The best books for promoting social justice

Why am I passionate about this?

My father died when I was a young child, and so my uncle became the nearest I had to a father figure. He was a trade unionist and strongly committed to social justice. I was so enamoured by the compassion he showed towards socially disadvantaged people and the struggles they encounter through no fault of their own that I became an advocate for social justice from an early age. That passion for fairness and inclusion has stayed with me throughout my career and therefore figures strongly in my writings and, over the years, in my teaching, training, and consultancy work.

I wrote...

The Social Worker's Practice Manual

By Neil Thompson,

Book cover of The Social Worker's Practice Manual

What is my book about?

This is not a textbook in the conventional sense; it is a hands-on manual of practice – a practical guide from one of the UK’s most respected social work authors. Social work is a very demanding and challenging occupation that involves drawing on a wide range of knowledge, skills, and values. Renowned author, Dr. Neil Thompson, draws on his extensive experience and expertise to offer clear guidance on what is needed to develop best practices.

Divided into thirty sections, each covering a key area of practice, this essential handbook will be invaluable to newly qualified social workers, students on placement, and more experienced workers and managers wanting to get the best results.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

Neil Thompson Why did I love this book?

This book is a real eye opener. Example after example of hidden gender bias is provided. The author does a very convincing job of showing how data used to make decisions is generally male-centric, with resultant disadvantages for women.

Anyone who believes that feminism has done its job and equality between the sexes is now a reality needs to read this book to see how far off the mark they are. Clearly written and persuasively argued, the book highlights the complexities involved and recognizes that the way bias works is subtle and woven into the social fabric, rather than simply the result of personal prejudice or bigotry.

One of the best books on social justice that I have ever come across. 

By Caroline Criado Perez,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Invisible Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2019 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
Winner of the 2019 Royal Society Science Book Prize

Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives.

Celebrated feminist advocate…

Book cover of Black and British: A Forgotten History

Neil Thompson Why did I love this book?

Olusoga’s television work has been very well received. He has a great talent for explaining complex and sensitive matters in a way that encourages critical thought rather than defensiveness. This book shows that he is equally capable when expressing his ideas in writing.

My own work around anti-racism has been based on highlighting the subtle and often hidden ways in which racism operates, and this book’s emphasis on the invisibility of black people and their achievements in conventional approaches to history fits perfectly with my approach.

Just as Criado Perez addresses sexism in powerful but non-confrontational ways that avoid provoking self-protective responses, Olusoga does much the same for tackling racism. This man’s work is a major asset in terms of promoting social justice.

By David Olusoga,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'[A] comprehensive and important history of black Britain . . . Written with a wonderful clarity of style and with great force and passion.' - Kwasi Kwarteng, Sunday Times

In this vital re-examination of a shared history, historian and broadcaster David Olusoga tells the rich and revealing story of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean.

This edition, fully revised and updated, features a new chapter encompassing the Windrush scandal and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, events which put black British history at the centre of urgent national debate. Black…

Book cover of The Care of Older People Practice Manual

Neil Thompson Why did I love this book?

When it comes to the literature relating to social justice, class, race, and gender tend to take the lion’s share of interest and coverage.

This means that ageism, which can have devastating effects on older people's lives is often left out of the picture. And, even when it is covered, it tends to be addressed in theoretical and policy terms, with little or nothing said about the practical challenges of tackling ageism on a day-to-day basis.

This book is the clear exception. The author is evidently a passionate champion of treating older people with dignity as part of an overall strategy of anti-ageist practice. Clearly written, with a lovely blend of theory and practice, this is a gem of a book.

By Sue Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Care of Older People Practice Manual as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Caring effectively for older people is a major challenge in today’s pressurized times. Making sure that each and every older person is treated with dignity and as a unique individual in their own right is a fundamental requirement for good practice. This manual, written by a highly experienced former nurse, care manager, social worker, tutor and researcher, provides a foundation of knowledge and practical guidance for building best practice. If you work in any aspect of providing care for older people, then this manual will be an invaluable learning resource to guide your practice.


