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10 fiction books worth reading that imagine what climate change could look like

Book collageWhat climate change could look like is fodder for science fiction novelists.


  • Climate fiction, affectionately called cli-fi, is a literary genre that has grown in the past decade.
  • This storytelling explores how we might live in a warming world — and helps us imagine a better one.
  • Here are 10 novels that explore our planet’s future for you to add to your wish or gift lists.
“The Light Pirate” by Lily Brooks-Dalton (2022)The Light Pirate“The Light Pirate” by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Grand Central Publishing

Lily Brooks-Dalton’s “The Light Pirate”, which takes place in the near future, follows an electrical line worker, his pregnant wife, and their two sons as they prepare for an incoming hurricane in a small town in southeast Florida.

In four parts, Brooks-Dalton explores how Florida deals with climate change over decades.

“The Ministry for the Future” by Kim Stanley Robinson (2020)The Ministry for the Future“The Ministry for the Future” by Kim Stanley Robinson

Orbit Books

“The Ministry for the Future” by Kim Stanley Robinson, is a novel that follows an international organization with the same name. It’s mission: To advocate for the world’s future generations.

Stanley Robinson uses fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of a changing world.

“Bewilderment” by Richard Powers (2021)Bewilderment“Bewilderment” by Richard Powers (2021)

W. W. Norton & Company

“Bewilderment” follows astrobiologist Theo Byrne as he searches for life throughout the cosmos while raising his 9-year-old. In it, Richard Powers writes about the father-son duo going on a camping trip, coming face to face with the natural world. There, they try to understand why so little is being done tackle climate change.

“Legend” by Marie Lu (2011)"Legend" by Marie Lu“Legend” by Marie Lu

Penguin Young Readers Group

“Legend” is the first of Marie Lu’s dystopian Legend trilogy. It’s set in a future where cataclysmic environmental events caused society to collapse. The US is split into two nations — the Republic and the Colonies.

The story follows two young teens: June, a military prodigy, and Day, a criminal on the run from the Republic authorities.


“American War” by Omar El Akkad (2017)American War“American War” by Omar El Akkad

Alfred A. Knopf

Set during the tail-end of the 21st century, “American War” tells the future history of a second US civil war that begins when northern states outlaw fossil fuels. In the novel, author Omar El Akkad writes about the protagonist, Sarat Chestnut, and her family as they try to find safety in a world altered by climate change.

“The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi (2015)The Water Knife“The Water Knife” by Paolo Bacigalupi (2015)

Alfred A. Knopf

Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife” depicts a US gripped by drought and water scarcity. It’s set in the near future and follows Angel Velasquez, the titular water knife and an enforcer for a Nevada water authority. In the book, water rights disputes spark a militarized fight in the southwest.

“Future Home of the Living God” by Louise Erdrich (2017)Future Home of the Living God“Future Home of the Living God” by Louise Erdrich

Harper Collins

“Future Home of the Living God” is set in Minnesota in a dystopian future. In it, Louise Erdrich tells the story of a Native American mother-to-be making her way in a world dramatically shaped by human-caused climate change.

“The High House” by Jessie Greengrass (2021)The High House“The High House” by Jessie Greengrass

Simon & Schuster

Jessie Greengrass’ “The High House” is set in the near future. It tells the story of four people, brought together by a climate scientist, attempting to make a sanctuary in high ground, away from climate disaster.

“Termination Shock” by Neal Stephenson (2021)Termination Shock“Termination Shock” by Neal Stephenson

Harper Collins

In “Termination Shock,” Neal Stephenson writes about a Texas billionaire named T.R. Schmidt who wants to embark on a risky geo-engineering scheme: firing rockets that spew sulfur dioxide into the air in an effort to reverse climate change.

“Tentacle” by Rita Indiana (2018)Tentacle“Tentacle” by Rita Indiana

‎And Other Stories

“Tentacle,” written by Rita Indiana, is a novel set in the Caribbean during a time of environmental collapse. The protagonist, Acilde Figueroa, leaves that dystopian future for a voyage back in time with the help of a magical anemone. It was first published in Spanish in 2015 under the title “La mucama de Omicunlé.”

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