Environmental Disasters and Dystopias

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

Take heed from this list of climate fiction, a specialized variety of fiction that explores the impact of an accelerating environmental crisis of our own making.

  • The Inland Sea

    2021 by Watts, Madeleine

    Outside Magazine says, "Watts astutely weaves together observations on sexual autonomy, ill-fated journeys, Roman myths, family ties, and how mundane the effects of climate change can feel, until they don’t." Recommended by Monica.

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  • The Disaster Tourist

    2020 by Yun, Ko-ŭn

    "An eco–thriller with a fierce feminist sensibility, The Disaster Tourist introduces a fresh new voice to the United States that engages with the global dialogue around climate activism, dark tourism, and the #MeToo movement." (Publisher) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • A Children's Bible

    2020 by Millet, Lydia

    Filled with her signature wit and surrealist charm, this book functions as both a dystopian adventure as well as an allegorical tale of society’s failure to do anything about climate change. It's the perfect collision of allegory and harsh reality. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • Empire of Wild

    2020 by Dimaline, Cherie

    A genre-bending novel whose modern Indigenous characters confront environmental degradation, discrimination, and the threat of cultural erasure, all while battling a devious monster. (New York Times) Margaret Atwood calls it "deftly written, gripping, and informative." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • How Beautiful We Were

    2021 by Mbue, Imbolo

    This brand new novel "tells the story of people from a fictional African village trying to survive in the wake of destruction caused by an American oil company. And while this book is a work of fiction, it sounds eerily similar to some real-life events." (Stories for Earth) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Road out of Winter

    2020 by Stine, Alison

    With echoes of The Road as well as Winter’s Bone, this book is an excellent feminist dystopian novel of climate change, survival, desperation, and, ultimately, hope. Even though the setting, narrative, and themes are harsh, I loved how hope and beauty emerge from the hard shell of the narrative and triumph over despondency and cruelty. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • Migrations

    2020 by McConaghy, Charlotte

    Set in a future when 80% of the earth's creatures are extinct, Franny, who is an amateur ornithologist and haunted, restless spirit, boards an illegal shipping vessel to search for the last remaining arctic terns. This book is melancholy, urgent, and brilliant. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Weather

    2020 by Offill, Jenny

    A librarian and mother who took a second job assisting a climate disaster podcaster becomes increasingly obsessed with doomsday concerns. Publishers Weekly says, "Lizzie's apocalyptic worries are bittersweet, but also always wry and wise. Offill offers an acerbic observer with a wide-ranging mind in this marvelous novel." The reader will likely relate to the off-kilter feelings Lizzie has about the current state of things (2016, so there's also the presidential election that year), and find the book both funny and disturbing. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • War Girls

    2019 by Onyebuchi, Tochi

    Taking place in 2172 Nigeria, this action-packed dystopian novel not only explores the issues of climate change and the downside of technology, but those of war and sisterhood as well. With strong characters and world-building, it will compel you to keep turning the pages. Recommended by Penny.

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  • Hollow Kingdom

    2019 by Buxton, Kira Jane

    Walking Dead mixed in with All Creatures Great and Small and sprinkled with creative profanity, philosophical environmentalism, fast-paced adventure scenes, and other genre-bending, language-twisting loveliness. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Trail of Lightning

    2018 by Roanhorse, Rebecca

    I love the New York Times review for this climate change apocalypse book: “Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The History of Bees

    2017 by Lunde, Maja

    This dazzling and ambitious literary debut follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees, to their children, and to one another against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • American War

    2017 by El Akkad, Omar

    "A novel set in the future during America’s second Civil War, which breaks out because of climate change [and] the subsequent depletion of resources throughout the country." (BookRiot) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • We Are Unprepared

    2016 by Reilly, Meg Little

    Reilly, a former employee of the Environmental Defense Fund and native Vermonter, does an amazing job detailing the storm and the changes to nature that precede it. Never preachy nor didactic, Reilly shows the costs of ignoring major problems--whether it’s in a marriage, government infrastructure, or in our environment--and the deadly consequences of this ignorance. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • The Fifth Season

    2015 by Jemisin, N. K.

    "Jemisin's graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world." (Publishers Weekly) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Who Fears Death

    2010 by Okorafor, Nnedi

    This "chillingly realistic tale" (Publishers Weekly) is a "vivid reminder that the people most impacted by climate change are often the most vulnerable, with the least access to political power." (Honestly Modern) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Hungry Tide

    2005 by Ghosh, Amitav

    This book will take you on an adventure on the Sundarbans, a group of islands off the eastern coast of India. Ghosh does a great job of creating a strong sense of place that makes you feel as if you’re there, and different perspectives from a complex cast of characters help in presenting the question of what our role is when it comes to nature—whether it's good or bad. Recommended by Penny.

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  • White Noise

    1985 by DeLillo, Don

    Centering on a family fleeing an ominous black cloud on the horizon that eventually becomes known as the "Airborne Toxic Event," DeLillo's bonkers mid-1980's classic taps into the then nascent mainstream awareness that something wasn't entirely right with our fragile ecosystem. Recommended by Chris.

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