What is cli fi? Explore the popular climate fiction books with these startling novels about climate change and global warming.
Have you ever heard of cli fi?
Cli fi, short for climate fiction, is a branch of dystopian fiction set in the present or near future, forecasting a world devastated by climate change.
While climate fiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, climate fiction books aren’t new.
What if has always been a brilliant starting point for science fiction, and in climate fiction, the what if centers on global warming and climate change.
Expect to see plenty more climate fiction books come out as the topic becomes more and more popular. For now, here are some of the best examples of climate fiction for your to-read list.
Best Climate Fiction
Franny Stone embarks on a journey to follow the last remaining flock of Arctic terns. With the eccentric crew of the Saghani, she sets off on a journey that is her one last chance of redemption. Set in a near-future apocalyptic world where animals are almost all extinct, Migrations is described as a hauntingly observant climate fiction novel that will overwhelm you with the emotions of loss.
In a Florida already wracked by climate change, Frida gives birth to baby Wanda amid a deadly hurricane. As the world continues to disintegrate, Wanda grows and adapts to an ever-changing world. Living in a community abandoned by society, Wanda seeks adventure, community, and love in a place remade by nature.
In a world destroyed by plague, Snowman (whose real name was Jimmy) struggles to accept that he might be the last man alive. Full of grief at the loss of his best friend Crake and Oryx, the beautiful woman they both loved, Snowman sets off on a journey through the ruins of a once great city. Oryx and Crake is the first entry in the MaddAddam trilogy, considered one of the cli fi series ever written.
Octavia E. Butler
In 2025, the world has been laid bare by drugs, disease, war, and water shortages. Lauren Olamina lives in a compound outside of Los Angeles, where her father is a preacher trying to lead people to a better way. When her family is killed, Lauren journeys north in a dangerous world, conceiving of an idea that could change everything.
Richard Powers was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for this innovative cli fi novel. Simulating the growth of a tree, Powers breaks with traditional formatting and arranges his work in interlocking segments. You start with short stories about nine different characters and then watch as their stories interweave together in a novel that explores humankind’s relationship with nature.
Kim Stanley Robinson
IN 2025, the Ministry of the Future was established as an organization to guard the world for future generations. Robinson takes the present-day political climate and lays out a fictional path for the next 20 years, showing how climate change could affect the world with twenty eye-witness accounts of different future events.
Richard Powers contemplates the world we are leaving for our children in his newest climate change fiction book. As widowed astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life on other planets, he struggles with raising his nine-year son. Sweet nature-loving Robin is on the verge of being expelled from third grade. Robin’s teachers and doctors tell Theo that Robin needs drugs to help him be normal, but Theo refuses, leaning on the love of the natural world to help Robin cope.
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with one purpose – to reintroduce gray wolves into the highlands despite the fierce resistance from the local population. When a farmer is mauled to death, Inti buries the evidence, terrified the locals will accuse her beloved wolves. But if the wolves aren’t to blame, who caused his death? And will it happen again? One of the best climate fiction books, this hauntingly beautiful novel about healing from trauma – in people and in nature – will hook you from the beginning.
Omar El Akkad
In 2074, the Second American Civil War breaks out in a nation where drones rule the sky and the coastline has shifted inwards considerably. After her father is killed, Sarat Chestnut and her family are sent to live in Camp Patience, a refugee camp in Louisiana. There, Sarat is trained to become a deadly weapon of war with the power to change the country.
In this climate fiction tale, the weather isn’t cold enough to sustain mountain snows and water is an extremely precious resource. In Las Vegas, water knives – assassins, spies, terrorists – will do anything to protect the city’s access to water. When rumors immerge of a new water source, water knife Angel Velasquez is sent to force the information from tough-as-nails journalist Lucy Monroe.
When Cedar Hawk Songmaker finds out she is pregnant, she feels like she must find her Obijwe birth mother before she can tell her adopted parents. Yet, the world is changing – with climate shifts and even cellular changes. With the government intent on studying pregnant mothers, Cedar must hide her pregnancy in this terrifying new dystopian world.
