The most recommended Karl Marx books

Who picked these books? Meet our 24 experts.

24 authors created a book list connected to Karl Marx, and here are their favorite Karl Marx books.
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Book cover of The Tribunal: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid

David S. Reynolds Author Of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights

From my list on John Brown the abolitionist.

Why am I passionate about this?

David S. Reynolds is a Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author or editor of 16 books, on subjects that include John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman Andrew Jackson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the literary and popular culture of the American Renaissance. He is the winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Lincoln Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Book Prize, the Ambassador Book Award, the Christian Gauss Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

David's book list on John Brown the abolitionist

David S. Reynolds Why did David love this book?

This skillfully edited anthology of contemporary responses to Brown lets us experience firsthand the controversies surrounding Brown during his lifetime. Reprinted in this volume are dozens of 19th-century writings--letters, speeches, articles, poems, diary entries--that demonstrate just how central John Brown was to the cultural and political life of his time. Included in the book are writings about Brown by some of the century's most notable people: Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Henry Ward Beecher, Jefferson Davis, Herman Melville, Stephen Douglas, Louisa May Alcott, Victor Hugo, and Karl Marx, to name a few.

By John Stauffer (editor), Zoe Trodd (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When John Brown led twenty-one men in an attack on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859, he envisioned a biblical uprising of millions of armed bondsmen, thus ridding the nation of the scourge of slavery. The insurrection did not happen, and Brown and the other surviving raiders were quickly captured and executed. This landmark anthology, which collects contemporary speeches, letters, newspaper articles, journals, poems, and songs, demonstrates that Brown's actions nonetheless altered the course of American history.

John Stauffer and Zoe Trodd have assembled an impressive and wide-ranging collection of responses to Brown's raid: Brown's own…

Book cover of Not By Fact Alone: Essays on the Writing and Reading of History

Eileen Ka-May Cheng Author Of Historiography: An Introductory Guide

From my list on showing history is not just a record of facts.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of history at Sarah Lawrence College and the author of The Plain and Noble Garb of Truth: Nationalism and Impartiality in American Historical Writing, 1784-1860. What has always fascinated me about history is how differently it can be interpreted by different people, even when looking at the exact same subject. While I write and teach on a variety of topics, ranging from the American Revolution to historiography, all of my courses and research deal in some way with the conflicts over how to represent the past that have divided both historians and the general public throughout the long history of history as a subject. 

Eileen's book list on showing history is not just a record of facts

Eileen Ka-May Cheng Why did Eileen love this book?

A collection of essays about “classic” works of history by (mostly) European historians ranging from Edward Gibbon to Jacob Burckhardt, Clive’s book brings these works to life even for readers unfamiliar with them. Clive’s short but rich essays on these historians provide a wonderful introduction to both their writings and to the study of historiography more generally, showing the value of these classic texts as works of literature and as gateways into the worlds of their authors.

By John Clive,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Not By Fact Alone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this collection of essays, the author demonstrates that while reading the great historians of the past, such as Gibbon, de Tocqueville, Carlyle, Macaulay, Michelet, Halevy, Marx and Burckhardt, is part of a complete education, history can also be great literature.

Book cover of Etudes: The Poetry of Dreams + Other Fragments

Julie D. Taylor Author Of Spa: The Sensuous Experience

From my list on the art and profession of architecture.

Why am I passionate about this?

Books are my passion; architecture relates to my profession. The combination, for me, is pure joy. I get such pleasure building my personal library of architecture, design, art, and photography books. After having been a magazine editor and writer, I founded Taylor & Company in 1994, to promote the value of architecture and design. My respect for architects is deep—they create something that must function in all ways and are still able to express themselves creatively. The books I’ve selected are all written by architects, giving me an extra layer of admiration for their talents to express themselves in other media. 

Julie's book list on the art and profession of architecture

Julie D. Taylor Why did Julie love this book?

