The best human rights books 📚

Browse the best books on human rights as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of A Land Without Evil: Stopping the Genocide of Burma's Karen People

A Land Without Evil: Stopping the Genocide of Burma's Karen People

By Benedict Rogers

Why this book?

We, the Karens, call our land Kawthoolei, which means "a land without evil." When I first came to the UK, Ben gave me a copy of his book, A Land Without Evil. After reading this book, I felt so much pain that I couldn't stop my tears because all of the suffering of my people that Ben wrote in his book were all true, and it brought back all the memories of our sufferings. For decades, my people have been brutally attacked by Burmese governments, but the world didn't know and pay attention in order to help us. 

From the list:

The best books about the Karen and human rights that inspire me

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Book cover of Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century

Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century

By Kathryn Sikkink

Why this book?

When social scientists began to ask the question – neglected by human rights lawyers and activists – whether international human rights law actually improved the enjoyment of human rights, they came up with largely negative answers: international human rights law had no effect, or very little effect, or was sometimes counter-productive, being associated with more human rights violations, depending on the research methods used. Kathryn Sikkink was among the leading scholars challenging these results, showing that the previous studies greatly oversimplified the human rights world.

Her book, Evidence for Hope, brings together the empirical evidence showing that human rights…

From the list:

The best books for understanding the power and the limits of human rights

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Book cover of Human Rights and Their Limits

Human Rights and Their Limits

By Wiktor Osiatyński

Why this book?

Wiktor Osiatyński was a distinguished Polish constitutional and human rights lawyer who died in 2017 and who, among many other achievements, contributed to the drafting of the post-Communist constitution of Poland. He was a member of the board of the Open Society Foundation and a greatly admired teacher of human rights. Human Rights and Their Limits is one of the most carefully balanced accounts of human rights available in English. Osiatyński argues against human rights absolutism, pointing out that excessive respect for rights can undermine the democracy that is the precondition of rights protection, and that rights have to be…

From the list:

The best books for understanding the power and the limits of human rights

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Book cover of Aid Imperium: United States Foreign Policy and Human Rights in Post-Cold War Southeast Asia

Aid Imperium: United States Foreign Policy and Human Rights in Post-Cold War Southeast Asia

By Salvador Santino Fulo Regilme

Why this book?

Regilme studies the negative impact of US foreign aid on Philippines’s and Thailand’s human rights. He argues that the shared policy expectations between the donors and recipient governments and the domestic legitimacy of recipient regime jointly determine the extent of human rights abuse. The recipients with strong domestic legitimacy need only use the foreign aid on legitimate military threats. This was the case for the Philippines and Thailand in the 1990s. When the domestic legitimacy of the recipient regime is weak, that foreign aid is strategically repurposed to include the repression of the political opposition. This explains the human rights…

From the list:

The best books on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

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Book cover of A Suffragette  My Own Story

A Suffragette My Own Story

By Emmeline Pankhurst

Why this book?

This book is very important to me. It gave me more understanding of the Suffragette movement in the UK and how women sacrificed their lives for equal rights and fairness. I really appreciate those women activists. Because of them, women now have better treatment and opportunities in society, although we still have a long way to go to have more women in politics and at the decision-making level. 

From the list:

The best books about the Karen and human rights that inspire me

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Book cover of Making Sense of Human Rights

Making Sense of Human Rights

By James Nickel

Why this book?

Perhaps the best explanation and defence of the contemporary concept of human rights. Nickel addresses theoretical problems of justifying human rights, practical problems of implementing them, and dilemmas to which they give rise. It is written with unusual clarity. On the one hand, as a philosopher he does not take for granted that human rights make sense or that all uses of the idea deserve our support. On the other hand, he does not engage in debunking the idea that has been fashionable on both the political left and right. This is a most thoughtful and balanced account and is…

From the list:

The best books for understanding the power and the limits of human rights

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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