MY100DayPlans Book Club: Readings to Help You Resist, Rebuild & Recharge
Generated by the My100Days BrainTrust & compiled by Heather Lord
Welcome to the MY100DayPlans book club. Over the past 100 days we have collected 60 recommended reads from our network of activists, educators, movers & shakers to help you Resist, Rebuild & Recharge.
We asked: What books have opened your eyes on an issue? What books inform your civic action? What books help ground you and keep you sane?
This list includes fiction and non-fiction from classics to contemporary. Some you will know but we hope that there are a few you’ve never heard of that will inspire you. The list is far from comprehensive. Because we’ve missed some “must reads” at the bottom we’ve also provided some links to other lists: Wanna read more on how to stop Trump? Want to understand better the rise of global populism? Want to know what every informed voter should know? Just scroll down to the end.
Tweet @my100dayplans with your favorites — we’d love to know what you’re reading.
Resist, Rebuild, Recharge — and Read on, friends!
Note: we wholeheartedly encourage you to purchase these books from your local independent bookseller or join your local library. If this is not convenient for you, we have included links to the books from a mix of some of our favorite independent booksellers across the country (and a few major vendors if we couldn’t reliably find them from an indie).
Abolition of White Democracy – Joel Olson
Why: Olson examines the American obsession with race according to its politics. He finds that despite protests by whites that America is a democracy, in reality it is divided into those who enjoy the benefits of full citizenship and others who do not.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
Why: “Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.”
Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Why: An immigrant story, a woman’s story, a feminist’s story, and an absolutely brilliant, fast-moving read. Provides powerful perspective on racial dynamics in America from the perspective of a young Nigerian woman who has recently moved here.
The Art of War – Sun Tzu
Why: A well crafted and astute study of organizations and conflict written over 2,000 years ago, The Art of War has become a go-to conflict and behavioral strategy manual used by politicians, governments and business people today. Fun fact: a Steve Bannon fave (ugh – but know your enemy).
Battle Cry of Freedom – James McPherson
Why: “Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War — the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry — and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself–the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson’s new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union’s victory.”
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
Why: Absolutely essential reading for all seeking to understand the pain, power, past & present of race in America. In the words of Toni Morrison, “I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates.” And in his own words, “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”
Watch an interview with Coates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUOPM8il7bQ
Read a review: https://newrepublic.com/article/122275/how-be-black-america
Blueprint for Revolution – Srdja Popovic
Why: The techniques described in this book, “have been adopted by democracy movements around the world. The Egyptian opposition used them to topple Hosni Mubarak. In Lebanon, the Serbs helped the Cedar Revolution extricate the country from Syrian control. In Maldives, their methods were the key to overthrowing a dictator who had held power for thirty years.”
Why: Catch-22 is a satire frequently cited as one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century. It cleverly reveals the tragic absurdity of war and military bureaucracies.
The City & The City – China Mieville
Dystopic near future murder mystery novel on how we are trained to see or “unsee” people with whom we live side by side. It will make you see the people you are constantly “unseeing” every day.
Collected Essays – James Baldwin
Why: Collection of essays and excepts from books written by James Baldiwn, another brilliant and prominent 20th century critical thinker, reflecting upon and examining the roots of racism in American and its effects on both Black and white Americans as the stage setting for the Civil Rights Movement. Although a commentary on various elements from the Civil Rights Era and Movement, this book and other writings of Baldwin remain relevant in today’s context of the rise of overt and unapologetic white supremacy, immigrant rights, Native American rights and Black Lives Matter.
Critical Race Theory: Key Writings That Formed the Movement – Kimberle Crenshaw
Why: “Questioning the old assumptions of both liberals and conservatives with respect to the goals and the means of traditional civil rights reform, critical race theorists have presented new paradigms for understanding racial injustice and new ways of seeing the links between race, gender, sexual orientation, and class. This reader, edited by the principal founders and leading theoreticians of the critical race theory movement, gathers together for the first time the movement’s most important essays.”
Dark Money – Jane Mayer
Why: Detailed and cogent investigative reporting on the people, families, institutions and companies leveraging their money and influence within the U.S political system in order to mold the US, its laws, politics and social ideologies in their likeness. She is a journalist for the New Yorker, doing a lot of very in depth research into the people behind the scenes in a lot of today’s politics (ie the Koch bros, Scaife, Olin, etc). Follow the money.
