I read a lot, and I love matching people up with the next book on their journey. This is meant to be a centralized, organized list of books that I’ve read and think others might benefit from. It is NOT a list with any authority whatsoever. Most books in the world remain unread by me, and their omission from this list is not a commentary on their quality.
Note: I’ve done my best to link to authors’ and publishers’ websites, and to avoid linking to certain evil corporate behemoths with popular affiliate programs.
I like all of the books on this list, but these are the three that make me want to go door to door handing out copies.
- Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer – A blend of modern ecological science and Indigenous ways of knowing, and an absolutely life-changing book. Kimmerer layers stories over each other like a botanical illustrator layers colored pencil, until the reader is left with the image of a relationship with nature so real that you want to step into it. Warning: Side effects may include running away to become a regenerative farmer.
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – This is the book that helped me stop getting defensive on behalf of harmful power structures and start making real progress on my racial justice education. It teaches White people how to understand and meet their own needs around racial justice issues without letting them derail the conversation.
- One of these three permaculture gateway books depending on the setting:
- Suburbs: Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway – Focuses on what the average suburbanite can do to grow food, sequester carbon, heal nature, and work towards social justice from their own back yard.
Personal Healing & Growth
- The Politics of Trauma by Staci Haines – I’ve suffered a lot of hurt in activist spaces, and in society at large. I’ve had trouble connecting to a lot of mental health books that looked at healing in a (White cishet male) vacuum. This was the first book I read that actually talked about the issues I was facing AND the context I was facing them in.
- The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor – I didn’t read this one for a long time, because I didn’t think loving my body was important to me. A) I was wrong about that, and B) it turns out its chock full of insightful social analysis. Explores the ways that social expectations (the default body being White, male, straight, thin, able-bodied, cisgender, etc.) alienate us from our bodies and from each other, and puts forward Radical Self Love as an alternative to the body hierarchy thinking we grow up surrounded by.
- Say What You Mean by Oren Jay Sofer – Nonviolent Communication has helped me learn to recognize my needs and find strategies for meeting them without relying on the conflict strategies I was taught by the society around me.
- Unf–ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman – This book is the only reason my depression cave is finally getting clean. It’s an actively anti-shame cleaning system. If you live in a space, and you wish that space was a nicer place to be, there’s a bunch of free content on the website.
- The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll – Not only has this been keeping me more organized, but it’s also done wonders for my sense of accomplishment to have a physical record I can flip through of all of the things I’ve done. Depression likes to erase that stuff from my brain, but it can’t reach my BuJo.
- How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan – Primarily a book about the science, history, and experience of psychedelics. I found it particularly interesting for the discussions of the science of mystical experiences.
- You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney – A look at the ways our brains serve as imperfect filters and interfere with our view of the world. You can’t understand the world until you understand how you understand the world.
- The Economists’ Hour by Binyamin Applebaum – A history of economic theory, the forces that have influenced it, and the consequences it has had in the world. But also a surprising pageturner. Not just for economics geeks.
- Give People Money by Annie Lowrey – Universal Basic Income 101.
- An American Sickness, by Elisabeth Rosenthal – A guide to the multiple factors that go into making our healthcare system the most expensive in the world.
- Evicted, by Matthew Desmond – An intensive study of housing-insecure communities in Milwaukee and the systemic causes of housing insecurity.
Race & Anti-Blackness
- Stamped From The Beginning, How To Be An Anti-Racist, and Stamped by Ibram Kendi – I wish I could have read these in high school. They shook my understanding of American history to its roots.
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – A look at the causes and effects of mass incarceration, and why they aren’t what the average white American might think they are.
- White Trash, by Nancy Isenburg – A history of the class structure that we deny exists in America but has been used for 400 years to keep working-class white people from questioning their own oppression by keeping them angry at those below them.
- I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown – A look at the daily harm faced by Black women and the strategies they’ve had to develop to overcome it.
- So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo – An excellent primer on productive racial justice dialog. Pairs well with White Fragility.
Indigenous Cultures & Colonization
- An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz – It was one thing to be vaguely aware that I lived on stolen land. It was quite another to actually hear the details about how it was and is still being stolen. Puts just about every era of US History into a different light.
- Lighting the Eighth Fire, ed. by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – A collection of essays on Indigenous freedom
Gender & Sexuality
- Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha – A book about pre-agricultural sexual practices. But more broadly, a book about why everything I thought I knew about pre-agricultural life was wrong.
- Healing Sex by Staci Haines – An introduction to using somatic practices that helped me process trauma and improve my relationship with my body.
Movement Building & Education
- The Other End of the Leash, by Patricia McConnell – This is actually a book about dog training, which might seem off-topic, but the year I spent learning about teaching dogs taught me more about teaching humans than 20 years of activism work.
- Organizing For Social Change, by the Midwest Academy – A comprehensive textbook on how to build an effective grassroots movement.
Political & Religious Structures
- One Nation Under God, by Kevin M. Kruse – A beautifully researched and written guide to how American Christianity got so damn weird. (Spoiler alert: it was corporate influence.)
- Enemies: A History of the FBI, by Tim Weiner – If you’ve spent time in lefty activism circles and found yourself wondering why we’re always tripping over our own feet, this book will give you the answer.
Ecology & Food
- The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka – An approach to natural farming that involves listening closely to the ecosystem. I’m fascinated by the way the land keeps teaching the same lessons to people listening all over the world.
- Trees of Power by Akiva Silver – Basically, how to save the world with trees.
- Holistic Management by Alan Savory – Both a guide to managing land sustainably and a guide to managing your life sustainably.
- Anything and everything by N.K. Jemison – When are we going to see a Broken Earth tv show? I want to see that story with GoT-level effects.
- Trail of Lightning & Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse – The post-eco-catastrophe Sixth World universe is a little too realistic for my peace of mind, but I’m not going to let that stop me. Great modern fantasy/Indigenous futurism series.
- The Discworld novels and The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett – The more I learn and the more I come back to them, the more I think the Discworld novels are some of the smartest fiction I’ve ever read. All while simultaneously being relaxing escapist fiction. Discworld is where I go to relax.
- This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – My experience of reading this for the first time was strikingly similar to the first time I read Italo Calvino. It’s the sort of short fiction/poetry collection that changes the way you see the world in ways that you don’t even notice for years down the line.
- Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire – I’m 99% sure that this book is fiction. I’m 1% sure that I am an ambulomancer.