100 books like Nonviolent Revolutions

By Sharon Erickson Nepstad,

Here are 100 books that Nonviolent Revolutions fans have personally recommended if you like Nonviolent Revolutions. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution

Jack A. Goldstone Author Of Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on discover the power of revolutions across history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have studied revolutions for over forty years, trying to understand how people fought for liberty and democracy--but also to understand how things so often went wrong!  I have worked at universities in the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Hong Kong, gaining a global view of how societies change. I have learned that everywhere people have to struggle for their rights.  Whether in ancient Greece or in modern Cambodia, the resulting revolutionary drama unfolds sometimes with wonderful results, but sometimes with tragedy.  No events better display the very best and worst that we can accomplish.  I’ve chosen the books on this list to convey the power of revolutions, their grand successes and tragic failures.

Jack's book list on discover the power of revolutions across history

Jack A. Goldstone Why did Jack love this book?

There are a thousand books on the French Revolution, but most of them focus on the foibles of the aristocracy, or the wild rage of the crowds, or the heroism of Napoleon. Popkin’s new history does a masterful job of covering all the key events and personalities in France in the years leading up to the Revolution and in its unfolding over almost two decades. He is particularly good at placing the Revolution in the context of world history (showing its relation to events in the New World, from the American Revolution to the Revolution in Haiti), and in keeping a focus on the role of the French Revolution in the history of liberty. Indeed, through the eyes of the revolutionaries and their followers in this book, you can watch the dawn of liberty arise in the early years of the Revolution, and then fade under the increasingly militarist and…

By Jeremy D. Popkin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A New World Begins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The principles of the French Revolution remain the only possible basis for a just society -- even if, after more than two hundred years, they are more contested than ever before. In A New World Begins, Jeremy D. Popkin offers a riveting account of the revolution that puts the reader in the thick of the debates and the violence that led to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a new society. We meet Mirabeau, Robespierre, and Danton, in all of their brilliance and vengefulness; we witness the failed escape and execution of Louis XVI; we see women…


Book cover of The Athenian Revolution: Essays on Ancient Greek Democracy and Political Theory

Jack A. Goldstone Author Of Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on discover the power of revolutions across history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have studied revolutions for over forty years, trying to understand how people fought for liberty and democracy--but also to understand how things so often went wrong!  I have worked at universities in the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Hong Kong, gaining a global view of how societies change. I have learned that everywhere people have to struggle for their rights.  Whether in ancient Greece or in modern Cambodia, the resulting revolutionary drama unfolds sometimes with wonderful results, but sometimes with tragedy.  No events better display the very best and worst that we can accomplish.  I’ve chosen the books on this list to convey the power of revolutions, their grand successes and tragic failures.

Jack's book list on discover the power of revolutions across history

Jack A. Goldstone Why did Jack love this book?

All through my school years, I heard that democracy began in Athens, in ancient Greece. But I never understood how that could have happened. To me, constitutions and democracy began with the American and French Revolutions. It turns out that Athenian democracy too began with a revolution! And it was a situation very similar to our own origins: A democratic revolution in a slave-owning society! And at a time when a “national” identity was just being formed out of local and regional ones. This is a book of essays, and you don’t have to read them all. But Josiah Ober is the foremost modern expert on Athenian society and the origins of its democracy, and his essays on that topic in this book are the best accounts we have.

He clearly presents a world that is thousands of years away from us and very strange, but shows how they confronted…

By Josiah Ober,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Where did "democracy" come from, and what was its original form and meaning? Here Josiah Ober shows that this "power of the people" crystallized in a revolutionary uprising by the ordinary citizens of Athens in 508-507 B.C. He then examines the consequences of the development of direct democracy for upper-and lower-class citizens, for dissident Athenian intellectuals, and for those who were denied citizenship under the new regime (women, slaves, resident foreigners), as well as for the general development of Greek history. When the citizens suddenly took power into their own hands, they changed the cultural and social landscape of Greece,…


Book cover of History of the Russian Revolution

Jack A. Goldstone Author Of Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on discover the power of revolutions across history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have studied revolutions for over forty years, trying to understand how people fought for liberty and democracy--but also to understand how things so often went wrong!  I have worked at universities in the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Hong Kong, gaining a global view of how societies change. I have learned that everywhere people have to struggle for their rights.  Whether in ancient Greece or in modern Cambodia, the resulting revolutionary drama unfolds sometimes with wonderful results, but sometimes with tragedy.  No events better display the very best and worst that we can accomplish.  I’ve chosen the books on this list to convey the power of revolutions, their grand successes and tragic failures.

