The best books where nonviolence changes the world

Erika Erickson Malinoski Author Of Pledging Season
By Erika Erickson Malinoski

The Books I Picked & Why

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

By Danielle Sered

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

Why 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.


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Healing Resistance: A Radically Different Response to Harm

By Kazu Haga

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

Why 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.


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Witchmark

By C.L. Polk

Book cover of Witchmark

Why 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.


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The Devil Comes Courting

By Courtney Milan

Book cover of The Devil Comes Courting

Why 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.


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The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1

By N.K. Jemisin

Book cover of The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1

Why 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.


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