Read more, waste less

Take a page out of these green books

From non-fiction to novels to a children's book on environmental heroes, The Sunday Times highlights 10 new titles about the environment and what you can do for it


By Naomi Klein

Canadian journalist and activist Klein gathers essays from across a decade in this searing collection, a call to action for those still wringing their hands over the climate crisis.

The author of hard-hitting books such as No Logo (1999) and The Shock Doctrine (2007), Klein is a proponent of the Green New Deal, the proposed legislation by New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts that would wean the United States off fossil fuels and build up its green energy industries.

Drawing links between the climate crisis and capitalism, she frames the problem as one of overconsumption: "The world's most manic consumers are going to have to consume less so that others can have enough to live."

Available at Kinokuniya:


By David Wallace-Wells

"It is worse, much worse, than you think," begins this frankly terrifying book that sets out to disabuse those who still believe in the fairy tale of the slowness of climate change.

Wallace-Wells, deputy editor of New York magazine, delves into a stream of nightmare futures - alarmingly titled chapters include Heat Death, Dying Oceans and Unbreathable Air - much of which has been engendered within living memory.

For instance, he writes, more than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels was emitted in just the past three decades.

Yet, he argues, humankind has all the tools it needs to stop the nightmare, such as a carbon tax, moving away from beef and dairy in the global diet and public investment in green energy and carbon capture.

Give this book to the climate change denier in your life.

Available at Kinokuniya:


By Jonathan Safran Foer

Foer is best known as the novelist behind Everything Is Illuminated (2002) and Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (2005), but here, he turns his pen to the crisis of belief that plagues the climate struggle.

He lays out the environmental cost of the livestock industry and argues for reducing meat and dairy in people's diets - one step people could take is not eating any animal products before dinner.

"Changing how we eat will not be enough, on its own, to save the planet," he writes, "but we cannot save the planet without changing how we eat."

Available at Kinokuniya:


By Greta Thunberg


Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who sparked a global movement by walking out of school, was named Time's Person of the Year earlier this month.

This volume collects 11 of her ground-breaking speeches, including her "Our house is on fire" speech at the Davos summit in January, in which she chastised world leaders for failing to take action against runaway climate change.

Put together, they are a short but powerful rallying cry.

Available at Kinokuniya:


By Dana Thomas


In fresh, zestful prose, style journalist Thomas explores the environmental and ethical price of fast fashion, one of the world's most pollutive and resource-intensive industries.

Yet, it is not all doom and gloom, as she paints bright visions of sustainable alternatives: from artisanal, localised "slow fashion" to circular systems and even scientific innovations that might one day enable a dress to be grown in a vat of liquid.

For those who can afford it, you can use your wallet to support these alternatives.

For those who cannot, there are always rental subscriptions or the thrift shop.

Available at Kinokuniya:


By Richard Powers


In a year of escalating climate anxiety, this year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went fittingly to American novelist Powers for his ecological epic, a sprawling love letter to trees against a backdrop of global deforestation.

Stretching across time from antebellum New York to the late-20th-century Timber Wars of the Pacific North-west to the present day, it will make you rethink your relationship with trees.

Available at Kinokuniya:


By Chen Qiufan, translated by Ken Liu


Ever wondered where your electronic devices end up after you chuck them out?

Chen, a rising star in Chinese science fiction, gives you an idea in his dystopian creation, Silicon Isle, in which thousands of migrant "waste people" risk daily exposure to toxic chemicals to pick through discarded computers, circuit boards and cables for recycling. It is based on the real-life town of Guiyu, in Guangdong, China, once the world's dumping ground for electronic waste.

Translated into English this year, the eco-thriller examines how the world's technological addiction intersects with ecological degradation and social inequality. It will make you think twice before rushing to get the latest smartphone model.

Available at Kinokuniya:


Edited by Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Brent Ryan Bellamy


Ever heard of "solastalgia", the distress felt upon witnessing the destruction of the environment one calls home? Or "apocalypso", which draws on Caribbean calypso music for the notion of dancing in the face of the apocalypse?

This book gathers 30 loanwords from around the world that could help reshape the language with which people talk about environmental crisis, currently dominated by the lexicon of Western cultures. It also includes artworks responding to these loanwords.

Schneider-Mayerson, who is assistant professor of environmental studies at Yale-NUS College, will also be editing an essay collection, Eating Chili Crab In The Anthropocene, which will look at contemporary Singapore through an eco-cultural lens. It will be out next year.

Available at Kinokuniya:


By Lily Dyu, illustrated by Jackie Lay


This children's book introduces young readers to role models in the fight against climate change, such as Yin Yuzhen, who has spent more than 30 years planting trees in the Inner Mongolia desert; Isatou Ceesay, who teaches Gambian women to recycle plastic for revenue; and Mohammed Rezwan, the architect of "floating schools" in flood-stricken Bangladesh.

Available at Kinokuniya:


By Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey with Fred Pearce


Fall in love with nature again through the gorgeous photos in this coffee-table book, released as a companion to the Netflix documentary series of the same name, with a foreword by famed broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough.

Stunning pictures of sweeping rainforests, polar bears traversing Arctic ice and more are accompanied by sobering pieces on the destruction of these environments and the calamitous loss of biodiversity.

It is a breathtaking chronicle of the world people stand to lose if they continue to drag their feet in response to the crisis.

Available at Kinokuniya:

Eighteenth of a 28-part series in collaboration with

Bookmark This! Ep 12: Clothes, consumption and the climate crisis

Can these books change your mind on climate change? In this podcast, The Sunday Times journalists Toh Wen Li and Olivia Ho check out three new non-fiction books on the climate crisis: Naomi Klein's On Fire, Jonathan Safran Foer's We Are The Weather and Dana Thomas' Fashionopolis.

Produced by: Olivia Ho, Toh Wen Li, Penelope Lee and Ernest Luis

Edited by: Adam Azlee

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 29, 2019, with the headline Take a page out of these green books. Subscribe