The best books that answer to the question: How might one live an anarchist life?

Who am I?

I knew I was an anti-authoritarian before I had words for it, and my education in social justice has been long and slow. I have been researching and writing about anarchism for the better part of three decades, and am now a board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies. Anarchy is a subject that engages me both at the level of intellectual passion, what lights up my mind, and on a visceral level, in my revulsion at the inequalities and iniquities in this world and my yearning for a fully emancipated way of life.


I wrote...

Underground Passages: Anarchist Resistance Culture, 1848-2011

By Jesse Cohn,

Book cover of Underground Passages: Anarchist Resistance Culture, 1848-2011

What is my book about?

This is perhaps the first attempt to write a global cultural history of anarchism, exploring its visionary utopias, songs of scathing mockery, and poems of piercing idealism. Ranging from Chicago to Chile and Chengdu, Underground Passages unearths a buried archive of the haunting tales of exiled revolutionaries and fugitives, experimental films and melodramas, and dark social satires. The key question that illuminates this “anarchist resistance culture”: how to preserve a sense of dignity and ideals in the face of a cynical and degrading world?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals

Jesse Cohn Why did I love this book?

Hartman is one of those academic writers who write like novelists or poets; this is a good thing, because her material is the history of the marginalized, people pushed to the margins of history, so that often the only traces left of them are some entries in police or workhouse or hospital records. How to make those records speak and live again? Daringly, Hartman allows herself the poetic license to imagine in the gaps and silences. What results is a Black history/story that renders visible the unrecorded anarchic rebellions of Black women at the turn of the century, seeking out new and joyful possibilities for life. An incredible achievement.

By Saidiya V. Hartman,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beautifully written and deeply researched, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. In wrestling with the question of what a free life is, many young black women created forms of intimacy and kinship indifferent to the dictates of respectability and outside the bounds of law. They cleaved to and cast off lovers, exchanged sex to subsist, and revised the meaning of marriage. Longing and desire fueled their experiments in how to live. They refused to labor like slaves or to accept degrading…


Book cover of A Little Philosophical Lexicon of Anarchism from Proudhon to Deleuze

Jesse Cohn Why did I love this book?

Translating this book from the French was a slow process, the slowest reading I have ever done, and some of the most rewarding. This book did not just return me to my pre-existing ideas; it changed my way of thinking permanently. Colson writes to us from a world that is full of unexpected possibilities for life, a “world within which many worlds might fit,” as the Zapatistas have itpossibilities for the better and the worse that are screened off from our view. Difficult, demanding reading, but it too suggests a way of living that is premised on finding good connections with others (ones that expand your “collective force”) and withdrawing from relations characterized by “error and sadness,” linking people to “the dominations that, internally and externally, chain them to their own misfortune.” In other words, Colson is drawing from the same Spinozan currents as Bergman and Montgomery, that underground current of joyful thought. Colson, too, is attentive to the micropolitics of life lived in social movements (as his has been).

By Daniel Colson, Jesse Cohn (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little Philosophical Lexicon of Anarchism from Proudhon to Deleuze as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is the thought of Gilles Deleuze secretly linked to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's declaration: "I am an anarchist"? Has anarchism, for more than a century and a half, been secretly Deleuzian? In the guise of a playfully unorthodox lexicon, sociologist Daniel Colson presents an exploration of hidden affinities between the great philosophical heresies and "a thought too scandalous to take its place in the official edifice of philosophy," with profound implications for the way we understand social movements.


Book cover of Anarchafeminism

Jesse Cohn Why did I love this book?

Bottici is another such friend at first reading, another partisan of the Spinozan current, but one deeply immersed in the feminist thought that Colson regrettably ignores. Hers is a fully intersectional feminism, attending especially to the margins of society, where its freaks and pariahs live. Like Colson, she offers opportunities for difficult thinking that reward us with new vistas, new possibilities for life.

By Chiara Bottici,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How can we be sure the oppressed do not become oppressors in their turn? How can we create a feminism that doesn't turn into yet another tool for oppression? It has become commonplace to argue that, in order to fight the subjugation of women, we have to unpack the ways different forms of oppression intersect with one another: class, race, gender, sexuality, disability, and ecology, to name only a few. By arguing that there is no single factor, or arche, explaining the oppression of women, Chiara Bottici proposes a radical anarchafeminist philosophy inspired by two major claims: that there is…


Book cover of Anarcho-Blackness: Notes Toward a Black Anarchism

Jesse Cohn Why did I love this book?

