Fighting in a World on Fire by Andreas Malm

Fighting in a World on Fire – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: climate, future, protection, action, protest.
YA book title: Fighting in a World on Fire.
YA author: Andreas Malm.
Genre: Nonfiction – climate change – activism.
Published by: Verso Books.
ISBN: 9781804291252
Recommended for young adults aged: 12+.
First published: Paperback February 2023.
This YA book is ideal for: young people interested in protecting the environment and direct non-violent action.

Fighting in a World on Fire by Andreas Malm

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Our review:

Did you know that one way to rid London of those monstrous SUVs that people of a certain type think they should inflict on the rest of us is to organise a small group of activists to scratch the doors on a small number of vehicles for a small number of weeks? If fifty people ‘damaged’ four vehicles a night for a month, that would come to six thousand. Each one would cost its owner a lot of money to repair. They would soon disappear from the capital’s streets. This is not a piece of direct advice from the author of this admirable book. It is from an article by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books, published in 2007.

The point of Lanchester’s article, and of this book, is that even though each of us feels powerless, ineffectual and atomised, when we join with only a small group of others we can quickly start to make a meaningful change. And Andreas Malm makes no bones about naming the underlying enemy: capitalism, and all the horror and personal degradation it forces us to accept.

Reading this book, many young people are bound to feel the liberation that readers of Marx feel when they read him for the first time and begin to see the reality beneath the smooth, shiny surface of the world they have grown up in, and which they have been told is the only possible one, the ‘real’ one.

Andreas Malm
Andreas Malm speaking at an event in 2018. Photo by CODE ROOD and used with a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

In his survey of direct non-violent action, Malm draws on plenty of historical precedents to show how effective it can be. The anti-slavery movement, the Suffragettes, the dismantling of Western colonialism, the winning of civil rights in America and South Africa and now the struggle to make governments recognise the Climate Crisis – all have succeeded after conventional forms of protest, the ones approved of by vested interests, have failed. Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil have shown how easy it is to bring big cities and, more widely, the general economy, to a total standstill.

As I write this, today in parts of New Zealand more rain has fallen in one day than is normal for the whole summer. Wildfires, hurricanes and floods are becoming more frequent and more destructive everywhere. Last summer a number of houses on the outskirts of London, within a short walking distance of the Thames, were razed to the ground by an uncontrollable grass fire. People living by big rivers, like the Severn, are now resigned to the fact that it will flood badly at least once a year, something which, until recently, they were told was a once-in-a-century event.

Reading this brilliant book I found myself underlining whole passages, ticking repeatedly in the margins and inwardly cheering. Every school library should buy a copy. Every concerned parent should make sure their children have access to it.

Incidentally, you can also immobilise vehicles by letting a tyre down. Or jamming a potato up the exhaust.

Many thanks to Verso Books for the review copy. Fighting in a World on Fire by Andreas Malm is Verso Books’ first YA nonfiction book. Read more about this.

If you like Fighting in a World on Fire by Andreas Malm you might also like: our reviews of Challenge Everything by Blue Sandford, Musical Truth by Jeffrey Boakye, The Truths We Hold – An American Journey by Kamala Harris, Happy Healthy Minds by The School of Life and The Big Green Activity Book by Damara Strong.

Browse our list of books for secondary school students.

About Laurence Inman

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Laurence is an actor, poet, short-story writer, playwright, screenwriter, cartoonist, public speaker, retired lecturer, and former English teacher. IMDb | Linkedin | Reviews by Laurence Inman