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...

Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right

By Cynthia Miller-Idriss,

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. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

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

By Kathleen Belew,

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

Why 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.


Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women

By Kate Manne,

Book cover of Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women

Why 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.


Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

By Safiya Umoja Noble,

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

Why 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.


Going Dark: The Secret Social Lives of Extremists

By Julia Ebner,

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

Why 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. 


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

By Nancy L. Rosenblum, Russell Muirhead,

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

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in conspiracy theories, discrimination, and veterans?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about conspiracy theories, discrimination, and veterans.

Conspiracy Theories Explore 14 books about conspiracy theories
Discrimination Explore 18 books about discrimination
Veterans Explore 36 books about veterans

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Suburban Warriors, One of Us, and Invisible Hands if you like this list.