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12 climate books to bring with you on summer vacation » Yale Climate Connections


While it can provide time to complete a short course of study (see Yale Climate Connections’ bookshelf for May), summer reading is usually defined by vacations. These are the sorts of books one reads on the way to a holiday destination or on a beach, pool deck, or balcony after one arrives. Summer books read quickly; they engross and entertain even when they have important lessons to impart about climate change. 

Leading off our list of summer 2024 titles are two brisk reads by CNN’s chief climate correspondent Bill Weir and climate activist and investor Tom Steyer. The new book by activist and changemaker Osprey Orielle Lake places their works in perspective, stressing the importance of Indigenous knowledge and climate justice. 

The next two titles focus on the nonhuman life with which we share the planet. Indeed, argues the first, the planet itself should be understood as a life form. 

In a new collection of photographs, we see artists trying to visualize these emerging understandings of nature. A children’s book author and illustrator then returns the focus to humans — and summer heat waves. 

Novels have always been a staple of summer reading. This list includes a family drama, a satire, and a thriller that poses a genuinely new question: What would happen to our perception of color under a geoengineered sky? 

Rounding out the list are books about two summer pastimes: sports and gardening. Reporter Madeleine Orr asks how climate change is changing sports. Environmental columnist Kim Stoddart explains how we can make our gardens — and ourselves — more resilient. 

As always, the descriptions of the titles are adapted from copy provided by their publishers. 

Life as we know it (can be) book coverLife as we know it (can be) book cover

Life as We Know It (Can Be): Stories of People, Climate, and Hope in a Changing World by Bill Weir (Chronicle Books 2024, 272 pages, $27.95) 

Award-winning journalist and CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir has spent decades telling the stories of people, places, cultures, and creatures on the brink of change. In 2020, he began distilling these experiences into a series of Earth Day letters for his then-newborn son to read in 2050. Highlighting innovations in clean energy, food and water, and housing and building materials, and touching on how happiness, resilience, health and wellness factor into climate change, Bill’s stories take readers on a global journey. Life As We Know It (Can Be) is a celebration of the wonders of our planet, a meditation on the human wants and needs that drive it out of balance, and an inspiration for communities preparing and planning for what’s next.

Cheaper, faster, better book coverCheaper, faster, better book cover

Cheaper, Faster, Better: How We’ll Win the Climate War by Tom Steyer (Spiegel & Grau 2024, 275 pages, $28.00) 

Tom Steyer has been on the forefront of the climate war for over a decade, leveraging his investment expertise, business knowledge, and community-organizing skills to support sustainable climate solutions. In this accessible book, he explains how capitalism is an effective tool for scaling climate progress, offers his candid take on fossil fuel enablers, and explains why immediate action on the climate front will not only be our key to a healthy and viable future but also an investment in the future of our economy. Steyer tells his own story of coming to understand the urgency of climate action, and he showcases the inspiring work of people on the front lines. Now is the urgent time to come together to secure a healthy future for ourselves and the planet. 

The story is in our bones book coverThe story is in our bones book cover

The Story Is In Our Bones: How Worldviews and Climate Justice Can Remake a World in Crisis by Osprey Orielle Lake (New Society Publishers 2024, 400 pages, $29.99 paperback)

In this book, author, activist, and changemaker Osprey Orielle Lake weaves together ecological, mythical, political, and cultural understandings and shares her experiences working with global leaders, climate justice activists, Indigenous Peoples, and systems-thinkers. She summons a new way of being and thinking in the Anthropocene in order to resolve the interlocking crises of colonialism, racism, patriarchy, capitalism, and ecocide, and to build thriving Earth communities for all. For anyone grieving our collective loss and wanting to take action, The Story is in Our Bones is a vital guide to remaking our world. And it provides an antidote to the pervasive despair of our time.

Becoming earth book coverBecoming earth book cover

Becoming Earth: How Our Planet Came to Life by Ferris Jabr (Random House 2024, 304 pages, $30.00) 

One of humanity’s oldest beliefs is that our world is alive. Though once ridiculed, the idea of Earth as a vast interconnected living system has gained acceptance. We, and all living things, are more than inhabitants of Earth — we are Earth. Humans are just the most extreme example of life transforming Earth. Through fossil fuel consumption, agriculture, and pollution, we have altered more layers of the planet in less time than any other species. But we are also uniquely able to understand and protect the planet’s self-stabilizing processes. Becoming Earth is an exhilarating journey through the hidden workings of our planetary symphony, and an invitation to reexamine our place in it. How well we play our part will determine what kind of Earth our descendants inherit.

The light eaters book coverThe light eaters book cover

The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth by Zoë Schlanger (Harper Collins 2024, 304 pages, $29.99) 

The Light Eaters is a deep immersion into the drama of green life and the complexity of this wild world. It challenges our very understanding of agency and intelligence. In recent years, scientists have learned about plants’ ability to communicate, recognize their kin and behave socially, hear sounds, morph their bodies to blend into their surroundings, store useful memories that inform their life cycle, and trick animals into behaving to their benefit. What can we learn about life on Earth from the living things that thrive, adapt, consume, and accommodate simultaneously? What do we owe these life forms once we come to understand their rich and varied abilities? The Light Eaters challenges us to rethink the role of plants — and ourselves — in the natural world.

