10 books about drought: A reading list for parched Southern Californians

by Jessica on September 17, 2015

Quench your thirst with these drought picks written by our President, Allison Hill!
The full article is below but you can also see it HERE.

Summer may be almost over but the heat and the drought continue with no sign yet of the much anticipated El Niño. The headlines and sound bites offer only a drop in the bucket when it comes to understanding our serious drought, so here’s my list of required drought-related reading.

CONSERVATION

SoCal residents talk about conservation now the way we used to obsess about secret routes and beating traffic: Astroturf lawns. Buckets for rain water. The dirty car pledge (LAWaterkeeper.org). But for more specific tips than the “Serious Drought, Save Water” signs on the freeway, check out “The Water-Wise Home: How to Conserve, Capture, and Reuse Water in Your Home and Landscape” or“Water: Use Less — Save More: 100 Water-Saving Tips for the Home.” Both are great practical guides for adults, and for children I recommend: “Why Should I Save Water?”

HOW WATER SYSTEMS WORK

For a better understanding of how our modern urban water systems even work (How does water get to our faucet?!), “Water 4.0: The Past, Present, and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource” is a thorough explanation from one of California’s own: Berkeley professor and co-director of the Berkeley Water Center, David Sedlak.

HISTORY AND POLITICS

When “Cadillac Desert” was published, The Washington Post said, “ ‘Cadillac Desert’ is timely and of national importance. Hurry up and read this book.”

That was 1993. This oldie but goodie, still relevant today, is a beautifully written and researched book that discusses the economics, politics, and ecology of water in the American West.

Like many SoCal residents my knowledge of L.A.’s history with water derived mainly from the film “Chinatown” until I read this next book. “Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles” is the amazing true story behind how Mulholland brought water to L.A. Like “Chinatown,” it’s a powerful tale of greed, secrets and lies.

DYSTOPIAN FICTION

And if you can’t handle the truth, or prefer to wash your truth down with a little fiction, there are some great drought-inspired cautionary tales and water war dystopian novels that will definitely inspire you to reduce your showers to five minutes:

J.G. Ballard, the author known for “dystopian modernity,” first published “The Burning World,”later renamed “The Drought,” in 1964. Typical of Ballard, the story is thoroughly original but still depicts a scene that is a little too close for comfort: a global drought, brought on by industrial waste, has brought the world to the brink of disaster.

“Memory of Water” is a similar concept — global warming, brought on by industrial waste, has brought the world to the brink of disaster. But this is a more lyrical approach: As wars are waged over water, 17-year-old Noria Kaitio is following in her father’s footsteps to become a tea master and keeper of the hidden water sources. Emmi Itäranta manages a rarity: a dystopian novel with hope.

Then there’s this summer’s “The Water Knife,” the much anticipated, dystopian drought thriller that was one of the buzz books at this year’s BookExpo America.

Water is the new oil as rain evaporates before it hits the ground and the rich are defined by their access to water. Edgy and cinematic, with three fascinating characters, a lot of violence, and an ending you won’t soon forget.

DUSTY WESTERN

And if you long for a simpler time when severe drought/climate change was simply “a long dry spell,” then I recommend the Texas classic, “The Time it Never Rained.”

Written by one of the great western writers, with 40 novels to his credit, Elmer Kelton tells the story of a drought that devastates a small Texas town in the 1950s and the rancher who rages against it — a true man vs. nature conflict.

Allison K Hill is president and chief executive officer of Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena and Book Soup in West Hollywood, and a contributor to The Huffington Post book section. Reach Hill through her website, www.AllisonKHill.com, or follow her at readingalovestory.tumblr.com.