100 books like Gandhi Before India

By Ramachandra Guha,

Here are 100 books that Gandhi Before India fans have personally recommended if you like Gandhi Before India. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Parting the Waters

Jim Carrier Author Of A Traveler’s Guide to the Civil Rights Movement

From my list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a journalist who learned his craft on the job in the tumultuous 1960s, I happened to find myself living in states where racial history was being written. Reporting that story required me to understand why discrimination, poverty, and violence remained so deeply rooted in modern America. I wrote Ten Ways to Fight Hate, I made a movie about civil rights martyrs, and, after seeing people from around the world making a pilgrimage to the sites of the civil rights struggle, published my guidebook. Over the course of a 50-year career, I have written a million words. I am proudest of those that tried to right wrongs, and sometimes did.

Jim's book list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement

Jim Carrier Why did Jim love this book?

As I drove through the South researching my guidebook to civil rights sites, my back seat was filled with books. Atop the pile was Taylor Branch’s magisterial three-volume history – America in the King Years 1954-1968: Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire, and At Canaan’s Edge.

Though encyclopedic, Branch’s story-telling is riveting—weaving together personalities, legalities, strategies, and geography in a way that made me feel as if I were there witnessing history as it was made. Taylor’s detail, reflecting a journalist’s quest for who, what, where, when, how, and why, showed me that these stories could best be told, understood, and felt where they happened.

By Taylor Branch,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Parting the Waters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Parting the Waters, the first volume of his essential America in the King Years series, Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor Branch gives a “compelling…masterfully told” (The Wall Street Journal) account of Martin Luther King’s early years and rise to greatness.

Hailed as the most masterful story ever told of the American Civil Rights Movement, Parting the Waters is destined to endure for generations.

Moving from the fiery political baptism of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the corridors of Camelot where the Kennedy brothers weighed demands for justice against the deceptions of J. Edgar Hoover, here is a vivid tapestry of…


Book cover of Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Paul Wood Author Of How to Escape from Prison

From my list on escaping prison and helping you change your life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was imprisoned for murder as an 18-year-old. I was a high school dropout who was addicted to drugs and didn’t have any hope for the future. Each of the books recommended contributed to my own journey of transformation. I read them all while I was in prison. Some of them while I was in maximum security or solitary confinement. Each recommendation helped me escape that life and its horrors. 

Paul's book list on escaping prison and helping you change your life

Paul Wood Why did Paul love this book?

Nelson Mandel’s autobiography from his early life through the 27 years he spent in prison before becoming South Africa's first democratically elected President.

This book taught me about trying to be a better person despite your circumstances and being wronged by others. It also gave me hope that my imprisonment could be just a chapter in my journey and didn’t need to be the defining experience of my life.

By Nelson Mandela,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Long Walk to Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2018 is the centenary of Nelson Mandela's birth

'The authentic voice of Mandela shines through this book . . . humane, dignified and magnificently unembittered' The Times

The riveting memoirs of the outstanding moral and political leader of our time, A Long Walk to Freedom brilliantly re-creates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela's destiny. Emotive, compelling and uplifting, A Long Walk to Freedom is the exhilarating story of an epic life; a story of hardship, resilience and ultimate triumph told with the clarity and eloquence of a born leader.

'Burns with the luminosity of faith in…


Book cover of Alice Paul: Claiming Power

Todd Hasak-Lowy Author Of We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World

From my list on inspirational nonviolent leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the early years of the Trump presidency, I looked for a subject that would inspire young readers, and keep me from falling into despair. I loved researching this topic and finding ways to do justice to the incredible people and the movements at the center of my book. Simply put, it was a joy to become an expert on this important topic. There are so many reasons to be pessimistic about the state of the world, but these stories give me hope that together we can create a better future for everyone.

Todd's book list on inspirational nonviolent leaders

Todd Hasak-Lowy Why did Todd love this book?

Alice Paul is nearly as obscure as Gandhi is famous, but not because she deserves to be. Paul led the American suffrage movement during its final decade, from 1910 to 1919, when the nineteenth amendment was finally passed. Claiming Power is the best biography out there about the underappreciated Paul.  Zahniser and Fry detail the life of this indefatigable activist, who changed the suffrage movement from an often “ladylike,” deferential campaign to an unapologetically confrontational crusade. My own book emerged from a desire to tell Paul’s story as an example of nonviolent activism at work, because she is rarely understood in this context.  But make no mistake about it, Paul was a nonviolent leader of the first order.   

