100 books like Solitary

By Albert Woodfox,

Here are 100 books that Solitary fans have personally recommended if you like Solitary. 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 The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Robert L. Tsai Author Of Demand the Impossible: One Lawyer's Pursuit of Equal Justice for All

From my list on the role of race and poverty in the criminal justice system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a law professor at Boston University who has studied and written about constitutional law, democracy, and inequality for over 20 years. I’m troubled by America’s rise to become the world’s leader in imprisoning its own citizens and the continued use of inhumane policing and punishment practices. These trends must be better understood before we can come up with a form of politics that can overcome our slide into a darker version of ourselves. 

Robert's book list on the role of race and poverty in the criminal justice system

Robert L. Tsai Why did Robert love this book?

I found Michelle Alexander’s book a potent reminder that the past is never really past, and that older practices of racial subjugation and use of the criminal law against minorities can be repurposed in later eras to serve the same or related ends.

The book raises the question of whether Jim Crow has really ended in all institutions in American society.

By Michelle Alexander,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists motivated by Michelle Alexander's unforgettable argument that 'we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.'


Book cover of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Johannes Lenhard Author Of Making Better Lives: Hope, Freedom and Home-Making among People Sleeping Rough in Paris

From my list on understanding poverty today, from the bottom up.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an anthropologist and studied homelessness in Paris and London for the last decade. I was drawn into the world of people on the streets when I moved to London and started observing their parallel world. I spent almost a year with people on the street in London and two years in Paris. I volunteered in day centers, safe injection facilities, and soup kitchens and slept in a homeless shelter. Since I finished my first book on my observations in Paris, I have advised both policymakers on homelessness and written countless journalistic articles. My goal is always to provide a clearer picture of homelessness through the eyes of the people themselves. 

Johannes' book list on understanding poverty today, from the bottom up

Johannes Lenhard Why did Johannes love this book?

I met Matthew Desmond before he became one of the youngest Professors with his own center at Princeton University. He was visiting London, had just published his first book, and was still finishing the research for this book.

Desmond did an enormous amount of field research; he spent months living in a trailer park, on top of thousands of hours in archives and courtrooms where eviction cases are decided. The result is the best book I have ever read about poverty.

What happens when ‘normal people’ get evicted? Desmond’s story is rich and personal, and that is what we need: we need to understand the lives of poor people better in order to finally decide that we must change the systems that put them there. 

By Matthew Desmond,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Evicted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*WINNER OF THE 2017 PULITZER PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION*
'Beautifully written, thought-provoking, and unforgettable ... If you want a good understanding of how the issues that cause poverty are intertwined, you should read this book' Bill Gates, Best Books of 2017

Arleen spends nearly all her money on rent but is kicked out with her kids in Milwaukee's coldest winter for years. Doreen's home is so filthy her family call it 'the rat hole'. Lamar, a wheelchair-bound ex-soldier, tries to work his way out of debt for his boys. Scott, a nurse turned addict, lives in a gutted-out trailer. This is…


Book cover of Abolition for the People: The Movement for a Future Without Policing & Prisons

James Kilgore Author Of Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time

From my list on mass incarceration.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a social justice activist all my life. In my younger years, I turned to violence to bring about liberation. That landed me a federal arrest warrant which I avoided for 27 years by living as a fugitive. I spent most of that time in southern Africa, joining freedom movements against apartheid and colonialism. Arrested and extradited to the U.S. in 2002 I spent 6 1/2 years in California prisons while observing the impact of mass incarceration. I vowed to direct my energy to end mass incarceration through grassroots organizing. Since then I've been a writer, researcher, and activist in my local community of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois as well as being partner and father to my two sons.

James' book list on mass incarceration

James Kilgore Why did James love this book?

If we are to reverse, dismantle, or eliminate mass incarceration we need an alternative model for addressing a reality where harm and injustice exist. We can never eliminate harm, but this book, through short writings by well-known authors constructs not only a clear case for eliminating prisons, jails, and policing but helps us to imagine how we might get to such a world through our own collective actions. Brought together by the most famous person to be banished by the National Football League, this volume stirs the soul and takes us on what may perhaps be an uncomfortable but very necessary journey. I have one essay in this book, entitled "Challenge E-Carceration" which contests the notion that electronic monitors and other punitive technologies are an alternative to incarceration. 

By Colin Kaepernick (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Edited by activist and former San Francisco 49ers super bowl quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Abolition for the People is a manifesto calling for a world beyond prisons and policing.

