Read and resist
10 books to educate and inspire you to action
It’s nearly six months into the current presidential regime and, if you’re anything like me, things feel worse than ever. If you are emotionally, intellectually and spiritually exhausted by the regressive policies and uncivil discourse, here are 10 must-read books to renew your commitment to the resistance.
It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis
Read it because: The New Yorker called Lewis’ 1935 novel “one of the most important books ever produced in this country” and that assessment still holds true today. Lewis’ book tells the story of a fascist politician who stirs up fears, foments distrust and, basically, promises to make America great again and accordingly defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It once seemed like a chilling glimpse at an alternate American reality; now it reads like a primer on the last election and current administration.
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, Rebecca Solnit
Read it because: Hope in the Dark, originally published in 2004, is just that—a guiding spotlight on activism and commitment in a time of despair. Placing personal experiences against the broad tapestry of history, Solnit makes a case for optimism and action as the path to real, transformational change. “Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win,” Solnit writes in the foreword to the book’s latest edition. “Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender.”
The Trouble With Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time, Brooke Gladstone
Read it because: Fake news, alternative facts and other lies make it difficult to parse real life from politics. Gladstone, who co-hosts On the Media, a weekly radio news magazine show with Bob Garfield, lays out Trump’s authoritarian communication strategy, including a look at his beloved Twitter account. Whether the president’s pushing “send” on “trial balloon tweets,” “deflection tweets” or “diversion tweets,” Gladstone posits that, when it comes to the current president, “lying is the point.” Still, she adds, we’re part of the problem, too: “If fake reality is the problem, the logical first step is to track down its sources,” she writes. “But that is a very short, very frustrating expedition, because fake reality begins at home. In your head.” Oof.
White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg
Read it because: You want to get a better understanding of at least part of Trump’s base but found J.D. Vance’s much-praised memoir Hillbilly Elegy to be myopic and frustratingly superficial. Published just months before the 2016 election, Isenberg’s book deconstructs this country’s class system with a precise eye. And, looking back on the contentious 2008 election that wrought Sarah Palin, she cements the future, writing, “When you turn an election into a three-ring circus, there’s always a chance that the dancing bear will win.”
The Gay Revolution, Lillian Faderman
Read it because: Faderman’s 2015 book offers a bird’s-eye view of the LGBTQ community and its struggle for basic rights and safety from the 1950s to the present. Whether it’s the Stonewall riots, the misguided “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation or the lengthy fight to legalize same-sex marriage, Faderman writes with the unflinching eye of a historian and the dramatic elegance of a novelist.
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Read it because: Coates’ slim collection of essays, written as letters to his young son, make for a brutally honest read on race in America. Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin live in these pages, as does an argument for the Black Lives Matter movement and an examination of this country’s ongoing and systemic mistreatment of black people. Not an easy read, but an essential one.
Wandering Home: A Long Walk Across America’s Most Hopeful Landscape, Bill McKibben
Read it because: You’re worried about Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. McKibben, an environmentalist and journalist, writes about the planet in a way that takes the universal and makes it personal. Told through the lens of a long hike through the Northeastern United States, the book brings the physical world to life on the page.
America’s Working Women: A Documentary History, 1600 to the Present
Read it because: This collection of stories, poems and essays (edited by Rosalyn Baxandall and Linda Gordon) was penned by working women across the country. Originally published in 1976, it makes for a feminist history that transcends generations, cultures, race and class.
Rules for Radicals, Saul D. Alinsky
Read it because: You’re overwhelmed, you don’t know where to start and you’re mad as hell at the current administration. Originally published in 1971, Alinsky’s book remains relevant as a guide on how to get past talk to effect real social, cultural and political change through community organizing, sacrifice and tangible action.
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Read it because: You’ve already read other “alternative” U.S. histories and now want one told from the perspective of this country’s first inhabitants. Dunbar-Ortiz, the daughter of a farmer father and Native American mother, challenges myths about European settlers and their impact on millions of indigenous people.