100 books like Poverty, by America

By Matthew Desmond,

Here are 100 books that Poverty, by America fans have personally recommended if you like Poverty, by America. 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 Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism

Dennis W. Johnson Author Of American Public Policy: Federal Domestic Policy Achievements and Failures, 1901 to 2022

From my list on understanding public policy challenges and failures.

Why am I passionate about this?

Much of my academic work has been focused on American domestic public policy. Previously, I wrote a ground-breaking book called The Laws that Shaped America, which focused on 15 key laws in American history. My latest book, American Public Policy: Federal Domestic Policy Achievements and Failures, 1901 to 2022, focuses on what we have accomplished, but even more importantly on what we have failed to do. And, boy, do we have work to do: inequality, climate change, immigration, racial injustice, gun violence, drug addiction, and more. I’m passionate about what good government can accomplish, and, like so many, sadden by what we have failed to accomplish.

Dennis' book list on understanding public policy challenges and failures

Dennis W. Johnson Why did Dennis love this book?

This is a sobering account of what has happened to far too many blue-collar, non-college-educated workers in America.

Wracked with economic uncertainty, shunted aside, feeling left out and powerless, many have turned to alcohol, drugs, and suicide. The greed of the opioid industry—the doctors, the pharmacies, the corporate pushers—has led to an extraordinary increase in deaths among white blue-collar workers.
For working men and women, once the backbone of American economic vibrancy, capitalism, and globalization has not worked, but has crushed families and prospects for a better life.

A powerful indictment, but one we need to hear and comprehend.

By Anne Case, Angus Deaton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book of 2020
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Shortlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year
A New Statesman Book to Read

From economist Anne Case and Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton, a groundbreaking account of how the flaws in capitalism are fatal for America's working class

Life expectancy in the United States has recently fallen for three years in a row-a reversal not seen since 1918 or in any other wealthy nation in modern times. In the…


Book cover of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard D. Kahlenberg Author Of Excluded: How Snob Zoning, NIMBYism, and Class Bias Build the Walls We Don't See

From my list on government housing rules in America.

Why am I passionate about this?

After decades writing about how to improve the lives of low-income children through education, I concluded that I had to writing about housing policy too. Government housing laws essentially dictate where kids go to school in America. In addition, since writing in college about Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign for president, in which he brought together a multiracial coalition of working people, I’ve been obsessed with finding ways to bring those groups together again.  Reforms of housing policy in a number of states has done just that: united working people across racial lines who were sick of being excluded – by government fiat – from places that provide the best opportunities.

Richard's book list on government housing rules in America

Richard D. Kahlenberg Why did Richard love this book?

The Color of Law does a brilliant job of making clear that racial segregation in America is not merely the result of market forces or individual choices; it was manufactured by government through a series of twentieth-century policies: racial zoning, redlining, and enforcement of racially restrictive covenants.  The effects are still felt today.

I modeled my own book after Rothstein’s and updated his analysis to show that today, economically discriminatory zoning laws have replaced racially discriminatory practices, which helps explain why racial segregation has declined by 30 percent since 1970, but income segregation has doubled.

By Richard Rothstein,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Color of Law as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Widely heralded as a "masterful" (The Washington Post) and "essential" (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law offers "the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation" (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced…


Book cover of The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future

Dennis W. Johnson Author Of American Public Policy: Federal Domestic Policy Achievements and Failures, 1901 to 2022

From my list on understanding public policy challenges and failures.

Why am I passionate about this?

Much of my academic work has been focused on American domestic public policy. Previously, I wrote a ground-breaking book called The Laws that Shaped America, which focused on 15 key laws in American history. My latest book, American Public Policy: Federal Domestic Policy Achievements and Failures, 1901 to 2022, focuses on what we have accomplished, but even more importantly on what we have failed to do. And, boy, do we have work to do: inequality, climate change, immigration, racial injustice, gun violence, drug addiction, and more. I’m passionate about what good government can accomplish, and, like so many, sadden by what we have failed to accomplish.

Dennis' book list on understanding public policy challenges and failures

Dennis W. Johnson Why did Dennis love this book?

