The best books on pacifism

1 authors have picked their favorite books about pacifism and why they recommend each book.

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Peace Pilgrim

By Peace Pilgrim,

Book cover of Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words

Peace Pilgrim was a true modern pioneer. For nearly thirty years, starting in 1953, she devoted her life to international peace, as she crisscrossed America on foot with her few belongings on her back, "Walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.” At a time when American school kids were hiding under their desks in fear of a nuclear attack, Peace Pilgrim bravely “walked the talk” about unabashedly spoke about the necessity of peace, a message which inspired generations.


Who am I?

Brandon Wilson is an author, photographer, explorer, and pilgrim. He is a voracious explorer of nearly one hundred countries, he has trekked many pilgrimage trails, including: the Camino de Santiago, Camino Catalan, Camino Aragonés and Via de la Plata across Spain, and twice the St. Olav’s Way across Norway and Sweden. Brandon and his wife Cheryl were the first Western couple to complete the 1100-kilometer pilgrim trail from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu, and he was the first American to traverse the 1850-kilometer Via Francigena from England to Rome. In 2006, he and his French friend re-blazed the 4500-kilometer route of the First Crusades from France to Jerusalem, naming it the Templar Trail, to establish it as a path of peace.


I wrote...

Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace

By Brandon Wilson,

Book cover of Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace

What is my book about?

It was an idea born while hiking the famed Camino de Santiago across Spain. Two men shared a dream of trekking from Europe to the Middle East on the ultimate road trip. It just happened to also be a path walked by thousands of Crusaders, pilgrims, and merchants during the Middle Ages, a time when wars, unforgiving weather, wild dogs, and an ever-changing cast of weird characters tested even the toughest traveler.

As they say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Travel along with them as two modern-day travelers discover the truth when they take on that same ultimate challenge--to hike the Templar Trail across 11 countries and 2,600 miles to Jerusalem. Throwing themselves out into the universe with bad maps, blisters, but plenty of optimism, they face identical challenges in search of adventure, life's meaning, and lasting peace. Proving that even today, there's nothing like a little war to shake up your strongest resolve.

Mysticism

By Evelyn Underhill,

Book cover of Mysticism

This is sometimes heavy slogging, and irritating for the absence of her personal spiritual stories, but it remains a seminal work. Her lifelong quest was a source of private angst, provoking her to research and write novels, poems, and this psychological exploration of how the mystic fits into both worlds with joy. It includes a valuable appendix of mystics over centuries.


Who am I?

What a question. I’ve been asking it all my life. Publicly, I am known for writing and workshops about the spiritual search, intuition, the still, small voice of God, angels, and miraculous time-warped synchronicities that seem directed to our benefit. I have written about my own mystical illuminations in A Book of Angels, The Ecstatic Journey, The Path of Prayer, in novels, plays, stories, and poetry. My work is translated into some 25 languages (most recently Chinese). But underneath I’m an ordinary flawed, failed human being, stumbling, searching for meaning, struggling toward God, and trying to be of some small service before I go back home.


I wrote...

The Treasure of Montségur: A Novel of the Cathars

By Sophy Burnham,

Book cover of The Treasure of Montségur: A Novel of the Cathars

What is my book about?

How do you find hope in the midst of horror? From what aquifer springs blinding faith even when faced with being burnt alive? For two centuries the medieval Church worked to exterminate the vegetarian, pacifist “heretic” followers of Christ, known as Cathars or pure ones. Women were priests. Holy script was translated so everyone could read. Finally, 230 perfecti, trapped in the fortress of Montsegur in the south of France, lowered 2 perfecti and a guide on ropes down the sheer cliff face to escape and continue the Church of Love —before they were all burnt at the stake.

My novel begins when Jeanne, their guide, having lost the two, is looking for them. The Inquisition is looking for her. Everyone is looking for the immense Cathar treasure. What was the treasure of Montségur? 

Mort the Meek and the Ravens' Revenge

By Rachel Delahaye, George Ermos (illustrator),

Book cover of Mort the Meek and the Ravens' Revenge

This book is jam-packed with hilarious details and a narrator who loves to share jokes directly with the reader. The laughs come consistently and quickly, and as someone who knows how hard that is to achieve, I read with respect!

