December 2023

There is a tradition in Iceland of giving books on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. Our selection for this month has something for everyone to curl up with over the festive season. Our books for children range from the hilarious tale of rampant consumerism from cavemen Inch and Grub, to the beautifully-illustrated lyrical poetry of Robert Frost. In fiction, we feature Cli-Fi novels Blue Skies from TC Boyle and the darkly funny She’s a Killer from Kirsten McDougall, as well as Nick Hayne’s graphic retelling of the ancient mariner story. If nonfiction is your thing, then delve into the intertwined histories of oil, climate and the devastation wrought by modern wildfires in Fire Weather, find hope in Not Too Late, which brings together climate voices from around the world, or lose yourself in Antlers of Water, a beautiful anthology of Scottish nature writing. Whatever you choose to read this December, snuggle up and enjoy!

Children’s Books

Inch and Grub: A Story About Cavemen by Alastair Chisholm, illustrated by David Roberts

In this delightful consumerist caper, illustrated by David Roberts, the wonderfully hairy Inch and Grub compete to acquire possessions, from fire and chairs to phones and computers. The contest spirals to ever ridiculous heights until they each have a HUGE wobbling mountain of stuff! But their desire to go one better than the other is in danger of toppling their friendship until, at last, they realise what is most valuable of all – each other.

Suitable for Children Age 3-7

The Lonely Polar Bear - Khoa Le

The Lonely Polar Bear by Khoa Le

A polar bear cub finds himself alone on an iceberg after a terrible storm. Without his mother, he befriends puffins, whales, and a mysterious little girl. Vietnamese artist Khoa Le has illustrated a beautiful and whimsical story that subtly introduces young readers to the impact of climate change.

Suitable for Children Age 6-12

Snow by Gina Inverarity

This clever retelling of Snow White takes place in a land of perpetual winter, post-climate breakdown and post-cataclysm. When Snow runs away from a hunter in the forest, she begins a lengthy and arduous journey with only a bear by her side. This is a “fairy tale for the future.”

Suitable for Young Adults 12+

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Robert Frost’s classic poem receives a child-like twist through charming illustrations by Susan Jeffers. This picture book, which has been in print since 1978, is beloved by generations of children for its evocations of New England winters and a man with “promises to keep.” It’s a beautifully illustrated tale about human interconnectedness with nature, even in the depths of winter.

Suitable for Children Age 4-12

Fiction

Blue Skies by TC Boyle

All TC Boyle’s fiction is permeated with the vibrant presence of the natural world. In Blue Skies, the over-abundance and shortage of water are the backdrop of a story of two siblings and their mother encountering a series of personal and environmental catastrophes in desiccated California and waterlogged Florida. But the real protagonists are the creatures whose threatened lives intersect with theirs – sometimes with fatal consequences. Encompassing deadly parasitism, wildlife habitats, snake-smuggling, insect protein, and the animals that flourish despite homo sapiens’ best efforts to exterminate them, Blue Skies is a propulsive story that bristles with humour underscored by the deep empathy and grace that characterises all TC Boyle’s fiction.

She’s A Killer by Kirsten McDougall

Eleanor Oliphant meets Killing Eve in this funny and gloriously unhinged New Zealand sensation, longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award 2023. The climate is in crisis and wealthy immigrants are flocking to New Zealand for shelter, stealing land and taking over. A darkly comic novel about a slacker called Alice who is drawn into action of the most radical – and dangerous – kind. Bold and brilliantly bizarre, She’s a Killer is a satirical dystopian cli-fi thriller.

The Rime of the Modern Mariner by Nick Hayes

The story is exactly what it sounds like: a modern retelling of the Coleridge poem. Told by a grizzled old codger to a young screen-eyed stranger in a park, Hayes takes the original eco-fable and updates it, weaving in plastic pollution and the dehumanisation of humanity when disconnected from the natural world. There are vengeful apparitions, oil slicks and raging tsunamis, not to mention the endlessly mounting corpses of the creatures of the ocean.

Hayes’s poetry is lyrical and energetic, alternately summoning laughter, tears, and moments of reflection. But the real magic at play here is the artwork. Reminiscent of Japanese woodcuts, there’s a simplicity to his highly-detailed lines that allows breathing space while demanding fervent attention.

Of course, you won’t be surprised to learn that nobody listens to our modern mariner. His tale is disregarded as the ravings of a mad hobo, and he is left alone on a park bench, listening to the wind and wondering at the strangeness of humanity.

