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Good Reads  Environmental & Social Studies  Climate Change

The Heat Will Kill You First Life and Death on a Scorched Planet

By: Jeff Goodell(Author)
400 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books
The Heat Will Kill You First
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  • The Heat Will Kill You First ISBN: 9780316497558 Paperback Jul 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 5 days
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About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

"When heat comes, it's invisible. It doesn't bend tree branches or blow hair across your face to let you know it's arrived.... The sun feels like the barrel of a gun pointed at you."

The world is waking up to a new reality: wildfires are now seasonal in California, the Northeast USA is getting less and less snow each winter, and the ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctica are melting fast. Heat is the first order threat that drives all other impacts of the climate crisis. And as the temperature rises, it is revealing fault lines in the US governments, politics, economy, and values. The basic science is not complicated: Stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow, and the global temperature will stop rising tomorrow. Stop burning fossil fuels in 50 years, and the temperature will keep rising for 50 years, making parts of our planet virtually uninhabitable. It's up to us. The hotter it gets, the deeper and wider our fault lines will open.

The Heat Will Kill You First is about the extreme ways in which our planet is already changing. It is about why spring is coming a few weeks earlier and fall is coming a few weeks later and the impact that will have on everything from our food supply to disease outbreaks. It is about what will happen to our lives and our communities when typical summer days in Chicago or Boston go from 32°C to 43°C. A heatwave, Goodell explains, is a predatory event – one that culls out the most vulnerable people. But that is changing. As heatwaves become more intense and more common, they will become more democratic.

As an award-winning journalist who has been at the forefront of environmental journalism for decades, Goodell's new book may be his most provocative yet, explaining how extreme heat will dramatically change the world as we know it. Masterfully reported, mixing the latest scientific insight with on-the-ground storytelling, Jeff Goodell tackles the big questions and uncovers how extreme heat is a force beyond anything we have reckoned with before.

Customer Reviews


Jeff Goodell is a New York Times bestselling of author of seven books, including The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, which was picked as a New York Times Critics' Top Book of 2017, as well as one of Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2017. Goodell's previous books include Sunnyvale, a memoir about growing up in Silicon Valley, which was a New York Times Notable Book, and Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future. He is a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, where he has covered climate change for more than a decade.

By: Jeff Goodell(Author)
400 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Media reviews

"'Prescient' and 'gripping' are two words that come to mind when describing Goodell's latest book. Goodell guides us clearly with clear science and great storytelling."
The Los Angeles Times

"Goodell's brilliant and sobering book can help inspire a critical mass of people to "reimagine everything" and join the fight to create a habitable future."
Sierra Magazine

"As The Heat Will Kill You First makes clear, the time to mitigate the sources and effects of rising temperatures is now."
Inside Higher Ed

"[There's] no disputing that Goodell is an engaging writer at the top of his game. He's like the love child of Ed Yong and James Patterson, with a little bit of Rachel Carson thrown in, which is to say he writes science-based dystopian thrillers."
– Jennifer Graham, The Hippo

"Read this book and then look at the temperatures in the northern hemisphere. That's the Anthropocene: so hot, it's chilling."
– Jeff Sparrow, The Saturday Paper

"Heat has a public relations problem, argues journalist Jeff Goodell in his latest book, The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet. Most of us are familiar with the temperature readings we see on the nightly news, usually the temperature of the air around us or the heat index – a gauge of air temperature and humidity. But during the latest U.S. heat wave, some areas reported what's known as wet bulb temperatures – a measurement of the lowest temperature that the evaporation of water can cool air – of 94 degrees. This measurement in ambient air temperature may not seem like a big deal to many people. But it's a dangerous measurement in wet bulb temperatures, Goodell explains in his book. The higher the wet bulb temperature, the less effective evaporation is, and the harder it is for our sweat to cool us down."
New Republic

"A remarkable exploration of the deadly consequences of rising temperatures [...] The book's biggest takeaway is that the harm from heat falls unfairly on those least able to protect themselves [...] Unlike some climate-science writers who drown readers in data and seem to write only for other activists, Mr Goodell tells his story colourfully. Readers meet people working to raise awareness of climate change by figuring out which extreme weather events can be attributed to it, and helping its victims by leaving water for migrants crossing the Arizona desert or campaigning for safer conditions for farmworkers [...] The Heat Will Kill You First could not be more timely."
The Economist

