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Book Recommendations for World Environment Day

By Megan Cradock, Caroline Dowse, Konstantopoulou, Zalak Shah, and Ana Cecilia Matute

The world is changing; climate change is happening, animals are going extinct, and pollution drags on. The planet is suffering from the actions of those who dare to call it home. It's something that has long been fighting for attention, and people are continually becoming aware of the consequences their actions are having on the world. With COP16 in a few months, understanding new solutions and ways of preserving our world is the priority; it's no surprise then to find these themes populating reading lists. In recognition of World Environment Day on 5 June, here are some top picks to reflect on these issues.

The Last Wild by Piers Torday 

In the last six years, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes hasn't spoken a single word. The world has changed: animals have mostly died out from a virus known as the Red Eye, and those that still remain, the varmints (all the insects and birds), are treated with horror.

Yet, Kester finds that he can communicate with the varmints; somehow, they can hear his thoughts. And it's not just them. As he begins to travel through the abandoned countryside, he discovers that not all the animals have disappeared – some are still alive, and without his help, this final group of animals will fade away.

A story of survival, discovery and truth, The Last Wild warns how our own world might resemble Kester's if we don't start caring about the environment, the animals and the impact our actions can have on the world.

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (Transl. Megan McDowell)

The environment is a hot topic, and a regular theme of contemporary fiction. Fever Dream looks at the devastating impact of humanity on nature. Amanda lies in a clinic in a small Argentinian town, dying from an unknown illness. A boy called David, the son of Amanda’s friend, Carla, sits beside her, encouraging her to remember what happened. As Amanda recounts her story of a vacation that had gone wrong, she tries to discover what happened to her daughter, Nina. Why are the children of the town being poisoned? And what are the mysterious “worms”?

Fever Dream is set in rural Argentina, and Schweblin highlights the effect certain farming methods have on the health of local communities. The story is told through the conversation between Amanda and David and is, at times, unsettling as Amanda’s flashbacks become confused with her present. The moral is: how we treat the environment affects us all.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

As many non-fiction books like to call it, climate emergency is a complex phenomenon, continuously contaminating the Earth since the commencement of the Anthropocene. It is this precise environmental mark that inspired many novelists, and urged theorists, lecturers and researchers to trouble themselves with the topic.

One would say McCarthy possesses the talent of, not only writing, but of foreseeing the future too. The Road, a fiction novel of disturbing prose, is considered one of his best works, as it presents a post-apocalyptic reality, a reality in close proximity to us.

The novel tells the terrifying story of a little boy who finds himself void of his father, as he suddenly falls victim to the environmental calamities that fall upon the land they walk. Toxic atmosphere, gun-shooting and dead creatures stand as obstacles, as the once-alive father and his son try to navigate the post-apocalyptic world of ash.

Savi and the Memory Keeper by Bijal Vachharajani

When Savi’s father passed away, she thought she could never be happy again. Her mother moved the family to Shajarpur – the town where Savi’s father grew up – to start afresh. Shajarpur was “the city with the best climate in the world” but Savi detested everything about it. The only thing that gave her solace were her father’s plants in the house which she decided to take care of.

But things change when she finds out that the plants talk to her. Especially the giant Ficus tree behind her school. As the tree reveals more secrets to her about the past and the future, Savi finds out that the Tree is in danger and joins the fight to save it. What unfolds is a beautiful story of grief, acceptance and climate change. The interconnection between human emotions and the healing nature of our environment makes Savi and the Memory Keeper a poignant read.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

One of the most talked-about books when discussing how we think about the environment, The Overstory has multiple stories intertwined within that explore the conflicts around nature and how trees and forests are key for living. This novel is already considered a classic for engaging with this topic. Moreover, activism is prominently portrayed in every story, as understanding our ecosystem also raises the question of how we should act regarding current conflicts. Transforming our perspective on nature may also change the way we live every day.

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Carol Lawrence
Carol Lawrence
Jun 14

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