The best books about justice that you don’t need a PhD to understand

Mae Elise Cannon Author Of Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age
By Mae Elise Cannon

Who am I?

Growing up in rural Southern Maryland, I first began to notice a difference between Blacks and whites because of the way I was treated when I hung out with my African American friends. South of the Mason Dixon line, racial differences are often clear. Throughout my childhood and young adult life some of the most influential people who invested in me were African American. As I began to learn about their stories, my heart grew with a love for racial justice and equality. My work and adult life has focused on righting wrongs, responding to global and domestic poverty, to writing and working against inequality and oppression.

I wrote...

Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age

By Mae Elise Cannon,

Book cover of Beyond Hashtag Activism: Comprehensive Justice in a Complicated Age

What is my book about?

Activist Mae Elise Cannon takes us beyond the hashtags to serious engagement with real issues. God calls the church to respond substantively to the needs of the poor, the realities of racial inequity, and the mistreatment of women and the marginalized. We can accomplish change through a range of strategic avenues—spiritually, socially, legally, politically, and economically. And addressing the domestic and international injustices of our day takes us on a journey of spiritual transformation that brings us closer to God and those around us.

Channel your passion to care effectively for your neighbor and the world. This book will help you understand and put into action what it means for the church to be a place of peace, justice, and hope.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A People's History of the United States

Why did I love this book?

Tired of history being boring and hard to understand? Howard Zinn’s People’s History tells the story of the past history of the United States from the often unheard voices of the marginalized and oppressed. It is a great read, even if you are not an academic, nor a historian! I highly recommend this book to get a deeper understanding of America’s past from the perspective of people of color and marginalized communities. 

By Howard Zinn,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A People's History of the United States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"A wonderful, splendid book—a book that should be read by every American, student or otherwise, who wants to understand his country, its true history, and its hope for the future." –Howard Fast

Historian Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States chronicles American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official narrative taught in schools—with its emphasis on great men in high places—to focus on the street, the home, and the workplace.

Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, itis the only volume to tell America's story from the…

Book cover of Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Revised)

Why did I love this book?

Even if you are not a person of faith, evangelicalism in America has caused great division. Thus, understanding how conservative Christianity looks differently in white and Black communities is a good place to start being introduced to issues of race and justice. Many leaders in the church say Divided by Faith is the next most influential book for them—next to the Bible! 

By Michael O. Emerson, Christian Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In recent years, the leaders of the American evangelical movement have brought their characteristic passion to the problem of race, notably in the Promise Keepers movement and in reconciliation theology. But the authors of this provocative new study reveal that despite their good intentions, evangelicals may actually be preserving America's racial chasm.
In Divided by Faith, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith probe the grassroots of white evangelical America, through a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 people, along with 200 face-to-face interviews. The results of their research are surprising. Most white evangelicals, they learned, see no systematic discrimination against blacks;…

Book cover of The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Why did I love this book?

The first time I read this book, I think I devoured it in almost one sitting. Riveting and fast-moving, the story of Malcolm Little from Omaha, Nebraska to his rise as one of the most influential advocates for racial justice is not to be missed. I promise you won’t be disappointed by this read!  

By Malcolm X,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Autobiography of Malcolm X as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time. The Autobiography of Malcolm X stands as the definitive statement of a movement…

Book cover of There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America

Why did I love this book?

Having lived in Chicago for more than a decade, this first-hand glimpse of two young boys growing up in the inner city changed my perspective and understanding of the realities of domestic urban poverty. A moving and powerful read, you can follow the journey after There are No Children Here in Kotlowitz’s follow-up story, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago.

By Alex Kotlowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked There Are No Children Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A moving and powerful account by an acclaimed journalist that "informs the heart. [This] meticulous portrait of two boys in a Chicago housing project shows how much heroism is required to survive, let alone escape" (The New York Times).

"Alex Kotlowitz  joins the ranks of the important few writers on the  subiect of urban poverty."—Chicago Tribune

The story of two remarkable boys struggling to survive in Chicago's  Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex disfigured by crime and neglect.

Let Justice Roll Down

By John M. Perkins,

Book cover of Let Justice Roll Down

Why did I love this book?

John Perkins has been a mentor and friend. Born in 1930, the life of this native Mississippi man remains compelling and an inspiration! As a civil rights activist who watched his brother die before his eyes, Perkins' storytelling motivates us to respond to injustice with love and vigorous opposition, but never with hate. I often hear Dr. Perkins’ voice saying, “that man loved the hatred right out of me,” about the white doctor who brought him back to life after he was brutally beaten for his civil rights activities. A book not to be missed! 

By John M. Perkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let Justice Roll Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

His brother died in his arms, shot by a deputy marshal. He was beaten and tortured by the sheriff and state police. But through it all he returned good for evil, love for hate, progress for prejudice, and brought hope to black and white alike. The story of John Perkins is no ordinary story. Rather, it is a gripping portrayal of what happens when faith thrusts a person into the midst of a struggle against racism, oppression, and injustice. It is about the costs of discipleship--the jailings, the floggings, the despair, the sacrifice. And it is about the transforming work…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Illinois, evangelicalism, and Malcolm X?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Illinois, evangelicalism, and Malcolm X.

Illinois Explore 76 books about Illinois
Evangelicalism Explore 26 books about evangelicalism
Malcolm X Explore 7 books about Malcolm X

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Voices of Protest, Lies My Teacher Told Me, and Great Issues in American History, Vol. I if you like this list.