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Culture

17 Climate Books to Read in 2024

My to-be-read pile is already stacked.

A book in 2024.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

This year set a high bar for climate writing, from fiction like Eleanor Catton’s terrific Birnam Woods andLydia Kiesling’s sharp and prescientMobility to nonfiction like John Vaillant’s best-of-list-topping Fire Weather and Jeff Goodell’s timelyThe Heat Will Kill You First. Needless to say, next year has its work cut out for it.

But after spending the past several weeks digging through publisher catalogs and publicist emails (so … many … emails), I feel confident that the coming year of climate writing will be able to hold its own. Here are 17 books I immediately added to my to-be-read pile for 2024. (We’ve made it easy to add them to yours, too. Just check out our curated list on Bookshop here.)

The Book of Fire, by Christy Lefteri (January 2)

Author Christy Lefteri first encountered wildfire in 2017, when she was working in Greece as a volunteer at a refugee shelter for women and children displaced by the Syrian Civil War. “I woke up one morning and the sky was filled with smoke,” she recalled to Publishers Weekly. “There was a fire in a nearby town. It haunted me.” The Book of Fire — which follows up Lefteri’s 2019 bestseller The Beekeeper of Aleppo — centers on a Greek family whose lives are forever altered when a forest fire destroys their home and village. The Guardiancalled it a “poignant, intimate family” story. Preorder it here.

Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet, by Hannah Ritchie (January 9)

Hannah Ritchie is the deputy editor of Our World in Data, one of my favorite resources for climate information, and her debut book has been described as a “surprisingly optimistic and often counterintuitive story, one that completely contradicts the doomsday-ism in most climate change conversations” by none other than — wait for it — Bill Gates. While many climate handbooks do a lot of handwringing, Ritchie aims to give readers actionable and data-backed ways to address urgent environmental problems. Not the End of the World has already earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and counts Margaret Atwood among its growing fans. Preorder it here.

Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto, by Kohei Saito (January 9)

If you want to get a jump on the book everyone will be talking about this winter, you should preorder Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto now. Already an international bestseller — the English translation arrives in January — Slow Down makes a Marxist argument that growth-focused solutions to inequality and climate change like the Green New Deal are a “dangerous compromise.” Instead, Saito argues for decarbonization through shorter working hours and an end to mass consumption. The book has received starred reviews from the major trade publications and excited intellectuals including philosopher Slavoj Žižek, critic and editor Malcolm Harris, and Fire Weather author John Vaillant, among others. You’ll want to have an opinion on this one. Preorder it here.

The Last Fire Season: A Personal and Pyronatural History, by Manjula Martin (January 16)

What do we owe the places we love? In 2017, Manjula Martin and her partner moved from San Francisco to a peaceful refuge in the forest of California’s Sonoma County. On the night of their housewarming party, however, a fire tore through the region; Martin’s new home survived, but it would only become under greater threat in 2020, one of the state’s worst fire seasons in recorded history. “Humans have evolved with fire,” Martin explained to my colleague Neel Dhanesha earlier this year, “and the more I engage with fire, the more I learn about it, the more I understand its role in both the land and the history of this place, the less afraid I feel.” Kirkuspraised her memoir as “insightful and alarming, hopeful, and consistently engaging.” Preorder it here.

The Tusks of Extinction, by Ray Nayler (January 16)

I’ve been hearing great things about Ray Nayler since the release of his debut novel, The Mountain in the Sea, in 2022, and if I’m not careful, I will soon be playing catch-up: His sophomore book will be out in just a few weeks. In this novella, Russian scientists have managed to bring woolly mammoths back from extinction, but the creatures need to learn how to survive in the modern day. Enter elephant behavior expert Damira Khismatullina — who was murdered trying to protect the world’s last herds from ivory poachers. Luckily, Damira’s consciousness was uploaded to the cloudbefore she was killed, and the scientists are able to implant it in the woolly mammoths’ matriarch. Library Journal named this book its sci-fi pick of the month and “highly” recommends it for “readers of eco-terrorism thrillers and climate fiction.” And the premise might not be as far-fetched as it sounds: At COP28 this year, a Russian billionaire hawked a plan to bring back woolly mammoths to Siberia. Preorder it here.

