The best books where nonviolence changes the world

Erika Erickson Malinoski Author Of Pledging Season
By Erika Erickson Malinoski

Who am I?

I’m a lifelong sci-fi/fantasy reader who loves the way speculative fiction helps us explore who we are, what we could become, and how to troubleshoot the future before we get there. As a parent and active community member, I’m looking for fresh perspectives on how to tackle the increasingly complex challenges of our time, perspectives that go beyond simplistic solutions like finding bad guys and killing them in climactic battles. I hope books that showcase nonviolent social change in all its complexity can help us imagine better ways to make a difference in our own lives.

I wrote...

Pledging Season

By Erika Erickson Malinoski,

Book cover of Pledging Season

What is my book about?

A deep dive into the power and complexity of restorative justice, Pledging Season follows two characters on a colony world of Earth as they wrestle with the matriarchal society they live in. One, a brilliant geneticist whose gender bars him from the career he dreams of, must find a way to challenge the forces that keep him in his place. The other, a newcomer mourning the loss of her people’s way of life, must choose between fitting in and staying true to the nonviolent values she holds dear. Together, can they reimagine the way the world “has” to be?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair

Why did I love this book?

This first book is nonfiction, but it’s a key book for carving out the imaginative space that makes nonviolence make sense. If you’re like me, you grew up taking for granted that locking up people who do crimes (a form of state violence) is the gold standard for keeping everyone else safe. Nonviolence, the reasoning goes, may be more morally pure, but at the cost of being effective. Sered’s book takes a hammer to this assumption, methodically dismantling the myth that the carceral system does much at all to support victims’ healing and safety. Until We Reckon provides a critical reality check for what benchmark nonviolent solutions should be compared to.

By Danielle Sered,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The award-winning "radically original" (The Atlantic) restorative justice leader, whose work the Washington Post has called "totally sensible and totally revolutionary," grapples with the problem of violent crime in the movement for prison abolition

A National Book Foundation Literature for Justice honoree

A Kirkus "Best Book of 2019 to Fight Racism and Xenophobia"

Winner of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice Journalism Award

Finalist for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

In a book Democracy Now! calls a "complete overhaul of the way we've been taught to think about crime, punishment, and justice," Danielle…

Book cover of Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm

Why did I love this book?

Another nonfiction book, Healing Resistance does a splendid job showing the philosophical connections between nonviolence on an interpersonal level and nonviolent social change movements. Drawing on the tradition of Kingian nonviolence, this book is a useful starting place for anyone who wants to understand what nonviolence is and isn’t as well as how it works. It’s also chock full of recommendations for other books and is a great jumping-off point for further reading. Sometimes nonviolence doesn’t look like what we expect.

By Kazu Haga,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An expert in the field offers a mindfulness-based approach to nonviolent action, demonstrating how nonviolence is a powerful tool for personal and social transformation

Nonviolence was once considered the highest form of activism and radical change. And yet its basic truth, its restorative power, has been forgotten. In Healing Resistance, leading trainer Kazu Haga blazingly reclaims the energy and assertiveness of nonviolent practice and shows that a principled approach to nonviolence is the way to transform not only unjust systems but broken relationships.
With over 20 years of experience practicing and teaching Kingian Nonviolence, Haga offers us a practical approach…


By C. L. Polk,

Book cover of Witchmark

Why did I love this book?

Now for the fiction! C. L. Polk’s Witchmark trilogy is one of the few books I’ve encountered that shows a realistic nonviolent political movement in a fantasy setting. I also like this trilogy because it shows the choices people in power have in response to social movements as well as the role ordinary citizens play in supporting or impeding change.

By C. L. Polk,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Witchmark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a world war, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own. Moving at a brilliant pace and pulsing with deadly intrigue and unforgettable characters, Witchmark grabs readers and doesn't let go until the thrilling conclusion.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be a slave to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war…

The Devil Comes Courting

By Courtney Milan,

Book cover of The Devil Comes Courting

Why did I love this book?

Along with authors like Alyssa Cole and Talia Hibbert, Courtney Milan is a luminary of romance’s liberatory wing. If love can conquer all, let’s aim it at something worthwhile! This book takes one of humanity’s deepest nonviolent instincts, the desire for one another, and shows how it gives people the strength to support each other through the hard work of building a better world. I want to recommend all of Milan’s books, but from a nonviolence perspective, The Devil Comes Courting stands out because of the way it also wrestles with what reconciliation (the last step in Kingian nonviolence) really means.

By Courtney Milan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil Comes Courting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Captain Grayson Hunter knows the battle to complete the first worldwide telegraphic network will be fierce, and he intends to win it by any means necessary. When he hears about a reclusive genius who has figured out how to slash the cost of telegraphic transmissions, he vows to do whatever it takes to get the man in his employ.

Except the reclusive genius is not a man, and she’s not looking for employment.

Amelia Smith was taken in by English missionaries as a child. She’s not interested in Captain Hunter’s promises or his ambitions. But the harder he tries to…

The Fifth Season

By N. K. Jemisin,

Book cover of The Fifth Season

Why did I love this book?

This book (this series, really) highlights the difference between “nonviolence” and “not violent.” It is bloody. So bloody. Did I mention that it’s bloody? As the parent of young children, I could barely finish the first chapter. But the structure of the story and the resolution of the trilogy makes it one of the most profound representations of reconciliation I’ve seen in fiction. If you’re looking for an alternative to the simplistic “killing the bad guy in a climactic battle defeats evil forever” storyline, this is a great read. It’s also one of the best examples of fictional worldbuilding that depicts oppression as a systemic force rather than the villain’s personal choice.

By N. K. Jemisin,

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked The Fifth Season as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this "intricate and extraordinary" Hugo Award winning novel of power, oppression, and revolution. (The New York Times)

This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land…

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