An award-winning architect and poet, Marx explores creative ideas through poetry and watercolors, giving a very different way to view the art and craft of architecture. The paintings have a mysterious calm to them—evoking the work of Giorgio de Chirico—and are poetic in themselves. And then, you get actual poetry alongside the paintings! Graphic artist Jeremy Mende’s layout of the poems adds yet another layer of artistry. The tactility of the book as an object is delightful. Printed on thick watercolor paper, the book appears as a precious portfolio of secret thoughts and dreams. 

By John Marx,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

John Marx's watercolours, first published in the Architectural Review, are a captivating example of an architect's way of thinking. Subtle and quiet they are nonetheless compelling works in how they tackle a sense of place, of inhabiting space and time all the while resonating with the core of one's inner being. There is an existential quality to these watercolours that is rare to be found in this medium. Something akin to the psychologically piercing observational quality of artists like De Chirico or Hopper.

As architects strive to communicate their ideas, it is interesting to explore the world of Marx's watercolours…

Book cover of Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem

Julie Anderson Author Of Opera

From Julie's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author History nut Europhile Artist London lover

Julie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Julie Anderson Why did Julie love this book?

I read this book when it was first published back in 1995, but I re-read it this year. Ackroyd sets his tales in London, whether modern or historic (sometimes, like in Hawksmoor, both), and this one is set in the Victorian era.

We are in the pre-Jack the Ripper East End, where there is a series of gruesome killings by the almost supernatural "Limehouse Golem" while, at the same time, Elizabeth Cree (a music hall performer) is on trial for killing her husband. Inspector Kildare has to deal with both.

Kildare is a wonderfully drawn character, world-weary but half-enamored of Ms Cree. Bill Nighy was a superb choice of actor in the film.

The dark and dangerous streets of Limehouse give way to the naptha and greasepaint of the music hall, as Dan Leno (a real person) is drawn into the case, as are Karl Marx and George Gissing. Leno…

By Peter Ackroyd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Mesmerising, macabre and totally brilliant' Daily Mail

Before the Ripper, fear had another name.

London, 1880. A series of gruesome murders attributed to the mysterious 'Limehouse Golem' strikes fear into the heart of the capital. Inspector John Kildare must track down this brutal serial killer in the damp, dark alleyways of riverside London. But how does Dan Leno, music hall star extraordinaire, find himself implicated in this crime spree, and what does Elizabeth Cree, on trial for the murder of her husband, have to hide?

Peter Ackroyd brings…

Book cover of Routledge Handbook of Marx's Capital: A Global History of Translation, Dissemination and Reception

Thomas Kemple Author Of Marx’s Wager: Das Kapital and Classical Sociology

From my list on Marx’s Capital and its relevance today.

Why am I passionate about this?

27 years of teaching social and cultural theory to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of British Columbia have shaped the way I think about challenging works like Marx’s Capital. I’ve come to approach the classics of sociology not just as systematic scientific treatises, but also as literary works with a beginning, middle, and end, and as political projects designed to seize upon the power of words for practical purposes. 

Thomas' book list on Marx’s Capital and its relevance today

Thomas Kemple Why did Thomas love this book?

Even though this book only comes out in 2023, and the high price tag means that most of us will only be able to access it from libraries, this monumental collection will be the landmark study of the global reception and translation of Marx’s great book. The parts I’ve seen or heard about are riveting, since they make us think about what it means to read and how reading can change minds as well as worlds. 

By Marcello Musto (editor), Babak Amini (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Routledge Handbook of Marx's Capital as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marx's Capital has been the focus of widespread interest in the wake of the international financial crisis that erupted in 2008, as hundreds of leading daily and weekly papers throughout the world discussed the contemporary relevance of its pages. Many are again looking to an author who in the past was often wrongly associated with the Soviet Union, and who was too hastily dismissed after 1989. New or republished editions of Marx's work have become available almost everywhere. The literature dealing with Marx, which all but dried up twenty-five years ago, is showing signs of revival in many countries, and…

Book cover of Capitalism and Automation: Revolution in Technology and Capitalist Breakdown

James Steinhoff Author Of Automation and Autonomy: Labour, Capital and Machines in the Artificial Intelligence Industry

From my list on what automation is.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an assistant professor in the School of Information and Communication Studies at University College Dublin. I’m interested in automation because discussions about it often tend towards ridiculous hyperbole or acritical boosterism. Whether it’s killer robots that terminate humanity or “ethical” AI which raises all boats, discussions about the social implications of contemporary machines often neglect to include the critical analysis of the capitalist mode of production. I don’t think the two can be studied in isolation from one another. 