Reading Anarcho-Blackness as a white cismale reader was an experience of discombobulation—a certain disorientation followed by a surprising re-orientation. Bey’s Black anarchism, “indebted to... Black queer and trans feminisms” dramatically reorganizes the priorities of an anarchist tradition that is sometimes still too indebted to hollow universalisms and pinched humanisms that don’t sufficiently include everyone. This is an anarchism specifically for Black queer and trans people which ends up—in a sense that is only “paradoxical” for those of us not paying enough attention—being for everyone. The prose is both philosophical and playful, inviting us to imagine a life that is by turns “ungovernable,” “unpropertied,” “uncouth,” “unhinged,” and “uncontrolled.”

By Marquis Bey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anarcho-Blackness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anarcho-Blackness seeks to define the shape of a Black anarchism. Classical anarchism tended to avoid questions of race—specifically Blackness—as well as the intersections of race and gender. Bey addresses this lack, not by constructing a new cannon of Black anarchists but by outlining how anarchism and Blackness already share a certain subjective relationship to power, a way of understanding and inhabiting the world. Through the lens of Black feminist and transgender theory, he explores what we can learn by making this kinship explicit, including how anarchism itself is transformed by the encounter. If the state is predicated on a racialized…


Book cover of Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times

Jesse Cohn Why did I love this book?

When I opened this book, I knew immediately that I was among friends. This is a handbook for constructing the kind of life in which joyful effects—associated with comradeship and mutual empowermentmight flourish. Eminently practical and down-to-earth, but also informed by a philosophical tradition stretching back through the anarchists to Baruch Spinoza in which life is not reducible to the “recipes” of self-help books but is a creative search for wider possibilities, for the “capacity to participate in something life-giving.” Written in contact with Indigenous and feminist social movements, this is also a guide to avoiding the kinds of blockages and dead ends on which such movements often founder.

By Nick Montgomery, Carla Bergman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Absolutely what we need in these days of spreading gloom." —John Holloway, author of Crack Capitalism

"A guide to a fulfilling militant life." —Michael Hardt, co-author of Assembly

"Rigid radicalism" is the congealed and debilitating practices that suck life and inspiration from the fight for a better world. Joyful Militancy investigates how fear, self-righteousness, and moralism infiltrate and take root within liberation movements, what to do about them, and ultimately how tenderness and vulnerability can thrive alongside fierce militant commitment.

Carla Bergman co-edited Stay Solid: A Radical Handbook For Youth.

Nick Montgomery is an organizer and writer currently at Queen's…


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Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

Book cover of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

Alan Pearce Author Of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a journalist, I'm driven to find stories that have not been covered before and to make clear the incomprehensible. I like people, and I like asking questions. I've covered wars and disasters, and on any given day, I could expect to see people at their very worst and at their very best. With my book about comas, I've met some of the finest people of my career, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians who are fighting the system, and coma survivors who are simply fighting to get through each and every day. This is the story I am now driven to tell.

Alan's book list on consciousness that demonstrates there is more to life than we know

What is my book about?

What happens when a person is placed into a medically-induced coma?

The brain might be flatlining, but the mind is far from inactive: experiencing alternate lives rich in every detail that spans decades, visiting realms of stunning and majestic beauty, or plummeting to the very depths of Hell while defying all medical and scientific understanding.

Everything you think you know about coma is wrong. Doctors call it 'sleeping' when in reality, many are trapped on a hamster wheel of brain-damaging, nightmarish events that scar those that survive for life. Others are left to question whether they touched levels of existence previously confined to fantasy or whether they teetered on the brink of this life and the next. Coma is not what you think.

Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

What is this book about?

Explores the extraordinary states of expanded consciousness that arise during comas, both positive and negative

Every day around the world, thousands of people are placed in medically-induced comas. For some coma survivors, the experience is an utter blank. Others lay paralyzed, aware of everything around them but unable to move, speak, or even blink. Many experience alternate lives spanning decades, lives they grieve once awakened. Some encounter ultra-vivid nightmares, while others undergo a deep, spiritual oneness with the Universe or say they have glimpsed the Afterlife.

Examining the beautiful and disturbing experiences of those who have survived comas, Alan and…


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