12 Great Books on Climate and Environment to Gift This Holiday
By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.
Looking for climate-oriented gifts that can be purchased, delivered, and enjoyed under COVID-safe, socially-distanced conditions? Look no further.
For this year's holiday gift guide, Yale Climate Connections has gathered celebrated anthologies, deep-dives into climate-related science and solutions, inspiring books from or about spiritual leaders, and visionary works of climate fiction. All are just recently published, some within the past four weeks. There's little chance they will already be sitting on friends' or family member's bookshelves.
Good books can keep us company while we work, together, to bring the coronavirus under control. And they can inspire us to renewed action on climate change when we can meet again in public.
As always with this feature, the descriptions are adapted from copy provided by the publishers.
1.The Fragile Earth: Writing from The New Yorker on Climate Change, edited by David Remnick and Henry Finder (Harper Collins 2020, 560 pages, $29.99)
The Fragile Earth tells the story of climate change – its past, present, and future – taking readers from Greenland to the Great Plains, and into both laboratories and rain forests. It features some of the best writing on global warming from the last three decades, including Bill McKibben's seminal essay "The End of Nature," the first piece to popularize both the science and politics of climate change for a general audience, and the Pulitzer Prize – winning work of Elizabeth Kolbert, as well as Kathryn Schulz, Dexter Filkins, Jonathan Franzen, Ian Frazier, Eric Klinenberg, and others. The result, in its range, depth, and passion, promises to bring light, and sometimes heat, to the great emergency of our age.
2.Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change and Inequality in a Divided World, edited by John Freeman (Penguin Random House 2020, 320 pages, $18.00 paperback)
In the past five years, John Freeman, previously editor of Granta, has launched a celebrated international literary magazine, Freeman's, and compiled two acclaimed anthologies that deal with income inequality. In the course of this work, one major theme came up repeatedly: Climate change is making already dire inequalities much worse. In this new book, Freeman engages some of today's most eloquent storytellers – including Margaret Atwood, Lauren Groff, Edwidge Danticat, Tahmima Anam, Yasmine El Rashidi, Eka Kurniawan, Chinelo Okparanta, and Anuradha Roy – many of whom hail from places under acute stress. His is a literary all-points bulletin of fiction, essays, poems, and reportage about the most important crisis of our times.
3.All We Can Save: Truth, Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson (Penguin Random House 2020, 448 pages, $29.00)
There is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration. All We Can Save illuminates the expertise and insights of dozens of diverse women leading on climate in the United States – scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, and designers, across generations, geographies, and race – and aims to advance a more representative and solution-oriented public conversation on the climate crisis. Curated by two climate leaders and intermixing essays with poetry and art, this book is both a balm and a guide, bolstering our resolve never to give up on one another or our collective future.
4.Future Sea: How to Rescue and Protect the World’s Oceans, by Deborah Rowan Wright (University of Chicago Press 2020, 200 pages, $22.50)
The world's oceans face multiple threats: the effects of climate change, pollution, overfishing, plastic waste, and more. Such widespread environmental threats call for a simple but significant shift in reasoning to bring about long-overdue, elemental change in the way we use ocean resources. In Future Sea, ocean advocate and marine-policy researcher Deborah Rowan Wright provides the tools for that shift. A passionate, sweeping, and personal account, Future Sea not only argues for systemic change in how we manage what we do in the sea, but also describes steps that anyone, from children to political leaders (or indeed, any reader of the book), can take toward safeguarding the oceans and their extraordinary wildlife.
5.The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations, by Daniel Yergin (Penguin Random House 2020, 512 pages, $38.00)
The world is being shaken by the collision of energy, climate change, and the clashing power of nations in a time of global crisis. The "shale revolution" in oil and gas – made possible by fracking technology, but not without controversy – has transformed the American economy, ending the "era of shortage." Yet concern about energy's role in climate change is challenging our economy and way of life, accelerating a second energy revolution in the search for a low carbon future. All of this has been made starker and more urgent by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic dark age that it has wrought. A master storyteller and global energy expert, Daniel Yergin takes the reader on a riveting journey across the world's new map. He poses the great questions of this era of political turbulence and points to the challenges that lie ahead.
