Q: Which books could improve my ability to adapt to a changing environment both at home and in the wider world?
Anonymous, 55, rural Greece
A: Andrew Anthony, Observer journalist and critic, writes:
The environment is always changing, but perhaps never before at the rate of pace that we’re currently living through. Fiction is good at enabling a greater understanding of family and societal mechanics.
I’d recommend Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections as a novel that does both extremely well. With a reflective eye, fiction can also speak of the courage required to escape social bonds as well as of the comfort that those ties provide. An excellent example is Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn, which examines the transition from a traditional culture to a modern one.
While fiction has a poor track record of predicting the distant future, there are examples of it anticipating coming trends. Most recently, Dave Eggers’s The Circle is a prescient satire on the social distortion of the computer age.
If you’re inclined to a bleak environmental outlook, then Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic The Road is essential reading, not least because it captures the primal relationship of a father and son.
In nonfiction, there are no end of books detailing environmental crisis, from rising sea levels to species extinction, but I’d suggest Gerald Durrell’s memoir My Family and Other Animals, because it’s set in Greece, where you live, and evokes the wonder of a family in a vividly new environment.