The Sanctuary, by Andrew Hunter Murray (January 23)

“Near-future thrillers don’t come much better than this stellar effort,” according to Publishers Weekly. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Ben’s fiancee Cara takes a job working for a billionaire on a private island called Sanctuary Rock — then writes Ben to say she isn’t coming back. Ben, worried, decides to track down Cara by joining the community while poking around for clues into what he’s sure must be a dark plot. This climate thriller is already out in the U.K. and I keep hearing about its “effective shocker of an ending” — pick up this one before someone spoils it for you. Preorder it here.

Praiseworthy, by Alexis Wright (February 6)

Aboriginal-Australian author Alexis Wright’s newest novel is aptly named: Praiseworthy has received tons of acclaim abroad, with The Guardian marveling, “How can one novel contain so much?” The book centers on a small town in north Australia threatened by a strange haze — though a precise description of the plot is difficult to come by. “The Ancestors of contemporary Aboriginal people are key to a story that also addresses issues of sovereignty, colonial violence, and the devastation caused by global climate change,” reads one attempt. “In addition, Praiseworthy is a tale of migrations and family connections elsewhere. And it is a story about donkeys.” But as “freewheeling” as its plot might be, the raves for Praiseworthy are impossible to ignore. It’s a “heartbreaking masterpiece,” said Publishers Weekly, adding: “This is unforgettable.” Preorder it here.

A Fire So Wild, by Sarah Ruiz-Grossman (February 20)

Former HuffPost climate reporter Sarah Ruiz-Grossman makes her debut with A Fire So Wild, which its publisher describes as Little Fires Everywhere meets Disappearing Earth. On Abigail’s 50th birthday, she decides to throw a party to raise funds for a new affordable housing project in Berkeley. But while the haves mingle with the have-nots — Willow, whom Abigail met at a soup kitchen, is working as a server at the party — a wildfire burns closer and closer to the gala. This novel sounds juicy — and ripe for Hollywood. Enjoy the bragging rights of saying you read the book first. Preorder it here.

Birding to Change the World: A Memoir, by Trish O’Kane (February 27)

Birding to Change the World shares its name with a course that its author, Trish O’Kane, teaches at the University of Vermont, pairing college students with elementary school children and having them go birdwatching together. But O’Kane wasn’t always a birder; it wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina struck her home in New Orleans that she “took a cup of coffee and sat on the back stoop. About a dozen small brown sparrows clung to a few spindly trees. Where did they go during the hurricane? How did they survive?” In a starred review, Publishers Weeklypraised the memoir for knitting together personal and natural history to share how O’Kane’s interest in birds grew to the point that she “quit her journalism career, [returned] to school at age 45 ... and [became] an ardent conservationist.” Preorder it here.

Lessons for Survival: Mothering Against “the Apocalypse,” by Emily Raboteau (March 12)

“My grandmother Mabel Raboteau fled the coastal town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and the terror of Jim Crow along the northern pathway of the Great Migration, to Michigan, to save her life and the lives of her children.” So begins a 2019 essay by Emily Raboteau in The New York Review of Books titled “Lessons In Survival,” which goes on to review two other books. Now, though, it is Raboteau’s turn to tell her story. Lessons for Survival: Mothering Against “the Apocalypse” is “a probing series of pilgrimages from the perspective of a mother struggling to raise her children to thrive without coming undone in an era of turbulent intersecting crises,” per its publisher, and touches on themes of Black womanhood, art and history, and, of course, what it means to be a mother in an uncertain world. Preorder it here.

Into the Quiet and the Light: Water, Life, and Land Loss in South Louisiana, by Virginia Hanusik (April 30)

I can lose myself for hours looking at photographs by Virginia Hanusik, whose work explores how climate change is reshaping the Mississippi River delta. Into the Quiet and the Light is an apt title for her debut collection; her photos are often subdued, unpopulated, and symmetrical, a combination that gives them the quality of being both painterly and lonely. The collection will include texts from a number of writers, including architects, historians, activists, and organizers. Get a feel for Hanusik’s work with her 2022 photo essay for Bitter Southernerhere before smashing that preorder link. Preorder it here.

