Three Smart New Climate Change Books That Are Sort of … Hopeful?

SourceImages Shutterstock, Composite Ned Colin/OZY

Three Smart New Climate Change Books That Are Sort of … Hopeful?

By Anna Davies


Because climate change feels too big to tackle unless you can break it down into paragraphs.

By Anna Davies

When it comes to combating climate change, reading about it seems like a luxury. After all, we see the heartbreaking headlines every day. But books break down the issue and provide perspective in ways that graphs and news reports can’t — and offer up a roadmap from passive panic to emerging action.


These new climate change books offer readers inspiration and information.

Books can also give you ammo to invite your climate-change-denying acquaintances into a conversation. And may also fuel the motivation your book club needs to finally do more than just talk, gossip and drink until someone spills red wine on the couch. In short, if you love books and love the planet, books covering climate change may not be harbingers of doom — they could be the ray of hope you need. Here, three new smart reads to springboard a discussion on climate change.

Weather by Jenny Offill (2020)

In this novel by the bestselling author of Dept. of Speculation, Offill intrinsically understands the way climate change anxiety seeps into your bones, making it impossible to separate the weather at large from your personal world. Offill’s prose is characteristically fragmented, with plot secondary to the emotional journey of her main characters, but the concept is rooted firmly in our shared reality. The main characters, Lizzie and her husband, tap into global anxiety through podcasts. There are still lunches to make, backpacks to fill, sex to be had. 

The strength of Offill’s book is capturing the uneasy tension all of us exist in: balancing global insecurity with everyday minutiae. It may not provide answers, but it does offer assurance that the anxiety you’re feeling is normal, human and deserving of attention.

Read it With: Your partner, your book club and your therapist as a way to talk about climate change anxiety.

But despite the terror and the urgent message — this is the decade to act — fewer than 20 pages talk apocalypse.

The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac (2020)

Remember that sense of relief you felt post-Paris Agreement? The future seemed brighter. Your lungs felt clearer. And then, like a dream, it was over. The 2016 elections happened, environmental protection rollbacks occurred, and the entire world literally seemed to be on fire.

This book, written by two architects of the Paris Agreement, doesn’t sugarcoat things. There isn’t an if there’s a climate crisis. There isn’t a when. There’s only the urgent message: We’re in it, and toting a reusable bag and limiting Amazon orders to once a week isn’t enough. 

But despite the terror and the urgent message — this is the decade to act — fewer than 20 pages talk apocalypse. Instead, the authors focus on hope, offering actionable suggestions and confirmation that everyone has a duty to the planet to take all the steps they can — both in personal actions and in the voting booth — to make a difference. It’s a book that makes you think (which is a far more workable action than despairing) and encourages you to finally give the planet the attention it deserves.

Read it With: Your teen family members to both apologize for the world you’ve given them and promise to do better. (Also, share it with your work Slack book club to encourage co-workers to dip their toes into corporate sustainability practices.) 

Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Change Deniers by John Cook (2020)

Written by an Australian environmentalist and professor at George Mason University (and founder of award-winning website Skeptical Science), this illustrated picture book for adults (it runs a solid 150+ pages) makes no promise about changing people’s minds. In fact, Cook says, it probably won’t. But Cook believes that understanding the climate deniers point of view can arm you with smart discussion points — and at least help curb the spread of misinformation.

Cartoon illustrations and easy-to-digest facts trace how climate change went from general acceptance in the 1990s to a hot-button issue in the 2010s, as well as explaining how climate denial makes sense, from a psychological perspective. As Cook explains, our brains are built to fear a bear — not a global warming graph. But understanding our psychological quirks and preferences just may be the inroad to getting Uncle Ralph to listen to your POV — or at least stop tweeting those stories linking climate change to secret Democrat operatives to @realdonaldtrump.

Read it With: Uncle Ralph … and your cousins who totally get it.