The birth of 'cli-fi': Books that tackle climate change

The Australian landscape faces dramatic changes
A report by the Australian Federal Government found that Australian cities face a much higher risk of the destructive effect of climate change resulting in severe storms.
Ian Waldie / Getty Images 2005

The conversation about climate change is unfolding on an international scale.

With temperatures shifting, water levels rising and storms brewing, we turn to our bookshelves for titles that dig into these urgent environmental issues.


A new genre of hyphenated fiction has emerged out of the melting ice caps. "Cli-fi," short for "climate fiction," pits man against the extremes of a changing environment. "Cli-fi" movies have already clobbered the box office, with recent hits like "Interstellar" and "Snowpiercer."

These "cli-fi" books bring extreme weather to life on the page.

'Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver
'Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver
Book cover courtesy of publisher

"Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver

Beloved novelist Kingsolver turns her eye on climate change in a suspenseful tale set in isolated Appalachia.

"Kingsolver has written one of the more thoughtful novels about the scientific, financial and psychological intricacies of climate change." — The Washington Post

"Odds Against Tomorrow" by Nathaniel Rich

"Odds Against Tomorrow" follows Mitchell Zukor, who has an unsettling yet all-too-real job: He works for an insurance company, calculating the odds of environmental disasters.

The New York Times declared that "any sentence from Rich is worth reading, any thought worth pondering in this ambitious novel of ideas about the way we die now."

"The Stone Gods" by Jeanette Winterson

Winterson takes on the end of the world not once, not twice, but three times in "The Stone Gods." She explores humans' inability to learn from their mistakes, which come in the form of pollution and war. Science fiction icon Ursula LeGuin called it "a keen lament for our irremediably incautious species."

"Far North: A Novel" by Marcel Theroux

A National Book Award finalist, "Far North" picks up after global warming has decimated the planet. Makepeace Hatfield is the only survivor of her Siberian settlement, and she must strike out to see what's left of the world.

The Washington Post called it "the first great cautionary fable of climate change. Marcel Theroux's homespun tale about a solitary frontier survivor conjures up a monolithic world that's ominous and deeply memorable."


This cadre of authors tackles climate questions, from mass extinction to man's capacity to change the weather.

'The End of Nature' by Bill McKibben
'The End of Nature' by Bill McKibben
Book cover courtesy of publisher

"The End of Nature" by Bill McKibben

Published almost 20 years, McKibben's impassioned plea that humans can, and must, change their thinking to change the environment remains relevant and engaging.

"This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate" by Naomi Klein

Klein tackles the troubling and intrinsic connections between economics and the environment.

"The result is the most momentous and contentious environmental book since 'Silent Spring.'" — The New York Times

"Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change" by Elizabeth Kolbert

Kolbert explores climate change with engaging detail: She explains why butterflies are a bad sign and what the rest of the country can learn from Burlington, Vt.

If you enjoy Kolbert's writing, add her newest book, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History," to your list as well.

"Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America" by Thomas L. Friedman

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Friedman makes the case for a green revolution in America.

"Hot, Flat, and Crowded" landed on "best-of" lists from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Businessweek and The Chicago Tribune.

Join the conversation. What books about climate change do you recommend? Do you enjoy "cli-fi" books?