Climate Change Fiction
After a series of natural disasters, Caro and her younger half-brother Pauly retreat to the High House, a former summer cottage set on a hill that is out of reach of the rising water level. Slowly, the pair becomes accustomed to living with the other two residents – Grandy, the elderly village caretaker, and his granddaughter Sally. With supplies running low and Grandy’s health deteriorating, Grandy tries to pass on as much knowledge as he can for the others to survive in this gripping climate fiction story.
Claire Vaye Watkins
With water scarce in southern California, most citizens have been evacuated to the east. Luz, once the conservation poster child, is one of the last holdouts, living in a starlet’s abandoned mansion with Ray, an army deserter turned surfer. At first, they find their love for each other is enough, but when they come across a mysterious child, they begin to dream of a better world.
After a family tragedy, Cooper Gosling upends her life and accepts a spot in an Artist and Writer’s Program in Antarctica. As Cooper finds a place among the misfits living in such extreme conditions, a new scientist arrives claiming climate change is a hoax, throwing the community into the center of a global controversy.
Neal Stephenson penned an ambitious work of climate change fiction. In Termination Shock, the greenhouse effect has ravaged the world, causing superstorms, rising water levels, and deadly pandemics. When a master plan is put forward to reverse the greenhouse effect, the world debates its merits. For what if the cure is worse than the disease?
Dystopian Cli Fi
N. K. Jemisin
In a world rocked frequently by catastrophic earthquakes over the millennia, Jemisin tells a story of three women – a young girl just coming into her magical powers, a young woman learning of the injustice of the current system, and a grieving mother hunting for her child as the world collapses around her. Jemisin won three Hugo Awards for Best Novel in three consecutive years for the books in this trilogy.
Unlike the young adult versions, adult dystopian books are not afraid to show a dark ending to humanity. In The Road, a father and son set off on a journey through the devastated remains of civilization with only a pistol to protect themselves. Praised for its gorgeous prose, McCarthy paints a bleak picture of life in a world with no hope.
Emily St. John Mandel
A story of a traveling troupe of Shakespearean actors, Station Eleven is highly regarded for its gorgeous literary feel. Though it’s set after an apocalypse, it’s not really about the apocalypse. This captivating book grabs your attention, not for its plot twists but for its themes. It’s hard to adequately describe to you its power and beauty. So you’ll just have to read it for yourself.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
One of my favorite classic climate fiction books is this 1977 release about the end of the world. With a gigantic comet headed straight for Earth, Niven and Pournelle spin a tale of surviving not only the resulting earthquakes and tsunamis but also living through the end of civilization. A gripping page-turner, Lucifer’s Hammer will have you questioning what you would do at the end of the world and hoping you never have to find out.
YA Climate Fiction
Neal and Jarrod Shusterman
For years in California, people have been warned to conserve water because of drought conditions. Father and son authors Neal and Jarrod Shusterman imagine what would happen if the wells actually ran dry. Quickly, Alyssa’s suburban neighborhood turns into a warzone with people desperate for water. You’ll be struck by how accurately the breakdown of society – hoarding, profiteering, evacuation centers – is laid out in this entirely possible scenario.
Susan Beth Pfeffer
When a meteor pushes the moon closer to the earth, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic activity ravage the world. This YA climate fiction book is told through a series of journal entries. As an arctic winter descends, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother settle into their family’s sun room, with a stockpile of food and a desperation to keep hope alive.
Starting at a new middle school, Roy is in the midst of a beating from a school bully when he spots a boy running without shoes. When Roy follows, he ends up at a construction site that threatens to damage the habit of local owls. Along with a colorful cast of characters, Roy embarks on a mission to save the endangered owls.
Sherri L. Smith
After a series of hurricanes and an outbreak of a deadly virus, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined behind a wall. When her blood tribe is ambushed, Fen de la Guerre will do anything to get the tribe leader’s newborn over the wall before her blood is infected. With the help of a scientist who illegally entered the Delta, Fen must pass through the New Orleans wasteland to escape to a better future.
Have You Ever Read Climate Fiction?
Did you even know climate fiction was a thing? What are your thoughts on the genre and would you read it? Also, would you ever use the term cli fi? As always, let me know in the comments!
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