Deep Denial – David Billings
Why: “Part popular history, part personal memoir – documents the 400-year racialization of the United States and how people of European descent came to be called “white.” Author David Billings focuses primarily on the deeply embedded notion of white supremacy, and tells us why, despite the Civil Rights movement and an African American president, we remain, in the author’s words, ‘a nation hard-wired by race.’”
Democracy Despite Itself – Daniel Oppenheimer
Why: Behavioral economics professor Dr. Oppenheimer’s book “explains the paradox of democracy – how can democracies be successful even when the voters are so uninformed and the system so noisy.”
Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman
Why: This “brilliant report from the frontiers of psychology and neuroscience offers startling new insight into our “two minds”—the rational and the emotional—and how they together shape our destiny….” and our civic and political landscape.
The Enchanted – Rene Denfield
Why: An eye-opening novel about death row that is an exercise in deep empathy. “For the narrator locked inside an ancient prison, waiting for death, life is full of magic, from the golden horses that stampede underground to the tiny men who hammer away inside the stone walls. That the enchanted place is a death row matters less to him than the people he watches from the bars of his cage…”
Evicted – Matthew Desmond
Why: “A Harvard sociologist examines the challenge of eviction as a formidable cause of poverty in America, revealing how millions of people are wrongly forced from their homes and reduced to cycles of extreme disadvantage that are reinforced by dysfunctional legal systems.”
The Fourth Turning – William Strauss & Neil Howe
Why: Both a historical examination of the cyclical nature of politics and social movements and a well calculated prediction of what this new millennium has in store for the current world order and the institutions that maintain it. Fun fact: a favorite of Steve Bannon that shed light, on his ideology and world view.
From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation – Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Why: “The eruption of mass protests in the wake of the police murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City have challenged the impunity with which officers of the law carry out violence against Black people and punctured the illusion of a postracial America…In this stirring and insightful analysis, activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor surveys the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and persistence of structural inequality.”
Ghettoside – Jill Leovy
Why: This New York Times Bestseller helps readers understand our nation’s history and current issues with policing of the black community in a new and more comprehensive way.
The Great Influenza – John Barry
Why: Fascinating from an epidemiology perspective, but the first third chronicles Wilson turning the US into a totalitarian state to create a war machine. His actions ramping up to the US engagement in WWI tell a different story and are frighteningly similar to what is happening around us today.
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and American Capitalism – Edward Baptist
Why: “Told through intimate slave narratives, plantation records, newspapers, and the words of politicians, entrepreneurs, and escaped slaves, The Half Has Never Been Told offers a radical new interpretation of American history.”
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Why: “The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indelibly drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.”
Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit
Why: “Hope in the Dark was written to counter the despair of radicals at a moment when they were focused on their losses and had turned their back to the victories behind them–and the unimaginable changes soon to come. In it, she makes a radical case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable.”
Imagined Communities – Benedict Anderson
Why: This book “remains the most influential book on the origins of nationalism… Cited more often than any other single English-language work in the human sciences, it is read around the world in more than thirty translations…Following the rise and conflict of nations and the decline of empires, Anderson draws on examples from South East Asia, Latin America and Europe’s recent past to show how nationalism shaped the modern world.”
Inside Newark: Decline, Rebellion, and the Search for Transformation – Robert Curvin
Why: Civil Rights leader Robert Curvin was on the front lines of the 1967 Newark Riots/Rebellion, and has unique insights from his own experience and that of hundreds of Newark residents past and present which offer big picture lessons and a blueprint of sorts regarding the quest for social justice, the nature of social movements and the fate of America’s struggling cities.
Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
Why: Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time…the nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of ‘the Brotherhood,’ and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.”
The Jailing of Cecelia Capture – Janet Campbell
Pulitzer-Prize nominated novel by Native American author Janet Campbell about, “an Indian law student and mother of two, jailed on her thirtieth birthday for drunk driving. Held on an old welfare fraud charge, she reflects back on her life on the reservation in Idaho, her days as an unwed mother in San Francisco, her marriage to a white liberal, and her decision to return to college.”
Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson
Why: You already know the US criminal justice system is messed up, but Stevenson adds very moving – and outrageous – details on that story.
Native Son – Richard Wright
Why: “Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.”
No Logo – Naomi Klein
Why: “In the last decade, No Logo has become an international phenomenon and a cultural manifesto for the critics of unfettered capitalism worldwide…Equal parts cultural analysis, political manifesto, mall-rat memoir, and journalistic exposé, No Logo is the first book to put the new resistance into pop-historical and clear economic perspective.”