James' book list on what automation is

James Steinhoff Why did James love this book?

Ramtin’s bizarrely underread book may be read as a sequel to Braverman. This is the first Marxist text to engage directly and in a sustained manner with the concept of automation. Automation is distinguished from mechanization, a history is provided, and great attention to technical detail is evident. Ramtin also explores the (contentious) argument that automation must ultimately lead to the collapse of capitalism.

By Ramin Ramtin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The computer has already revolutionized many aspects of our working lives. How far has this revolution yet to run? Will human labour no longer be needed in the future? And if so, what will be the effect on the development of our society? Ramin Ramtin explores these questions in his study of the computer. He considers how the micro-chip may eventually have repercussions that go beyond easing the office work-load and argues convincingly that technological change will affect our political as well as our economic systems. Marxian theory is used to explain the nature and character of technology and challenge…

Book cover of Workers' Inquiry and Global Class Struggle: Strategies, Tactics, Objectives

Kari Lydersen Author Of Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover and What It Says About the Economic Crisis

From my list on labour and workers fighting against all odds.

Why am I passionate about this?

Fresh out of journalism school I stumbled on a strike at a machine shop in Pilsen, a neighborhood once home to Chicago’s most famous labor struggles, by then becoming a hip gentrified enclave. Drinking steaming atole with Polish, Mexican, and Puerto Rican workers in a frigid Chicago winter, I was captivated by the solidarity and determination to fight for their jobs and rights, in what appeared to be a losing battle. After covering labor struggles by Puerto Rican teachers, Mexican miners, Colombian bottlers, Chicago warehouse workers, and many others, my enthusiasm for such stories is constantly reignited -- by the workers fighting against all odds and the writers telling their stories, including those featured here.

Kari's book list on labour and workers fighting against all odds

Kari Lydersen Why did Kari love this book?

Despite so much depressing evidence to the contrary, professor Robert Ovetz argues that global workers' struggle is being reborn from the ashes of the old trade union movement. In this collection, international labor experts explain how Argentine truckers, Puerto Rican teachers, Chinese migrant laborers, Turkish delivery drivers, and other workers are analyzing geopolitical dynamics and seizing the levers of power in new and effective ways. Packed with analysis and charts like the “Credible Strike Threats Scorecard,” this is a gold mine for labor geeks who refuse to give up hope of overturning global capitalism.

By Robert Ovetz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Workers' Inquiry and Global Class Struggle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rumours of the death of the global labour movement have been greatly exaggerated. Rising from the ashes of the old trade union movement, workers' struggle is being reborn from below.

By engaging in what Karl Marx called a workers' inquiry, workers and militant co-researchers are studying their working conditions, the technical composition of capital, and how to recompose their own power in order to devise new tactics, strategies, organisational forms and objectives. These workers' inquiries, from call centre workers to teachers, and adjunct professors, are re-energising unions, bypassing unions altogether or innovating new forms of workers' organisations.

In one of…

Book cover of Marx's Literary Style

Thomas Kemple Author Of Marx’s Wager: Das Kapital and Classical Sociology

From Thomas' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Disaffected sociologist Thinker-swimmer Aspiring multilinguist Queer Reader

Thomas' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Thomas Kemple Why did Thomas love this book?

As an undergraduate in the 1980s studying away while the socialist systems were breaking up, I was struck by the language of The Communist Manifesto; "a spectre is haunting Europe", "all that is solid melts into air", and so on. Later I made a career out of examining the literary features of social scientific texts.

This thin book by a Venezuelan poet and critic was only translated last year, almost 50 years after its first publication, and the parts I had read before made a deep impression on me. Silva is a worthy match for Marx since, for both of them, rhetorical figures and poetic flourishes are not merely there for decoration, ornamentation, wordplay, or illustration but are integral features of the intellectual, textual, and political work of theoretical communication and collective mobilization. 

