Books to Read if You’re in the Mood for Activism

BB&GT RECOMMENDATIONS(3) Here’s your daily reminder to enter my Books & Tea Giveaway! Details on this post.

I love easy reads– after a long day of reading lengthy and sprawling papers and spreadsheets, sometimes they are just what I need. Other times, however, I’m in the mood for something a little more substantive. Something that gets me deeply entrenched in an issue, or that gets me passionate about a subject. These books satisfy that very specific craving. Whether they discuss immigration, sexism, or minimum wages, each of these will embolden you to take a stand!


  1. The Illegal, by Lawrence Hill
    For numerous reasons, immigration is an issue close to my heart. While The Illegal could have been more subtle with its commentary, that doesn’t detract from the depth Hill brings to the subject. Check out my review for The Illegal here.
  2. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
    I’m a strong advocate for allowing diverse authors to tell their own stories. That’s why I was a bit stunned when I realized the author that so artfully crafted the two main characters was a British white man. I wasn’t a fan of Cleave’s other book, Incendiary, and I haven’t yet finished his latest book, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, but Little Bee gets an A+++ from me. Little Bee follows the story of an undocumented African immigrant as she becomes a nanny for a family in the UK. What makes this different from other books is the strong voices that Cleave makes for each woman, making them multidimensional characters with a story you want to read.
  3. The Lorax, by Dr. Suess
    “UNLESS someone like you…cares a whole awful lot…nothing is going to get better…It’s not.”
    I know Dr. Suess has other books that we all read in our childhood, but thematically, The Lorax is one of my favorites. Dr. Seuss was an environmentalist even before global warming was a hot button issue. I have extremely complex feelings about Dr. Seuss, due to some of his other cartoons, which are overtly racist. But if you happen to find The Lorax at a yard sale somewhere, it’s a safe one to pick up.



  • The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues, by Angela Y. Davis
    I reviewed this book the other day, and the review can be seen here. It’s a fantastic compilation of Angela Davis’ speeches, making it a great bookshelf edition for all fans of activist literature. I’m also giving it away, so make sure you enter the giveaway!
  • Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought, by Beverly Guy Sheftall
    Beverly Guy-Sheftall really doesn’t get enough credit for being as brilliant a scholar as she is. I first encountered her in undergrad, where she was a vital part of our women’s study program. This anthology is a must have for people interested in feminist or womanist literature.
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, by Audre Lorde
    Another compilation of speeches (and essays), Audre Lorde’s book is a much quicker read than Davis’ The Meaning of Freedom. While I’d recommend Davis’ book for people who are already familiar with her, I’d recommend this book for people who may not be familiar with Audre Lorde whatsoever. To this day, my copy is a prized possession (that a certain brother of mine should feel free to give back as soon as he reads this).
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
    Nickel and Dimed is complex, and doesn’t agree with everyone. But I wanted to make sure I incorporated something that focused almost primarily on class as a determinant of success. It touches upon gender as well, but Nickel and Dimed is, at its heart, an attempt to expose the unfairness of the expectations society places on low waged workers. In this book, Ehrenreich, a well off journalist, instead decides to play her cards as a waitress, a maid, and other low wage jobs. Ehrenreich’s book, which was mandatory reading in my freshman year of high school, is problematic in that it doesn’t touch upon the majority of issues low waged workers face, such as child care. More irritatingly, she doesn’t always manage to cover her privileged voice in her writing. Despite this, it’s still worth a read for those who are interested in current activist movements and trends, such as Fight for 15.
  • Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
    I really can’t talk about this book enough. Read it with your book clubs, I’m serious! If you want to learn more about why some are so strongly against the death penalty, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better primer than Just Mercy. It doesn’t hurt that Stevenson seems like a pretty decent guy, too. Read my review of Just Mercy here.
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
    This is mandatory reading– at the very least, every American should understand the concepts that Michelle Alexander brings up in this book. Mass incarceration is a buzzword right now in politics, and The New Jim Crow is the definitive primer on the subject. Read this for concrete evidence and information that has impassioned so many to work for criminal justice reform.
  • Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity, by Chandra Talpade Mohanty
    I haven’t read the entirety of this book, but I’ve read some of Mohanty’s work as part of my college feminist philosophy courses. The opening essay, “Under Western Eyes:
    Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses,” is one I strongly remember, leading me to recommend her for this Top Ten Tuesday. As one can can predict from the title, it analyzes “Western feminism,” and its portrayal of the “third world woman.” Read Mohanty if you’re interested in interpretations of feminism from non-American or European perspectives.



That’s the end of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, y’all. It was uncommonly academic for me, but I guess that’s just what came to mind for me when I thought about the topic for this week. Appropriately, I wanted to spend some time in February reflecting on Black History Month, but I also want to make sure I’m leaving some space to emphasize the linkages between racial issues and others.

What books get y’all really fired up about issues you’re passionate about? Feel free to leave them in the comments. Don’t be shy! 

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  1. lisaalmedasumner

    Great list! Nickel and Dimed is so good. I have Just Mercy on my TBR shelf, and I need to read that soon. I asked my school librarian to order The New Jim Crow, so my students will have access to it (plus, I can read it myself). Love Audre Lorde’s poetry, but I haven’t read her essays. And I still haven’t read Little Bee, even though I’ve been hearing about it for the longest time….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay fine, if you recommend Little Bee thwn I will have to give it a chance! Haven’t really been drawn to Cleave’s books before.
    Yes to all than awesome non-fiction! Still have to read the Alexander and have Just Mercy on the shelf. Omg Mohanty was basically my first academic crush, look Brown women can be academics too and finally a feminism I can relate to. And I recently read her new foreword so cool to see how she reflects on her journey and newer privilege.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES! This is how I felt when I read Mohanty for a feminist philosophy colloquium course in college. Obviously I’d read white and black feminists, but it was good to finally see the others that I knew were out there. As for Little Bee… it’s the only book I’ve liked by him. Parts of it bothered me, but I think that’s slightly inevitable when you have a man doing the voices of two completely different women. He did a good job, though. Of all of the books on here, I’d say Just Mercy should be the biggest priority, honestly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Loved Black feminism too and Chican@ feminism, wish we had ethnic studies like in the US here it’s rarely feminist and focused on. methodology.
        Then I will give Little Bee a chance :)’high praise coming from you.
        Yes excited about Just Mercy. Got the German edition so I’ll have to see how the translation is. Usually bit iffy with the lack of concepts in German!


  3. […] Books to Read if You’re in the Mood for Activism […]


  4. magalys @ the bookbrat

    *adds more books to TBR*

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Books to Read if You’re in the Mood for Activism @Brown Books and Green Tea […]


  6. […] ★ Brown Books and Great Tea used this week’s TTT to share a top ten of books to read if you are in the mood for activism. […]


  7. I’m ashamed to say I’ve only read The Lorax on this list! (Which is an amazing book.) In fact, most of these books I haven’t even heard of. I’ll be adding some to my TBR, thanks for the recommendations!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your take on TTT this week. I’m not a huge non-fiction fan, but a lot of the books you mentioned sounded interesting. I think I’m going to have to check them out. (:

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Amazing take on this week’s topic. I am always looking for more non-fiction books to read so I will definitely be checking out some of those. Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Afraid that I haven’t actually read any of these books. But some are definitely going to my TBR. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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