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century – Timothy Snyder
Why: “Post-truth is pre-Facism.” Sobering words from someone who would know. Yale historian Timothy D. Snyder is an expert on 20th Century genocides and dictatorships. He knows the past century’s failures and he knows the slippery, deceptive slope societies have gone down to cause some of the worst atrocities in recent history. “On Tyranny” is a powerful, easy-to-read, succinct handbook on 20 things you need to do in order to stop yourself and stop your country from disaster, including planning ahead for how you want to react should things get even worse. This is important. Read up.
For sneak preview, here is his interview on NPR and a good Vox article.
Oryx and Crake (Maddaddam Trilogy) – Margaret Atwood
Why: “Set in a darkly plausible future shaped by plagues, floods, and genetic engineering, these three novels take us from the end of the world to a brave new beginning. Thrilling, moving, and a triumph of imagination, the Maddaddam Trilogy confirms the ultimate endurance of humanity, community, and love.”
The Parable of Talents – Octavia Butler
“Parable of the Talents & Parable of the Sower tell the story of how, as the U.S. continues to fall apart, the protagonist’s community is attacked and taken over by a bloc of religious fanatics who inflict brutal atrocities.”
Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 – Taylor Branch
Why: “Taylor Branch provides an unsurpassed portrait of King’s rise to greatness and illuminates the stunning courage and private conflict, the deals, maneuvers, betrayals, and rivalries that determined history behind closed doors, at boycotts and sit-ins, on bloody freedom rides, and through siege and murder.”
Peace is Every Step – Thicht Nat Hanh
Why: Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh shares short, readable, beautiful bursts of inspiration on how you can find and create peace in the midst of chaos. One of his pearls of wisdom, “Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out.” Also check out this Oprah interview with Thich Nhat Hanh.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paolo Friere
Why: “The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire’s work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm.”
People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn
Why: “Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People’s History of the United States is the only volume to tell America’s story from the point of view of–and in the words of–America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. As historian Howard Zinn shows, many of our country’s greatest battles–the fights for a fair wage, an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, universal suffrage, women’s rights, racial equality–were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance.”
Player Piano (and other short stories) – Kurt Vonnegut
Why: Covering a range of issues from the inadvertently disastrous impacts of technology to the “the interplanetary adventures of the world’s wealthiest and most despised man” (nope – not President You Know Who but there are some parallels) this book holds 6 of Vonnegut’s “best short stories, gems that display his matchless talent for hilarious invention and caustic social criticism.”
The Politics of Uncertainty – Peter Marris
Why: Blends attachment theory, community development, and capitalism to demonstrate how our structure and culture revolve around shifting uncertainty onto others because we have wrongly convinced ourselves that we’re a competitive species. He shifts the focus to cooperation and has a surprise ending that involves de-gendering concepts.
PRANKS (Vol 1 & 2) – Re/Search Publications
Buy: Pranks! #1 (1988) https://www.researchpubs.com/shop/pranks-paperback-also-rare-hardback-available-2-2/
Pranks! #2 (2006) https://www.researchpubs.com/shop/pranks-2-2/
Why: To inspire some creative #goodtrouble, check out PRANKS Vol 1 & 2, the ultimate “underground history of pranks, tricks, and acts of mischievous subversion.” Featuring a range of artists, activists and comedians including the Yes Men, Henry Rollins, Earth First!, Margaret Cho, John Waters, the Billboard Liberation Front & more. An iconoclastic classic! Here are some reviews: https://www.researchpubs.com/products-page-2/pranks-2-reviews/
The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions – Paula Gunn Allen
Why: An eye-opening book arguing “that women played a much larger role in Native societies than was recorded by the largely patriarchal Europeans in their writings.”
Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari
Why: Sometimes it’s powerful to zoom out – way out – and consider our current urges and predicaments in the long history of our evolution as species. This book tackles big questions like, “How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations, and human rights; to trust money, books, and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables, and consumerism?”
Scoop – Evelyn Waugh
Why: Prescient look at the role and foibles of the press in “Waugh’s exuberant comedy of mistaken identity and brilliantly irreverent satire of the hectic pursuit of hot news.”
Seeing Like a State – James Scott
Why: “Compulsory ujamaa villages in Tanzania, collectivization in Russia, Le Corbusier’s urban planning theory realized in Brasilia, the Great Leap Forward in China, agricultural “modernization” in the Tropics—the twentieth century has been racked by grand utopian schemes that have inadvertently brought death and disruption to millions. Why do well-intentioned plans for improving the human condition go tragically awry?”
Sellout – Paul Beatty
Why: It’s acrobatic and hilarious and piercing. A best-seller across the board and “a biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality–the black Chinese restaurant.”