Non Fiction

Fire Weather: A True Story From A Hotter World by John Vaillant

In May 2016, Fort McMurray, Alberta, the hub of Canada’s oil industry, was overrun by wildfire. The multi-billion-dollar disaster turned entire neighbourhoods into firebombs and drove 90,000 people from their homes in a single afternoon. Through the story of this apocalyptic conflagration, John Vaillant explores the past and the future of our ever-hotter, more flammable world.

For hundreds of millennia, fire has been a partner in our evolution, shaping culture and civilization. Yet in our age of intensifying climate change, we are seeing its destructive power unleashed in ways never before witnessed. Vaillant delves into the intertwined histories of the oil industry and climate science, the unprecedented devastation wrought by modern wildfires, and the lives forever changed by these disasters.

‘Astounding on every page. John Vaillant is one of the great poetic chroniclers of the natural world’ David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth.

Not Too Late: Changing The Climate Story From Despair To Possibility edited by Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua

Not Too Late brings together climate voices from around the world to address the political, scientific, social, and emotional dimensions of the most urgent issue human beings have ever faced. Accessible, encouraging, and engaging, it’s an invitation to everyone to understand the issue more deeply, participate more boldly, and imagine the future more creatively.

“Hope, like love, means taking risks and being vulnerable to the effects of loss. It means recognizing the uncertainty of the future and making a commitment to try to participate in shaping it.”

In this concise collection of essays and interviews, Not Too Late features the voices of Indigenous activists, such as Guam-based attorney and writer Julian Aguon; climate scientists, among them Jacquelyn Gill and Edward Carr; artists, such as Marshall Islands poet and activist Kathy Jeñtil-Kijiner; and longtime organisers, including The Tyranny of Oil author Antonia Juhasz and Emergent Strategy author adrienne maree brown. An energising case for hope about the climate along with a chorus of voices calling on us to rise to the present moment.

Antlers of Water Edited by Kathleen Jamie

This vivid collection of prose, poetry and photography centres on the intersection of modernity and nature in a rapidly changing Scotland, taking us from walking to wild swimming, from red deer to pigeons and wasps, from remote islands to back gardens. Featuring writers and artists that all call Scotland home, the anthology takes a diverse and radical look at nature and landscape within the context of the evolving ecological crisis. ‘There is eco-anxiety, ‘solastalgia’, feminism; there are the ruins of capitalist endeavour.’

It is not all doom and gloom though. The noticing and caring, Jamie argues, ‘amounts to an act of resistance to the forces of destruction.’

With contributions from Amy Liptrot, Malachy Tallack, Chitra Ramaswamy, Jim Crumley, Amanda Thomson, Karine Polwart and many more, Antlers of Water urges us to renegotiate our relationship with the more-than-human world, in writing which is by turns celebratory, radical and political.

Poetry

Poem of the Month

For the Palestinian poet, land is a site of resistance, a place to protect, origin and future, metaphor, subject and theme. Mahmoud Darwish, (1941-2008) who spent most of his life in exile, grew up in Palestine surrounded by and and influenced by the natural beauty of his homeland and as a result nature is strongly reflected in many of his poems.

This poem, from the collection Victims of a Map (Al Saqi Books, 1984) is perhaps the most stark rendering of his eco-poetry sentiments with a broader reference to the future of humanity on the earth as a whole. It has a spirtual quality with its references to the mother, the star, suggesting salvation in the last line.

The Earth Is Closing On Us by Mahmoud Darwish

The Earth is closing on us
pushing us through the last passage
and we tear off our limbs to pass through.
The Earth is squeezing us.
I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.
I wish the Earth was our mother
so she’d be kind to us.
I wish we were pictures on the rocks
for our dreams to carry as mirrors.
We saw the faces of those who will throw
our children out of the window of this last space.
Our star will hang up mirrors.
Where should we go after the last frontiers ?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky ?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air ?
We will write our names with scarlet steam.
We will cut off the hand of the song to be finished by our flesh.
We will die here, here in the last passage.
Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree.

Contact our Librarian if you would like themed book lists to support teaching about climate change.

We’re always looking for contributors to our growing collection of literature to explain and explore the climate and biodiversity emergency. If you’re a writer or poet and would like to share your work or ideas, please get in touch! Contact mattroselibrary@gmail.com for prose or poetsrebelxr@gmail.com for poetry.