This Nobel Prize-winning economist gets right to the heart of America’s problems: the growing divide between the rich and the rest of society.

We can see the toll declines in the standard of living have taken: malnutrition, drug abuse, shortened life expectancy, lack of access to much-needed health care, desperation and increased economic insecurity among the poor and a shrinking middle class in America.

Stiglitz convincingly shows how Federal Reserve policies, budgetary policies of Congress, and globalization have increased the widening gap, but also offers hope for a more economically just future.

By Joseph E. Stiglitz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The top 1 percent of Americans control some 40 percent of the nation's wealth. But as Joseph E. Stiglitz explains in this best-selling critique of the economic status quo, this level of inequality is not inevitable. Rather, in recent years well-heeled interests have compounded their wealth by stifling true, dynamic capitalism and making America no longer the land of opportunity that it once was. They have made America the most unequal advanced industrial country while crippling growth, distorting key policy debates, and fomenting a divided society. Stiglitz not only shows how and why America's inequality is bad for our economy…


Book cover of Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity

Bruce E. Johansen Author Of Nationalism vs. Nature: Warming and War

From my list on climate change and how to deal with it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I retired in 2019 after 38 years of teaching journalism,  environmental studies, and Native American Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. About half of my employment time was set aside for writing and editing as part of several endowed professorships I held sequentially between 1990 and 2018. After 2000, climate change (global warming) became my lead focus because of the urgency of the issue and the fact that it affects everyone on Earth. As of 2023, I have written and published 56 books, with about one-third of them on global warming. I have had an intense interest in weather and climate all my life.

Bruce's book list on climate change and how to deal with it

Bruce E. Johansen Why did Bruce love this book?

Hansen is probably the grandfather of warnings about climate change in our time.

Former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Hansen and colleagues sounded the first widely circulated alarm regarding climate change and its potential effects in Science during 1980. This eloquent book is both an explanation of the science and a call to arms that concentrates on what we must do to preserve a livable Earth for our children and grandchildren.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called Hansen “The Paul Revere” of global warming….who has braved criticism and censure.” He has a rare combination of scientific expertise and commitment to humanity’s future necessary to face a new world of climate peril. Ask him about how Venus got an atmosphere of 900 degrees F, and what it might mean for the future Earth.

By James Hansen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Storms of My Grandchildren as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his Q&A with Bill McKibben featured in the paperback edition of Storms of My Grandchildren, Dr. James Hansen, the world's leading climatologist, shows that exactly contrary to the impression the public has received, the science of climate change has become even clearer and sharper since the hardcover was released. In Storms of My Grandchildren, Hansen speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return. In explaining the science of climate change, Hansen paints a devastating but all-too-realistic picture…


Book cover of Patients of the State: The Politics of Waiting in Argentina

Ángela Vergara Author Of Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile

From my list on the history of the welfare state.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of Latin America and a professor at California State University, Los Angeles. I write about Chile’s labor and social history in the twentieth century. As a historian, I am especially interested in understanding how working people relate with public institutions and authorities, what they expect from the state, and how they have organized and expanded social and economic rights. While my research centers in Chile and Latin America, I also look to place regional debates in a transnational framework and see how ideas and people have moved across borders. I like books that bring working people’s diverse voices and experiences. 

Ángela's book list on the history of the welfare state

Ángela Vergara Why did Ángela love this book?

What does remain of the old welfare institutions of the mid-twentieth century? How has neoliberalism cut social infrastructure? Javier Auyero looks at welfare and public services in present-day Argentina, a system that, despite the crisis, continues to offer some form of protection to impoverished working families. The book is fascinating and demonstrates how “waiting” has come to define how poor people relate to the state and access rights and benefits.

