The best books on winning socialism in our lifetime

Who am I?

I’ve been a socialist for my entire adult life and a wise-ass for even longer. As a writer I’ve found a way to combine these two passions, using humor to introduce complex economic and political ideas to a new audience, as well as poke fun at politicians, CEOs, and even myself and my fellow activists. Not all of the books on this list use humor the way I do, but they have all helped me keep my sunny disposition by giving me inspiration that the socialist cause is more dynamic and multifaceted than ever. 

I wrote...

Socialism....Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation

By Danny Katch,

Book cover of Socialism....Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation

What is my book about?

Socialism…Seriously brings together the two great Marxist traditions of Karl and Groucho to provide an entertaining and insightful introduction to what the socialist tradition has to say about democracy, economics, and the potential of human beings to be something more than being bomb-dropping, planet-destroying racist fools.

Danny Katch uses humor and imagination to take an unflinching look at the rising threats posed by climate change, billionaire oligarchs, and the far right—and makes a compelling case that a socialist world is both necessary and possible. This book is for people who want to take a deeper look at what socialism is… but maybe not that deep.

The books I picked & why

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We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice

By Mariame Kaba,

Book cover of We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice

Why this book?

The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 introduced many people to the idea of abolishing police and prisons. Mariame Kaba might be the most thoughtful abolitionist organizer. This book of essays is both daring and humble, forward-thinking, and rooted in the everyday lives of young Black and Brown people.

Using simple language to convey profound ideas, Kaba asks if the massive expenditures of money and violence in our criminal justice system actually bring satisfaction and healing to those who are victims of crime. She insists that abolition is about not just ending a failed institution for public safety but also about experimenting with how to create better ones that are based in community and democracy. It’s a book that teaches you how to hope.

The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth

By The Red Nation,

Book cover of The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth

Why this book?

The Red Nation is a revolutionary Indigenous organization that is part of the historic 21st-century revival of Indigenous culture and political resistance that has emerged across the Americas to block oil pipelines, prevent mining projects, and basically lead the fight to save us all from climate extinction. This is their manifesto.

The Red Deal engages with many of the ideas of the “Green New Deal” proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, but starts from the standpoint of Indigenous people across the world. As a result, it puts the fight against climate change in the context of 500 years of capitalism and colonialism, and makes an inspiring case why everyone who wants a sustainable economy should support Indigenous people’s fights for their land and freedom.

The Socialist Challenge Today: Syriza, Corbyn, Sanders

By Leo Panitch, Sam Gindin, Stephen Maher

Book cover of The Socialist Challenge Today: Syriza, Corbyn, Sanders

Why this book?

Bernie Sanders’ strong presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020 have made millions of people think that socialism in the US is an actual possibility rather than a bizarre science-fiction premise. But what would happen if Bernie won? How would a socialist president deal with government institutions and a business class determined at every stop to undermine them? 

This book looks at the experiences of Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain—as well as the leftist SYRIZA government in Greece—to offer advice on how socialists should start preparing for the challenges of victory that we hope to face.   

Autoworkers Under the Gun: A Shop-Floor View of the End of the American Dream

By Gregg Shotwell,

Book cover of Autoworkers Under the Gun: A Shop-Floor View of the End of the American Dream

Why this book?

Greg Shotwell was a longtime worker at General Motors and activist in the United Auto Workers who was notorious among executives in both the company and union for his rank-and-file newsletter, Live Bait and Ammo. This book is a collection of articles from that newsletter, and it’s a bitingly funny and ultimately heartbreaking account of autoworkers’ losing fight to maintain the rights and living standards that had made the union famous. 

Unlike the other books on my list, this book is the story of a defeat, but it is also a portrait of the generation of working-class fighters who kept alive the radical shop-floor traditions that are an essential component of any socialist vision. This is the book that made me want to become a writer. 

People's Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons

By Ashley Dawson,

Book cover of People's Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons

Why this book?

In order to have socialism, we need to have a planet on which to be socialists—preferably a planet that isn’t constantly on fire or under water from climate change. So we need to convert our energy systems from fossil fuels to renewables like solar and wind, but as Ashley Dawson argues in this great book, we can’t afford to then let energy corporations start owning sunlight and air the way they do oil and coal. 

People’s Power introduces us to the age-old idea of commonly owned natural resources and looks to modern examples from around the world where cities, towns, and countries and pioneering ways to make the “energy commons” a reality.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in socialism, indigenous peoples, and criminal justice?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about socialism, indigenous peoples, and criminal justice.

Socialism Explore 32 books about socialism
Indigenous Peoples Explore 11 books about indigenous peoples
Criminal Justice Explore 17 books about criminal justice

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Communities of Resistance: Writings on Black Struggles for Socialism, Act of Fear: A Dan Fortune Mystery, and Heaven on Earth: The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism if you like this list.