Jack's book list on discover the power of revolutions across history

Jack A. Goldstone Why did Jack love this book?

Of the hundreds of books on revolutions I have read in a decades-long career, this remains the most powerful and enthralling of them all.  Unfolding like a grand Russian epic in the manner of War and Peace, Trotsky tells the story of the Russian Revolution and the triumph of the Bolshevik Marxists over every challenge and tribulation.  No other book gives you the feeling of being a revolutionary like this one, as Trotsky takes you from the meetings of workers in the factories of St. Petersburg to the halls of the Winter Palace, all the while debating whether the events he is witnessing, indeed the history he knows he is making, conform to the Marxist vision of history that inspires him. No other account of revolutions offers such a combination of theoretical brilliance and detailed, almost cinema-like descriptions of feelings and events. 

By Leon Trotsky, Max Eastman (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked History of the Russian Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Regarded by many as among the most powerful works of history ever written, this book offers an unparalleled account of one of the most pivotal and hotly debated events in world history. This book, released to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, reveals, from the perspective of one of its central actors, the revolution's profoundly democratic, emancipatory character. Originally published in three parts, Trotsky's masterpiece is collected here in a single volume. It serves as the most vital and inspiring record of the Russian Revolution to date.
"During the first two months of 1917 Russia was still…


Book cover of The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East

Jack A. Goldstone Author Of Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on discover the power of revolutions across history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have studied revolutions for over forty years, trying to understand how people fought for liberty and democracy--but also to understand how things so often went wrong!  I have worked at universities in the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Hong Kong, gaining a global view of how societies change. I have learned that everywhere people have to struggle for their rights.  Whether in ancient Greece or in modern Cambodia, the resulting revolutionary drama unfolds sometimes with wonderful results, but sometimes with tragedy.  No events better display the very best and worst that we can accomplish.  I’ve chosen the books on this list to convey the power of revolutions, their grand successes and tragic failures.

Jack's book list on discover the power of revolutions across history

Jack A. Goldstone Why did Jack love this book?

 All the books in this list worry about the relationship between revolutions and liberty and democracy. Is democracy desirable? Does it mean the same thing in different societies? Do revolutions bring democracy closer? Or do they start conflicts that make it more distant? These questions arose again in the Arab Uprisings against dictatorships from Tunisia to Syria that occurred in 2010-2011. Unfortunately, instead of bringing democracy, they brought instability, and in some cases horrifically violent civil wars, that continue to this day. Mark Lynch is angry about this outcome, but he is also one of our finest scholars of Middle East politics, and has written a passionate, detailed account of these uprisings and how they produced anarchy and violence.

By Marc Lynch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Arab Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marc Lynch's last book, The Arab Uprising, described the then ongoing revolutionary change and prospect for the consolidation of democracy in key Arab countries that still seemed possible. But Lynch saw dark signs on the horizon, especially in Syria. That book ended with the hope that the Arab uprisings heralded a fundamental change over the long-term, but with the warning that Arab regimes would not easily give up their power. Instead, Egypt's revolution has given way to a military coup; Libya's produced a failed state; Yemen is the battleground for a proxy war and will be destroyed; Syria has become…


Book cover of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest

Ches Thurber Author Of Between Mao and Gandhi: The Social Roots of Civil Resistance

From my list on nonviolent protest in global politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a researcher and teacher who studies global security. I first thought this meant the study of various forms of violence: wars, terrorism, genocides. And, I still study all of that. But the events of the Arab Spring in particular led me to see the importance of nonviolent protest movements as an important form of global conflict. These movements, often called “civil resistance,”  have proved surprisingly capable of toppling dictators and bringing about democratization. But the news is not all good: they also frequently spark mass repression, civil wars, and even wars between countries. Understanding contemporary global conflict requires understanding how nonviolent movements work.

Ches' book list on nonviolent protest in global politics

Ches Thurber Why did Ches love this book?

Social media has been a huge part of popular uprisings over the last decade. At first look, social media should be hugely empowering for mass movements: it allows people to communicate, share their idea, and organize.

Then why have nonviolent movements in the era of social media struggled so much to achieve change? Zeynep Tufekci unpacks this puzzle, showing how social media can actually be a shortcut—allowing movements to grow fast without learning skills and building organizing tools—that actually makes them more vulnerable to state repression.

I think this pairs nicely with Pearlman’s lessons about the importance of organization, and is a must-read for activists seeking to more effectively harness the power of social media.