Mort the Meek’s role as the only vegetarian pacifist in the violent kingdom of Brutalia is comedy genius. Keeping his vow to live peacefully, without hurting anyone, becomes a challenge when the evil Queen appoints him Royal Executioner and his first job is to execute his best friend. Fantastic fun, fantastically illustrated, with enough gore to satisfy readers who love yelling ‘Urgh, gross!’ between their giggles.

“The ravens circled Brutalia, searching the ragged shoreline for distressed sailors. Or at least some body parts of distressed sailors. A plump eyeball was always nice.

Beware the ravens of Brutalia! said no one. Because no one ever survived to pass on the message.”


Who am I?

I am Rachel Hamilton and I’m the author of the Exploding series with Simon & Schuster and the Unicorn in New York series with OUP and Scholastic. I love making people laugh, especially when it's intentional rather than accidental. As well as writing books, I write comedy sketches and have performed standup as part of the Funny Girls tour in the Middle East. It's hard to do humor well, so I have huge respect and admiration for the authors on this list, because they do it fantastically. I hope you love their stories as much as I do. 


I wrote...

Louie Lets Loose! (Unicorn in New York)

By Rachel Hamilton,

Book cover of Louie Lets Loose! (Unicorn in New York)

What is my book about?

Louie the Unicorn convinces his parents to let him leave the sunlit meadows and enchanted waterfalls of Storyland and join the New York School of Performing Arts. Despite having the best roommates ever (Miranda the singing mermaid, Frank the belching troll, and Danny the faun who can’t see where he’s going because he’s lost his glasses) Louie struggles to fit in at his new school. Arnie, the other unicorn on campus, doesn't take kindly to the competition and tries to sabotage Louie’s efforts. But, with the help of his new friends, Louie steps up to the challenge and puts on a performance the other students will never forget! 

Käthe Kollwitz

By Martha Kearns,

Book cover of Käthe Kollwitz: Woman and Artist

Ms. Kollwitz is one of the most famous expressionistic German artists and was the first female to teach in a university setting. She was a pacifist, champion of the poor, a politically-active socialist. Under the Nazi regime, her work was labeled “Degenerate.”  After learning about Ms. Kollwitz, I wrote a play about her entitled Censored.


Who am I?

I have been fascinated by women who are artists and activists, such as Ivy Bottini, Käthe Kollwitz and Peggy Guggenheim. (All subjects of plays I wrote). They are convicted, unique, champions of justice, diversity and inclusion.


I wrote...

Goods & Effects

By Alvin Schnupp,

Book cover of Goods & Effects

What is my book about?

Devastated by the death of her husband and sons, Hannah, a Mennonite, sells the family farm and creates a store and living quarters in a delivery truck. She travels several circuits, selling her wares.  Hannah becomes the heart of a network of interlinking lives that span many years. As Hannah’s relationships deepen, her faith diminishes but her vision of humanity expands. Hannah is a clever problem-solver, shrewd schemer, spinner of tender lies, advocate for justice, unwitting promoter of the arts, and dream weaver.   

Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth

By Sheila O'Connor,

Book cover of Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth

Reading a novel in letters feels like snooping into someone's private thoughts, and that's exactly how I felt as I read Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth. Reenie, age 11, writes letters that highlight the conflict between those who supported the Vietnam War and those who opposed it. Her letters ultimately reveal the situation faced by her family and by Mr. Marsworth. They are funny and heartfelt. History and family drama mix together in Reenie's letters and Mr. Marsworth's occasional response. O'Connor does a fabulous job of presenting controversial history in an engaging way. 


Who am I?

As a child in New England, I climbed over stone walls wondering about the lives of those who built them. I devoured biographies and historical fiction, but I never imagined that I'd become a writer of such books for kids 8-14. First, I became a social studies teacher and, later, a librarian. I wanted my students to read about honorable characters striving to make the best of difficult but often little-known, historical situations. I demanded reliable details, a challenging conflict, and a resolution filled with hope for a better future. That is now my goal as a writer of children's books – and as a reader. These books meet those high standards. Enjoy! 


I wrote...

A Kidnapping In Kentucky 1776

By Elizabeth Raum,

Book cover of A Kidnapping In Kentucky 1776

What is my book about?