By J.D. Zahniser, Amelia Fry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Alice Paul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alice Paul redirected the course of American political history. Raised by Quaker parents in Moorestown, New Jersey, she would become a passionate and outspoken leader of the woman suffrage movement. In 1913, she reinvigorated the American campaign for a constitutional suffrage amendment and, in the next seven years, dominated that campaign and drove it to victory with bold, controversial action-wedding courage with resourcefulness and self-mastery.

This riveting account of Paul's early years and suffrage activism offers fresh insight into her private persona and public image, examining for the first time the sources of Paul's ambition and the growth of her…


Book cover of Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

David Hardiman Author Of Gandhi in His Time and Ours: The Global Legacy of His Ideas

From my list on Mahatma Gandhi and his life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have for over fifty years studied and written about the Indian nationalist movement, examining it from many different angles. I lived and worked for many years in India. I have throughout had an appreciative but often troubled relationship with Gandhi – admiring him for much of what he stood for, while finding it hard to accept many of his beliefs and actions. This will be apparent to anyone reading the books that I have written. Despite this, I have a deep respect for a man who was undoubtedly a towering figure in twentieth-century history.   

David's book list on Mahatma Gandhi and his life

David Hardiman Why did David love this book?

Gandhi wrote this book, his autobiography, between 1925 and 1929, when he was in his late fifties. It focuses on his formative years, showing how he forged his distinctive style of activism in South Africa and India. It is remarkable for its honesty, even when Gandhi had shameful memories to relate, as when he struck his wife, Kasturba, in anger.  His aim is to show how he changed himself in ways that would make such violent behavior on his part impossible. His ‘truth’ is that of nonviolence and he describes the experiments that he undertook in establishing his nonviolence at both a personal and political level. It is a compelling read that brings out brilliantly Gandhi’s style of thinking and his personality. It is in my opinion a classic of twentieth-century literature. 

By Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Who was Gandhi? In the midst of resurging interest in the man who freed India, inspired the American Civil Rights Movement, and is revered, respected, and misunderstood all over the world, the time is proper to listen to Gandhi himself — in his own words, his own "confessions," his Autobiography.
  
Gandhi made scrupulous truth-telling a religion, and his Autobiography inevitably reminds one of other saints who have suffered and burned for their lapses. He gives a simply narrated account of his boyhood in Gujarat, marriage at age 13, legal studies in England, and a growing desire for purity and reform.…


Book cover of The Un-Gandhian Gandhi: The Life and Afterlife of the Mahatma

David Hardiman Author Of Gandhi in His Time and Ours: The Global Legacy of His Ideas

From my list on Mahatma Gandhi and his life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have for over fifty years studied and written about the Indian nationalist movement, examining it from many different angles. I lived and worked for many years in India. I have throughout had an appreciative but often troubled relationship with Gandhi – admiring him for much of what he stood for, while finding it hard to accept many of his beliefs and actions. This will be apparent to anyone reading the books that I have written. Despite this, I have a deep respect for a man who was undoubtedly a towering figure in twentieth-century history.   

David's book list on Mahatma Gandhi and his life

David Hardiman Why did David love this book?

Markowitz starts with the iconic images of Gandhi – Father of the Indian Nation, the modern saint, the apostle of nonviolence, and so on – and unpicks them to show how selective they are. He examines with great insight the way that Gandhi’s image was created in the West from the 1920s onwards, with him often being compared to Christ. Attenborough’s influential film on Gandhi is reviewed in revealing ways. He also examines the many biographies of Gandhi, showing how they have tended to focus on aspects of his message and fail to bring out the huge complexities of the man. 

He shows how Gandhi’s reputation as a serious political and economic thinker was shaped in the West first by pacifists and alternative thinkers, and much later by academic social scientists. He also provides some excellent analysis of Gandhi’s career in South Africa and India. The book is full of…

By Claude Markovits,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Un-Gandhian Gandhi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This major study reconsiders the creation of the Gandhian legend through the myriad texts and images that helped spread it through both India and the Western world.


