1. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Book by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Image: Amazon UK

White privilege is a manipulative, suffocating blanket of power that envelops everything we know, like a snowy day.
Reni Eddo-Lodge

You can not change the world without acknowledging and addressing racism.

To organise effectively, we must understand we work in racist social and economic systems behaving as respectable society. To bring about a better world we should look at our own privileges and judge how we use them to either contribute or tear down the systems of institutional racism around us. For many of us this can feel like an impossible task. This book will tell you what you need to learn in seven beautifully written essays. For white readers especially, this is an uncomfortable and necessary read. And for all of us, it is an important compass in our justice work.

2. Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit

Hope in the Dark: Rebecca Solnit

Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.
Rebecca Solnit

Never lose hope – it contains everything we need to build something better.

Social change is uncertain, unpredictable and always possible. At a time in our lives when there is so much to despair about, this book is more important than ever. Solnit turns over the ugly under-belly of the world and challenges us to see the mushrooms of justice and opportunities that are growing despite the darkness. In this book Solnit draws light on our history, to guide us towards a more hopeful future.

3. I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters – Edited by Michael G. Long

I Must Resist. Bayard Rustin's Life in Letters: Ed. Michael G. Long. Image: Bol.com

My best friends . . . have been beaten and assassinated. Yet, to remain human and to fulfil my commitment to a just society, I must continue to fight for the liberation of all men.
Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin was the mentor to Martin Luther King Jr. and was central to much of King’s actions. As a gay black man his brilliance was kept out of our history books; until now. Rustin’s experiences are captured here in 150 insightful letters and is a powerful must-read for anyone wanting to learn from a master strategist of the civil rights movement. We get to understand Rustin in his own words, writing to some of the most important change-makers of the time: including Eleanor Holmes Norton, A Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker, and Martin Luther King Jr.

4. Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath

Made to Stick: Dan and Chip Heath. Photo: Amazon Images

As we pored over hundreds of sticky ideas, we saw over and over again the same six principles at work.
Chip and Dan Heath

Why do we remember complicated stories but not complicated facts? Why do some ideas last zillions of years and others die, forgotten forever? After ten years of study, Chip and Dan Heath have the answer. They credit six key principles to unforgettable messaging: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. It spells ‘success’… well almost. Each principle is illustrated with stories to make you shock, laugh and never forget. From tales of Frank Sinatra, to a stolen kidney, to the global popcorn campaign changing cinema gourmet across the States – Chip and Dan show how to be unforgettable. Their methods are vital for community organisers who must get better at communicating if we are to win lasting change.

5. No shortcuts: Organising for Power – Jane McAlevey

No Shortcuts: Organising for Power: Jane McAlevey. Image: Oxford University Press

The 1 percent have a vast armoury of material resources and political special forces but the 99 percent have an army.
Jane McAlevey

When so many of us are thinking how the hell did this happen, Jane McAlevey, trade union community organiser, gives us why and how to change it. Sharing her findings from interviewing people in labour and social movement campaigns across America, McAlevey brings together their strategies to help us win. Championing the methods of deep organising over shallower mobilising efforts, McAlevey lifts up successes and failures to make the argument there are no short-cuts to progress. Delve in to learn how to build deep, winning teams that can take on the biggest challenges of our time.

6. How Organizations Develop Activists – Hahrie Han

How Organisations Develop Activists: Hahrie Han. Image: Kobo.com

“[G]etting people to do stuff” more often and with more depth—is not easy. It takes precious time and resources to develop relationships with members. Civic associations are most likely to do this work when it helps them build power.
Hahrie Han

A brilliant book for understanding the difference between organising and mobilising. With a little patience, it is a treasure chest of learning for community organisers. Han shares her learnings from in-person interviews, surveys, and field experiments to teach you why some groups do better than others at recruiting and keeping people involved in activism. While changes in technology make it increasingly easy to mobilise activists to take short-term, low-effort mass action, Han concludes that successful, high-engagement organisations – those who work with and develop their membership, are the most effective.

7. Blueprint for Revolution – Srdja Popovic and Matthew Miller

Blueprint for Revolution: Srdja Popovic. Image Amazon UK

Rally the people who already more or less believe in what you have to say. That is a great way for coming tenth at anything (as Harvey Milk initially did).
Srdja Popovic

Our work needs more humour, grit and imagination – and this is the book to show you how. In just two years the clenched fist Otpor! grew from a youth protest group into a radical nationwide revolution. Srdja Popovic, leader of Otpor! and story telling genius, gives us his lessons from leading a revolution and training activists around the world. From resistance turkeys, to hiding radios broadcasting anti-regime messages in dog poo, to cheese boycotts and taxi go-slows – this book will help you deliver bolder, unforgettable actions.