The Kentucky frontier was a beautiful place, but it was also a dangerous one. Jemima Boone and John Gass often heard wolves howling, bears growling, and snakes slithering through the tall grasses. There was no store, no school, no doctor at Fort Boonesborough. The settlers were on their own to deal with whatever threats arose. On a sunny summer day in July 1776, the crisis they faced was a kidnapping... based on a true event. 

In Other Lands

By Sarah Rees Brennan,

Book cover of In Other Lands

A huge part of why I write is that I struggle to find books I like written by other people, yet this one came out of left field and bowled me over (Elliot would probably hate that I used a sports metaphor for that). Elliot is the protagonist of this book and he is a walking queer disaster. I love him, I hate him, and I became strangely, desperately invested in him. The book doesn’t have what I would describe as a conventional plot, but Brennan does a fantastic job studying her characters with a depth that got me obsessed. During the few days it took me to read this book (when I had to put it down and do life things) I would huff around the house muttering ‘FFS Elliot!’ under my breath. If you want to know why, I recommend giving it a go.


Who am I?

I am a rainbow fantasy author who has been writing and studying LBGTQIA+ fantasy for over a decade, most well known for being the author of YA fantasy epic The War of the North Saga. I have an absolute passion for healthy and positive queer representation in fiction, and even though I was only able to pick a mere 5 books I hope I have offered up a teeny varied buffet of options to get readers started in the #1 genre that makes my heart sing.


I wrote...

Welcome to the Inbetween

By Kate Haley,

Book cover of Welcome to the Inbetween

What is my book about?

Welcome to the Inbetween is an LGBTQIA+ fantasy adventure that takes you on a ride of inspiring hopefulness. Genderfluid protagonist Chris Arrow falls into a brand new world where they discover that what makes them feel like an outsider back home is what makes them magical in the Inbetween. Chris’ coming of age journey is a satisfying dive into the joy of new-age queer YA fiction.

Threads of Peace

By Uma Krishnaswami,

Book cover of Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World

I greatly admire Mohandas Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., so I was intrigued when I heard about this book that looked at the common threads between two amazing historical figures who shared a goal of social reform. Being South Asian, I am very familiar with Mohandas Gandhi, and after moving to the United States, I learned a lot about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and this book revealed what led these two men down the path of peace. Even today, it saddens me that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. met their end to life by assassinations. I have only recently added this book to my classroom library, but anticipate it will be a popular choice among my students.


Who am I?

As a child, I loved escaping into my character’s world—solving mysteries with Nancy Drew, getting into trouble like Anne from Anne of Green Gables, and diving into adventures with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. But I never saw anyone like myself in those books. A girl with black hair and coffee-colored skin, who licked the last samosa crumb off her fingers. That's one of the reasons I write and read historical fiction. It allows you to take a ride with a person from that place and time, and the first rule of time travel is that you cannot change the past. But when you finish reading you may discover that the past has changed you. 


I wrote...

Orange for the Sunsets

By Tina Athaide,

Book cover of Orange for the Sunsets

What is my book about?

Asha and her best friend, Yesofu, never cared about the differences between them: Indian. African. Girl. Boy. But when Idi Amin announces that Indians have ninety days to leave the country, suddenly those differences are the only things that people in Entebbe can see. Determined for her life to stay the same, Asha clings to her world tighter than ever before. But Yesofu is torn, pulled between his friends, his family, and a promise of a better future. Now as neighbors leave and soldiers line the streets, the two friends find that nothing seems sure—not even their friendship.

Tensions between Indians and Africans intensify and the deadline to leave is fast approaching. Could the bravest thing of all be to let each other go?

Almighty

By Dan Zak,

Book cover of Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age

Zak is an award-winning reporter for the Washington Post where his gift for prose is on regular display. When he turned his skillful journalist’s eye toward nuclear weaponry and present-day anti-nuclear activism, the result was a book that takes readers through the night and aftermath of a break-in at one of the most secure facilities in the country, and a look at the moments and forces in history that shaped the people involved.


Who am I?

Denise Kiernan is a multiple New York Times bestselling author of narrative nonfiction books including The Girls Of Atomic City, The Last Castle, and We Gather Together. While writing The Girls Of Atomic City, Kiernan not only tracked down and interviewed countless individuals who worked directly on the Manhattan Project, she also consumed virtually every book ever written on the subject and spent endless days in the bowels of the National Archives deep-diving into the institution’s Atomic Energy Commission holdings. She served as a member of the Manhattan Project National Historic Park Scholars Forum in Washington, D.C., helping shape the topics and interpretive planning for this new national park. She has spoken at institutions across the country on topics covered in her book.


