The Climate Lemon
bookshelf reading list Best climate and sustainability books

Reading List: Best climate, sustainability and economics books

Want to learn more about climate change and wider sustainability? Here are some of my favourite books! 

Some of these, such as the Ladybird Expert book on Climate Change, are just really clear and broad introductions to key concepts that I think beginners would get a huge amount of value from as a basic guide. The others are books that have shaped my worldview to some extent and informed my approach to climate action, sustainable development and economics.

In my opinion these are all absolute must-reads. All are compelling, accessible for a lay audience and have a strong research backing.

Note: The links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. I have teamed up with Hive Books,  a more ethical version of Amazon. They offer the convenience of shopping online but give a portion of the money to your chosen highstreet bookstore. (And they’re not a tax-dodging corporate behemoth either).

Best climate and sustainability books

Climate Change by HRH The Prince of Wales, Tony Juniper and Emily Shuckburgh.
In the form of a classic Ladybird book, this is the perfect intro (or refresher) to climate change, covering the causes, impacts and solutions. Clear, very concise and accessible, yet authoritative. Includes pictures and a couple of striking graphs. Everything you need to get up to speed with the basics.

The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard.
A good introduction to the so called “take-make-waste” model of production and consumption of “stuff” in the global economy. Makes you see the economy and consumer goods in a whole new light. It gives a lot more detail than the viral animated video it’s named after.

Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson.
An exploration of whether economic growth is still desirable, sustainable and necessary in the developed world. (Spoiler: it isn’t). Impeccable logic and zero preaching.

Enough is Enough by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill.
Some big ideas for how we could potentially create a post-growth economy that aims to maximise sustainable and equitable human wellbeing, rather than GDP. Lots of great policy suggestions.

The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
This is the intellectual backing to the common-sense idea that equal societies are happier, healthier and more productive and extreme inequality is divisive and causes all kinds of nasty social problems.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein.
A brave and compelling analysis of the contradictions between climate action and capitalism. It explains how because we wasted decades faffing around in geopolitical deadlock before the Paris Agreement, addressing climate change now requires massive and fast changes that completely contradict the free market orthodoxy.

Bad Samaritans by Ha Joon Chang.
Makes you completely rethink what you thought you knew about poor countries, international development and economics. Extremely well informed and surprisingly readable, packed full of real-world examples from history and the present day.

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth. 
Tears apart the outdated rules of mainstream economics and rewrites them for our times, while proposing a beautifully simple model of sustainability that combines fundamental human needs and environmental limits, with the ‘safe operating space’ in the middle. (Hence the  doughnut). Insightful, original and extremely readable.

The Divide by Jason Hickel.
A complete re-education on everything you thought you knew about global poverty, aid and development. While not the centre of the book, climate change is contextualised as the most recent wave in a litany of injustices by the rich countries against the Global South over the last few hundred years. Hard-hitting, gripping and accessible.

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I’ll be adding to this list on an ongoing basis so feel free to throw me your suggestions – and if you liked this list, please share on social!