8. Reveille for Radicals – Saul Alinsky

Reveille for Radicals: Saul Alinsky. Image: Goodreads

Society has good reason to fear the radical. Every shaking advance of mankind toward equality and justice has come from the radical.
Saul Alinsky

Legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky inspired a generation of activists and politicians with Reveille for Radicals. A trouble-maker who spent much of his life focused on trying to improve the living conditions of poor communities across America, Alinsky used clever tactics and pragmatic strategy to win local improvements in public housing, community health services, and public schools all across the United States. This classic volume is a call to action that is still important today and will give you heaps of useful stuff to work with and improve your organising.

9. Rules for Revolutionaries – Becky Bond and Zack Exley

Rules for Revolutionaries book cover. It is in all caps and has stars on it. Looks very USA.

We can go up against big money and win.
Bond and Exley

A must read for anyone interested in making change through online and offline strategies: big organising. Bond and Exley share 22 lessons from the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign for political revolution. The core of the book is about people – and what we can do when asked to participate in something meaningful. It is a direct challenge to the cautious steps of too many NGOs and charities who tinker with margins, and a direct protest to the methods of Saul Alinsky – who could only get us to the negotiating table. Big organising, on the other hand is about changing the very nature of government.

10. This is an Uprising – Mark and Paul Engler

This is an Uprising: Mark and Paul Engler

There is a craft to uprising—and this craft can change the world.
Mark and Paul Engler

From climate change and migrant rights, to Occupy, the Arab Spring, and #BlackLivesMatter – waves of movements are reshaping our politics. Mark and Paul Engler delve into their work with a fine tooth comb, to find the common threads that weave them together. They look to the work of folks such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Gene Sharp, and Frances Fox Piven, to reveal the tools people with few resources can use to change the world.

What other books should be on this list? Let us know in the comments section.

10 comments

  1. John Page

    I love the Jane McAlevey book and Blueprint for Revolutions. Several books here, I have not heard of before (and will be reading very soon). Congratulations for listing Reveille (so much a better book than the ore famous Rules). My one question. I feel that Rules for Revolutionaries will not pass the test of time. It is one good idea stretched into a book.

    My one addition. Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970

    In this classic work of sociology, Doug McAdam presents a political-process model that explains the rise and decline of the black protest movement in the United States. Moving from theoretical concerns to empirical analysis, he focuses on the crucial role of three institutions that foster protest: black churches, black colleges, and Southern chapters of the NAACP. He concludes that political opportunities, a heightened sense of political efficacy, and the development of these three institutions played a central role in shaping the civil rights movement. In his new introduction, McAdam revisits the civil rights struggle in light of recent scholarship on social movement origins and collective action.

    PS, do you mind if I nick this?

    Reply
    • Stephanie Leonard

      Hey John,

      Thanks for the wonderful feedback.

      Please do share widely and it would be great to learn more about what other books should be on the list!

      Reply
  2. Mark

    You’ve got some of my favourites up there, like This is an Uprising! And some new ones that I’ll dig out.

    I got a lot of value and validation from reading Jonathan Smuckers analysis of the Occupy movement, and where it and many other direct action mobilising go wrong: https://www.akpress.org/hegemonyhowto.html.

    I also find reading historical accounts of movements valuable. They’re also more readable late at night, and can give you more insight into what is needed as a ‘leader’ in any movement. The one that particularly inspired me, in a UK context was Bury the Chains: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bury_the_Chains. There are plenty of books though on plenty of individuals and movements.

    Reply
    • Stephanie Leonard

      Hey Mark,

      So glad the list was useful and thanks a lot for your contributions. We will add them to the reading room!

      Reply
  3. John Hoggett

    I re read Strategy and Soul by Daniel Hunter regularly. It is a gift of a book that explains how to use non violent strategy to take on big targets in a style that is personal and engaging. An adventure story for campaigners with real practical lessons.

    http://www.strategyandsoul.org/Strategy_%26_Soul/Home.html

    Reply
    • Stephanie Leonard

      Thanks John. We are looking forward to delve in to Strategy and Soul. If you have anymore in mind we are going to be putting together a second list so everyones contributions are really appreciated.

      Reply
  4. Jess

    Thanks for this list – I have a couple on there but definitely new volumes for me to dip into!

    Reply
  5. Jessica Kennedy

    Thanks for the list – this is great! And I’ve been enjoying the blogs too. Keep it up!

    My addition would be Si Kahn’s book on Creative Community Organizing – it’s well told, with stories woven through with organising principles, and more creative than most. His songs are good too!

    http://sikahn.com/books/creative-community-organizing/

    Reply
  6. Stephanie Leonard

    Thanks Jessica! I will definitely have a read. We are about to put together a recommended book list from activists and organisers around the world, so please keep recommendations coming in.

    Reply

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