Our survival as a species relies on how well we preserve natural ecosystems, yet, markedly, since the industrial revolution, we have not been the best caretakers of our planet. You could say our actions are now biting us in the rear as we deal with a climate crisis, which Margaret Atwood has termed “everything change.” We cannot talk about pollution or rapid resource grabs or ocean acidification or over-fishing or any number of environmental problems without also recognizing these issues’ relationship with climate change. We will have to recognize everything change in, well, everything, really, including what’s for dinner, where and when we’ll go on vacation, and how to dress, in the very least. So many around the world are already suffering from food and job loss, drought, wildfires, rising sea levels, and other issues we’re currently observing. The problems are overwhelming, all-encompassing, and tough to deal with. Skepticism, denial, and just plain ignoring these problems, however, is easy, right? Who isn’t tired of hearing about climate change?

“The Issue,” as author Brian Adams calls it in his new novel Love in the Time of Climate Change, illuminates another side of the story of everything change, and that is how we tell our story. Our connection with nature will go down into history according to what we document and write today. Narratives happen with reporting of data and facts by scientists, journalistic essays by reporters, and imaginaries by fiction writers and other artistic directors (i.e. film). It is the latter chunk that we’ll look at today: particularly fiction novels that deal with nature and the environment. We have found that most eco-authors just want to write a good yarn, whether its background is science fiction or literary fiction. These authors want to tell a good story while ennobling our natural world or cautioning us about our impact on the environment.

In light of “The Issue,” it seems like a cool idea to give some creative gift ideas that will entertain and enlighten readers this holiday season. The following novels are great stories that deal with everything change in some aspect, whether it’s a message about the fossil fuel industry or a funny romp in the heart of Appalachia where butterflies have changed their migration habits. While there are hundreds of such novels, we picked some of our favorites that were published in the last two years—emphasis on some, since there are many more we would list if we had time (see our database here).

1. Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta. Written with haunting and beautiful prose, this novel takes place in the future, in the Scandinavian Union, after climate change has ravished economies and ecologies, and made fresh water scarce. The main character, Noria, is a young woman learning the traditional sacred tea master art from her father. Yet, water is rationed and scarce in her future world and is guarded heavily by a dystopian government. The English version was published in June 2014.

2. Love in the Time of Climate Change by Brian Adams. Given a thumbs-up by Bill McKibben, this down-to-earth, humorous novel is about an awkward teacher-in-love who is trying to raise climate change awareness among his U.S. students. Hilariously written and non-apologetically didactic, this novel gets the message across without making light of a very serious issue. Published in October 2014.

3. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. Set in the Appalachian Mountains, my first home, I readily identified with the characters who suddenly witness a miracle of nature that appears in their local valley—yet, they grapple with whether it is the divine or the scientific that can explain the beautifully horrifying story of Monarch butterfly migration displacement. A captivating, thrilling, funny tale of human connection with nature. Published in June 2013.

4. On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae-Lee. Set in futuristic America, after our planet’s great decline, Chang has woven a mysterious, melodic tale of a woman searching for the man she loves. Compared to myth, fable, and fantasy novels, this YA fiction is a literary novel that has been highly acclaimed by such media as the LA Times and the New York Times Book Review. Published in January 2014.

5. The Admiral by Jim Gilbert. I highly enjoyed reading this adventure story, which is applauded by several reviewers, including Jacques Cousteau’s oldest son Jean-Michael. Written by a longtime surfer, fisherman, yachtsman, and diver, The Admiral is a post-apocalyptic novel about a community of people trying to survive a climate-changed world on a secret island of aging yachts; it’s a thrilling journey and ride with wonderful character development and a highly contagious heroine, Aqual. Published in May 2014.

6. Back of the Turtle by Thomas King. Written by a classic Canadian environmental author, Back of the Turtle is the story of an ecological disaster and a man’s reconnection to nature. During this self-exploration and redemption comes a humorous story rich with First Nations culture, myths, and wonder. Published in September 2014.

7. The Mysterious Frog in the Mountain of Six Excellencies by Lucas Christopoulos and Kirby Record. Authors Lucas and Kirby spent years in Japan’s Rokko Mountains, where they were inspired by the beauty therein as they immersed themselves into the discourse of wild nature. The novel is part fable, part parody, part poetry, and part fiction. It symbolizes, via Eastern iconic wildlife, our connection to, and disconnection with, the environment. Published in November 2014.

8. The Spirit Bear by Jennifer Harrington. This children’s novel relates the story of a young spirit bear named Annuk, who falls into a river and is swept away from his mother. His journey home is a harrowing experience, complete with predators and trials, but also new friends and new understanding about the world he inhabits – the Great Bear Rainforest. The Canadian author’s goals were to teach children about the large ecologically and culturally important area in the Pacific temperate rainforest, which is threatened by oil sands and gas expansion, pipelines, and supertankers. Published December 2014.

9. Gray Mountain by John Grisham. This best-selling author takes on Big Coal in this contemporary thriller where one gets a sense of high danger in the world of corporate power versus environmental integrity. Published in October 2014.

10. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. Part three of the MaddAddam Trilogy, this popular epic saga takes place in the future, after a man-made plague has wiped out most of humankind. The tale follows the survivors in their dark era and is shared with clever humor and brilliant story-telling. Published in August 2013 after the first two books: Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood.

By Mary Woodbury of Eco-Fiction.com. Thanks to our nature literature and the arts community group for their recommendations to this list. Happy holidays!