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Cli-Fi Doesn't Have to be Sci-Fi!

6 Novels that Take on Climate Change in Today’s World

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • June 05, 2020

It's Not All Dystopian

Climate fiction is nothing new. The expected fallout from global warming trends has long been an aspect of many dystopian novels. But it can be hard to relate to stories that are set in the distant future. Some of us find that present-day or near-future climate fiction offers a more compelling message. We've handpicked a great selection of six contemporary novels that take place in times we recognize.

A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet (2020)

A fresh, new offering from a Pulitzer finalist, this novel evokes the rage and sorrow of today's youth as they contemplate the environmental destruction that has been wrought upon them. A group of children and teens spend a vacation with their hedonistic parents at a sprawling lakeside estate. When a violent superstorm hits, the adults party on while their children abscond out into the devastated landscape.

The Overstory by Richard Powers (2018)

This Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winner assembles a sundry cast of characters whose lives are radically transformed by trees. Gradually, their disparate stories meld into one, building to a symphonic, devastating climax. This novel is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance and a stunning tribute to the natural world.

Weather by Jenny Offill (2020)

From the author the bestselling Dept. of Speculation, this new novel skillfully illustrates the dilemma many of us feel as we navigate daily life amidst global crisis. The story's narrator, Lizzie, is busy caring for the people in her life—a young son, her difficult mother, and a troubled brother. At the same time, her work, answering polarized letters for an environmental podcast, has her wondering what it means to keep tending your own garden once you've seen the flames beyond its walls.

Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh (2019)

In lieu of actual travel, this beautifully realized novel takes you around the world, from India to Los Angeles to Venice. Rare books-dealer Deen is used to a quiet life spent indoors. When unexpected circumstances send him on an extraordinary quest, he discovers a world on the brink. But he also finds hope.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (2012)

A brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia, this breathtaking story centers on a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she can't explain. Her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, and politicians—placing her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening her world.

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Set just a few decades in the future, this punk noir imagines a parched Southwest riven by conflicts over water. The Colorado River has dwindled to a trickle and water is more valuable than gold. Three unlikely allies find themselves united in a game far bigger and more corrupt than they could have imagined. The only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.

This mix of present-day, reality-based Climate Fiction represents an emerging trend in contemporary literature and we're excited to showcase it. Hopefully you find something here that intrigues you. And if you have any recommendations of your own, we'd love to hear about them!

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Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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