H Is for Hope: Climate Change from A to Z, by Elizabeth Kolbert (March 26)

A little over a year ago, Elizabeth Kolbert published a lengthy essay in The New Yorker under the title “Climate Change From A to Z.” It delivered on its premise: In 26 short essays ranging from “Arrhenius” to “Zero,” Kolbert tackled the uncertainty — and breadth — of the climate crisis. H Is for Hope expands on the original concept and, thankfully, doesn’t drop the lovely accompanying illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook. A must-have for your climate shelf. Preorder it here.

On the Move: The Overheating Earth and the Uprooting of America, by Abrahm Lustgarten (March 26)

The planet is changing; more and more places around the globe are becoming uninhabitable. The United States is not immune: By journalist Abrahm Lustgarten’s estimate, by 2070, “at least 4 million Americans could find themselves living at the fringe, in places decidedly outside the ideal niche for human life.” Where will we be forced to leave? And if we leave, where will we go? Lustgarten seeks answers in his forthcoming data-driven book, On the Move, which explores what a mass migration might look like in the U.S. as fires in the West, floods on the coasts, and extreme heat and drought in the South drive populations inland. You might want to read this one before buying a house. Preorder it here.

Every Living Thing: The Great and Deadly Race to Know All Life, by Jason Roberts (April 9)

I love history, science, and animals, so I feel pretty confident I’ll love Every Living Thing, which tells the story of Carl Linnaeus and Georges-Louis de Buffon’s dueling attempts to identify all life on Earth. I mean, pffft, how hard could it be? Author Jason Roberts reportedly spent more than a decade researching this book, which follows up his 2006 biography of James Holman, A Sense of the World, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Preorder it here.

The Backyard Bird Chronicles, by Amy Tan (April 23)

It might seem like everyone is into birding these days — and you can count The Joy Luck Club author Amy Tan among them. She hasn't always been curious about her avian neighbors, however. That changed in 2016, when Tan was desperate for a distraction from the world. Soon, she was sketching the birds; next, she signing up to have 10,000 mealworms delivered each week for her new friends. “I have identified 56 species in my yard,” Tan told the Sierra Club, admitting “I went a little overboard” on the whole birding thing. But it’s because she went overboard that we get to enjoy The Backyard Bird Chronicles, which gathers Tan’s journal entries and original sketches. Preorder it here.

Briefly Very Beautiful, by Roz Dineen (July 2)

A longtime editor for the Times Literary Supplement, Roz Dineen is set to publish her debut novel, a dystopian tale of a mother raising three children while her husband is overseas. As things worsen in the city, Cass decides to take the children to her mother-in-law’s house in the country — and when that no longer seems safe, either, to a commune on the coast. The book description brings to mind Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and Lydia Millet’s A Children’s Bible, with the publisher writing that “against a wider backdrop of a world imploding, [Briefly Very Beautiful] is an exploration of hope and fear, beauty and joy, as well as seismic betrayal.” Preorder it here.

Life After Dead Pool: Lake Powell’s Last Days and the Rebirth of the Colorado River, by Zak Podmore (August 6)

Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam provide power for 5.8 million homes and businesses across seven states. But since 2000, the lake has been drying up. At a certain point, if the level falls too low, it will reach “dead pool,” a state when there is only a weak amount of water flowing through the dam — what Bob Martin, the deputy power manager at Glen Canyon, has called “a complete doomsday scenario” to The Washington Post. At the same time, activists are increasingly pushing to drain Lake Powell and restore the Colorado River. Journalist and passionate river rafter Zak Podmore explores the issue further in his forthcoming book, Life After Dead Pool, which is “not a dour story of climate disaster” but rather “an original account of Glen Canyon’s resurrection,” according to its publisher. Preorder it here.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City. Read More

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