Social Change & Activism discussion

influential books

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message 1: by Vivek (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:30PM) (new)

Vivek (vivek_k) Hi guys,

I have recently become interested in social change and would like to learn more. What books have been most useful/inspiring for you? Where would you recommend turning to get started down a path of making a difference?


message 2: by Alien (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:31PM) (new)

Alien  Citizen | 1 comments Great Idea for a Raading Group! I'd like to start off by suggesting Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy and The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs.

message 3: by Joe (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:31PM) (new)

Joe Mossa | 3 comments i hate to hear people say they only read for entertainment. how dumb can you be ? if you want only entertainment, hire a hooker said sean penn.
i think the books of jodi picoult should qualify as influential books. she takes important social topics and writes enjoyable, educational fiction about each one- teen suicide,abortion, child abuse etc we need more modern writers to write as she does. grisham tries to do this but his books are not nearly as deep as hers are.

message 4: by Fred (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:39PM) (new)

Fred | 2 comments Vivek,

Welcome to the bigger picture!!!
I hope these are the first steps in a life of asking questions. My friend, never settle for "because that's the way it's always been done"

Two book that have helped me are:
Makhatma Gandi by A. Gorev and

Seach for the Beloved Community: The Thinking of Martin Luther King jr.

These two books should get you started on the right path. I wish you peace and luck. Fred

message 5: by Grant (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:41PM) (new)

Grant (grantneufeld) | 3 comments Mod
I’ve added most of my favourites to this group’s bookshelf.

My key recommendations:

• Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
Seriously. This book has the key message every activist needs to understand: Every contribution counts and all that is needed from you is what you are able to do.

• Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X with Alex Haley
Regardless of your views on the rightness or wrongness of his choices and actions, this is an amazing tale of the ability of one person to engage masses of people in work for change, and the incredible forces of resistance to change that we can face in working for change.

• Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks
Breaking down the harmful thinking that tends to emerge in social movements which leads to believing one issue/oppression is “more important” than others. All oppression is wrong. Full stop.

message 6: by Vivek (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:41PM) (new)

Vivek (vivek_k) Those all sound like great suggestions, Thanks!

message 7: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:41PM) (new)

David | 8 comments hi there i depends on which path you wish to lead.? or guide the next person when refering a book. i also disagree with mesage three from joe

books are for entertian ment ... why do you think most of the films that they love came from.. it is good to quote gandi but is taht it
like joe how "american".. and martin -luther-king...what were there goood and bad point which part of there like did you like the best just
to hold a "name as an high ideal!".. is fullish
in the exstream.. (put the mind it to action before opening the mouth)

message 8: by Colin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:43PM) (new)

Colin | 1 comments hi,
for starters i'd recommend:

Privilege, Power and Difference by Allan G. Johnson
Mankiller: A Chief and Her People by Wilma Mankiller
Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks
A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

I also just added a ton of my other favorites to the bookshelf.

take care!

message 9: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:44PM) (new)

Alex | 1 comments I would recommend anything by Derrick Jensen, and particularly "Endgame." It comes in two volumes ("The Problem of Civilization" and "Resistance), but you'll read through them faster than you think.

If you're looking for something a bit smaller to take on first, I would recommend "Ishmael" and "The Story of B" by Daniel Quinn.

I hope those help.


message 10: by Monica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:45PM) (new)

Monica | 1 comments hey!! this is a great subject and all of the comments are interesting. from my experience reading in general all of my life has laid a foundation for social change. reading books that told aspects of my own story helped me to be strong and believe in myself to start with. then when you read various books of many genres and backgrounds it opens your eyes and mind to other people's experiences so that all people and their "paths" become more real and valid to you. this acceptance and empathy is what we need to create the building blocks for social change. so, my recommendation is to first do all you can to have self awareness and love and then read many varied books, especially those where a person's story is told. talk with others. listen. listen. listen. good luck in your journey.

message 11: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new)

Kate (katemaver) | 2 comments Grant,

You are so right about Horton Hears A Who. Dr. Seuss was a little social justice subversive. I once used Yertle the Turtle to lead a discussion on Malthusian population theory. And the Star Bellied Sneetches and the Butter Battle Book? Awesome stuff!

I also think "No Logo" by Naomi Klein is an awesome book for beginning social justice folk.

message 12: by Fred (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new)

Fred | 2 comments David,

It is not the "names" of these two great men that I hold as a "high ideal" but their very lives and actions. Here are two men who took on the hate, the injustice and the might of two of the most powerful nations on earth and changed them forever. And what weapons did they use?
Peace, Love and a message of understanding.

If it was ever my place to lead anyone, I can think of no better path than peace and love.

No my friend I do not throw these names out there just because I heard them some place. These two men are core to a path of enlightenment. You should try reading a book sometime not just for fun, but also for meaning.

I bid you peace and understanding,


message 13: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

David | 8 comments who are you refering to fred...??? asumming that the post was ment of david garden and not a nother david who is a menber..!!!! you do not give name only the vauge gideline to what....

message 14: by Dee (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Dee (dwmichel) | 1 comments Vivek,

First off, seeing that you're a student, if you're serious about becoming active in the movement I'd strongly reccomend finding or starting a Students for a Democratic Society chatper. Here's our website if you're interested:

For reading material regarding militant social activism, movement history, etc., I highly reccomend:

- Pacifism as Pathology, by Ward Churchill
A stinging critique of Western pacifist ideology as a detriment to social justice movements.

- SDS, by Kirkpatrick Sale
History of one of the most infamous student group in the 1960s.

- Revolution in the Air, by Max Elbaum
History of the post-SDS New Communist Movement, and activism into the 1980s and 90s.

- Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz Fanon
Anti-imperialist, anti-racist classic. Fanon is an essential read.