By Ludovico Silva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marx's Literary Style as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Marx's Literary Style, the Venezuelan poet and philosopher Ludovico Silva argues that much of the confusion around Marx's work results from a failure to understand his literary mode of expression. Through meticulous readings of key passages in Marx's oeuvre, Silva isolates the key elements of his style: his search for an "architectonic" unity at the level of the text, his capacity to express himself dialectically at the level of the sentence, and, above all, his great gift for metaphor. Silva's unique sensitivity to Marx's literary choices allows him to illuminate a number of terms that have been persistently, and…

Book cover of An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital

John Milios Author Of The Origins of Capitalism as a Social System: The Prevalence of an Aleatory Encounter

From my list on Marxian economic theory.

Why am I passionate about this?

Being a Leftist, I started reading Capital as a student, back in the 1970s. I was impressed by Marx's analysis, emphasizing that capitalist relations of power appear as money generating more money, as a “thing” that functions as capital; furthermore, that credit functions as the most drastic form of money, so that the financial sphere is not a “parasitic”  appendage of the “real economy”, but a mechanism for enforcing the “rules” of the system. As Professor of Political Economy since the late 1980s, I enjoy revealing to my students the structural contradictions of the system we live in. E.g., that the standard of living of the social majority (of the wage-earners) is (labour-)‘‘cost” of capital.

John's book list on Marxian economic theory

John Milios Why did John love this book?

In a vivid and comprehensible way, Heinrich outlines the historical, economic, and social conditions for the emergence of Marxs theory, the Critique of Political Economy.

He addresses its methodological foundations, and introduces the most important terms and concepts.

What actually is capitalism, and what is Marxs dialectic all about? How is surplus value created? What is fetishism, and how does it relate to politics and the state?

Beyond that, Heinrich also asks about the topicality of Marxs thought and the possibility of a society beyond the commodity form.

By Michael Heinrich, Alex Locascio (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx's Capital as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The global economic crisis and recession that began in 2008 had at least one unexpected outcome: a surge in sales of Karl Marx's Capital. Although mainstream economists and commentators once dismissed Marx's work as outmoded and flawed, some are begrudgingly acknowledging an analysis that sees capitalism as inherently unstable. And of course, there are those, like Michael Heinrich, who have seen the value of Marx all along, and are in a unique position to explain the intricacies of Marx's thought.

Heinrich's modern interpretation of Capital is now available to English-speaking readers for the first time. It has gone through nine…

Book cover of The Communist Manifesto: A Graphic Novel

Nic Watts Author Of Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History

From my list on political graphic novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have worked as an illustrator and visual storyteller throughout my adult life, illustrating children’s fiction books and comics for educational publications. My educational work focused on publications for kids with special needs, this gave me training in how to communicate visually, very clearly and concisely. I now collaborate with my partner Sakina Karimjee making beautiful graphic novels full-time. Toussaint Louverture is our first; we are now working on our second.

Nic's book list on political graphic novels

Nic Watts Why did Nic love this book?

I grew up in a politically active family but had never read The Communist ManifestoMartin Rowson's adaption blew me away. 

The book opens with an amazing series of spreads; in bold black and white and blood-splatted red, he charts the development of human history from the serfdom of early civilisations through the Middle Ages, up to the slave trade, the age of revolutions and the Industrial Revolution that ripped workers away from life in the fields and into factory labour and then on. 

From this, Marx and Engels begin their walk through the rest of the book, announcing, "A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism."

Rowson’s dense and beautiful artwork makes demands on the reader; in its multi-layered depths of meaning, it’s a phenomenal achievement.  

By Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Martin Rowson

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published in 1848, at a time of political upheaval in Europe, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's Manifesto for the Communist Party was at once a powerful critique of capitalism and a radical call to arms.

It remains the most incisive introduction to the ideas of Communism and the most lucid explanation of its aims. Much of what it proposed continues to be at the heart of political debate into the 21st century. It is no surprise, perhaps, that The Communist Manifesto (as it was later renamed) is the second bestselling book of all time, surpassed only by the Bible.