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Many fiction books are rooted to nature in familiar ways – blooming gardens, towering trees, views of the ocean from a distance. But at our core we know that nature has always been something vast, open and terrifying. The fear, the awe comes from our beginnings, when dense forests and the open ocean were the place of predators, poisons, storms. And as climate change increases around us, more and more people come to life like nature is something great, threatening and fantastic: something greater than all of us, something, perhaps with its own vengeance and judges in sight.
I have put together nine books in which nature is presented not only as a backdrop, but also as a protagonist, a living, breathing part of the story in itself. Books in which awe of nature, the beauty of nature, the fear of nature come into play as central characteristics.
Some of these book recommendations are active climate fiction about the changes in our world; others are fantasy or science fiction or contemporary; But all of the books on this list are rooted in the wildness of nature and its vastness and secrets.
The story of Richard Powers
This epic story connects the story of several people who all have deep and important connections to trees. Mimi Ma was taught to love the mulberry in the background by her Chinese immigrant father. Patricia tries to prove that trees communicate. The roots of the characters’ stories slowly connect and spin around each other to form a monumental narrative about the role and responsibility of humankind on earth, about deforestation and environmental damage, about our people-centered and utilitarian views. Powers builds a living story, rooted in the loves, betrayals, worries, and actions of its characters, but dominated by the trees themselves and Her Majesty.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell
A boy named David speaks to a dying woman named Amanda in this short, quick-read novel about surrealist social horror. Schweblin takes real life horrors and sweeps them into a supernatural story of the desperation of maternal love, the horrors of pollution and poison. This exciting book is filled with heartbreak and warning. It’s a disturbing horror that’s easy to read in a brief rush – but maybe not late at night. This made my heart pound long after I was done.
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Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
A group of scientists arrives in Area X, a haunted, mysterious region full of plants, a small world of its own in the southern United States that threatens to expand and that the US military is determined to investigate despite previous failed expeditions. This biological science fiction novel filled with Lovecraft horror is rich and fascinating, and full of memory and secrecy. And perhaps most of all VanderMeer’s story is about twisted vines and terrifying creatures, a biological environment that threatens to never stop crawling and growing.
Clade by James Bradley
This intensely readable novel begins with the characters of the scientist Adam Leith and his partner Ellie, an artist waiting for the results of her IVF treatment. Grounded by their characters and their connections with one another, this climate fiction jumps through time and shows the terrible climate disasters that await us in the future, from huge floods and storms to the mass deaths of birds and fish to the seemingly spontaneous deaths of bees around the world. If the topic is currently beyond your control, please note that it has a chapter on a raging pandemic.
Broad of longing from Shubhangi Swarup
In this beautiful book, the protagonists are connected by a world that in many ways is too big for them. in an overwhelming narrative and a vast, impressive but intimidating landscape that stretches across the Andaman, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal and the no man’s land between India and Pakistan. Ghosts, trees, the movements of the earth, rebirth and rivers wind their way through Swarup’s stories to say something beautiful about love and how we love. It is written in lush, beautiful prose and is populated by ghosts, the stories of trees, the ghosts of rivers, and the rumble of the earth.
Fauna by Christiane Vadnais, translated by Pablo Strauss
This collection of ten linked short stories about climate fiction depicts a swampy world plagued by water, parasites, fog and disease. Vadnais writes in surreal and haunting prose about the natural world and the way in which it recaptures our world, overruns it and overtakes everything that humans have tried to impose on nature. A biologist is trying to find an antidote to a toxin. A girl’s mother makes her sick. A boy’s love disappears under the currents. It is a book of disease and the wild, at the heart of which it is about stubborn, teeming life that is overwhelming humanity.
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
McConaghy’s novel is a beautiful siren song for nature. In the not too distant future, climate change has resulted in the extinction of almost all wildlife. Franny is a persistent, unreliable narrator determined to follow the last of the terns on their way from Greenland to the Arctic Circle. This book surprised me wonderfully and sank into the most hopeful, longing pieces of my soul. The sea itself is a character in this novel: terrifying, brutal, beautiful, nourishing, taking, calling. The wildness of nature is almost gone, and this book is a love song to what remains. This lyrical novel broke me apart and put me back together again.
The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
Central to this novel is a colonel embarking on a dangerous expedition to Alaska and his wife, a woman who longs to be explored and immersed in nature photography. Ivey’s novel is excellent as it deals with Alaskan folklore and the white elite recording, rewriting and archiving of history. The characters in this novel tell their story through letters, diary entries and documents, convince and act in front of the open, icy landscape of Alaska. Ivey’s writing is respectful and frank about the cruelty and absolute beauty of the land.
In the shadow of Vaddey Ratner’s banyan
This autobiographical novel is a fictionalization of Ratner’s experience as a survivor of the Cambodian genocide that began in 1975. It’s a tale of hunger, violence, and stubborn survival as she and her family try to survive in a whirlwind of forced migration and starvation and chaotic rules. Behind it is the character of Cambodia itself, its country, its nature, its wild beauty – from the rushing water of the Mekong to the rice fields to the aromatic flowers – as the protagonist Raami seeks consolation and survival in the myths, poems and stories were passed on to her , in their belief in the spirits associated with the land.