Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Best Books About Extreme Weather

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A book won't get 5 stars from me unless it has a strong sense of place. That means I'm drawn to books where nature plays a role in the story. Here are ten books that feature extreme weather. I hope you love them as much as I did!

🌪  Best Books About Extreme Weather  💧


Adult Fantasy

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places. From freak storms to trees that appear to grow over night, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best and at worst, a danger to himself and the woman he loves. But Mary doesn’t care. Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.


Why I love it: If you’ve ever read a Fredrik Backman book and thought, I wish this guy wrote fantasy, then you need to pick up Beasts Of Extraordinary Circumstance. It’s a quirky love story about adorable weirdos. And deadly animals. And (un)natural disasters. It’s imaginative and sweet. The light tone reminds me of middle grade fantasy, but with adult characters who have grownup problems. I enjoyed every second of it.


Buy it on Amazon


Young Adult Dystopia / Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

Why I love it: Neal and Jarrod are a father/son writing team, and Dry is a dystopia about what happens when California runs out of water. Reading it was stressful! Probably because I live in a drought-prone place that starts on fire every summer and fall. I can relate to the water restrictions and the constant smell of smoke in the air. This is one of the most realistic dystopias I’ve ever read. I love the pacing. It reads quickly because there’s a lot of action, but you still get to know the characters. I felt bad for them every time they hit a dead end in their search for water. (Which was often. These kids just can’t catch a break.) The characters are forced to make hard decisions. They make mistakes. They learn they’re not as badass as they first thought. They’re not heroes. They’re just regular kids dealing with a terrible situation, and it’s brilliant.


Buy it on Amazon


Young Adult Historical Fiction

While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers—the intended capacity was approximately 1,800—and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.

Sepetys crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks.


Why I love it: Reading this book made me feel physically cold. Like, shivery. The characters are on a ship in the Baltic Sea that’s supposed to take them to safety, but it sinks, plunging them into a freezing ocean that’s just as deadly as the war they’re fleeing. The fast-paced plot follows four young people who have been swept up in the tide of refugees trying to get out of Europe during WWII. I understand why so many readers adore this book. It has something in it for everybody. It’s well-researched historical fiction, so the facts appeal to history lovers like me. Adventure enthusiasts would enjoy the survival elements. There’s romance, danger, secrets, and characters who can’t be trusted. I highly recommend this book!


Buy it on Amazon


Adult Horror

Jack Torrance's new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.


Why I love it: When I think about extreme weather books, this is the first one that pops into my head. This horror novel has always unnerved me, probably because I live near the hotel that inspired it, so the setting is extra real for me. The story centers on a young family who is spending the winter alone in a remote hotel. Between the hotel’s ghosts and the endless snowstorms, the family members go murderously mad. This book is a classic for a reason! It perfectly captures the claustrophobia of long, dark winters.


Buy it on Amazon


Adult Fantasy

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honor weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must . . . and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

Why I love it: Winter is coming. In this fantasy world, winter can last for years, and snow isn't the only thing the characters have to worry about. This is a twisted and action-packed novel. George R.R. Martin is a wonderful storyteller. The world in his series is immense and creative. I love that the story is told with short chapters and multiple perspectives. For such a big book, the plot moves surprisingly fast. 

Buy it on Amazon


 Adult Historical Horror

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone—or something—is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck—the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions—searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand—evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves "What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased . . . and very hungry?"


Why I love it: The horror genre can sometimes feel stale. There are tons of clichés that suck the scariness out of monsters. That’s why I’m thrilled whenever I come across a distinctive horror novel like The Hunger. I’ve never read anything like it. It takes the real-life history of the Donner Party and adds a terrifying supernatural element. It’s brave and creative. Perfect for history lovers or horror fans.


Buy it on Amazon

The Martian by Andy Weir

Adult Science Fiction

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Why I love it: Dust storms can be scary, but dust storms on planets where you can't even breathe the air? No thank you. Mark is an easy character to root for. His optimism and humor help him persevere in situations that would cripple most people. Mark is the person that everybody wishes they could be. He’s funny, brave, brilliant, level-headed, and not afraid to rebel against authority and misuse multi-million-dollar equipment. He’s like a nerdy action hero in a thriller movie. I flew through this book.

Buy it on Amazon


 Adult Wilderness Survival / Medicine / Adventure

A true-life scientific thriller no reader will forget, Surviving the Extremes takes us to the farthest reaches of the earth as well as into the uncharted territory within the human body, spirit, and brain. A vice president of the legendary Explorers Club, as well as surgeon, explorer, and masterful storyteller, Dr. Kenneth Kamler has spent years discovering what happens to the human body in extreme environmental conditions. Divided into six sections—jungle, high seas, desert, underwater, high altitude, and outer space—this book uses firsthand testimony and documented accounts to investigate the science of what a body goes through and explains why people survive—and why they sometimes don’t.


Why I love it: If you’re interested in medical nonfiction, this book is completely captivating. And completely horrifying. It kept me awake for several nights because I couldn’t stop reading. The book is exactly what it says on the cover. The author is an “extreme medicine” doctor who works with astronauts, deep ocean divers, and mountain climbers. The book is about what happens to humans in environments that are not human friendly. The stories the author tells are simultaneously terrifying and amazing. That’s why I couldn’t stop reading them. I liked every chapter, but I think my favorite is the one about Everest. I’m never going to climb that mountain. Nope, nope, not worth the potentially horrific side effects.