"An urgent warning."
PBS NewsHour

Time, Health Matters

"In 14 whirlwind chapters, Goodell, a longtime climate journalist and contributing editor for Rolling Stone, earns his book's grim title. The chapters travel from the Arctic Circle to the tropics and back again, tracing the effects of heat on melting ice andsuffering corals, but also on enthused mosquitoes, whose ranges are stretching wider as temperatures warm [...] The scariest thing about the heat-infused future, Goodell notes, is that we don't treat it with the respect and concern that it deserves."
The Washington Post

"In his fast-paced new book about climate change [...] Goodell denounces the term 'global warming' for sounding 'gentle and soothing.' As this terrifying book makes exceptionally clear, thinking we can just crank up the A.C. is a dangerous way to live. This is a propulsive book, one to be raced through; the planet is burning, and we are running out of time."
– Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

"With his trademark blend of meticulous research, vivid storytelling, and unflinching honesty, Goodell exposes the devastating toll that extreme heat is already taking on communities around the world, and the inspiring efforts of scientists, activists, and everyday people who are working tirelessly to find solutions. Urgent, compelling, and deeply informative, The Heat Will Kill You First is a must-read for anyone who cares about the future of our planet [...] I couldn't put it down."
– Eleni Myrivili, Global Chief Heat Officer, UN-Habitat

"Entertaining and thoroughly researched, Jeff Goodell brings the subject of climate-driven extreme heat to life in his comprehensive look at heat's substantial impact on humanity's past, present, and future."
– Former Vice President Al Gore

"Once you read this book, you may never see a hot summer day the same way again. Jeff Goodell gives heat names, faces, stories, and emotions that you will find hard to forget."
– Andrea Dutton, MacArthur Fellow and Professor of Geology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"[Goodell] provides an intimate look at the effects of our planet's warming on individual lives [...] another stark, crucial reminder that we are running out of time to save humankind."
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Through stellar reporting, artful storytelling and fascinating scientific explanations, Goodell brings to life heat as a world re-making force. In his skillful hands, the climbing temperature is revealed as an invisible, planetary animator that is already pushing landscapes, bodies, and social systems to their limits – and, unless we change course, it will take humanity to an oven-like climate that will feel more like a war than a home. This searing plea for a better, fairer and cooler future should be read by anyone with skin in the game – which is every single one of us."
– Naomi Klein, author of the New York Times bestselling This Changes Everything

"As the planet warms, all our assumptions are going to be upended. Jeff Goodell asks us to imagine the impact on our minds and bodies, our communities and economies. The Heat Will Kill You First is essential reading for anyone who cares about the future."
– Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Sixth Extinction

"If you have ever sweated through a heatwave and wondered how much worse things are going to get as temperatures continue to rise around the planet, then Jeff Goodell's The Heat Will Kill You First is just the book for you. Meticulously researched yet thoroughly readable, this is at once a portrait of a heat-disrupted world and a primer for how to prepare for it."
– Amitav Ghosh, bestselling author of The Nutmeg's Curse and The Great Derangement

"This is a scary book. It humanizes global warming by telling amazing stories of individuals already affected by it, making very clear the danger we are putting ourselves in. We all have a cognitive map in our head that includes a near future, which is sketchier than our map of the present, being made of our hopes and fears. This book will sharpen that sketch in electrifying ways. You won't see the world the same way after reading it."
– Kim Stanley Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of The High Sierra and The Ministry for the Future

"It is already a new world, hotter than ever before in human history and getting rapidly hotter still. The Heat Will Kill You First is a masterful, bracing, vivid portrait of the future we now know will be shaped, like clay, by that heat – a godlike force, as Goodell writes, governing all life conducted under its profound and brutal reign."
– David Wallace-Wells, author of The New York Times bestselling The Uninhabitable Earth

"The climate crisis brings no greater threat than the prospect of deadly extreme heat. In The Heat Will Kill You First, Jeff Goodell brings a mix of fantastic storytelling, lucid science communication, and eternal optimism in detailing the profound threat we face with the climate crisis and what we can still do about it."
– Michael Mann, Presidential Distinguished Professor, University of Pennsylvania and author of The New Climate War

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