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An Urgent Book Club Dedicated to the Climate Emergency

The Brooklyn Public Library and advocacy group Writers Rebel NYC have launched Climate Reads, a yearlong, online book club and discussion series open to readers anywhere in the world.

A mural outside of the Brooklyn Public Library (via Timothy Krause/Flickr)

A new yearlong Climate Reads series, launched by the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and advocacy group Writers Rebel NYC, centers on one of the most urgent threats of our time: the climate emergency. Structured like a digital book club that anyone in the world can join, the program pairs one climate-related book each month with discussions between writers and readers about the climate crisis and environmental justice.

The series kicks off at 7pm (EDT) today, Tuesday, September 22, with a Zoom conversation about Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) led by Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, with authors Mary Annaïse Heglar and Emily Raboteau. Butler’s distressingly prescient novel, set in Los Angeles four years from now, portrays a city ravaged by global warming through the eyes of a teenage Black girl. Amid water shortages, massive poverty, and social chaos, the protagonist also suffers from hyperempathy, a condition that causes her to experience the pain of others more deeply.

Raboteau, a member of Writers Rebel NYC and a co-creator of Climate Reads, says the series is focused on “celebrating and protecting the earth” as well as “telling the truth about the climate crisis.”

“Writers Rebel NYC, along with our partners at Brooklyn Public Library, aims to position literary creativity, language, and storytelling as crucial means of inspiring courage, conversation, and action for our climate and environment,” she said in a statement.

In October, readers will tackle No One is Too Small to Make a Difference (2019), a collection of 11 speeches delivered by the 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, followed in November by the science fantasy novel The Fifth Season (2015) by N. K. Jemisin. (A complete list of every book in the series is included at the end of this article.)

Those interested in signing up for Climate Reads can do so here; so far, the book club has received 350 registrations. Readers are encouraged to attend virtual discussions as well as host their own individual book clubs and use the hashtag #ClimateReads on social media to get the conversation going.

Climate Reads goes hand in hand with another exciting development in BPL’s strategy to help combat climate change: the opening of a brand new branch dedicated to deepening awareness of environmental issues. Construction on the Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center — halted temporarily at the height of the pandemic in New York — is now almost complete. The new building, a sustainable development, will include a natural-habitat garden as well as indoor and outdoor spaces for both special programming and everyday library use.

Additional related initiatives by BPL include the ongoing Green Series, a program of commissioned talks and conversations by climate scientists and activists, and Climate Wednesdays, discussions on urban ecology, transportation, and job creation. 

Climate Reads Reading List:

  • September 2020: Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
  • October 2020: No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
  • November 2020: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • December 2020: Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui
  • January 2021: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
  • February 2021: The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka
  • March 2021: Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad
  • April 2021: Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer
  • May 2021: Florida by Lauren Groff
  • June 2021: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • July 2021: The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
  • August 2021: Trace by Lauret Savoy
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