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Top 10 books of eco-fiction

As our real-world ecosystem further devolves, we’ll soon move into the pining-for-our-ex-phase of the relationship – watching the BBC’s Planet Earth documentaries like old wedding videos after a nasty divorce. But books can reconfigure our conception of nature for the better.

My new novel, Greenwood, begins in 2038 on a remote island off the Pacific coast of British Columbia, where wealthy tourists flock from all corners of the dust-choked globe to visit the Greenwood Arboreal Cathedral­ – one of the world’s last remaining forests. The story then travels back through time, telling the story of a family inextricably linked to the trees, from a biologist to a carpenter to an eco-warrior to a blind timber tycoon, describing how we went from fearing and mythologising our forests, to extracting enormous wealth from them, to fencing them off as luxury retreats.

Here are 10 great novels that have taken on this overwhelming story.

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The mother of all eco-fictions, a book that chronicles a man-made climate disaster before we knew what to call it. The dispossessed, hungry, and homeless migrate through baking dust in search of better lives, only to be turned back by callously protectionist locals. Sound familiar? It’s also a heartbreaking testament to the fact that eco-fiction need not be speculative. And even the most hard-hearted readers will be softened by Steinbeck’s eternally revolutionary idea: “Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.”

2. The Word for World Is Forest by Ursula Le Guin
A prescient novella about an interstellar logging colony, written by perhaps our greatest practitioner of “literary sci-fi”. Published in 1972, Le Guin’s book asserted that colonialism, extractivism, and environmental despoliation are endemic to

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