Buy it on Amazon


Adult Biography Nonfiction

In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. When their ship was finally crushed between two ice floes, they attempted a near-impossible journey over 850 miles of the South Atlantic's heaviest seas to the closest outpost of civilization.

In Endurance, the definitive account of Ernest Shackleton's fateful trip, Alfred Lansing brilliantly narrates the harrowing and miraculous voyage that has defined heroism for the modern age.


Why I love it: If you enjoy real-life snow survival stories, you need to read this one. It’s a classic, and it’s stunning. Shackleton and his crew were complete badasses. Everything went wrong on their mission, and they mostly just shrugged and rolled with it. I would have panicked and died. This book was first published in 1959. The author conducted extensive interviews with the surviving members of Shackleton's crew. He also had access to the journals kept by the explorers. It’s interesting to read a detailed firsthand account of events that happened so long ago. Even though I knew Shackleton’s story before I started the book, I was on the edge of my seat. There’s so much tension!


Buy it on Amazon


Adult History / Biography Nonfiction

In April of 1846, twenty-one-year-old Sarah Graves, intent on a better future, set out west from Illinois with her new husband, her parents, and eight siblings. Seven months later, after joining a party of emigrants led by George Donner, they reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains as the first heavy snows of the season closed the pass ahead of them. In early December, starving and desperate, Sarah and fourteen others set out for California on snowshoes and, over the next thirty-two days, endured almost unfathomable hardships and horrors.

In this gripping narrative, Daniel James Brown sheds new light on one of the most infamous events in American history. Following every painful footstep of Sarah's journey with the Donner Party, Brown produces a tale both spellbinding and richly informative.

Why I love it: You'll be grateful that you're sitting in a warm room while you read this book. It's the type of story you can't believe is true. It's too scary. Who wants to starve to death in the freezing wilderness with 80+ random strangers? Nobody! There are a lot of books about the Donners, but I recommend this one because the author doesn't just retell the familiar story that most Americans already know. He puts the story in historical and scientific context to help the reader understand how and why everything went wrong for the Donner Party.

Talk to me about books with extreme weather! What are your favorites?


  1. The Endurance story is absolutely incredible - I have no idea how those men survived for so long, and then that small boat making such a long voyage to find land again? Just amazing.

  2. The Martian was excellent!

    I’m curious about Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance.

    Here is my Top Ten Tuesday post.


  3. The Hunger and The Martian are two that I didn't even think about, great list!

  4. Oh yeah the Donner party, yikes, scary. Some great reads here: The Endurance, Daniel Brown's, The Martian. These are winners I liked too. I need to try the George Martin series ... especially if it reads fast.

  5. Awesome list! I didn't think of weather on Mars.
    Have you read this one on the Dust Bowl, really excellent author:
    My list: https://wordsandpeace.com/2023/10/17/top-ten-books-with-weather-events-in-the-title/

  6. The Shining is a fabulous book. Also, the one on the Donner Party sounds interesting, too.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday. Thank you!

  7. Salt to the Sea! I loved that book. It is perfect for your topic.

  8. You live near The Shining hotel! Wow! This is a great mix of books, and it's nice to know there is a fantasy counterpart to Backman

  9. The Martian is such an extraordinary book when I saw it on your list, I was right back in there feeling the aloneness of being the only person on a planet.

    Great list!

  10. Oooh! I love the Martian! Great list!

    Here’s my TTT

    Rabbit Ears Book Blog: WORLD’S WEIRDEST BOOK BLOG!

  11. I have often thought of reading The Martian, maybe someday I will actually get to it. Your description of it is very good. I did read The Shining, a long time ago. Can't remember much of it now, but I have some images of the movie that I keep remembering. I had forgotten how much a part the weather plays in it.

    Dry by the Shustermans sounds very good. And scary.

  12. Great list! I loved both The Martian and The Hunger. And Dry sounds like a really good one. :D

  13. The Martian is one of my favorite reads and definitely fits into the extreme weather category!

  14. What interesting choices. I have Beasts and now want to listen to it sooner than later. I thought about a book I read last year - Icequake. https://marthasbookshelf.blogspot.com/2022/12/audible-book-review-icequake-by.html Also I read one years ago about extreme heat. I want to say it had a title like Yellow Line but I couldn't find it yet.
    Thanks for sharing your list.

  15. While this is a very specific trope, it is one I absolutely LOVE. I think because weather is like, the ultimate Big Bad, right? (Kind of why S4 of The 100 is always my favorite, tbh.) Loved Dry and The Hunger, and very much need to read The Martian and the Donner Party one, I have had that one on my list for ages (probably for your recommendation, actually!). Have you ever seen Stephen King's Storm of the Century? It was a written-for-TV miniseries back in oh, idk, 1999ish? My mom and I were glued to it, then couldn't sleep. I introduced it to some friends in my 20s and they stayed up all night watching it heh. Anyway, reminds me of this list!