Book cover of Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society, Vol. 3

David Hardiman Author Of Gandhi in His Time and Ours: The Global Legacy of His Ideas

From my list on Mahatma Gandhi and his life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have for over fifty years studied and written about the Indian nationalist movement, examining it from many different angles. I lived and worked for many years in India. I have throughout had an appreciative but often troubled relationship with Gandhi – admiring him for much of what he stood for, while finding it hard to accept many of his beliefs and actions. This will be apparent to anyone reading the books that I have written. Despite this, I have a deep respect for a man who was undoubtedly a towering figure in twentieth-century history.   

David's book list on Mahatma Gandhi and his life

David Hardiman Why did David love this book?

Although I contributed to this volume, I am recommending it not because of that but because it has a couple of excellent chapters on Gandhi. Best known is Shahid Amin’s, "Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur District, Eastern UP, 1921-2". In this, he examines Gandhi’s fleeting visit in February 1921 to Gorakhpur District, a largely rural area close to the border with Nepal – showing how this visit was understood by the local peasantry. Many tales circulated, many of which involved the idea that Gandhi had the power of rewarding those who accepted his message and punishing those who did not in supernatural ways. The chapter provides a superb analysis of the ways in which his message was filtered and changed in ways that Gandhi himself not only had no part in, but which he – when brought to his notice – repudiated. The chapter by Partha Chatterjee, "Gandhi and the Critique…

By Ranajit Guha,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This third volume in the "Subaltern Studies" series contains essays and discussion pieces designed to promote a systematic and detailed discussion of subaltern themes in the field of South East Asian studies and research.


Book cover of Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life

David Hardiman Author Of Gandhi in His Time and Ours: The Global Legacy of His Ideas

From my list on Mahatma Gandhi and his life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have for over fifty years studied and written about the Indian nationalist movement, examining it from many different angles. I lived and worked for many years in India. I have throughout had an appreciative but often troubled relationship with Gandhi – admiring him for much of what he stood for, while finding it hard to accept many of his beliefs and actions. This will be apparent to anyone reading the books that I have written. Despite this, I have a deep respect for a man who was undoubtedly a towering figure in twentieth-century history.   

David's book list on Mahatma Gandhi and his life

David Hardiman Why did David love this book?

Tidrick explores with much insight the influences on Gandhi that shaped his spiritual and political life, ranging from the vegetarian movement, theosophy, esoteric Christianity, nineteenth-century authors and thinkers such as Ruskin, Thoreau, and Tolstoy, along with his sometimes-eccentric understanding of Hinduism. She shows how he saw his mission as divinely-inspired, and his belief that – so long as he upheld his ‘truth’ with rigour – he would have the power to change the world. Gandhi had at times his doubts as to his purity and thus his abilities in this respect, leading him into some ‘experiments’ that could disturb his close followers, as when he sought to test his chastity. In this book, Tidrick reveals Gandhi’s idiosyncrasies in illuminating ways.   

By Kathryn Tidrick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Throughout his long and turbulent career as an Indian leader, first in South Africa and then in India, Gandhi sought to fulfill his religious aspirations through politics, and to reconcile politics with his private religious discipline. The Gandhi revealed here is not the secular saint of popular renown, but a difficult and self-obsessed man driven by a sense of unique personal destiny. Penetrating and provocative, Tidrick draws on material previously ignored by Gandhi's biographers and explores the paradoxes within his life and beliefs. Did the nationalist leader truly believe that he was not just fighting for Indian independence but also…


Book cover of Havel: A Life

Todd Hasak-Lowy Author Of We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World

From my list on inspirational nonviolent leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the early years of the Trump presidency, I looked for a subject that would inspire young readers, and keep me from falling into despair. I loved researching this topic and finding ways to do justice to the incredible people and the movements at the center of my book. Simply put, it was a joy to become an expert on this important topic. There are so many reasons to be pessimistic about the state of the world, but these stories give me hope that together we can create a better future for everyone.

Todd's book list on inspirational nonviolent leaders

Todd Hasak-Lowy Why did Todd love this book?

