The Emirates Literature Foundation shares its favorite climate fiction books…
Earth Day celebrations may have come and gone on April 22, but it shouldn’t just be an annual celebration. You’ve heard it time and time again, climate change is real and we can all do our part to help fight it.
To highlight this, our friends at the Emirates Literature Foundation have been digging through their shelves to share their favorite books that fit their sustainable ethos and the needs of the times.
Now, stories about climate change have been around for at least half a century, but it wasn’t until 2011 that they garnered enough interest to be labeled as a subgenre in their own right: cli-fi (aka climate fiction). But, is it really fair ‘fiction‘ or could the heartbreaking drama faced by our protagonists in the list of books below come true if we don’t change our ways and protect the planet?
A friend of the earth by T. Coraghessan Boyle
This book was featured as one of LitHub’s 365 books to start a climate change library. The protagonist, Tyrone Tierwater, was once an avid conservationist turned eco-terrorist, and now a recovering criminal living in California. It’s 2025 and Mother Earth has taken revenge on global warming with a collapsed biosphere and the extinction of several species of animals. It’s at this pivotal moment that our anti-hero’s ex-wife enters the scene and plunges him into a recollection of the past that led to this crumbling present.
Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Prize, TC Boyle’s eighth book addresses the love of man and the land in a work that is both realistic and satirical that makes readers want to go away and find out more.
The ministry of the future by Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson is a veteran of ecological fiction and The ministry of the future has been billed as his great novel on climate change. It was also on Barack Obama’s list of favorite books.
The story begins with a heat wave in India that kills millions and triggers a desperate attempt to slow global warming at the institutional level. A UN agency is created which is supposed to represent and protect the interests of future generations but its proposals are often at the crossroads of the wishes and desires of the current generation.
To note: It’s worth bearing in mind that this book was published in 2020, which begs the question: how would Kim Robison reimagine this story in a post-covid world? Something to think about…
The water knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
This New York Times bestseller is set in the Southwest of the United States where the country exists but not as we know it. Climate change and drought have resulted in cutthroat competition for water supplies that borders on outright war. The city of Phoenix is said to be home to a game-changing water spring. It’s also home to a hardened journalist, Lucy Monroe, who will do whatever she can to protect the source of life-giving water from the menace of the water knives, the legendary protectors of Las Vegas’ water supply.
To note: Similar to the other Recommendations, this near-future novel also reads less like science fiction and more like a chilling prediction of the state of the world if humans don’t clean up their act.
The year of the flood by Margaret Atwood
Atwood’s work is clever, and his humorous treatment of the not-so-unlikely environmental disaster makes this book a well-deserved nominee for the 2009 Giller Prize.
A compassionate and hopeful dystopian tale about a religious sect called God’s Gardeners, whose faith is heavily influenced by science and climate. They are environmental advocates who live by the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle and who boycott consumerism and practice vegetarianism. They believe that a natural disaster like “the flood” is inevitable and will change the face of the earth as we know it.
This is the second book in the MaddAddam series – not a sequel but a side story and one can read the books in any order they choose.
The dominant story by Richard Powers
This list would be incomplete without the mention of The dominant story who was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2018 and won the Pulitzer in 2019.
The central theme of this book is trees and man’s relationship with them. The metaphor of trees is strongly present throughout the novel divided into four sections: Roots, Trunk, Crown and Seeds. It begins with short stories of seemingly unrelated protagonists whose lives converge and then diverge with a dramatic climax with a call for humanity to change its worldview and hopefully… destiny.
It’s long, heavy and a moving read. And though these characteristics would be off-putting in the hand of another author, Powers has produced a masterpiece of environmental fiction.
If you enjoyed these recommendations from the Emirates Literature Foundation team, follow them on social media. You can find them on ICT Tac, instagram, Twitter and Youtube where they discuss everything related to literature. They also have a Blog and two podcasts, Unlimited book club and the Best of Emirates LitFestwhich will return very soon with bi-weekly content for a new season.
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