Can a book change the world? Absolutely. We know that a good book can inspire readers to take action, which is why we’ve rounded up these six books that will inform you and motivate you to get involved and take action in movements both large and small. From environmental hazards, police brutality, systemic racism, workplace politics, and income equality, these books address issues affecting our communities and country today and are sure to incite activism in your own life.
One of the most insidious aspects of systemic racism is how it permeates every facet of life, even the very environment that marginalized communities live and work in. In this eye-opening book, Washington reveals how pollution, disease, and environmental factors affect African-American communities and other people of color at disproportionately higher rates, (with higher costs) than they do white people. She examines how these hazards cause cognitive damage, looking at everything from pollution and waste to preventative healthcare (or lack thereof) and nutrition for people of color. All of these factors operate within the larger racist social constructs in the U.S., but Washington also discusses approaches to remedying these injustices by relying on in-depth research and reporting.
While many people are familiar with Nelson Mandela's status and a human rights activist and leader in South Africa, few may be familiar with his lifelong journey to freedom and fight for equality. First published in 1995, this autobiography is an authoritative account of Mandela's activism, his twenty-seven-year imprisonment, and his release in 1990. It also covers how he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and how he became the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Mandela began writing this book during his imprisonment, and the urgency of his words and his passion for justice are both illuminating and inspiring for human rights activists everywhere.
Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery traveled to Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Charleston to conduct interviews with family members of the victims of police brutality, and activists of the Black Lives Matter movement to portray an accurate, complex portrait of the movement. Lowery conducted extensive research in order to show how this movement isn't just about recent deaths or incidents, but is tied to years of abuse and discrimination by authority figures directed at marginalized and vulnerable communities, and how the modern digital era allows communities affected to stand up and speak out and be heard louder than ever. This book is a report straight from the front line, and also a critique of how mainstream media talks about the Black Lives Matter movement and protests of racial violence.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this is one hefty tome. Pete Souza is a photographer who spent eight years working in the White House, photographing President Obama as he served the country. In this book, he contrasts photographs of President Obama with President Trump, letting these images say all that needs to be said about the differences between the two presidents. From Inauguration Day to the Mueller Report, Souza's photographs prove that an image can be just as powerful as any speech. The paperback edition has been updated with over 60 new photographs.
In this book partly based on his 2014 TED Talk, Bregman makes the point that all major social changes throughout history, from ending slavery to the conception of democracy, have seemed at first radical and impossible to enact. But only by thinking radically can we as a society begin to make the changes necessary to build happier, healthier communities. Bregman looks at history, philosophy, and economics to make an argument for universal basic income. He writes with humor and enthusiasm about what it means to dream of a better world and encourages readers to not succumb to cynicism but to be open to social experimentation–because utopia is possible.
If you read Nickel and Dimed and want an updated book about the realities of low-wage jobs in the digital age, this account of Guendelsberger's time spent in three different low-wage jobs across the country will prove eye-opening. After getting laid off at her newspaper job, she worked in an Amazon fulfillment warehouse, a call center, and a McDonalds. What she learned is that people, who should be the backbone of any workplace, are treated as a commodity to be micromanaged and supervised by electronic systems that take humanity out of the job. Add abysmal wages into the mix, and is it any wonder that so many people are barely getting by financially and sacrificing their physical and mental health in the process? In this book, Guendelsberger makes an argument for creating a work setting where humanity is valued, and productivity is higher because the employees are treated well.
Want to have the greatest impact in your community? Pick one of these titles for your next book club or community read event to inspire others to become more aware and civically minded–and then get involved in the movement!
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Tirzah Price is a writer and contributing editor at Book Riot. Follow her on Twitter @TirzahPrice.