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What's On Your Climate Change Summer Reading List?

Need to keep your edge in this summer of sweat and torpor? The Daily Climate's annual summer reading list can help
summer reading


It's summer, people. Time for a little skin. A bit of fun. Something light and insouciant.
Credit: Thinkstock

Drop the Thomas Piketty. Let's all admit right now you weren't going to read that 696-page economics tome anyway.

And set aside Donna Tart's "Goldfinch," too. Yes, it's beautiful. Yes, it won the Pulitzer. Yes, it's 775 pages.

It's summer, people. Time for a little skin. A bit of fun. Something light and insouciant.

Time, in short, for The Daily Climate's annual summer reading list.

Real blockbusters
Before we get to books, let's detour through Hollywood.

The budding climate fiction genre – "cli fi" for short – isn't just for authors and publishers. Movie studios have hopped on this train, and nature bites back in several summer blockbusters set in a post-climate-changed world.

"Into the Storm" focuses on how small-town America copes with devastation caused by supertornadoes the likes of which have already flattened towns in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

"Noah" puts the topic back in time, a biblical epic not so much about the Bible as it is about how humanity copes with a wrathful environment. Shot in part on Long Island during Hurricane Sandy, Noah has grossed more than $340 million worldwide since opening in late March.

Can we throw "Godzilla" into this mix? Why not! Nuclear waste storage is central to the plot; director Gareth Edwards wanted the audience to feel aware "and almost guilty" that we're polluting the planet, actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson told Time magazine. Godzilla, he said, shows that "nature has a way of fighting back."

"Memory of Water, by Emmi Itaranta
Blogger and environmentalists Dan Bloom has been tracking the cli fi genre for six years. He calls this futuristic novel, translated from the Finnish, "maybe the best cli fi book for the summer of 2014."

Set in Scandinavia, in a time when wars are fought over water and China rules Europe, the story focuses on a 17-year-old's quest to become a "tea master," like her father, and to learn the secret sources of water.

"Instructions for a Heatwave," By Maggie O'Farrell
Weather isn't the only thing that's oppressing the family in Maggie O'Farrell's taut, compelling sixth novel.

The book is about a husband and devoted father who gets up from the breakfast table during a record-breaking heat wave to buy a newspaper, only to never return.

It's really about grief and family and sibling relations, of course; the heat wave is just background. But still: There's a climate impact that hits close to home.

"Climate Changed," by Philippe Squarzoni
This is no novel. It has an index. It's 470 pages and includes sentences like this: "Water vapor is one of the forms that water takes in its global cycle, in which it is transformed by the sun and circulates through the different stages of that cycle."

But all can be forgiven, for this is a graphic novel, an innovative effort by French cartoonist and author Philippe Squarzoni to make climate science accessible.

Does he succeed? I tossed my copy to my 12-year-old daughter, who devours graphic novels, and she tried gamely for a half hour before handing it back to me with a shrug.

But maybe pre-teens are the wrong market. The book is unquestionably cool - all black and white and cross-hatched. If you've been meaning to get up to speed on the carbon cycle and all things climate science this summer, this is the book to be seen at the beach with.

"From Here," by Daniel Kramb
Feel the slow burn in this delicious novel from London writer Daniel Kramb.

"My nose is almost close enough to come up against his now," he writes of his heroine, trying to settle down after 10 years of city-hopping. "If I wanted to, my lips could find out whether he tastes the way he looks."

And that's just the first chapter, before the dinner dishes have been cleared.

Kramb's 2012 novel hits all the checkboxes for a summer potboiler: Love, quest for place in this world, and, yes, environmental activism.

"Facing Change," edited by Steven Pavlos Holmes
This nifty little book, an anthology of essays, poems and short stories written over the last 10 years, approaches climate change via literary angles. There's no science, only observations – about missing owls, unused ice skates, the last snow in Abilene.

Writers are "our emotional and cultural first responders to climate change," Steven Pavlos Holmes writes in the introduction. They are "the ones who, with skill and insight, are showing up at this disaster, still in the making; who brave the fear and guilt and confusion to do what they can for people in need. And we are all in need."



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