Abolition for the People brings together thirty essays representing a diversity of voices―political prisoners, grassroots organizers, scholars, and relatives of those killed by the anti-Black terrorism of policing and prisons. This collection presents readers with a moral choice: “Will you continue to be actively complicit in the perpetuation of these systems,” Kaepernick asks in his introduction, “or will you take action to dismantle them for the benefit of a just future?”

Powered…


Book cover of Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California

Nancy Hiemstra Author Of Detain and Deport: The Chaotic U.S. Immigration Enforcement Regime

From my list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became aware of harms of immigration enforcement policies while volunteering to tutor kids of undocumented migrant farmworkers in the 1990s. Through a variety of jobs in the U.S. and Latin America, my eyes were opened to reasons driving people to migrate and challenges immigrants face. I eventually went to graduate school in Geography to study local to transnational reverberations of immigration policies. A project in Ecuador where I helped families of people detained in the U.S. led me to realize how huge, cruel, and ineffective U.S. immigration detention is. I hope these books help you break through myths about detention and make sense of the chaos.

Nancy's book list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system

Nancy Hiemstra Why did Nancy love this book?

This book is key to understanding the economic, political, and social drivers behind the rise of the incarceration industry, which moved on to promote and expand immigration detention using the same playbook.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore provides a powerful case study of the explosive growth of California’s prison system since the 1980s. The book traces how corporate lobbyists for the prison industry took advantage of local economic downturn and racist narratives to push new laws that massively increased the number of people incarcerated, fueling a prison boom.

While a depressing account, Gilmore leaves the reader with a sense of hope and purpose by recounting the rise of a determined grassroots movement fighting the hungry carceral industry, with lessons that can be transferred to stopping detention expansion.

By Ruth Wilson Gilmore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since 1980, the number of people in U.S. prisons has increased more than 450%. Despite a crime rate that has been falling steadily for decades, California has led the way in this explosion, with what a state analyst called 'the biggest prison building project in the history of the world'. "Golden Gulag" provides the first detailed explanation for that buildup by looking at how political and economic forces, ranging from global to local, conjoined to produce the prison boom. In an informed and impassioned account, Ruth Wilson Gilmore examines this issue through statewide, rural, and urban perspectives to explain how…


Book cover of Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms

James Kilgore Author Of Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time

From my list on mass incarceration.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a social justice activist all my life. In my younger years, I turned to violence to bring about liberation. That landed me a federal arrest warrant which I avoided for 27 years by living as a fugitive. I spent most of that time in southern Africa, joining freedom movements against apartheid and colonialism. Arrested and extradited to the U.S. in 2002 I spent 6 1/2 years in California prisons while observing the impact of mass incarceration. I vowed to direct my energy to end mass incarceration through grassroots organizing. Since then I've been a writer, researcher, and activist in my local community of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois as well as being partner and father to my two sons.

James' book list on mass incarceration

James Kilgore Why did James love this book?

As public awareness of mass incarceration has grown, reformers, and even law enforcement, have attempted to build alternatives, policies, and institutions they argue are alternatives to prisons and jails. These alternatives include policies like electronic monitoring, drug courts, halfway houses, lockup mental health facilities, and court supervision. In this book, Law and Schenwar systematically demolish the notion that such initiatives do anything more than widen the net of incarceration. In their view, these “alternatives” create programs and institutions based on the notion that altering the form or style of punishment will eliminate mass incarceration. Instead, they argue this requires the elimination of the paradigm of punishment and the establishment of programs outside the criminal legal system that provide freedom and opportunities for targeted populations. 

By Maya Schenwar, Victoria Law,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Prison by Any Other Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a new afterword from the authors, the critically praised indictment of widely embraced "alternatives to incarceration"

"But what does it mean-really-to celebrate reforms that convert your home into your prison?" -Michelle Alexander, from the foreword

Electronic monitoring. Locked-down drug treatment centers. House arrest. Mandated psychiatric treatment. Data driven surveillance. Extended probation. These are some of the key alternatives held up as cost effective substitutes for jails and prisons. But in a searing, "cogent critique" (Library Journal), Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law reveal that many of these so-called reforms actually weave in new strands of punishment and control, bringing new…


Book cover of Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run

Abigail Leslie Andrews Author Of Banished Men: How Migrants Endure the Violence of Deportation

From my list on the criminalization of immigrant men.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scholar of gender and state violence, and I live and work at the US-Mexico border. For the past several years, I’ve worked collaboratively with large teams of Latinx-identified students to study the impacts of US immigration policies on migrants from Mexico and Central America. We realized that even though about half of immigrants are women, around 95% of deportees are men. So, we started to think about how US policies criminalize immigrant men. I became especially interested in how immigration enforcement (at the border and beyond) intersects with mass incarceration. In the list, I pick up books that trace the multinational reach of the carceral apparatus that comes to treat migrants as criminals.