I wrote...

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

By Denise Kiernan,

Book cover of The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

What is my book about?

The Girls of Atomic City tells the unbelievable true story of young women during World War II who worked in a secret city dedicated to making fuel for the first atomic bomb—only they didn’t know that.

This narrative non-fiction book introduces the reader to this world through the eyes of the real women who lived and worked there during the war. The Girls of Atomic City is a story of patriotism and purpose, of mystery and suspicion, survival and remembrance.

One Woman Against War

By Kevin S. Giles,

Book cover of One Woman Against War: The Jeannette Rankin Story

Jeannette Rankin is so well known for being the first woman elected to the US Congress, and for voting against American entry into both world wars, that her vital role in achieving women’s suffrage goes unappreciated. In this full biography, Giles engagingly recounts her tireless work across the nation as a suffrage campaigner, as well as her introduction, as a member of the House of Representatives, of the Susan B. Anthony amendment that would guarantee women the vote. There are many biographies of Rankin—this one is especially balanced and lively.


Who am I?

History is my passion as well as my profession. I love a good story! Because understanding the past can be a powerful tool to improving the future, I have written dozens of op-eds and give public talks (some of which can be found in the C-SPAN online library as well as on YouTube). Most of my work focuses on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1877-1920) and includes two award-winning biographies, Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer, and Belle La Follette Progressive Era Reformer. I’m also the co-editor of A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and author of Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History.


I wrote...

Belle La Follette: Progressive Era Reformer

By Nancy C. Unger,

Book cover of Belle La Follette: Progressive Era Reformer

What is my book about?

As a speaker and a journalist, Belle La Follette (1859-1931) was a remarkable feminist, campaigner for world peace, and a leader in the fight for women’s suffrage.  She was outraged that many of the best-known white leaders in the suffrage movement were willing to throw their African American sisters under the bus in their efforts to gain the vote for themselves. She asserted that “This business of being a woman is, in many ways, like being a member of a despised race,” and that women should therefore fight against all second-class citizenship. She used her clout as the wife of a U.S. Senator to fight for racial justice and women’s equality, including the right to vote for every American.

The Upside-Down Kingdom

By Donald B. Kraybill,

Book cover of The Upside-Down Kingdom

If you’ve browsed my list this far, maybe you’re curious enough to peek into Mennonite theology, which truly is upside-down from the world we live in. Even though I’d been Mennonite all my life, this book, which I read decades ago, explained what radical Christian discipleship meant in a way I’d never fully understood. All those things that make the theology challenging—choosing pacifism, taking care of the least in society, living humbly instead of seeking power, turning the other cheek, forgiving when it’s easier to seek revenge—are also what make it transformative. If only living it were that easy.


Who am I?

I was born and raised in Kansas and will forever have a soft spot in my heart for golden wheat fields, sunflower-filled ditches, and sunsets that explode colors on the horizon. I always knew I’d write a book set in Kansas, and I’d explore my long Mennonite linage and its seemingly unrealistic theology. Pacifism is a beautiful concept until you’re faced with protecting the people you love. As I grew older, I became more curious about larger, practical questions. It’s one thing to be a conscientious objector to war. It’s another thing to confront the cosmically dark evil of your neighbor. From that, Never Enough Flamingos was born.


I wrote...

Never Enough Flamingos

By Janelle Diller,

Book cover of Never Enough Flamingos

What is my book about?

Ahhh, those quirky Mennonites. They choose peace and forgiveness, but then how do they confront evil in their midst, especially when that evil—the man who steals the souls of little girls—is also the savior for so many in the congregation who are financially desperate. What do they choose to do? Save the farm and sacrifice their daughter, or save the daughter and lose the farm?

Kirkus Reviews says this about Never Enough Flamingos, a 2017 Kansas Notable Book Selection: "It is a testament to Diller's authorial strength that, through the despair, she weaves in disarming humor... Peopled with some enduring characters and driven by both compassion and sarcasm, this is a vivid, surprising page-turner."

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