The best books on radicalization and extremism

Cynthia Miller-Idriss Author Of Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right
By Cynthia Miller-Idriss

Who am I?

I first became interested in how societies grapple with extremism when I studied abroad in Germany and learned about post-World War II education about the Holocaust. I then spent two decades studying and writing about how German schools were working to combat rising far-right extremism in the 1990s and 2000s. Today, I find there is much to learn globally, including in my own country of the U.S., from the German approach to combating extremism, which is rooted in the idea of “defensive democracy”—the notion that we can’t only combat the fringe itself, but also must equip the mainstream with the tools to be resilient to it.

I wrote...

Book cover of Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right

What is my book about?

Hate in the Homeland shows how extremist ideas and propaganda impact our daily experiences and interactions—especially through youth-focused spaces and places—and offers critical, overlooked avenues for countering the rise of extremist movements across the globe. Miller-Idriss proposes a public health approach to counteracting extremist threats to democracy, arguing that we need to strengthen the mainstream to be resilient against threats and propaganda that will always emanate from the fringes. The book describes imaginative, community-based solutions and offers a way of thinking about the prevention of violent extremism that does not just measure success by how good we have become at barricading the doors—but also thinks deeply about how to prevent people from entering radicalization pathways to begin with. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America

Why did I love this book?

Belew’s book is a sweeping historical account of the impact of the Vietnam War on the rise of unlawful militias and the white power movement. I learned more from reading this book than any other book about the history of the unlawful militia and white power movements in the U.S. It reminded me of how important it is to understand the historical trajectory of the current moment we are in—and of how much a role external and global wars can play on violent mobilization in our own country.

By Kathleen Belew,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Bring the War Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Guardian Best Book of the Year

"A gripping study of white power...Explosive."
-New York Times

"Helps explain how we got to today's alt-right."
-Terry Gross, Fresh Air

The white power movement in America wants a revolution.

Returning to a country ripped apart by a war they felt they were not allowed to win, a small group of Vietnam veterans and disgruntled civilians who shared their virulent anti-communism and potent sense of betrayal concluded that waging war on their own country was justified. The command structure of their covert movement gave women a prominent place. They operated with discipline, made…

Book cover of Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women

Why did I love this book?

Manne’s book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how patriarchy and misogyny shape our everyday lives and interactions. I have probably thought more about this book since I read it than anything else I’ve read. It’s impossible to understand the rise of “incel” violence or other violence against women without this essential book.

By Kate Manne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Kate Manne is the Simone de Beauvoir of the 21st century' - Amanda Marcotte

'I want to press this book on every schoolgirl who thinks that feminism is uncool, any woman who thinks the most important gender battles are won, pretty much every man I know, and say, have you thought about this?' Sophie McBain, New Statesman

Male entitlement takes many forms. To sex, yes, but more insidiously to admiration, bodily autonomy, knowledge, power, even care. In this urgent intervention, philosopher Kate Manne offers a radical new framework for understanding misogyny.

In clear-sighted, powerful prose, she ranges widely across the…

Book cover of Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

Why did I love this book?

Noble’s book changed the way I understood how online spaces—from simple searches to recommendation systems—shape not just what we know, but also the kinds of values, beliefs, and norms we bring to our engagements with the world. And as Noble argues, they do so under the guise of being “neutral,” which makes it even more important for people to understand how those online ecosystems produce racist, dehumanizing, or other kinds of exclusionary results. An absolutely essential read.

By Safiya Umoja Noble,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Algorithms of Oppression as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A revealing look at how negative biases against women of color are embedded in search engine results and algorithms
Run a Google search for "black girls"-what will you find? "Big Booty" and other sexually explicit terms are likely to come up as top search terms. But, if you type in "white girls," the results are radically different. The suggested porn sites and un-moderated discussions about "why black women are so sassy" or "why black women are so angry" presents a disturbing portrait of black womanhood in modern society.
In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search…

Book cover of Going Dark: The Secret Social Lives of Extremists

Why did I love this book?

Ebner’s brave, undercover research within extremist online milieus has really helped extremism researchers disentangle how extremists operate online, how they organize networks, and how they think. There’s no better place to start for anyone who wants to understand the culture, recruitment tactics, ideologies, and modernization of youth-driven extremist scenes and movements in the dark and gamified ‘alt tech’ world online. 

By Julia Ebner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'Engaging and visceral ... Reads like a thriller' Financial Times
'Riveting and often deeply disturbing ... A punch to the stomach' Sunday Times
'Ebner has done some gutsy, thought-provoking research' Sunday Telegraph
'Fascinating and important' Spectator

By day, Julia Ebner works at a counter-extremism think tank, monitoring radical groups from the outside. But two years ago, she began to feel she was only seeing half the picture; she needed to get inside the groups to truly understand them. She decided to go undercover in her spare hours - late nights, holidays, weekends - adopting…

Book cover of A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy

Why did I love this book?

Extremist movements today are not just driven by violent hate and ideologies—they are also deeply embedded in a wide range of conspiracy theories. Muirhead and Rosenblum’s book helped me understand how those conspiracy theories spread and why they are so dangerous to democracies around the world—especially for the ways they disorient individuals, delegitimize expertise, and carry antisemitic and Islamophobic ideas into the mainstream.

By Nancy L. Rosenblum, Russell Muirhead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Lot of People Are Saying as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How the new conspiracists are undermining democracy-and what can be done about it

Conspiracy theories are as old as politics. But conspiracists today have introduced something new-conspiracy without theory. And the new conspiracism has moved from the fringes to the heart of government with the election of Donald Trump. In A Lot of People Are Saying, Russell Muirhead and Nancy Rosenblum show how the new conspiracism differs from classic conspiracy theory, how it undermines democracy, and what needs to be done to resist it.

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