I decided not to go to Glasgow.
Instead, I stayed home where my carbon footprint is so small as to be barely visible. Unlike world leaders and social influencers, I stayed away from COP26. It was a hard choice, but I feel good knowing I’m not contributing to fossil fuels polluting the atmosphere.
Rather than rub shoulders with Leonardo, Justin and other uber-handsome rich men, I'm at home reading. In fact I’m lying down with my feet on the couch so I don’t have a footprint at all. When the movers and shakers, empty suits and activists, fly back to their Hollywood mansions and taxpayer-funded lairs, they will pat themselves on the back for their good intentions and empty commitments. I can pat myself on the back for staying put.
So if you’re in the mood for climate change fiction (yes, this is now a genre), here are a few good picks. The subject may be bleak, but rest assured, your reading is actually what’s helping Mother Earth. Not by going to Glasgow.
Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff Vandermeer
A brilliant speculative thriller of dark conspiracy, endangered species, and the possible end of all things. Profound questions about climate change, identity, and the world we live in are woven into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Set in the days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman
This superb literary novel can’t be characterized as dystopian or science fiction. Audrey Schulman has written an absorbing, recognizable story, a book that is humane, generous and surprising. Readers will shiver as they keep turning the pages.
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
Epic and intimate, heartbreaking and galvanizing, Charlotte McConaghy's Migrations is an ode to a disappearing world and a breathtaking page-turner about the possibility of hope against all odds.
Oval by Elvia Wilk
In the near future, Berlin’s real estate is being flipped in the name of “sustainability,” only to make the city even more unaffordable; artists are employed by corporations as consultants; and the weather is acting strange. A fascinating portrait of the unbalanced relationships that shape our world.
Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine
Wylodine comes from a world of paranoia and poverty—her family grows marijuana illegally, and life has always been a battle. Now she’s been left behind to tend the crop alone. Then spring doesn’t return for the second year in a row, bringing unprecedented extreme winter. An unexpected hero searches for a place hope might take root.
Black Wave by Michelle Tea
In 1999, Michelle wakes up to an official announcement: the world will be ending in exactly one year. Daily life in Los Angeles quickly becomes intensely surreal. Funny, gritty, and endearing, Black Wave muses on the hallucinatory confusions of addiction, the hope and despair of a barely published writer, notions of destiny, and the porous boundaries between memoir and fiction.
The Bear by Andrew Krivak
In an Eden-like future, a girl and her father live close to the land in the shadow of a lone mountain with a few remnants of civilization. The father is preparing her for an adulthood in harmony with nature, for they are the last of humankind. But when the girl finds herself alone in an unknown landscape, it is a bear that will lead her back home through a vast wilderness that offers the greatest lessons of all, if she can learn to listen. A cautionary tale of human fragility, of love and loss, and a stunning tribute to the beauty of nature’s dominion.
On Time and Water by Andri Snaer Magnason
In the next hundred years, the nature of water on Earth will undergo a fundamental change. Glaciers will melt, the level of the sea will rise, and its acidity will change more than it has in the past 50 million years. These changes will affect all life on earth, everyone that we know, and everyone that we love. A travel story, a world history, and a reminder to live in harmony with future generations.
Novels about climate change and the demise of the planet can be more than difficult to process. Don’t forget that at the end of the day, these are fictionalized accounts, with extreme narratives designed to project the worst outcomes. Science fiction and dystopian works are imaginary worlds, with imaginary plot lines. If you are struggling in any way with your mental health, perhaps these are not the books for you.
Stay safe, my friends, and take care of yourselves in whatever way you need.
In the meantime, happy reading.