Because of the enormous odds stacked against each movement of this sort, the story of every nonviolent leader has an unlikely element to it. But Vaclav Havel’s biography may be the most unlikely of all. A playwright, an intellectual, and, in his own words, a “bundle of nerves,” Havel nevertheless found himself leader of Czechoslovakia’s astonishing nonviolent Velvet Revolution in 1989, and soon after became the country’s first president following the fall of communism. A very human embodiment of humanist conviction, Havel’s life is one to study.

By Michael Zantovsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Václav Havel was one of the most prominent figures of the twentieth century: iconoclast and intellectual, renowned artist turned political dissident, president of a united and then divided nation, and dedicated human rights activist. Written by Michael Zantovsky—Havel’s former press secretary, advisor, and longtime friend—Havel: A Life chronicles his extraordinary journey from the theatrical stage to the world stage.

Havel’s lifelong perspective as an outsider began with his privileged childhood in Prague and his family’s blacklisted status following the Communist coup of 1948. In his youth, this feeling of being isolated and outcast fueled his poetry and then later his…


Book cover of Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India

Bryant Wieneke Author Of Priority One

From my list on political thrillers promoting peaceful solutions.

Why am I passionate about this?

I quit my job in 1994 to write. Fiction. It took me a while to find my niche, but what I realized is that I wanted to write political thrillers that were about more than how to stop the bad guys from killing the good guys by killing them first. There is another way. Starting with Priority One, and continuing to what is currently my tenth novel in the series, I imagine an American foreign policy that promotes the building of a more peaceful world through a combination of economic justice and humanitarianism, applied practically and pragmatically. It’s my dream for my fiction, as well as the real world.

Bryant's book list on political thrillers promoting peaceful solutions

Bryant Wieneke Why did Bryant love this book?

If I want to write novels that promote steps toward peaceful solutions to seemingly intractable global problems, I must invoke Mahatma Gandhi’s spirit. His practical application of nonviolence was pivotal to achieving India’s independence from England, and it is a model for us all. In Great Soul, Lelyveld depicts a man beset by doubt, who recognized his own fallibility, and yet he was able to change the world – without violence and without sacrificing his principles. I would hope that in reading this excellent biography, I have learned something about how to get things done peacefully in our complex world, and to imagine a better day.

By Joseph Lelyveld,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A highly original, stirring book on Mahatma Gandhi that deepens our sense of his achievements and disappointments—his success in seizing India’s imagination and shaping its independence struggle as a mass movement, his recognition late in life that few of his followers paid more than lip service to his ambitious goals of social justice for the country’s minorities, outcasts, and rural poor.

Pulitzer Prize–winner Joseph Lelyveld shows in vivid, unmatched detail how Gandhi’s sense of mission, social values, and philosophy of nonviolent resistance were shaped on another subcontinent—during two decades in South Africa—and then tested by an India that quickly learned…


Book cover of Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World

Tina Athaide Author Of Orange for the Sunsets

From my list on historical events unfolding.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I loved escaping into my character’s world—solving mysteries with Nancy Drew, getting into trouble like Anne from Anne of Green Gables, and diving into adventures with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. But I never saw anyone like myself in those books. A girl with black hair and coffee-colored skin, who licked the last samosa crumb off her fingers. That's one of the reasons I write and read historical fiction. It allows you to take a ride with a person from that place and time, and the first rule of time travel is that you cannot change the past. But when you finish reading you may discover that the past has changed you. 

Tina's book list on historical events unfolding

Tina Athaide Why did Tina love this book?

I greatly admire Mohandas Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., so I was intrigued when I heard about this book that looked at the common threads between two amazing historical figures who shared a goal of social reform. Being South Asian, I am very familiar with Mohandas Gandhi, and after moving to the United States, I learned a lot about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and this book revealed what led these two men down the path of peace. Even today, it saddens me that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. met their end to life by assassinations. I have only recently added this book to my classroom library, but anticipate it will be a popular choice among my students.

By Uma Krishnaswami,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Threads of Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

"Inviting and original." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Mohandas Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. both shook and changed the world in their quest for peace among all people, but what threads connected these great activists together in their shared goal of social revolution?

A lawyer and activist, tiny of stature with giant ideas, in British-ruled India at the beginning of the 20th century.

A minister from Georgia with a thunderous voice and hopes for peace at the height of the civil rights movement in America.

Born more than a half-century apart, with seemingly little in common except one shared…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Mahatma Gandhi, South Africa, and statesmen?

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