"To a God Unknown," by John Steinbeck
100 percent of California is in one of the three worst stages of drought the United States' weather agency recognizes. Ski areas never opened for the season. The nation's beef herd is the same size it was in 1951.
If ever there was a summer to revisit Steinbeck's slim, searing novel, written in 1933 and set in 1850s California, it is now.
The book, as we perhaps all learned in high school, traces the arc of Joseph Wayne, son of a farmer who leaves his Vermont homestead with his father's blessing to begin anew in unsettled, empty Monterey County. Wayne hears about the dry years. But that was in the past, he reasons: "I won't – I can't see how it can come again."
"The Sea and Summer," by George Turner
And since we're back in time, another suggestion from Dan Bloom, the cli fi blogger. This 1987 work by Australian author George Turner, shortlisted for the Nebula Award, takes us to a dark and dreary 2041.
Government corruption, myopic leadership and a rising sea threaten to leave Francis Conway's hometown a watery tomb, dependent on the state's inadequate help.
Our hero's task? To escape this approaching tide of disaster as the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows ever wider. Wait ... what year is this set in again?
"Not a Drop to Drink," by Mindy McGinnis
Let's not forget the kids. They need to keep sharp over the summer, too.
Mindy McGinnis' opening line is sure to snag your distracted, bored teen: "Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond...."
The dystopian drama depicts one girl's effort to defend her water source against drought, coyotes and, most of all, thirsty strangers looking for a drink.
She's good at it, too – until those mysterious footprints show up in the mud.
"12 Kinds of Ice," by Ellen Bryan Obed, with illustrations by Barbara McClintock
We can't end a summer reading list on a down note, so I was glad when my daughter came home from the library with a slim little volume by Ellen Bryan Obed.
Barbara McClintock's quiet sketches make this a delightful book for those rainy afternoons when you want to sit with a child and escape to places chilly and distant. Obed's prose – poetry, really – carries you aloft in a swirl of pirouettes, sharp cracks and ribboning, frozen streams.
"Black ice is water shocked still by the cold before the snow," she writes. "Black ice, black shadows, black shores, black islands. Silver blades, silver speeds, silver sun."
"But black ice did not stay."
Douglas Fischer is editor of The Daily Climate, an independent news service covering energy, the environment and climate change.
This article originally appeared at The Daily Climate, the climate change news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.