By Zeynep Tufekci,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Twitter and Tear Gas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From New York Times opinion columnist Zeynep Tufekci, an firsthand account and incisive analysis of the role of social media in modern protest

"[Tufekci's] personal experience in the squares and streets, melded with her scholarly insights on technology and communication platforms, makes [this] such an unusual and illuminating work."-Carlos Lozada, Washington Post

"Twitter and Tear Gas is packed with evidence on how social media has changed social movements, based on rigorous research and placed in historical context."-Hannah Kuchler, Financial Times

To understand a thwarted Turkish coup, an anti-Wall Street encampment, and a packed Tahrir Square, we must first comprehend the…


Book cover of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict

Ches Thurber Author Of Between Mao and Gandhi: The Social Roots of Civil Resistance

From my list on nonviolent protest in global politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a researcher and teacher who studies global security. I first thought this meant the study of various forms of violence: wars, terrorism, genocides. And, I still study all of that. But the events of the Arab Spring in particular led me to see the importance of nonviolent protest movements as an important form of global conflict. These movements, often called “civil resistance,”  have proved surprisingly capable of toppling dictators and bringing about democratization. But the news is not all good: they also frequently spark mass repression, civil wars, and even wars between countries. Understanding contemporary global conflict requires understanding how nonviolent movements work.

Ches' book list on nonviolent protest in global politics

Ches Thurber Why did Ches love this book?

The classic book that changed the way scholars of global conflict, including myself, think about nonviolent resistance.

While nonviolent resistance has often been viewed as morally superior but strategically less effective, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan showed that, in fact, movements that use primarily nonviolent strategies have been twice as effective as those that use violence.

Their work challenges assumptions about the necessity of violence to create political change and firmly plants “civil resistance” as a major force in global politics that needs greater attention from policymakers and scholars alike.

By Erica Chenoweth, Maria Stephan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For more than a century, from 1900 to 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts in achieving their stated goals. By attracting impressive support from citizens, whose activism takes the form of protests, boycotts, civil disobedience, and other forms of nonviolent noncooperation, these efforts help separate regimes from their main sources of power and produce remarkable results, even in Iran, Burma, the Philippines, and the Palestinian Territories. Combining statistical analysis with case studies of specific countries and territories, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan detail the factors enabling such campaigns to succeed…


Book cover of From Dissent to Democracy: The Promise and Perils of Civil Resistance Transitions

Ches Thurber Author Of Between Mao and Gandhi: The Social Roots of Civil Resistance

From my list on nonviolent protest in global politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a researcher and teacher who studies global security. I first thought this meant the study of various forms of violence: wars, terrorism, genocides. And, I still study all of that. But the events of the Arab Spring in particular led me to see the importance of nonviolent protest movements as an important form of global conflict. These movements, often called “civil resistance,”  have proved surprisingly capable of toppling dictators and bringing about democratization. But the news is not all good: they also frequently spark mass repression, civil wars, and even wars between countries. Understanding contemporary global conflict requires understanding how nonviolent movements work.

Ches' book list on nonviolent protest in global politics

Ches Thurber Why did Ches love this book?

Unarmed uprisings might overthrow dictators…but what happens next?

Jonathan Pinckney explains why nonviolent movements lead to more durable democracies and under what conditions. He combines an analysis of global data with case studies from Nepal, Zambia, and Brazil.

Policymakers and scholars interested in democratization  have often focused their attention on elite negotiations and “pacts.” Pinckney convincingly shows that the most sustainable democratization comes from grassroots mobilization.

By Jonathan C. Pinckney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Dissent to Democracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Peaceful protest is a strong driver for democratization across the globe. Yet, it doesn't always lead to democratic transition, as seen in the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt or Yemen. Why do some nonviolent transitions end in democracy while others do not? In From Dissent to Democracy, Jonathan Pinckney systematically examines transitions initiated by nonviolent resistance campaigns and argues that two key factors explain whether or not democracy will follow such efforts. First, a movement must sustain high levels of social mobilization. Second, it must direct that mobilization away from revolutionary "maximalist" goals and tactics and towards support for new…


Book cover of Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement

Ches Thurber Author Of Between Mao and Gandhi: The Social Roots of Civil Resistance

From my list on nonviolent protest in global politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a researcher and teacher who studies global security. I first thought this meant the study of various forms of violence: wars, terrorism, genocides. And, I still study all of that. But the events of the Arab Spring in particular led me to see the importance of nonviolent protest movements as an important form of global conflict. These movements, often called “civil resistance,”  have proved surprisingly capable of toppling dictators and bringing about democratization. But the news is not all good: they also frequently spark mass repression, civil wars, and even wars between countries. Understanding contemporary global conflict requires understanding how nonviolent movements work.