Second nature book coverSecond nature book cover

Second Nature: Photography in the Age of the Anthropocene, edited by Jessica May and Marshall N. Price (Rizzoli 2024, 224 pages, $65.00) 

The toll of human activity on the climate — known as the Anthropocene — is considered in-depth in this historic convening of photographers and thought-leaders from the worlds of art, Indigenous studies, philosophy, and ecology. Accompanying a major traveling exhibition, Second Nature is an ambitious and expansive approach to the ever-present climate crisis. Gathering the work of nearly 50 photographers and their unique aesthetic and conceptual perspectives on this urgent issue, May and Price have invited leading figures in a range of fields offering an interdisciplinary and, importantly, intersectional consideration of the Anthropocene.

Heatwave book coverHeatwave book cover

Heatwave: A Picture Book by Lauren Rednis (Random House Studio 2024, 40 pages, $19.99) 

It’s 100 degrees … even in the shade. Games are canceled, temperatures reach record highs. The sun is hot. Finally, a wind picks up. One raindrop. Then another. A downpour. The sun sets. Relief at last. Heatwave is a book that vividly evokes a universal feeling — when the air is so hot and heavy you can barely move, when the sun is so bright your eyes play tricks on you. Renowned artist, writer and MacArthur genius grant recipient, Lauren Redniss’s choice to use just two vibrant and contrasting colors in her artwork and spare text makes for a bold and interesting exploration of extreme weather. The book itself is saturated in red as if the book itself is burning up.

The limits book coverThe limits book cover

The Limits: A Novel by Nell Freudenberger (Knopf 2024, 368 pages, $29.00) 

From Mo’orea, a tiny volcanic island off the coast of Tahiti, a French biologist obsessed with saving Polynesia’s imperiled coral reefs sends her teenage daughter to live with her ex-husband in New York. But when 15-year-old Pia, fluent in French and culturally precocious, arrives in New York poised for a rebellion, COVID sends her and her stepmother together into near total isolation. Moving from a South Pacific “paradise,” where rage still simmers against the colonial government and its devastating nuclear tests, to the extreme inequalities of twenty-first century New York City, The Limits is an unforgettably moving novel about nation, race, class, and family. Heart-wrenching and humane, it’s a profound work from one of America’s most prodigiously gifted novelists.

Waiting for Al Gore book coverWaiting for Al Gore book cover

Waiting for Al Gore: A Novel by Bob Katz (Flexible Press 2024, 274 pages, $19.00 paperback) 

Lenny Beibel, a wannabe journalist, travels to an international environmental meeting in rural Vermont, in search of a story that will put him in the big leagues. There he meets Rachel Seagrave, EarthKare’s visionary founder, who still clings to the hope that Nobel winner Al Gore will appear in time to inspire the faithful. But time is running short. Waiting in the wings is self-help guru Henry “On Your” Marks. Renowned for “Creating Your Own Finish Line,” he sprints onto the scene, determined to convince Rachel he is worthy of this gig. But what’s that, up in the sky? Waiting for Al Gore is a fish-out-of-water drama that blends the urgencies of environmental activism with the folly of self-help bombast, featuring an ensemble cast worthy of a Wes Anderson film.

Burning sky book coverBurning sky book cover

Burning Sky: A Novel by John Darnton (Arcade Publishing 2024, 408 pages, $26.99)

In Burning Sky, three generations of a family confront the life-or-death challenge of global warming. The first, a cantankerous climatologist, raises the alarm. The second, a brilliant scientist with a lust for power that spawns a dictatorship, constructs “the Cocoon,” a stratospheric shield to deflect sunlight. When it cuts the Earth off from the blue sky and majestic stars and plunges our planet into an eternal miasmic fog, it is up to the third generation — the very son and daughter of the scientist — to try to overthrow him and dismantle his pernicious works. In aiming to undo the damage of their ancestors, perhaps the younger generation can set humanity on a wiser course. 

Warming Up book coverWarming Up book cover

Warming Up: How Climate Change Is Changing Sport by Madeleine Orr (Bloomsbury Publishing 2024, 320 pages, $28.00)

The world of sport has a new opponent: climate change. In recent years, a world championship marathon was held at midnight to avoid the blistering sun. Professional athletes needed oxygen tanks to play during wildfire season in California. Ski resorts in the Alps have turned into ghost towns. And golf courses are sinking into the sea. The threat climate change poses to sport is clear, but with billions around the world who rely on the sector for entertainment, jobs, fitness and health, this is one industry we can’t afford to lose. Madeleine Orr shows it doesn’t have to be this way. From the front lines of climate change, Warming Up takes readers through a play-by-play of how global warming is already impacting sport, and how the sports world can fight back.

The Climate Change Resilient Vegetable Garden book coverThe Climate Change Resilient Vegetable Garden book cover

The Climate-Change-Resilient Vegetable Garden: How to Grow Food in a Changing Climate by Kim Stoddart (Cool Springs Press 2024, 208 pages, $28.99 paperback)

Whether it’s water-usage restrictions, extended heat waves, disastrous flooding, “super weeds,” or prolonged pest life cycles, the coming years will be filled with daunting challenges for food growers around the world. What’s a gardener to do? Author Kim Stoddart outlines a clear path toward building resilience in your vegetable plants, your soil, and yourself. With actionable tasks that reduce resource use, stabilize the garden’s ecosystem, and offer regenerative solutions to the most challenging issues faced by gardeners, Kim’s book offers sound advice and encouragement. Take the time to build resilience in yourself and your garden by shifting your thinking today, and you’ll be prepared for the unpredictable future — and unexpected challenges — ahead. 


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