Book Recommendations


Unnatural Environments

With weather maps of the country blazing in the orange and red of high temperatures, California's drought still lingering despite good rainfall this year, and massive earthquakes predicted, we’re feeling a little bit, ummm, nervous these days. Normally we turn to fiction to feel better, but we’ve been seeing disasters pop up in pages these days too. Instead of hiding, we’ve become fascinated by this trend in fiction, called climate fiction or cli-fi. Here are a few novels that look at what happens when we don’t take care of our environment. Maybe we’ll even learn some survival tips….



Marrow Island

by Alexis M. Smith

In Marrow Island, Alexis M. Smith weaves a compelling story about our relationships to people and places. When Lucie Bowen was a girl, the Pacific Northwest was damaged by a cataclysmic earthquake, and her father disappeared in an oil refinery explosion that wrecked Marrow Island’s environment. Twenty years have gone by and Lucie, now a journalist, is called back to the island by a letter from her best friend who is living in a mysterious community there. The island seems to have undergone a rebirth thanks to this group, but Lucie is determined to learn the truth of this place.



The Lamentations of Zeno

by Ilija Tronajanow

translated by Philip Boehm

A more realistic look at our changing climate than the other books on this list, The Lamentations of Zeno is the story of glaciologist Zeno Hintermeier. With a foundering marriage, Zeno has decided to work on an Antarctic cruise ship, lecturing about his beloved disappearing ice to passing tourists. Tronajanow’s stream of consciousness narration perfectly captures the misanthropic, witty and bitter voice of Zeno, as he becomes desperate to bring the world’s attention to our melting ice caps.



Gold Fame Citrus

by Claire Vaye Watkins

On a West Coast scorched by an epic drought, Luz and her boyfriend Ray carve out a strange existence squatting in a starlet’s abandoned mansion in Laurel Canyon. They’re just two of the “Mojavs” who refuse to abandon this corner of the country, but when they come across an unusual little girl, they’re forced to flee into the desert. Gold Fame Citrus is a startling novel about a future that doesn’t seem so far-fetched, full of intricate sentences that expertly whisk the reader into this arid landscape.



The Water Knife

by Paolo Bacigalupi

Best known for his book The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi takes on the environment and the strain drought causes on society in his latest, The Water Knife. Set ten minutes into the future rather than centuries, The Water Knife posits a familiar world where states are in open conflict over water rights. A war is brewing between Phoenix and Las Vegas, both determined to drain the Colorado River dry. When migrant girls start showing up dead in long-dry swimming pools, a local journalist starts digging and uncovers a secret that may save her city or finally hand Las Vegas the key to draining Phoenix dry for good.



On Such a Full Sea

by Chang-rae Lee

Chang-rae Lee is known for his haunting novels that dive into the past, but in On Such a Full Sea, Lee invents a startling new world of the future. Most of humanity has been pushed into walled settlements with little connection to the outside world. Lee’s enigmatic heroine, the teenager Fan, decides to go beyond the walls into the polluted world to find her boyfriend who has disappeared. The reader is kept in a state of surprise as the story of Fan is told in the first-person plural by the residents of her home in B-Mor, giving the book an epic feel. However Lee’s beautiful signature prose is ever-present in his foray into science fiction.



America Pacifica

by Anna North


America Pacifica tells the story of Darcy, a young woman living on one of the last refuges for humanity in a future where a second ice age has rendered North America uninhabitable. Weaving Darcy's quest to uncover the truth about the settlement's earliest history, her search for her missing mother, and the daily struggle to survive in a community perpetually on the brink of collapse, Anna North paints a compelling portrait of the tensions that underpin our own world by bottling everything up in a desperate microcosm.