Ches' book list on nonviolent protest in global politics

Ches Thurber Why did Ches love this book?

Few conflicts have received more global attention than the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis. Media commenters frequently ask “Why has there been no Palestinian Gandhi?" Wendy Pearlman shows why this is the wrong question.

Despite difficult structural conditions, and in the face of heavy repression, she shows that there has been widespread use of nonviolent methods by Palestinians. When campaigns have turned violent, she shows that it is often the result of fragmentation within the movement that makes it difficult to ensure discipline and creates incentives to embrace more extreme tactics.

She provides a valuable lesson on the need to pay less attention to high-profile leaders and more attention to the organizations that underpin movements.

By Wendy Pearlman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do some national movements use violent protest and others nonviolent protest? Wendy Pearlman shows that much of the answer lies inside movements themselves. Nonviolent protest requires coordination and restraint, which only a cohesive movement can provide. When, by contrast, a movement is fragmented, factional competition generates new incentives for violence and authority structures are too weak to constrain escalation. Pearlman reveals these patterns across one hundred years in the Palestinian national movement, with comparisons to South Africa and Northern Ireland. To those who ask why there is no Palestinian Gandhi, Pearlman demonstrates that nonviolence is not simply a matter…


Book cover of Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Author Of Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and the Cult of State Secrecy

From my list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets.

Why are we passionate about this?

We are historians of U.S. foreign relations who have written extensively on the Cold War and national security. Both of us were interested in whistleblowing yet knew relatively little about its history. Turns out, we were not alone. Despite lots of popular interest in the topic, we soon discovered that, beyond individual biographies, barely anything is known about the broader history of the phenomenon. With funding from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Council, we led a collaborative research project, which involved historians, literary scholars, and political theorists, as well as whistleblowers, journalists, and lawyers. One of the fruits of the project, Whistleblowing Nation, is the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary history of U.S. national security whistleblowing.


Hannah's book list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Why did Hannah love this book?

At its core, whistleblowing is an act of truth-telling, often in response to official misrepresentation and lies. While not explicitly about whistleblowing, Hannah Arendt’s 1971 essay, “Lying in Politics” is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the subject. Written in the wake of the Pentagon Papers disclosure, it situates the official lies of the Vietnam War within a broader phenomenon of political propaganda. Exploring how propaganda aimed at the public ultimately took hold within senior policymaking circles, it reveals the blurry line between official lies and self-deception. Challenging simple precepts about whistleblowing and public transparency, Arendt explores whether or not and why knowledge of the facts actually makes a difference. Along with the broader collection of essays in Crises of the Republic, this piece offers uncanny insight into post-truth politics and the breakdown of democracy in our day.

By Hannah Arendt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of studies in which Arendt, from the standpoint of a political philosopher, views the crises of the 1960s and early 1970s as challenges to the american form of government. Index.


Book cover of The Story That Cannot Be Told

Gigi Griffis Author Of The Wicked Unseen

From my list on history for those who find history intimidating.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to my passion for history later in life—when I realized I could trade in the endless date memorization I remembered from history class for an exploration of fierce lady pirates like Shek Yeung and unwilling empresses like Sisi of Austria. Historical stories that felt like thrillers, adventures, or mystery novels. Comedies. Tragedies. And most of all: books that didn’t require a history PhD to get swept up in the story. These are the books that made me fall in love with history, and they’re the kind of books I now write. I’m the author of three historical novels, all written first and foremost to sweep you away into a damn good story.

Gigi's book list on history for those who find history intimidating

Gigi Griffis Why did Gigi love this book?

Another way to ease yourself into historical fiction is to start with books for young readers—like this gorgeous, compelling read set during the Communist regime’s fall in Romania in 1989. 

Our heroine is a young girl named Ileana who loves stories, even though stories can be dangerous (like the one that got her uncle arrested for criticizing the government). Afraid for her life, her parents send her to live with grandparents she’s never met—and still she gets caught up in the independence. 

I adored this book as an adult reader and—bonus!—it would be the perfect thing to co-read with a middle schooler or young teen if you’ve got one in your life. 

By J. Kasper Kramer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Story That Cannot Be Told as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

“By turns surprising, poetic, and stark, The Story That Cannot Be Told is one that should most certainly be read.” —Alan Gratz, New York Times bestselling author of Refugee
“A mesmerizing debut.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A powerful middle grade debut with three starred reviews that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in revolutions, nonviolence, and the Berlin Wall?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about revolutions, nonviolence, and the Berlin Wall.

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The Berlin Wall Explore 29 books about the Berlin Wall