6.Solved: How the World’s Great Cities Are Fixing the Climate Crisis, by David Miller (University of Toronto Press 2020, 208 pages, $29.95)
Taking cues from progressive cities around the world, including Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Oslo, Shenzhen, and Sydney, David Miller, director of International Diplomacy for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, summons every city to make small but significant changes that can drastically reduce humanity's carbon footprint. Solved demonstrates that the initiatives cities have already taken to control the climate crisis can make a real difference in reducing global emissions if implemented worldwide. As much a "how to" guide for policymakers as a call to action for concerned citizens, Solved aims to inspire hope through its analysis of what can be done – now, today – to pave the way to a 1.5-degree world.
7.Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, by Pope Francis (Simon & Schuster 2020, 160 pages, $26.00)
In the COVID crisis, Pope Francis saw the cruelty and inequity of our society exposed more vividly than ever before. He also saw, in the resilience, generosity, and creativity of so many people, the means to rescue our society, our economy, and our planet. In direct, powerful prose, Pope Francis urges us not to let the pain be in vain. In Let Us Dream, the Pope offers an inspiring and actionable blueprint for building by putting the poor and the planet at the heart of new thinking. For this plan, he draws not only on sacred sources, but on the latest findings from scientists, economists, and activists. Let Us Dream is an epiphany, a call to arms, and a pleasure to read. With this book, and with open hearts, we can change the world.
8.Stand Up! Speak Up! A Story Inspired by the Climate Change Revolution, by Andrew Joyner (Penguin Random House 2020, 40 pages (for 4-to-8-year olds), $17.99)
Celebrate young climate change activists in this charming story about an empowered girl who shows up, listens up, and ultimately, speaks up to inspire her community to take action against climate change. After attending a climate march, a young activist is motivated to make an effort and do her part to help the planet … by organizing volunteers to work to make green changes in their community, from cleaning a lake, to planting trees, to hosting a clothing swap and more! Here is an uplifting picture book that is an important reminder that no change is too small – and no person is too young – to make a difference. With simple text and lively illustrations, Andrew Joyner has given young children a timely story about activism, community, and hope.
9.Our Only Home: A Climate Appeal to the World, by The Dalai Lama and Franz Alt (Hanover Square 2020, 176 pages, $19.99)
Saving the climate is our common duty. With each passing day, climate change is causing Pacific islands to disappear into the sea, accelerating the extinction of species at alarming proportions and aggravating a water shortage that has affected the entire world. In this new book, the Dalai Lama, one of the most influential figures of our time, calls on political decision makers to finally fight against deadlock and ignorance on this issue and to stand up for a different, more climate-friendly world and for the younger generation to assert their right to regain their future. From this beloved world religious leader comes an eye-opening manifesto that empowers the generation of today to step up, take action and save our environment.
10.The 2084 Report: An Oral History of the Great Warming: A Novel, by James Lawrence Powell (Simon & Schuster 2020, 240 pages, $27.00)
2084: Global warming has proven worse than even the direst predictions scientists had made at the turn of the century. No country – and no one – has remained unscathed. Through interviews with scientists, political leaders, and citizens around the globe, this riveting fictional oral history describes in graphic detail the irreversible effects the Great Warming has had on humankind. In short chapters, The 2084 Report brings global warming to life, revealing a new reality in which Rotterdam doesn't exist, Phoenix has no electricity, and Canada is part of the United States. Characters describe the issues they confront in a world they share with the next two generations. Simultaneously fascinating and frightening, The 2084 Report will inspire you to take action.
11.A Diary in the Age of Water: A Novel, by Nina Munteanu (Inanna 2020, 328 pages, $22.95 paperback)
Centuries from now, in a dying boreal forest of what used to be northern Canada, Kyo, a young acolyte called to service in the Exodus, discovers a diary that may answer her yearning for Earth's past – to the Age of Water, when the "Water Twins" destroyed humanity in hatred. The diary spans a twenty-year period in the mid-twenty-first century life of 33-year-old Lynna, a single mother who works in CanadaCorp, an international water utility. A Diary in the Age of Water follows the climate-induced journey of Earth and humanity through four generations of women, each with a unique relationship to water. The novel explores our concepts of what is "normal" – as a nation and an individual – in a world that is rapidly changing.
12.The Ministry for the Future: A Novel, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Hachette Book Group – Orbit 2020, 576 pages, $28.00)
From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a remarkable vision of climate change over the coming decades. The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us – and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face. It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever written. (Editor's note: Readers can find YCC's review of this book here and an interview with the author here.)
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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