This week marks World Environment Day. So it’s a perfect time to bring together two things that are close to my heart – books and nature.
Let’s take a moment to explore books that make us think about the natural world and our place in it. These stories are collectively known as eco-fiction.
What does eco-fiction include?
While eco-fiction is now considered a genre, there are plenty of different types of stories within it. From historical fiction, to adventures, to dystopian sci-fi, alongside mysteries and thrillers, and everything in between. And we mustn’t forget cli-fi, the phrase coined for stories relating specifically to climate change. An important addition to literature, although that has to be my least favourite name for a sub-genre!
Naming conventions aside, there is something for all kinds of readers within the eco-fiction sub-genres.
What are the themes of eco-fiction?
These books are not just about the environment. You can expect more personal issues such as faith, family, friendship, and coming-of-age, within these pages. Along with the more predictable themes of facing the unknown, and starting a new life somewhere different.
But the underlying theme of eco-fiction is respecting the environment. Because it can – and will – kill us if we don’t. As the characters learn in both Kensuke’s Kingdom, and Where the World Turns Wild.
But nature can also be nurturing, healing, and sustaining. If we could just stop fighting it. Asha and the Spirit Bird is a great example of fiction with a more uplifting eco-fiction theme.
Are the protagonists all hardcore eco-warriors?
The short answer is – no. The longer answer is – read the reviews and the first few pages, and then make up your own mind. Eco-fiction protagonists are all different. Whether the main character seems like someone you will find likeable is a personal thing. But a sample of the book, and other readers’ comments, will give you an idea of what they are like.
Where are eco-fiction books set?
Another diverse aspect of eco-fiction is the setting. Some are, as you might expect, set in dystopian disaster zones. Others fall into this genre because they show us what it is like in one of nature’s few remaining sanctuaries.
These stories can either shock us into taking immediate action. Or inspire us with real life examples of a more natural world.
For example, the drowning world of Exodus might make us reconsider our fuel usage. And the refuse covered landscape of Scavengers might remind us of why we should pay more for reusable items.
While the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books show us that there are still some wild places that we haven’t managed to mess up yet. These stories are primarily mysteries. I’ve included them here because it’s impossible to read them and not be moved by the descriptions of unspoilt Botswana.
My own book, The Lost Plantation, is set in the idyllic forests of Costa Rica. The mystery is hard to solve because nature has healed a damaged environment, clearing away signs of human activity. I’m considering bringing this theme into more of my books. Because I think that what we need now, more than anything, is hope.
Have you read any great eco-fiction? Do you have any recommendations?
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