By Javier Auyero,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Patients of the State is a sociological account of the extended waiting that poor people seeking state social and administrative services must endure. It is based on ethnographic research in the waiting area of the main welfare office in Buenos Aires, in the line leading into the Argentine registration office where legal aliens apply for identification cards, and among people who live in a polluted shantytown on the capital's outskirts, while waiting to be allocated better housing. Scrutinizing the mundane interactions between the poor and the state, as well as underprivileged people's confusion and uncertainty about the administrative processes that…


Book cover of The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty

Kevin H. Wozniak Author Of The Politics of Crime Prevention: Race, Public Opinion, and the Meaning of Community Safety

From my list on racism and the politics of public investment.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I first visited a prison during college and was shocked by its horrific conditions, I’ve been fascinated with America’s punitiveness—our tolerance for harsh, dehumanizing punishments. I pursued a Ph.D. in criminology in order to better understand the politics of crime and justice. I am constantly searching for “political space” within which to pursue meaningful criminal justice reform without provoking a punitive backlash. I was previously an associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and I am now a lecturer in criminology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth.

Kevin's book list on racism and the politics of public investment

Kevin H. Wozniak Why did Kevin love this book?

The Color of Welfare is a classic text on the history of American social policy.

The American welfare state was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the wake of the Great Depression. Quadagno explains how Roosevelt compromised with conservative southern members of Congress in order to enact the New Deal into law. These consequences shaped early anti-poverty policies in ways that disproportionately excluded African Americans by design. 

Quadagno then traces how this legacy of racially discriminatory social policymaking continued through President Johnson’s War on Poverty in the 1960s. The Color of Welfare taught me why the American welfare state is so underdeveloped compared to the nations of Western Europe and why it is characterized by so many racial disparities.

By Jill Quadagno,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Reconstruction to Lyndon Johnson and beyond, Jill Quadagno reveals how American social policy has continuously foundered on issues of race. She draws on extensive primary research to show how social programmes became entwined with the civil rights movement and subsequently suffered by association at the hands of a white backlash.


Book cover of Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India

Tanya Jakimow Author Of Susceptibility in Development: Micropolitics of Local Development in India and Indonesia

From my list on anthropology of development.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an anthropologist of development who has conducted ethnographic research in India, Indonesia, and more recently, Australia. Throughout my career I have grappled with questions of how power works in development, particularly in and through processes of self-making. I seek new theoretical tools to examine these questions, but always grounded in the realities of the everyday. I came of age when post-development critiques were dominant, but both my idealism and cynicism have been tempered by working alongside local development actors. In my work I try to give readers a sympathetic portrait of their lives, beliefs, and hopes, and how these shape practices, relationships, and consequences of ‘development’. 

Tanya's book list on anthropology of development

Tanya Jakimow Why did Tanya love this book?

Akhil Gupta asks why so many people in India suffer extreme poverty, and yet invite so little reaction.

His answer is structural violence. State inaction, or ineffective action, are part of the conditions that let people die from poverty.

The brilliance in Akhil Gupta’s work is inviting us to look at the state not as a coherent and unified entity, but as operating through multiple levels, agencies, and departments.

As someone interested in local development actors, I find his ethnographic accounts of low-level government offices and officials particularly compelling.

By showing everyday practices in these offices, and fine-grained encounters between officials and welfare recipients, Gupta shows how state indifference is produced, and challenged, in ways that shape life and death. 

By Akhil Gupta,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Red Tape presents a major new theory of the state developed by the renowned anthropologist Akhil Gupta. Seeking to understand the chronic and widespread poverty in India, the world's fourth largest economy, Gupta conceives of the relation between the state in India and the poor as one of structural violence. Every year this violence kills between two and three million people, especially women and girls, and lower-caste and indigenous peoples. Yet India's poor are not disenfranchised; they actively participate in the democratic project. Nor is the state indifferent to the plight of the poor; it sponsors many poverty amelioration programs.…


Book cover of Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding: Community Action in the War on Poverty

Greg Berman Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on if you want government to work better.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my professional career attempting to reform the justice system and create safer communities. For nearly two decades, I served as the executive director of the Center for Court Innovation (now the Center for Justice Innovation). Now, I co-edit a policy journal called Vital City that attempts to spark new thinking about how to achieve public safety. Over the years, I have worked with numerous city, state, and federal officials. I have seen that most of the people working within government are trying their best in difficult circumstances. I have also seen that it is enormously difficult to change government systems and solve complicated social problems.