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace – Jeff Hobbs
Why: “A compelling and honest portrait of Robert s relationships with his struggling mother, with his incarcerated father, with his teachers and friends The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace encompasses the most enduring conflicts in America: race, class, drugs, community, imprisonment, education, family, friendship, and love. It s about the collision of two fiercely insular worlds the ivy-covered campus of Yale University and the slums of Newark, New Jersey, and the difficulty of going from one to the other and then back again. It s about trying to live a decent life in America.”
Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde
Why: “A collection of essays written by one the the 20th century’s most prominent woman critical thinkers providing intersectional commentary on the great social issues of our day (race, class, feminism, homophobia and access.) and dissects often overlooked nuances and exposes the truly insidious nature of the inner workings of each that still plague society as seen in our current electoral politics and state and federal legislative battles.”
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibrahim X Kendi
Why: “In this deeply researched, provocative narrative, Kendi offers a comprehensive history of anti-Black racist ideas— their origins in fifteenth-century Portugal, their arrival in England in the mid-sixteenth century, and their blossoming in the United States, where they became the founding principles of our nation’s institutions and guarantors of its power.”
Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right – Arlie Russell Hochschild
Why: “Strangers in Their Own Land, nominated for a National Book Award, grew out of Hochschild’s alarm over the country’s deepening political divide and her heartfelt interest in understanding, in her words, ‘how life feels to people on the right.’ Over a period of five years, Hochschild traveled to Louisiana bayou country from her Berkeley home to get to know a group of men and women she comes to refer to as her “Tea Party friends” and to understand why, in an area that’s suffered from calamitous industrial pollution, they put more faith in industry than in government.”
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
We should all read everything by Toni Morrison, but make sure you read Morrison s “virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.” She somehow breaks and remakes your heart with every story.
Confessions of an Economic hitman – John Perkins
Why: “From the U.S. military in Iraq to infrastructure development in Indonesia, from Peace Corps volunteers in Africa to jackals in Venezuela, Perkins exposes a conspiracy of corruption that has fueled instability and anti-Americanism around the globe, with consequences reflected in our daily headlines. Having raised the alarm, Perkins passionately addresses how Americans can work to create a more peaceful and stable world for future generations.”
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate – Naomi Klein
Why: “Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways”
Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
Why: Cuz Oprah said so, cuz it won a Pulitzer and because, “Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.”
We – Yevgeny Zamyatin
Why: When Trump was elected, everyone was talking anew about the importance of reading books like Orwell’s 1984; well, how about reading the original Russian novel from which Orwell lifted much of the plot for 1984! Zamyatin’s short classic, “We” is “at once satirical and sobering and now available in a powerful new translation. We is both a rediscovered classic and a work of tremendous relevance to our own times.”
Weapons of the Weak – James Scott
Why: “The constant and circumspect struggle waged by peasants materially and ideologically against their oppressors shows that techniques of evasion and resistance may represent the most significant and effective means of class struggle in the long run.”
Why Civil Resistance Works – Chenoweth & Stephen
Why: Because it tells us why nonviolent resistance works!
Winner Take All Society – Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us – Frank & Cook
Why: As Trump cuts taxes for the wealthiest, this is truly essential reading on how the heck we got here. “During the last two decades, the top one percent of U.S. earners captured more than 40 percent of the country’s total earnings growth, one of the largest shifts any society has endured without a revolution or military defeat. Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook argue that behind this shift lies the spread of “winner-take-all markets”—markets in which small differences in performance give rise to enormous differences in reward.”
Women and the Politics of Place – Wendy Harcourt
Why: “Harcourt and Escobar analyze women’s economic and social justice movements by challenging traditional views. The authors reveal how an interrelated set of transformations around body, environment, and the economy factors into place-based practices of women and how these provide alternative ways of advancement in these mobilizations.”
Writing My Wrongs – Shaka Senghor
Why: Many books talk *about* the US prison system, but Shaka Senghor is an extraordinary social justice leader who was raised in Detroit, sent to prison for murder and who, “during his 19-year incarceration, 7 of which were spent in solitary confinement, discovered literature, meditation, self-examination, and the kindness of others—tools he used to confront the demons of his past, forgive the people who hurt him, and begin atoning for the wrongs he had committed…a page-turning portrait of life in the shadow of poverty, violence, and fear; an unforgettable story of redemption, reminding us that our worst deeds don’t define us; and a compelling witness to our country’s need for rethinking its approach to crime, prison, and the men and women sent there.” Here’s Shaka’s moving interview on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.