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.

Click here to buy.

'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.

Click here to buy.

'Solar' by Ian McEwan

A washed-up Nobel prize winner (apparently that’s a thing) tries to harness the sun to save the entire planet. This novel tackles redemption — or the lack thereof — on both a personal and a hugely global scale.

Click here to buy.

'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.

Click here to buy.

'The Lorax' by Dr. Seuss

Though “cli-fi” may be a trendy new term, it’s impossible not to think of The Lorax , a 1971 work of gloomy environmentalism belied by its cheerful-looking cover. This sad tale ends in tragedy (no more Truffula trees!) but contains, literally, the seeds of hope.

Click here to buy.

'Odds Against Tomorrow' by Nathaniel Rich

Rolling Stone called Odds Against Tomorrow ”the first great climate-change novel,” but perhaps even more notable is the fact that this book — which follows a professional natural-disaster-predictor-turned prophet — kind of foreshadowed Hurricane Sandy.

Click here to buy.

'Flight Behavior' by Barbara Kingsolver

It’s always exciting to see a novel that deals with climate change in lyrical terms. In Flight Behavior , the event that precipitates climate-related worry is nothing short of miraculous: a valley full of monarch butterflies.

Click here to buy.

'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.

Click here to buy.

'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.

Click here to buy.