more than ten under any one category, as we’ll work to build a spreadsheet over time that people can download. Comments below are welcome if you have additional suggestions.
Books on How You can Change the Planet
- Project Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, by Paul Hawken (Editor), 2017. This books tops my list for a book that provides carbon-equated actionable items. The book covers actions at all levels of society – government to individual, but the website has additional, individual behaviors.
2. Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, by Peter Kalmus, 2017. All about personal behavioral changes, and chocked full of good information about climate change in general – from a NASA climate scientist. Recommended as a bookclub book by two Climate Steps members as life-changing! (Disclaimer: I am working with Peter on an app, EarthHero.org, so may be a little biased here.)
Others we don’t yet have a mini-review of yet….
- Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis, by Tim F. Flannery, 2015. (I’ve read others of his works and loved them.)
- Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World, by Bill Nye, 2015.
- The Hard Work of Hope: Climate Change in the Age of Trump, by Robert W. Sanford and Jon O’Riordan, 2016.
- Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens can Save the Planet, by Michael Bloomberg, 2017.
- Give a Sh*t: Do good. Live better. Save the planet, by Ashlee Piper, 2018. Filled with How-tos under different categories such as In Your Kitchen, In Your Closet, and In the Wild.
- (Kathryn provided a number of references. Thank you Kathryn!)
Jessica, a Climate Steps FB member who researched her local library for this question, also found “46 books under “sustainable living,” including: The Green Guide, Living Green, the Eco Chick Guide to Life, Go Green Live Rich, The Heart of Simple Living, How to Give Up Plastic, How Bad are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, The Carbon-free Home, True Green Home, Food Matters, Lucid Food, Generation Green (for teens), and Confessions of an Eco-sinner, Renewable Energies for your Home, as well as books for child-rearing, various hobby books (more food/kitchen, decorating, knitting, holidays, gardening/foraging, homesteading, animals, and DIY). One book was The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions can make our Energy and Climate Problems Worse (As Jessica says, “sounds really motivating, that one.”) Thank you Jessica!
Inspiring Books about Transformation
- Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate , 2014 – a favorite of Kat’s and umpteen other people.
- Also, A Finer Future: Creating an Economy in Service to Life, by Hunter Lovins, 2018.
- Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things, by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, 2002, is a book about the much needed circular economy and is highly recommended by my Climate Reality tablemate and friend Callie.
- No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, by Greta Thunberg, 2019, is a collection of her movement-inspiring speeches. (Potential bookclub book.)
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer , 2013. Highly recommended by two Climate Reality Leaders – Ethyl and Kim. I haven’t read, but it was noted in a review that it ties what can be learned from plants to an awareness of ecology and the planet.
- Great Tide Rising: Towards Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change, by Kathleen Dean Moore and Mary Evelyn Tucker, 2016, is a beautiful book, says Jason, brand new Climate Reality Leader.
- Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, by Kate Raworth, 2017.
- The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture, by Mary Pipher, 2013.
A Changing World
Books to read only in broad daylight, where you can immediately follow up with action to fight any despair.
- Winner of the Pulitzer Prize is The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, 2014. (Recommended by Stuart)
- Of course, there’s a book that helped start off the popular movement against climate change: An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, by Al Gore, 2006.
- Michael Mann, climate scientist, has a large number of books, which look scary to read, although one purports to be funny. https://www.michaelmann.net/content/books. (Boy, do I have some reading to do.)
- A Climate Reality Leader mentioned that Nancy Sokal Green wrote a book in 1991 that was life-changing, called Poisoning Our Children.
- The End of Nature, by Bill McKibben, 1989, was a transformative book, and has been re-released since then with some additional content. Plus he’s written many other well-known books: http://billmckibben.com/end-of-nature.html.
- The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after Warming, by David Wallace-Wells, 2019. Called painful by this review (“read one chapter at a time”), but also highly recommended (nybooks).
- The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, by Dahar Jamail, 2019.
- From LynMarie, Climate Reality Leader: “The best book I’ve read on climate change! David W. Orr addresses the complexity of climate change, and within the context of economy, social justice, agriculture, etc., His book, “Dangerous Years: Climate Change, The Long Emergency, and the Way Forward” is a must read.” 2016.
- Losing Earth: A Recent History, by Nathanial Rich, 2019.
- The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, by Jeff Goodell, 2017. Recommended by two Climate Reality Leaders and lots of folks on Amazon.
Changing Lands and Environmental Justice
- The Right to be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic, and the Whole Planet, by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, 2015 – “It talks about climate change, environmental protection, education, indigenous rights and culture, national and international politics, and more – all with the voice of an Innuit woman.” (Comments by Steph Aay, Climate Reality Leader). Another person mentioned the book is organized in a non-linear fashion, but it is worth sticking with.
- What We’re Fighting for Now is Each Other, by Wen Stephenson, 2016. A call for American radicalism regarding environmental justice.
- Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’, a treatise to fight climate change, spends a substantial proportion of the book focused on environmental justice, notes Jessica.
- Doughtnut Economics listed above also has a large portion devoted to climate justice. Jesicca called it amazing.
- Stuart, a Climate Reality Leader, recommends two sci-fi classics by JG Ballard – The Drought and The Drowned World, 1692. and 1963, respectively. These books just celebrated their 50th anniversary, by strangely becoming nonfiction.
- Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi, 2011. A+ young adult novel.
- Carbon Diaries 2015, and Carbon Diaries 2017, by Saci Lloyd. Two young adult books, published in 2009, about a member of a band and how life changes due to the climate crisis. Recommended by a Climate Steps member for bookclub.
- The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, of course! 1971. Book or animation.
- Michael Mann, the most well known (of those not yet retired) climate-change scientist, known for the original hockey stick graph, co-authored a children’s book with Megan Herbert in 2018 that promises that having a tantrum will save the world. I haven’t read it yet, but I hope to put it to good use. Despite being award-winning, it doesn’t look like it’s on mainstream book sites, so here’s the link. https://www.michaelmann.net/content/tantrum-saved-world-carbon-neutral-kids-book.
- Lynne Cherry is a well-known children’s author about environmental topics, and I happen to have a book on my dining room table to read, called How We Know What We Know About Or Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming, 2008.
More books to come over the next few months, so please check back. We also might later do some prioritizing of them.
But remember, please, the best thing to do with these books is to not only read them yourself, but to talk to your library about adding a collection, to gift them, to have a book discussion party, and to spread the word. Literally.
Additional climate-related book lists: