The best books for challenging capitalism, racism, and patriarchy

Jordan Flaherty Author Of No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality
By Jordan Flaherty

Who am I?

I produced dozens of hours of film and television, including for Al Jazeera’s Emmy, Peabody, and DuPont-award-winning program Faultlines; as well as short and long-form documentaries for Democracy Now and teleSUR, and reporting in The New York Times and Washington Post. I’ve written two books based on my journalism, No More Heroes: Grassroots Responses to the Savior Mentality and Floodlines: Community and Resistance From Katrina to the Jena Six. I produced the independent feature film Chocolate Babies, which was recently added to the Criterion Collection. My latest film is Powerlands.

I wrote...

No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality

By Jordan Flaherty,

Book cover of No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality

What is my book about?

We are often told that nice white people are the solution...but what if we are the problem?

From the Crusades to Black Lives Matter, No More Heroes is a grassroots history of resistance to the savior mentality. This book weaves the stories of teachers, international volunteers, sex workers, FBI informants, indigenous organizers, and prison abolitionists into a narrative of revolutionary change that travels from Alaska to Palestine, from Karl Marx to Muhammad Ali, and from KONY 2012 to the Red Cross. Robin D. G. Kelley, the author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination calls it, “A perfect gift for the age of Trump.”

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The books I picked & why

Assata: An Autobiography

By Assata Shakur,

Book cover of Assata: An Autobiography

Why did I love this book?

Reading this book as a teenager changed my life. If you’ve ever been to a Black Lives Matter protest and heard the chant, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains,” then Assata has changed your life too. The fact that her poem has been made into a protest chant demonstrates her continuing impact on movements. This book movingly combines the personal and political. It’s a story of one woman’s radicalization, the brutal state violence she faced, and the comrades who would join her in the hard work of challenging systemic white supremacy and capitalism.

By Assata Shakur,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Assata as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On May 2, 1973, Black Panther Assata Shakur (aka JoAnne Chesimard) lay in a hospital, close to death, handcuffed to her bed, while local, state, and federal police attempted to question her about the shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike that had claimed the life of a white state trooper. Long a target of J. Edgar Hoover's campaign to defame, infiltrate, and criminalize Black nationalist organizations and their leaders, Shakur was incarcerated for four years prior to her conviction on flimsy evidence in 1977 as an accomplice to murder.


This intensely personal and political autobiography belies the fearsome image of…

Book cover of The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

Why did I love this book?

The definitive book for understanding today’s social justice movements, and what needs to change for them to be successful. The brilliant women of color of INCITE come from a background of organizing and scholarship, and together they show the systemic flaw in left movements today, showing the ways that organizations become accountable to wealthy funders rather than the people they say they wish to serve. Read this book to learn what can be done to challenge this dynamic and build a better world.

By INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Revolution Will Not Be Funded as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A trillion-dollar industry, the US non-profit sector is one of the world's largest economies. From art museums and university hospitals to think tanks and church charities, over 1.5 million organizations of staggering diversity share the tax-exempt 501(c)(3) designation, if little else. Many social justice organizations have joined this world, often blunting political goals to satisfy government and foundation mandates. But even as funding shrinks, many activists often find it difficult to imagine movement-building outside the non-profit model. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded gathers essays by radical activists, educators, and non-profit staff from around the globe who critically rethink the…

Book cover of Take Back the Land: Land, Gentrification & the Umoja Village Shantytown

Why did I love this book?

The best book I’ve ever read about organizing. Max Rameau is a visionary organizer who, in the midst of the housing crisis of 2008, began seizing empty houses and helping homeless people move in. In this book, he goes into deep detail on a previous campaign to reclaim land and turn it into housing, explaining both the successes and failures, as well as the strategy and ideas behind the tactics. Read this to learn the fundamentals of how to plan, organize and win.

By Max Rameau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Take Back the Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On October 23, 2006, a group of activists brought land struggle to the US. After seizing public land in Liberty City, FL, the Umoja Village Shantytown was born.

Stone Butch Blues

By Leslie Feinberg,

Book cover of Stone Butch Blues

Why did I love this book?

This powerful and intense novel is based on Leslie Feinberg’s life, growing up butch, lesbian, working-class, and Jewish in small-town New York in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and later coming out as both transgender and a communist revolutionary. This book is an intimate look at gender, race, and class from someone who lived on the front lines of these struggles.

By Leslie Feinberg,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Stone Butch Blues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published in 1993, this brave, original novel is considered to be the finest account ever written of the complexities of a transgendered existence.

Woman or man? That’s the question that rages like a storm around Jess Goldberg, clouding her life and her identity. Growing up differently gendered in a blue--collar town in the 1950’s, coming out as a butch in the bars and factories of the prefeminist ’60s, deciding to pass as a man in order to survive when she is left without work or a community in the early ’70s. This powerful, provocative and deeply moving novel sees Jess…

Book cover of Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next)

Why did I love this book?

During this moment of pandemic and other crises caused by capitalism, many people have turned to mutual aid as an attempt to help their neighbors and communities. As Spade writes, “Left social movements have two big jobs right now. First, we need to organize to help people survive the devastating conditions unfolding every day. Second, we need to mobilize hundreds of millions of people for resistance so we can tackle the underlying causes of these crises.” This book explains both why and how we can create structures that will change the world. 

By Dean Spade,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mutual Aid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Around the world, people are faced with crisis after crisis, from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change-induced fires, floods, and storms to the ongoing horrors of mass incarceration, brutal immigration enforcement, endemic gender violence, and severe wealth inequality. As governments fail to respond to-or actively engineer-each crisis, ordinary people are finding bold and innovative ways to share resources and support vulnerable members of their communities. This survival work, when done alongside social movement demands for transformative change, is called mutual aid.

This book is about mutual aid: why it is so important, what it looks like, and how to do…

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