This is a long overdue…

Book cover of An Introduction to Language and Society

Neil Thompson Why did I love this book?

After football and music, my first love was languages. From an early age I became fascinated with how language works and how significant it is in shaping social life and interpersonal relationships.

That fascination still remains, but what I find particularly interesting (and significant) is the relationship between language and social justice. Unfortunately, this has been hijacked by the simplistic ‘political correctness’ approach that seeks to simply ban certain words. The reality is far more complex and nuanced than this, and so a much more sophisticated approach is needed.

That’s where this excellent book comes in. It provides a very helpful analysis of how language and society interact in a variety of ways. 

By Martin Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Introduction to Language and Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this third edition of the bestselling classic textbook, Martin Montgomery explores the key connections between language and social life. Guiding the student through discussions on child language, accent and dialect, social class and gender, as well as a number of other topics, Montgomery provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the function of language in modern society.

This third edition includes:

new sections on dialect levelling and estuary English; hip-hop and rapping as anti-language and 'crossing' between Creole, Panjabi and South Asian English new material on the Gulf War and the 'War on Terror' discussions on language in internet…

Book cover of Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health

Neil Thompson Why did I love this book?

I’ve long been suspicious of the medical model of mental health.

My own work with people struggling with mental health challenges convinced me that simply regarding them as ‘mentally ill’ and in need of medication was not helpful. The reality I encountered was far more multidimensional, with psychological, social, and spiritual matters being just as important as the biological, if not more so.

This edited collection brings together critical analyses of the medical model from a wide range of authors. The basic message is that we need to rethink conceptions of mental illness and recognize that there is immense potential for discrimination and oppression if these wider aspects are not taken into consideration.

Anyone who doubts the wisdom of the medical model will find this book very informative.

By Bruce Cohen (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health offers the most comprehensive collection of theoretical and applied writings to date with which students, scholars, researchers and practitioners within the social and health sciences can systematically problematise the practices, priorities and knowledge base of the Western system of mental health. With the continuing contested nature of psychiatric discourse and the work of psy-professionals, this book is a timely return to theorising the business of mental health as a social, economic, political and cultural project: one which necessarily involves the consideration of wider societal and structural dynamics including labelling and deviance, ideological…

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The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

Book cover of The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

Sammy Stein Author Of Fabulous Female Musicians

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been passionate about music for almost my entire life. Jazz music in particular speaks to me but not just jazz. I love music, full stop. I really discovered jazz when I attended a jazz club workshop in London and there, I had to join in or leave. I chose to join in and since then I have never looked back. I was introduced to more jazz musicians and now write about music for three major columns as well as Readers’ Digest. My Women In Jazz book won several awards. I have been International Editor for the Jazz Journalist Association and had my work commissioned by the Library of Congress. 

Sammy's book list on female musicians

What is my book about?

With input from over 100 musicians, the book discusses what exactly jazz is, and how you know you are listening to it. Do we truly know when and how jazz first originated? Who was the first jazz musician? How does jazz link to other genres? What about women in jazz? And writers and journalists? Do reviews make any difference? 

This book is a deep dive into jazz's history, impact, and future. It discusses jazz's social, cultural, and political influence and reveals areas where jazz has had an impact we may not even realize.Its influences on hip hop, the connection to…

The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

What is this book about?

This book is very different from other, more general jazz books. It is packed with information, advice, well researched and includes experiences from jazz musicians who gleefully add their rich voices to Sammy's in-depth research. All genres, from hard bop to be-bop, vocal jazz, must instrumental, free jazz, and everything between is covered in one way or another and given Sammy's forensic eye. There is social commentary and discussions of careers in jazz music. The musical background of those in the book is rich and diverse.
Critics comment:
"This new book by Sammy Stein is a highly individual take on…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in social justice, seniors, and London?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about social justice, seniors, and London.

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