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Climate Change in Fiction: Five Books to Read

  • By Angharad Guy
  • 12th August 2015
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A climate change reading list of books that tackle the subject in ambitious, dramatic and very human prose. Including thoughts on each book from members of our dedicated reading groups.

As part of our Weather Stations project, an 18-month European project putting storytelling at the heart of climate change, six reading groups around the country have read stories that tackle the subject in ambitious, dramatic and very human prose. Why not join them? Enter Margaret Atwood’s imagination as she describes a world overrun by genetically engineered animals, read Oisin McGann’s take on radical temperature change, and wonder about the changed migration patterns of monarch butterflies with Barbara Kingsolver, high in the Appalachian Mountains.

Below you can find a short description of each book on the reading list, along with thoughts on each book from the reading groups themselves.

If you want to read more stories that deal with this subject, explore our Living Dangerously: Stories of Cimate Change programme. This area of work sets out to harness the transformative power of literature to explore how, as global citizens, and in the context of environmental degradation, we might live our lives differently.

Small-Minded Giants by Oisin McGann

Beyond the huge domed roof of Ash Harbour, a city built inside a hollowed-out mountain, deadly storms and Arctic temperatures have stripped the Earth bare. Resources are limited and access to power is all-important. Sinister bodies reign supreme, undercover operations are rife and every move is monitored by the Clockworkers and Dark-Day Fatalists.

Small-Minded Giants by Oisin McGann

When sixteen-year-old Sol Wheat’s father goes missing and is accused of murder, Sol sets out to find out why, and in doing so uncovers the harsh reality behind Ash Harbour.

Comments from one of our Weather Stations reading groups:

“The book certainly makes you think about climate change. I found myself lost in thoughts at times wondering if this will be anything like our future. I hope not! If more people read this book, they’d get a vision on just how disastrous climate change and global warming really can be, because at the moment, society is deliberately turning away, trying to ignore it. Reading this book may well make more people care about the planet.”


Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

With the lyricism of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and the world building brilliance of Atwood, Emmi Itäranta’s effortless and poignant debut novel is a coming of age story full of emotional drama and wonderment.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

When Noria Kaitio reaches her seventeenth birthday, she is entrusted with the secret of a freshwater spring hidden deep within the caves near her small rural village. Its preservation has been the responsibility of her family for generations.  Apprenticed to her father, one of the last true tea masters, when Noria takes possession of the knowledge, she become much more than the guardian of ancestral treasure; soon, she will hold the fate of everyone she loves in her hands.

Comments from one of our Weather Stations reading groups:

“… a realistic and terrifying vision of the future.”



Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

On the Appalachian Mountains above her home, a young mother discovers a beautiful and terrible marvel of nature: the monarch butterflies have not migrated south for the winter this year. Is this a miraculous message from God, or a spectacular sign of climate change. Entomology expert, Ovid Byron, certainly believes it is the latter. He ropes in Dellarobia to help him decode the mystery of the monarch butterflies.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Comments from one of our Weather Stations reading groups:

“I was woefully ignorant of many aspects of Climate Change. The book, for me, was brilliantly informative and wonderfully expresses the issues of Climate Change.”

A few of the impacts were raised, but I did not consider that the book reflected the complexity of the issues. Neither does it fully address them. Even within the constraints of her chosen plot, I would have expected more from Barbara Kingsolver, given her skills as a writer, her scientific background and interest in environmental issues.”


The Sea and Summer by George Turner

Francis Conway is Swill – one of the 90% in the year 2041 who must subsist on the inadequate charities of the state. Life, already difficult, is rapidly becoming impossible for Francis and others like him, as government corruption, official blindness and nature have conspired to turn Swill homes into watery tombs. And now the young boy must find a way to escape the approaching tide of disaster.

The Sea and Summer by George Turner

Comments from one of our Weather Stations reading groups:

“Kovacs seems to generate the whole gamut of emotions and morality in a very realistic way.”

I felt the book dealt with issues in a unique manner.  It made me realise the possibility that these changes could become reality in the future and left me thinking about various issues long after I’d finished reading the book.”




Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Comments from one of our Weather Stations reading groups:

“… an alarming view of a version of civilisation in the aftermath of devastating climate change. It dealt with the human condition and morality in a stark and dramatic way”

The text addresses the social impact of climate change, but also addresses the wider issues of global corporations, genetic modification, unethical scientific research, aspects of popular culture including immorality and pornography and the impact of the unregulated internet.”




What other works of fiction should be on this list? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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