9 Climate-Fiction Books for Earth Day That'll Scare You into Going Green
The novel A Friend of the Earth by T. C. Boyle was one of those college assignments that I consumed like it was a guilty pleasure. Unlike the hordes of American novellas and Romantic-era classics that I skimmed, shamefacedly, I took A Friend of the Earth home with me on break and wept over the ending. I read the novel for a class on fiction and the environment, and its effect on me was as devastating as, well, the effect of humans on the planet that the book so powerfully portrayed.
The novel was published in 2000 and set in the far-off realm of 2025 — a date that'll be here in barely 10 years. Though the term didn't really exist at the time, A Friend of the Earth could be classified as "cli-fi," or climate fiction, a sub-genre of science-fiction that focuses on the devastating, dystopian effects of climate change. If you're looking for some Earth Day reading that's by turns thrilling, sobering, and terrifying, turn to one of these cli-fi novels that examine humankind's relationship to the planet, and fearlessly imagine the consequences.
'A Friend of the Earth' by T. C. Boyle
There’s nothing particularly friendly about this stunning exploration of environmental destruction. Deforestation and overpopulation have wrecked the world; the protagonist tries to become a radical eco-terrorist and ends up in prison; there are condominiums everywhere. It’s a depressing but extraordinarily compelling read that will make you thankful for the fact that we still have seasons.
'I’m With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet' edited by Mark Martin
Heavyweight authors like Margaret Atwood and T. C. Boyle contribute stories to this collection designed to shake people from their state of eco-denial — but don’t worry, you won’t find any preachy environmentalism here. On a more positive note, profits from the collection go to <a>, an organization that’s reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
'Solar' by Ian McEwan
'Far North' by Marcel Theroux
Bundle up before you dive into this chilly dystopia that deals with the pleasant subject of nuclear fall-out. The protagonist, Makepeace, goes in search of a plane crash in hopes of finding the last stragglers of civilization. There’s no lonely road quite like a post-nuclear Siberian wilderness road.
'The Lorax' by Dr. Seuss
'Odds Against Tomorrow' by Nathaniel Rich
'Flight Behavior' by Barbara Kingsolver
'The Year of the Flood' by Margaret Atwood
Atwood insists that her books aren’t science fiction, but we’re going to shuffle this one under cli-fi, at least, because it deals with a flood — a Dry Flood, mind you — that has extinguished almost all human life. Don’t expect to find the usual apocalyptic climate-change fiction tropes, like people sacking grocery stores for bottled water; the world here is weird and pure Atwood.
'Cold Earth' by Sarah Moss
This haunting debut novel is set in a world attacked by a virus, but the six main characters are isolated from the disease in a location that’s not very fun to be isolated in: winter in Greenland. They write to loved ones that may already be dead; the novel is composed of six first-person narratives, each a long letter.