As climate change threatens our planet’s future, many people are turning to solarpunk – an optimistic vision of a sustainable, post-capitalist society.
Solarpunk envisions a world powered by renewable energy, where humanity lives in harmony with nature. This genre includes books that inspire hope and offer a roadmap towards an ecological utopia.
Here are some of the best solarpunk books to feed your imagination.
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
In a not-too-distant dystopian future, a group of people walk away from a profit-driven society to build a utopia powered on open source, sustainable technologies.
This thrilling novel won the 2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award and tackles themes like inequality, resistance, community, and the challenges of building an ideal new world.
Doctorow is known for his activism and offers a nuanced critique of both worlds in Walkaway.
New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
This cli-fi (climate fiction) novel is set in New York City after two major climate disasters have flooded the city.
Yet life goes on—humankind adapts to the rising waters with innovative architecture and layouts.
With its colorful cast of characters representing a cross-section of future society, New York 2140 offers a vivid and ultimately hopeful vision of what a sustainable flooded metropolis could look like.
Kim Stanley Robinson is hailed for realistic sci-fi that addresses policy issues like climate change.
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
A classic work that helped conceive the solarpunk ethos long before the term existed.
It depicts two twin planets – lush Urras resembles Earth and is divided between two rival nation-states, while arid Anarres is home to anarchist refugees who govern themselves without hierarchy according to communal production.
The Dispossessed won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards by exploring profound political and utopian themes that feel remarkably relevant today.
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
First published in 1976 during the second wave feminist movement, Woman on the Edge of Time has developed cult status in solarpunk circles for its revolutionary vision.
The heroine Connie communicates across time with Luciente – an androgynous envoy from a utopian future where sustainable energy, communal living, and non-hierarchical governance have dissolved divisions along gender, racial and economic lines.
Piercy paints a vivid, idealistic picture that continues to inspire dissidents and activists.
Green Planets, edited by Gerry Canavan and Kim Stanley Robinson
This critical anthology explores the connection between science fiction and contemporary discourses around environmental crisis and issues.
It includes both reprints of sci-fi stories that examine the ethics of colonizing other planets as well as critical essays from several academics.
Green Planets discusses how sci-fi and environmental activism inform one another, which is highly relevant to the modern solarpunk ethos.
The editors’ selections cover an ambitious swath of scholarship and storytelling spanning over 50 years.
Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin
Another pioneering sci-fi work that helped gestate the ideas behind solarpunk.
This speculative anthropology documents the Kesh – survivors of ecological disaster who live sustainably in northern California, adapting themselves to the natural landscape and climate change.
Le Guin immerses the reader in an alternative culture through poems, short stories, and various artifacts from these people of the future, who turn away from patriarchy, racism, and economic exploitation of the land.
Always Coming Home offers a fully-realized vision of life beyond climate crisis.
The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk
Set in 2048, this novel describes a post-water-wars California where Southern California has become a militarized zone while San Francisco has sustained itself peacefully thanks to sustainable practices and Pagan wisdom.
When the South invades, brave women risk their lives to protect their eco-paradise.
Starhawk helped merge progressive politics with earth-based spirituality in more mainstream outlets.
The Fifth Sacred Thing and its sequel, City of Refuge, have inspired many with their vision of social justice, ecology, and the sacred feminine.
Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson
Part of Robinson’s ‘Three Californias’ trilogy, Pacific Edge offers a bright, near-future perspective on what El Modena, Orange County might look like if shaped by progressive values.
With more focus on character development than politics, the residents of Pacific Edge face familiar moral dilemmas around development versus sustainability even with the political structures to achieve ecological balance.
Robinson ultimately paints a sympathetic post-scarcity world built through political struggle.
The Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
This haunting cli-fi novel depicts a Nordic future of water scarcity under totalitarian rule.
Itäranta creates an immersive sense of place under vicious resource control.
At the story’s heart shines 17-year-old Noria, who possesses a unique gift that allows her to see water where others cannot.
Noria must navigate impossible choices to survive, showing the resilience required when confronting climate catastrophe.
The Memory of Water illustrates both eco-fascist and utopian solarpunk possibilities through Noria’s quietly defiant point of view.
Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation
Showcasing a diverse, international group of writers, Sunvault offers a broad range of solarpunk short stories and poetry edited by Phoebe Wagner and Bronte Wieland.
Contributions come from rising stars and established authors like Jerome Stueart and Nonami Atsumi exploring biopunk, silkpunk, and other eco-experimental subgenres.
More than mere technical speculation about green energy, these visionary authors grapple with themes of environmental justice and the struggle to preserve community in the face of displacement.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This post-apocalyptic novel focuses on a group of survivors living through the aftermath of a deadly flu pandemic.
As they travel across the Great Lakes region, performing Shakespeare for isolated settlements, the tale highlights the healing power of art, culture and human connection – even when technology disappears.
With its emphasis on mindfulness and simplicity, Station Eleven offers lessons for those looking to build a more meaningful existence.
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
VanderMeer brings his weird biopunk style to this disturbing yet beautiful novel set in a fallen city ruled by a flying bear named Mord.
A scavenger named Rachel finds Borne – a shapeshifting organism designed for military applications – and chooses to rescue and raise this creature rather than delivering it to her drug-dealing partner.
As Borne grows and explores their humanity, the story becomes a unconventional tale of climate refugees and unexpected creation in between dystopia and utopia.
A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski
By focusing on an all-female, pacifist culture of genetically-engineered humans living sustainably on the ocean planet Shora, Slonczewski offers a thought-provoking take on radical ecology and feminism.
When confronted with encroachment from the patriarchal Valans, the Sharers must assess whether to adapt to protect their non-hierarchical, egalitarian ideals.
This scientifically rigorous tale tackles profound issues around environmental ethics and activism.
Have we missed any of the top solarpunk books?
If there are any amazing works of literature that we’ve missed out, please let us know in the comments below.
I know I would love to read them, and I’m sure others would too.
Final Thoughts: Best Solarpunk Books
Solarpunk not only offers warnings about climate catastrophe but also signs of hope – creative visions brimming with ecological ingenuity and heartening political models where citizens live freely and equitably in balance with nature.
This optimistic subgenre contains many speculative worlds worth exploring. Which solarpunk societies and characters kindle your desire to fight for a real-world future powered by renewable energy?
Let these inspiring books feed your activism and ongoing commitment to build the ideal communities we wish to inhabit.