How do you take something as sprawling and all-encompassing as the environment around us and make it one of the primary players in fiction? These fascinating and compelling novels show us how it's done. What's more, they fulfill the basic premise of fiction, which is to make the story universal, to drive home the impact and maybe shed light on something we might not have heard about before. Just in time for Earth Day, these dramatic novels will doubtless give you plenty of fuel for discussion as we face the daunting challenge ahead of us.

The Dry The Dry by Jane Harper

Hardcover Jan 2017. 320 pages. Published by Flatiron Books

You can feel the parched earth crunch under your feet in this spellbinding mystery set in the hinterlands of Australia. The drought in Kiewarra has wrecked almost everything, most especially the economy. But is it the volatile conditions that precipitated a double murder-suicide or something else? One relentless detective is set to find the answer. A compelling portrait of a town in the grip of the nine-year drought, known as the Big Dry, that ended in 2012.
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The Echo Maker: A Novel by Richard Powers

Paperback Sep 2007. 464 pages. Published by Picador

If there is one literary author who knows how to meld science and fiction flawlessly, it is Richard Powers. This stunningly beautiful novel won the National Book Award for its look at a neurological disorder, Capgras Syndrome. After an accident, the protagonist believes his sister is actually an impostor. How does the mind work in such ways? Set against the background of the Platte River spring migrations, this novel is a thing of beauty, one of our reviewer's all-time favorite novels. Don't miss it.
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Flight Behavior Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Paperback Jun 2013. 464 pages. Published by Harper Perennial

When presented with clear evidence of climate change, the majority of a small Appalachian town in rural Tennessee retreats to religion and anti-science measures as tools to cope with the unknown forces that are slowly enveloping the town. If this novel's central message is prescient, it might be because Kingsolver is particularly adept at crafting believable narratives using the natural world as the larger theme.
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Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Paperback Oct 2001. 434 pages. Published by Harper Perennial

Kingsolver is a master at portraying the daily plays between man and nature. Here she revisits her familiar grounds of Appalachia in this moving novel that shines a light on struggling farms in the region and the people who are drawn to the place for various reasons--from studying the region to hunting to ordinary people trying to understand the havoc wrought by pesticides. A haunting portrayal of a place already leveled by poverty, whose problems are exacerbated by climate change.
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Barkskins Barkskins by Annie Proulx

Paperback Apr 11, 2017. 736 pages. Published by Scribner

The central theme of this novel, about the relationship between man and resources is one that has played out for centuries, but Proulx has a way of depicting how indigenous people can relate to the land in ways markedly different from those of the colonizers, while gently reminding us to watch our own footprints. Spanning centuries this remarkable novel about forests and men is a slow read that will give book clubs much to ponder.
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The Year of the Flood The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Sep 2009. 448 pages. Published by Nan A. Talese

Dystopian and science fiction meld ably together in this novel by an author who has carved her special niche in the genre. When the end of the world as we know it is here, only two survivors make it out alive. Will they find others? How do they cope with the gene-spliced new lives that are poised to take over the world? This inventive book fuels much thought for discussion even if some of its plotlines seem to border on implausible.
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Ordinary Wolves Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner

Paperback Aug 2005. 344 pages. Published by Milkweed Editions

Travel to the untrammeled wilds of Alaska with this spellbinding novel about a white boy brought up by natives with the earth as constant companion and molding force. The author himself was born in a sod igloo and is of the land, so writes of what he knows well. A haunting ode to the transformative and humbling power of nature and a reminder of our place in the majestic universe.
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Anthill Anthill: A Novel by Edward O. Wilson

Paperback Apr 2011. 384 pages. Published by W.W. Norton & Company

One young man's deep-rooted love for nature propels him to study the natural world and eventually takes him to law school because he knows the fight for the environment is just that--a fight that has to be won in the courts. This moving story of a relentless advocate for the natural world will please a whole swath of readers with its impassioned narrative and view from both sides of the proverbial fence.
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