The best books to equip you to fight for change when the world is conspiring to make you feel powerless

Who am I?

I have spent 20+ years working on the question of how social and environmental change happens, from my long-time career in progressive politics to my current work writing about the most pressing issues of our time through an economic lens, and occasionally talking about them on my podcast, also called Wallet Activism. So I know well how intimidating it can feel to get involved, whether it’s worrying your voice isn’t needed (trust me, it is!) or not knowing the nuts and bolts of where to start. But we have so much power when we act collectively, and I want you to feel personally invited to take action.


I wrote...

Wallet Activism: How to Use Every Dollar You Spend, Earn, and Save as a Force for Change

By Tanja Hester,

Book cover of Wallet Activism: How to Use Every Dollar You Spend, Earn, and Save as a Force for Change

What is my book about?

Wallet Activism is about using your financial power in all its forms to address the climate crisis and the inequality crisis. You have so much more power than you think! Corporations and leaders want you to feel powerless so you’ll go along with the status quo, but Wallet Activism debunks that myth and shows you how to see through marketing lies and use your financial power to address the climate crisis and social injustice when choosing what you buy, who to work for, where to live, how to give money away, where to save and invest your money, and so much more. It equips you with the best questions to ask to make choices that have real impact and don’t just make you feel better.

The books I picked & why

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The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change

By Michelle MiJung Kim,

Book cover of The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change

Why this book?

I can’t stop recommending The Wake Up, because it so perfectly articulates the importance of examining our own intentions and goals when embarking on work aimed at changing the status quo, especially work focused on racial and gender inequality and other social justice issues. It’s easy to have good intentions but still do harm, and Michelle’s wonderful book guides you step by step through that much-needed process of examination with an abundance of love and generosity.


Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism

By Aja Barber,

Book cover of Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism

Why this book?

My secret theory (or formerly secret, anyway) is that if books had best friends, my book's BFF would be this book. Aja and I were clearly on the same wavelength when writing our books, and there are many common threads, but Consumed takes a much deeper dive into consumerism broadly and the fashion industry specifically, tying environmental and worker exploitation concerns together seamlessly. You’ll come away with real resolve to consume much less, as well as clarity on how to push producers of goods you buy to do much, much better.


Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It

By Jamie Margolin,

Book cover of Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It

Why this book?

Ignore the word “youth” in the title, because this is not just a book for kids and teens! Jamie is a young, queer activist who has achieved some impressive activism victories at a young age, but best of all, she combines real activist know-how with a sense of hope and optimism that’s hard to find in older activists. This book is an excellent guide to getting involved and staying involved anywhere from the local level up to a global scale. This is a must-read for people who are fired up to take action but don’t know where to start.


As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock

By Dina Gilio-Whitaker,

Book cover of As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock

Why this book?

Sure, you can read lots of environmental books by non-Indigenous writers about the climate crisis, and some of them even offer a solution or two! But Dina’s book, which chronicles the intertwined histories of colonization against Indigenous peoples in the Americas and widespread environmental injustice, paints a much fuller picture of the problems we’re facing and their origins and offers a range of helpful models for fighting back against the entities who’ve created the climate crisis and now refuse to act to address it.


Anti-Racist Ally: An Introduction to Activism and Action

By Sophie Williams,

Book cover of Anti-Racist Ally: An Introduction to Activism and Action

Why this book?

There are a bunch of great anti-racism books out there, but few are all about taking action, as Sophie’s book is. Because I’m guessing if you’ve made it this far into my recommendation list, you are already familiar with anti-racism and many of the systemic problems we must address, and just want someone to point you in the right direction to do the work. This is a great book for that! It’s short but packed with practical tips.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in environmental justice, social justice, and race?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about environmental justice, social justice, and race.

Environmental Justice Explore 12 books about environmental justice
Social Justice Explore 40 books about social justice
Race Explore 12 books about race

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth, The Golden Thread, and Make Thrift Mend if you like this list.