Top 10 Social Justice Books Everybody Should Read

If you’re interested in social justice, you’ll need to read lots of books. Books provide essential information on social justice issues like reproductive rights, homelessness, and more. They’re more thorough and detailed than articles, podcasts, or documentaries. They also usually help you find more resources that expand even further on a topic. Where should you start? Here are ten of our favorite social books (all available on Bookshop) that everyone should read:

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

James W. Loewen

Originally published in 1995, Lies still inspires readers interested in social justice. Loewen began the project as a survey of twelve common American textbooks but ended up writing a book that called into question the truthfulness of American education. The updated edition covers pre-Columbian history, the first Thanksgiving, the Reconstruction era, 9/11, and the Iraq War. In the newest edition, the late Loewen covers Donald Trump in his preface. Lies examines the purpose of education and how trying to be “objective” has threatened truth.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Rozanne Dunbar-Ortiz

This award-winning 2015 book presents the history of the United States from the perspective of indigenous peoples. With movements like the Dakota Access Pipeline becoming more recognized, this is the perfect book for readers interested in learning more about indigenous peoples’ track record of resisting the US empire. More than 400 years of history are covered.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America

Barbara Ehrenreich

Written in 2001, Nickel and Dimed is now an iconic book. Back in 1998, author Ehrenreich left her life to take low-paying jobs and live in places like trailer parks and motels. The question she asked? Can anyone survive – and thrive – on $6 an hour? Despite being written years ago, things haven’t changed much in the United States. Full-time minimum wage workers still can’t afford a two-bedroom rental anywhere in the country.

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written for his son, Coates brings big questions and concerns about American history and values. How do we reckon with the brutal truth? What is it like to live in a country where Black people have been exploited through slavery, segregation, incarceration, and discrimination? Coates explores how he learned the story of America through history and his own life.

Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

Edited by: Alice Wong

Although 1 in 5 Americans have a disability (around 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability), it’s an underacknowledged movement. In this book, activist Alice Wong brings together essays by disabled people, along with blog posts, manifestos, and more. Disability Visibility shows how diverse and complex and disabled experience is.

On Violence and On Violence Against Women

Jacqueline Rose

This 2021 book examines the many forms of violence against women in today’s world and why it’s become so visible. Rose covers topics like the Me Too Movement, trans rights, domestic violence during the Covid 19 lockdowns, and more. Anyone interested in the intersection between gender, power, and violence will benefit from this book’s analysis.

Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement

Edited by: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Ejeris Dixon

Transformative justice wants to solve the problem of violence without policing, incarceration, or punishment. While community-based strategies have existed for hundreds of years, the modern world tends to ignore them. Beyond Survival collects insight from different authors on how accountability can work, how damage can be repaired, and how we can keep society safe. The history of transformative justice is included alongside toolkits, personal essays, and more.

What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition

Emma Dabiri

This guide is written for white allies wanting to participate in liberation, but it’s a great read for anyone interested in taking their activism to the next level. In these essays, Irish author and academic Emma Dabiri leans on her scholarly background and personal experiences to outline actions like removing denial, interrogating whiteness, abandoning guilt, and redistributing resources.

No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference

Greta Thunberg

This book contains several speeches from famous environmental activist Greta Thunberg. She’s been everywhere from European climate rallies to the World Economic Forum to the UN. Always direct and powerful, Thunberg refuses to be dismissed because of her young age. She began her activism in 2018 when she was just 15 years old and shows no sign of slowing down.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde is one of the most influential figures of the 21st century. In this collection of 15 essays and speeches, Lorde covers everything from racism to sexism to ageism to class. While these essays were written in the 1970s and 1980s, they still ring true today and are a must-read for anyone (American or not) committed to intersectionality and social justice.