Literary comfort during a climate crisis
Editor’s note: We feature the brilliant recommendations of our partner, the Champaca Bookstore, in the Read section twice a month. FYI: Champaca is an independent women-run and founded bookstore and children's library in Bangalore.
The times are tense — earthquakes in Nepal and Afghanistan, floods in Sikkim, flash floods nearly drowning New York City, torrential rain in Delhi and an unusually hot October in Bangalore. While we debate the effects of global warming and the anxiety that it may or may not bring us, you might find these reads—consisting of fiction, nonfiction and children’s books on climate change—interesting.
The Nutmeg’s Curse by Amitav Gosh. The book traces the violent journey of the nutmeg from the Banda Islands, Java, in the 18th century, to halfway across Europe where it was the most valuable commodity—a handful could buy a house! Written against the backdrop of the pandemic and interweaving discussions on everything from Black Lives Matter protests, climate change, the migrant crisis, and the animist spirituality of indigenous communities around the world, ‘The Nutmeg's Curse’ offers a sharp critique of Western society and reveals the profoundly remarkable ways in which human history is shaped by non-human forces.
Green Humour For A Greying Planet by Rohan Chakravarty. This is a compilation of funny cartoons and comic strips on global warming, animal-man conflict and wildlife crimes. At a time when we are facing the worst environmental crisis, Rohan Chakravarty’s cartoons are a perfect mix of science and satire. Through social networking tigers and ranting polar bears, ‘Green Humour For a Greying Planet’ gives us the best respite!
Weather by Jenny Offill. Lizzie Benson is a part-time librarian and resident of our doomed planet, who is already overwhelmed with the crises of daily life when an old mentor offers her a job answering mail from the listeners of her apocalyptic podcast, Hell and High Water. Lizzie soon finds herself at the threshold of a polarised world—the right-wingers are worried about the decline of Western civilization and the left-wingers about climate change. ‘Weather’ is the story of a woman who is forced to reckon with what she can do in order to help the world.
Marginlands: Indian Landscapes on the Brink by Arati Kumar-Rao. Combining enthralling nature writing and journalism with immersive art and photography, ‘Marginlands’ by National Geographic photographer and journalist, Arati Kumar-Rao, chronicles reportage about the regions in India that are at the brink of destruction. You will read about the Gangetic dolphin, the Thar desert, Sundarbans, eroding beaches of Kerala and the coastlines of Mumbai.
We loved ‘Marginlands’ due to Arati’s ability to listen intently to the inhabitants of these regions and for paying close attention to each fissure, fold and ripple, as she documents the misguided decisions, wilfully ignored warnings and disregarded evidence that have brought us almost to a point of no return. But she reminds us that our land is still rich in ancient wisdom, and its cracks hold lessons that may yet aid us in undoing centuries of slow violence—so long as one is willing to attune their senses.
The Earth Transformed: An Untold History by Peter Frankopan. The author, Peter Frankopan, says climate change is not new, and nature has always played a role in history. The narrative of ‘The Earth Transformed: An Untold Story’ spans centuries and continents—from the fall of the Moche civilization in South America that came about because of the cyclical pressures, to El Niño, to volcanic eruptions in Iceland that affected Egypt and helped to bring the Ottoman empire to its knees.
Frankopan explains how the Vikings emerged thanks to catastrophic crop failure, why the roots of regime change in eleventh-century Baghdad lay in the collapse of cotton prices resulting from unusual climate patterns, and why the western expansion of the frontiers in North America was directly affected by solar flare activity in the eighteenth century. Frankopan shows that when past empires have failed to act sustainably, they have been met with catastrophe.
The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara. It's the 1950s. In an Indian village, a child is born into a family of Dalit coconut farmers. Named King Rao, the child grows up to be the most accomplished tech CEO in the world and, eventually, the leader of a global, corporate-led government. King’s daughter, Athena, reckons with his legacy—literally, for he has given her access to his memories. With climate change raging, Athena believes that saving the planet and its ‘shareholders’ is the order of the day.
Written by a former Wall Street Journal technology reporter Vauhini Vara, ‘The Immortal King Rao’ is a novel that cuts across the boundaries between literary and speculative fiction, the historical and the dystopian, and confronts how we arrived at the age of technological capitalism and where our actions might take us next.
We also have books for children that navigate the topic of environment and sustainable living. ‘Jhupli’s Honey Box’ by Achintyarup Ray is about young Jhupli who is worried every time her father goes into the Sundarbans forest to collect honey. In ‘A Cloud Called Bhura: Climate Champions To The Rescue’, Mithil, Tammy Andrew and Ammi’s Mumbai is reeling from the effect of Bhura Cloudus, as the media calls it, that contains noxious gases and causes scalding rain to fall, makes birds flee the city, and suffocates every living thing. Can the friends rally their community and give hope and help counter this deadly threat to humanity? Read on to find out more.
Life at Champaca
In November, from book launches to crafty workshops, we have an exciting line-up of events—check them out here! If you’re in Bangalore, we invite you to come to our lush, leafy store, attend the events and browse through our shelves with cold tender coconut water/ a hot cup of coffee, as per the whims and fancies of the ever-changing Bangalore weather!