Environmental fiction for adults

Some of us read nonfiction (The Future EatersAn Inconvenient Truth, etc) to learn more about the environment, and that’s good, but we can also read fiction for inspiration and entertainment. Here is a ‘Greenie Adult Fiction’ list which I came across last year.  The books on it which I do know made me think that the books I don’t know ought to be good too. This version of the list was published in Waves, newsletter of Reef HQ Aquarium Volunteers Association, in February 2012 but the original, created and hosted by a US public library, has vanished from the web since then so I can’t simply point you to it.

cover of Cape PerdidoMarcia Muller: Cape Perdido
When a South Carolina company wants to take water from Cape Perdido, the town’s residents protest. Eventually, things get ugly and someone is killed. An ecological thriller by a well-known mystery writer.

Ernest Callenbach: Ecotopia
In this classic eco-fiction novel, Oregon, Washington and Northern California secede to form an ecologically and socially progressive society. Their citizens rely totally upon solar power and other environmentally safe technology.

cover of The Monkey Wrench Gang Edward Abbey: The Monkey Wrench Gang
Four environmentalists resort to guerrilla welfare when legal tactics fail to stop ecological disasters in the desert of southwestern USA. This is classic Edward Abbey and shouldn’t be missed.

Barbara Delinsky: Looking for Peyton Place
Novelist Annie Barnes returns to her hometown upon the early death of her mother to find her sister also suffering medical problems. Annie turns detective when she begins to suspect that her family’s illnesses were caused by mercury poison from the town’s paper mill.

C. J. Box: Savage Run
Game warden Joe Pickett tries to find out who murdered an environmentalist and his wife, and finds himself fighting millionaire ranchers wanting to put more money in their own pockets.

cover of The Stream Brian Clarke: The Stream
This book tells the story of a stream and all the creatures who live in it or near it, and how their world slowly changes when an industrial park moves nearby. This is the first novel ever to win the Natural World Book Prize, Britain’s premier literary environmental award.

Rick Bass: Where the Sea Used to Be
A veteran petroleum geologist clashes with his environmentalist daughter in this novel by a well-known short story writer.

Charles Pellegrino: Dust
A biological thriller with fungus gnats, bugs, and vicious mites eating their way up the food chain in a world gone wild because of human environmental mishandling.

cover of A Friend of the Earth T. Coraghessan Boyle: A Friend of the Earth
In 2025, global warming and the greenhouse effect have altered the environment drastically and the book’s main character commits the rest of his life to being an “Earth Forever” activist.

My main interest a year ago was Young Adult fiction, rather than Adult fiction, with environmental themes. This page lists some of those books.

6 thoughts on “Environmental fiction for adults”

  1. Another possibility for your list: Tijuana Straits by Kem Nunn. A very satisfying tale of surfing and redemption, partly set in a toxic badlands of unregulated factories just south of the California / Mexico border.

    1. Thanks, Hank – some great resources there. I have argued elsewhere that SF is a great way of exploring possible futures – conducting thought experiments, if you like – and you have reminded me that I always intended to post a version of that article here on Green Path. It’s now back on my “To Do” list.

  2. An addition to the list: Earth Abides by George R Stewart.
    It’s one of the earlier ‘collapse’ novels (1949, republished 2006 by Del Rey) and chronicles the slow recovery of society in the decades after a worldwide influenza-like pandemic. Set in California, its description of the re-establishment of a ‘wild’ environment is particularly well done and still reasonably plausible. Its description of the technological collapse and recovery, however, looks very dated: our present dependence on high technology and almost universal ignorance of pre-industrial skills will potentially make recovery far more difficult than it would have been in the 1940s.
    See Wikipedia for more about the book.

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