Abigail's book list on the criminalization of immigrant men

Abigail Leslie Andrews Why did Abigail love this book?

This is the incredibly gripping tale of the friendship and interdependency between Levi, a young (23-year-old) anthropological researcher who joins a migrant caravan, and Axel, a migrant and hacker who ends up employed by many bigshots in the migrant-aid industry within Mexico.

It uncovers a terrible set of abuses in migrant shelters, as shelter leaders spy on one another, brutally mistreat migrants, and manipulate migrants and the government. I read it in three days.

By Levi Vonk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An unlikely friendship, a four-thousand-mile voyage, and an impenetrable frontier—this dramatic odyssey reveals the chaos and cruelty US immigration policies have unleashed beyond our borders.

Axel Kirschner was a lifelong New Yorker, all Queens hustle and bravado. But he was also undocumented. After a minor traffic violation while driving his son to kindergarten, Axel was deported to Guatemala, a country he swore he had not lived in since he was a baby. While fighting his way back through Mexico on a migrant caravan, Axel met Levi Vonk, a young anthropologist and journalist from the US. That chance encounter would change…


Book cover of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America

Pat Libby Author Of The Empowered Citizens Guide: 10 Steps to Passing a Law that Matters to You

From my list on inspiring you to make a difference.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve dedicated my life to repairing the world. This work has taken on many forms – helping low-income people grow community gardens for food and beauty, providing fuel subsidies that helped people combat frigid New England winters, and working on building affordable housing and economic development programs in rural and urban communities. Ultimately, these experiences brought me to create graduate programs where students could learn how to lead healthy nonprofit organizations. Part of their education involved learning how to pass laws based on my own successful experience. I realized then that I had a passion for providing everyday citizens with simple tools they too could use to make a difference.    

Pat's book list on inspiring you to make a difference

Pat Libby Why did Pat love this book?

Reading a book about people taking prescribed drugs end up being swallowed whole by addiction is heartbreaking. Realizing how easily kids can fall into that trap is terrifying. Knowing that much of that agony is fueled by aggressive profit-seeking is infuriating. Amidst the pain of this well-told story are heroes fighting to stop the onslaught. It reminds us that on the knife’s edge of life, it’s way too easy to fall to either side.   

By Beth Macy,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dopesick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Journalist Beth Macy's definitive account of America's opioid epidemic "masterfully interlaces stories of communities in crisis with dark histories of corporate greed and regulatory indifference" (New York Times) -- from the boardroom to the courtroom and into the living rooms of Americans.
In this extraordinary work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of a national drama that has unfolded over two decades. From the labs and marketing departments of big pharma to local doctor's offices; wealthy suburbs to distressed small communities in Central Appalachia; from distant cities to once-idyllic farm towns; the spread of opioid addiction follows a tortuous…


Book cover of Our Time Is Now

Pat Libby Author Of The Empowered Citizens Guide: 10 Steps to Passing a Law that Matters to You

From my list on inspiring you to make a difference.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve dedicated my life to repairing the world. This work has taken on many forms – helping low-income people grow community gardens for food and beauty, providing fuel subsidies that helped people combat frigid New England winters, and working on building affordable housing and economic development programs in rural and urban communities. Ultimately, these experiences brought me to create graduate programs where students could learn how to lead healthy nonprofit organizations. Part of their education involved learning how to pass laws based on my own successful experience. I realized then that I had a passion for providing everyday citizens with simple tools they too could use to make a difference.    

Pat's book list on inspiring you to make a difference

Pat Libby Why did Pat love this book?

Stacey Abrams writes in a style that is so personal and compelling, you feel as if she is nestled in a nearby chair talking directly to you. If you live in a part of the country where voting is easy as pie, this book will give you a front-row seat into some of the incredible hurdles that untold numbers of Americans endure to exercise that right. But Abrams doesn’t just focus on the “woe is me” unfairness of it all. She provides insights on why we should and how we can fix this broken system. The book makes you want to leap off your seat and do something. Don’t let the fact that Abrams lost her most recent election deter you from reaping these valuable lessons.    