Greg's book list on if you want government to work better

Greg Berman Why did Greg love this book?

What would it look like if the federal government launched an ambitious campaign to mobilize community residents to reduce poverty? 

Daniel Patrick Moynihan offers an insider’s account of one such effort, launched in the 1960s as part of the War on Poverty. What he finds is a fundamental disconnect between the ambitions and high-minded theories of reformers in Washington DC, and the hard realities of practice on the ground.

Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding is a cautionary tale and a heartbreaking catalog of missed opportunities, unintended consequences, and wasted resources. I wish someone had handed me this book at the start of my career to help temper my youthful idealism.

By Daniel Patrick Moynihan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Describes the origin, implementation and results of the sociological theory, incorporated in the 1964 Opportunity Act, that anti-poverty programs be carried out with the maximum participation of community residents


Book cover of Roam

Darlene Foster Author Of Amanda in France

From my list on children’s adventures on strong female protagonist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on a farm on the Canadian prairies where my only entertainment was books. This was before TV and the internet. Reading about girls who overcame obstacles such as being orphaned, dealing with homelessness or a disability, helped me realize that girls can overcome anything with the right attitude and by being brave. These attitudes of fearlessness, positive thinking, and resourcefulness shaped my life and helped me realize many of my dreams, including being a published author. Books with strong female characters help girls realize their own dreams.

Darlene's book list on children’s adventures on strong female protagonist

Darlene Foster Why did Darlene love this book?

Abby, like most high school girls, wants to be liked, have friends, go to dances, and dress in the latest fashions. The only difference between her and everyone else is she and her family are homeless and living in her mom's van, and Abby doesn't want anyone to know. Tension builds as the weather gets colder in Minnesota and Abby fears being found out. The author touches on many current issues through a delightful cast of characters, showing just how resourceful teenagers can be and how difficult situations can make you stronger.  

By C. H. Armstrong,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

2020 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers—YALSA/ALA

“An empathetic tale that treats homelessness with respect and makes it visible.”—Kirkus Reviews

Seventeen-year-old Abby Lunde and her family are living on the streets. They had a normal life back in Omaha but, thanks to her mother's awful mistake, they had to leave behind what little they had for a new start in Rochester. Abby tries to be an average teenager—fitting in at school, dreaming of a boyfriend, college and a career in music. But Minnesota winters are unforgiving, and so are many teenagers.

Her stepdad promises to put a roof over…


Book cover of Through the Barricades

Mahrie G. Reid Author Of The Left-Behind Bride

From my list on women who are unconventional, gutsy survivors.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the 50s I was a shy minister’s daughter in small-town Canada. Friends, life skills, coping skills, and career skills were in short supply. My refuge came in books where I found sisterhood, ordinary courage, and life skills. I learned my skills from the heroines who faced trials, solved mysteries, and never gave up. I gravitate to women who persevere, risk, and make their way in life against all odds. Several careers, a family, and decades later these story elements still inform and inspire me. They are what I read and what I write.

Mahrie's book list on women who are unconventional, gutsy survivors

Mahrie G. Reid Why did Mahrie love this book?

I have a soft spot for women during times of war or adversity. This story spans the early years of the 1900s as Maggie lives her father’s legacy to “make a difference in the world.” She never gives in, or gives up, and contributes to the safety of those around her during the end of the Great War and troubles in Ireland. Setting is a big thing for me, and in this book the location, the surroundings, and the times evoked an understanding of Ireland and the Irish. As with the fictional characters I like most, Maggie is a person I’d love to have as a friend.

By Denise Deegan, Aimee Alexander,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Through the Barricades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BOOKLIFE ‘BOOKS TO WATCH’

Her country overtaken by a foreign power, Maggie Gilligan signs up to fight for her people's freedom. Daniel Healy, in love with Maggie, joins the enemy - to try to save her.

Falling in love is never easy. At times of war, it's lethal.

Through the Barricades is a story of friends to lovers at a time of war, of two people who are prepared to die: Maggie for her country, Daniel for Maggie. Their conflicting duties put them on opposite sides. Will they and their love survive?

This friends-to-lovers story is inspired by…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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