- Feminism is for Everybody, by bell hooks
I like the eariler reccomendation by bell hooks, but for those not well aquainted with feminist theory, this is a great place to start.

- Iraq and the International Oil System, by Stephen Pelletière
Hands down, the best book about Iraq from an ex-CIA operative. A solid analysis to use when working in the anti-war movement.

- Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, by V. I. Lenin
This is still the foremost classic on imperialism and how its rotting the world. While the figures and such are outdated, it shows the material basis for finance capital in transnational corporations. And the U.S. is still an imperialist country.

Happy reading! I hope you don't get too caught up in theory that there's no footwork. The most learning I have encountered has been in the streets -- putting things into practice.

message 15: by Vivek (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Vivek (vivek_k) I think the best one I've read so far is Nelson Mandela's autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom." It is an incredibly inspiring, albeit long account.

message 16: by Kay (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Kay Cid (kaycita) | 2 comments As a latina I shuould add to the list: The open veins of Latin America and the Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano, Borderlands/ La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua (!!!!!), A bridge called my back by Cherrie Moraga/Gloria Anzaldua; El Cumpleaños de Juan Angel by Mario Benedetti; The country under my skin, La mujer habitada and Evaś Rib by Gioconda Belli and the clasics: Cheś journal in Bolivia and La noche de Tlatelolco by Elena Poniatowska.

message 17: by Liza (new)

Liza | 2 comments 3 most influential/inspiring books are those that talk about taking action today, what steps to take, how daily choices make massive changes:


message 18: by Liza (new)

Liza | 2 comments oops, continued :)

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements by Sandor Katz. Informative, full of anecdotes, not a preachy book, about all aspects of food production in the US. love the recipes, and the hopeful tone combined with a call to action.

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn.
blew all my previous notions about parenting out of the water. discusses how we value children in the US, how we raise them, and to what end. again lots of anecdotes, but combined with research. promotes "working with" instead of "doing to."

How To Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Milage Out of Life by Chris Balish.
Lots of data on the real costs of owning a car. inspirational stories from people. helpful information to debunk the myth that car ownership equals freedom, is desireable, is necessary.

message 19: by Roz (new)

Roz A shocking book that I would, however, recommend is Legacy of Ashes, The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner.
Best book this year: The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. Another favorite is Gwynne Dyer's latest which is about the history of the Middle East. Essential for understanding (sort of) the present situation.
On another note, I enjoyed Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle on the politics of food.

message 20: by Nora (new)

Nora (noraflanagan) Roz, I keep eyeballing The Shock Doctrine at bookstores. Good stuff?

message 21: by Roz (new)

Roz Nora, It was difficult to get thru The Shock Doctrine because I was getting very discouraged, actually overwhelmed with the scope of carelessness and greed in the world. (evil?) The last chapter, though, was hopeful and I was glad that I had stuck with it.

message 22: by Grant (new)

Grant (grantneufeld) | 3 comments Mod
Shock Doctrine is a brilliant book. I highly recommend it for everyone, anywhere.

I will caution would-be readers, as does Roz, that it is important to read through to the end. Abandoning the book part-way would likely leave one in significant despair about the state of the world. The last chapter is miraculous in its capacity to give hope and inspire — given how much evil (yes, I think that’s the most appropriate term) the rest of the book examines.

I also caution against just skipping to the last chapter. Its strength comes from standing on the text that precedes it, and would not have nearly the impact on its own.

All that said, I want to reaffirm my highest recommendation for everyone to read this book. Seriously.

message 23: by Melissa (last edited Feb 25, 2009 03:38AM) (new)

Melissa | 3 comments I enjoy the following 2 books because they have an amazing "look what one person can do" story. And they are not too heavy if you are just getting into this area of reading as I am too.

Mountains Beyond Mountains - Tracy Kidder
Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

A book about animal rights and veganism. If you want, you can help me with the realization of this project, through donating, sharing the page, telling others etc. Go there and have a look :)

message 25: by James (new)

James (jjsconsulting) | 1 comments I will recommend "Getting to Maybe"

This is a book about how change can be made possible.

message 26: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Dobbertin | 1 comments I really liked the book Half The Sky. It was an amazing book that really opened my eyes to women's issues.
If anyone is interested in animal issues, I really liked The Next Eco-warriors and The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary. These stories were very inspiring.

message 27: by Marcy (new)

Marcy (marshein) Marge Piercy's novels for entertainment AND social change

Older, but one of the most influential effective books of all time:
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
and a natural after that:
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki

message 28: by Greatgats (new)

Greatgats | 1 comments Unconditional parenting has just gone on my list - in the same vein I found Buddhism for Mothers game changing for me. I just read A Doctor's Dream (Lokuge) about scabies in a remote part of Australia which doesn't seem related but that was also all about partnership and working with as opposed to doing to. I'm not sure if it was just the mood I was in but it was a real light bulb moment for me - I started out thinking 'those poor people' and then realised we ARE those poor people - our whole society is set up to do TO us all in the same way. We all need the same solution they found in that book!

I also found the Harriet Lerner books (eg dance of anger) really changed the way I thought about things. I think once you see how you tick and relate, then you can see how society is just a reflection of that on a bigger scale. Start in your own backyard as they say.

message 29: by Janet (new)

Janet Farrell Merlo | 1 comments Hi everybody,

I would like to recommend my book to you . I am a retired police officer . After retiring from Canada's national police force , the Royal Canadian Mounted Police , I launched a proposed class action law suit against them for gender based harassment . Our small group of female officers has grown in 3 years to almost 400 current and retired female officers who have experienced horrible sexual harassment while members of the police force .

No One To Tell ... Breaking my Silence on Life in the RCMP .
Janet Merlo

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