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Recommended reading list for Earth Day offers new perspectives on the climate crisis  


In honor of Earth Day on April 22, Kresge’s Jessica Boehland, senior program officer of the Environment Program, has curated a reading list of books related to the environment and climate change. Here are her recommendations: 

When I began considering books to recommend for Earth Day, I struggled with where to begin. Since “the environment” encompasses and shapes everything that plays out on Planet Earth, darn near everything is relevant. To narrow things down, I looked back at books published since the start of 2020, roughly the arrival of Covid-19, and those with something new to say about climate change. This baker’s dozen have kept me thinking, learning, and questioning through the pandemic, and I hope you find something helpful here too.

First, the basics:

The Climate Book: The Facts and the Solutions by Greta Thunberg provides a solid foundation for understanding climate change — including its causes, its implications, and our options for response. Thunberg has gathered essays and commentary from scientists, journalists and activists on what we need to combat climate change.

Two books about how we got here, to this point of climate crisis:

The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh is a powerful work of history that traces our current crisis to the discovery of the New World and Western colonialism.

Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet—and How We Fight Back by Kate Aronoff examines the forces that have hindered progress on climate change and shares a vision of what needs to be done to face the threat.

Two books on the human injustices that have led to and stem from climate change:

The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration by Jake Bittle powerfully explores how climate disasters are radically changing the lives of thousands of people being forced to move away from their homes, and reshaping the geography of the United States.

Reconsidering Reparations by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò advances a case for reparations for slavery and colonialism that is tied to a future that addresses the challenges of the climate crisis in an equitable way.

Two books that explore how communities are responding to the challenges of climate change:

Revolutionary Power: An Activist’s Guide to the Energy Transition by Shalanda Baker examines how we need to rethink our current energy system and arm the most vulnerable communities with the tools to remake the system.

Connect > Innovate > Scale Up: How Networks Create Systems Change by Peter Plastrik, Madeleine Taylor, and John Cleveland provides frameworks and insights for building successful networks to develop social innovation. It focuses on five key topics: systems change, development of social innovations, pathways to scale, design of networks and social innovation network leadership.

Two books about time, and how climate change maps onto human and geological history:

The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking by Roman Krznaric argues that we must trade shortsightedness for long-term thinking and offers six ways we can retrain our brains to think of the long view.

Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock by Jenny Odell looks at how our relationship to time is connected to persisting social inequities and the climate crisis and offers different ways to experience time that can bring about a more humane, responsive way of living.

Novels, poetry and essays

To round out, and to feed the less literal parts of your brain, here are two novels, one book of poetry and one book of short essays that reads as if it were poetry. Coincidentally, and appropriately, April is Poetry Month in addition to Earth Month. Enjoy!

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad is the story of a nine-year-old Syrian boy who is washed ashore on an island after a shipwreck and is rescued by a teenage girl.

The Ministry for the Future by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson is a story of how climate change will affect everyone on the planet in the years to come.

Habitat Threshold by Craig Santos Perez is a collection of eco-poetry that reflects on the damage caused by climate change and envisions the possibility of a better future.

World of Wonders by award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil and illustrated by Fumi Nakamura is a collection of essays about the natural world.