By Stacey Abrams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Time Is Now as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling author of Lead From The Outside and political leader Stacey Abrams, a blueprint to end voter suppression, empower our citizens, and take back our country.

"With each page, she inspires and empowers us to create systems that reflect a world in which all voices are heard and all people believe and feel that they matter." —Kerry Washington

A recognized expert on fair voting and civic engagement, Abrams chronicles a chilling account of how the right to vote and the principle of democracy have been and continue to be under attack. Abrams would have been the…


Book cover of Consensus Organizing: Building Communities of Mutual Self Interest

Pat Libby Author Of The Empowered Citizens Guide: 10 Steps to Passing a Law that Matters to You

From my list on inspiring you to make a difference.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve dedicated my life to repairing the world. This work has taken on many forms – helping low-income people grow community gardens for food and beauty, providing fuel subsidies that helped people combat frigid New England winters, and working on building affordable housing and economic development programs in rural and urban communities. Ultimately, these experiences brought me to create graduate programs where students could learn how to lead healthy nonprofit organizations. Part of their education involved learning how to pass laws based on my own successful experience. I realized then that I had a passion for providing everyday citizens with simple tools they too could use to make a difference.    

Pat's book list on inspiring you to make a difference

Pat Libby Why did Pat love this book?

The world is filled with problems to be ignored or tackled. Voting rights, affordable housing, prison reform, healthcare reform, corporate responsibility… the list is endless. The first step to solving a problem is understanding it. The next step is having a strategy that shows you how you can make real change. Consensus Organizing does just that. It provides the reader with a seemingly incompatible combination of fascinating, fun, and in-depth explanations of how to organize effectively for social change. Eichler is a master storyteller and a masterful organizer. Best of all, he makes his model accessible for anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves.        

By Michael P. Eichler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Empowering a community takes more than organizing and mobilizing its people; it takes a simple, yet radical, notion that consensus can be reached by creating mutual self interest between key individuals in the community and players of interest. In Consensus Organizing: Building Communities of Mutual Self Interest, author Mike Eichler shows how even poor and disempowered communities can achieve lasting results by implementing some key consensus organizing strategies. Through personal, lively, and relevant examples, Eichler takes the reader on a road trip through various communities and shows how collectively they were able to reach lasting results by finding key areas…


Book cover of The Hollywood Kid: The Violent Life and Violent Death of an MS-13 Hitman

Abigail Leslie Andrews Author Of Banished Men: How Migrants Endure the Violence of Deportation

From my list on the criminalization of immigrant men.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scholar of gender and state violence, and I live and work at the US-Mexico border. For the past several years, I’ve worked collaboratively with large teams of Latinx-identified students to study the impacts of US immigration policies on migrants from Mexico and Central America. We realized that even though about half of immigrants are women, around 95% of deportees are men. So, we started to think about how US policies criminalize immigrant men. I became especially interested in how immigration enforcement (at the border and beyond) intersects with mass incarceration. In the list, I pick up books that trace the multinational reach of the carceral apparatus that comes to treat migrants as criminals.

Abigail's book list on the criminalization of immigrant men

Abigail Leslie Andrews Why did Abigail love this book?

In this book, two journalist brothers reveal how young teens can get wrapped up in the world of transnational gangs.

We follow a young man who watches murder and death all around him and ends up joining a squad of the MS-13 in El Salvador, until his own untimely death. The book brings to life the experience – and unavoidability for poor Salvadorans of life under gang control. 

By Oscar Martinez, Juan Martinez, John Washington (translator) , Daniela Maria Ugaz (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a boy, Miguel Angel Tobar fled a small town in El Salvador torn apart by warring guerrillas and US-backed death squads. As a teen in Los Angeles, he fought discrimination and beatings by joining a gang, MS-13. By the time the US deported him to San Salvador, the Hollywood Kid joined a wave of US-bred gangsters, whose violence-in concert with corrupt offiicals-have in turn helped propel new waves of refugees.

The incomparable Salvadoran journalist Oscar Martinez got to know the Hollywood Kid and met with him as he first turned on MS-13, killing gang members, and then in turn…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in African-American men, miscarriages of justices, and Louisiana?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about African-American men, miscarriages of justices, and Louisiana.

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