The best books about poverty

Who picked these books? Meet our 125 experts.

125 authors created a book list connected to poverty, and here are their favorite poverty books.
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Book cover of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor

Liah Greenfeld Author Of The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth

From the list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism.

Who am I?

The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth is the second volume of my nationalism trilogy. When I published the first volume, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, the accepted view on the subject of nationalism was that it is a product of economic development, specifically, of industrialization and capitalism. On the basis of historical evidence, I proved that its emergence had nothing to do with these economic phenomena: in fact, it preceded both. Reviews of Nationalism, noting that, for this reason, economic developments could not have caused nationalism, raised the question what relationship, then, did exist between nationalism and the economy, and this led me to investigate it. 

Liah's book list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism

Discover why each book is one of Liah's favorite books.

Why did Liah love this book?

This book is a rare attempt by an eminent economic historian to examine cultural determinants of economic growth and answer the question why it happens, which distinguishes it sharply from the discipline’s exclusive focus on how it proceeds.

Landes, in other words, disentangles the explanation of causes from the preoccupation with the process, which is why I recommend this book.

By David S. Landes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wealth and Poverty of Nations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now that the old division of the world into the two power blocs of East and West has subsided, the great gap in wealth and health that separates North and South remains the single greatest problem and danger facing the world of the Third Millennium. The only challenge of comparable scope and difficulty is the threat of the environmental deterioration, and the two are intimately connected, indeed are one. David Landes argues that the North-South division is the great drama of our times, and that drama implies tension, passion, conflict and disappointment as well as happy outcomes. While Landes does…

Manifesto for a Moral Revolution

By Jacqueline Novogratz,

Book cover of Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World

Scott Perry Author Of Onward: Where Certainty Ends, Possibility Begins

From the list on living the good life.

Who am I?

Scott's endeavor, Creative on Purpose, is a compass helping advancing difference-makers live their legacy. He's authored two Amazon top-sellers about living well by engaging in work that matters, Endeavor and Onward. As the head coach for Seth Godin's Creative and Freelancer Workshops, Scott helps others forge meaning and build identity through work that matters. For over thirty years, Scott found and spread joy as a professional musician and guitar teacher while maintaining a happy marriage, homeschooling his sons, and paying the bills. Scott is a husband and father, goes for a cemetery run every day, and quotes Marcus Aurelius more often than he should.

Scott's book list on living the good life

Discover why each book is one of Scott's favorite books.

Why did Scott love this book?

Drawing on inspiring stories from change-makers around the world and on memories of her own most difficult experiences, Jacqueline divulges the most common leadership mistakes and the mindsets needed to rise above them. A powerful reminder that the good life is built on work that is meaningful because it is challenging.

By Jacqueline Novogratz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Manifesto for a Moral Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"An instant classic." ―Arianna Huffington
"Will inspire people from across the political spectrum." ―Jonathan Haidt

Longlisted for the Porchlight Business Book of the Year Award, an essential shortlist of leadership ideas for everyone who wants to do good in this world, from Jacqueline Novogratz, author of the New York Times bestseller The Blue Sweater and founder and CEO of Acumen.

In 2001, when Jacqueline Novogratz founded Acumen, a global community of socially and environmentally responsible partners dedicated to changing the way the world tackles poverty, few had heard of impact investing―Acumen’s practice of “doing well by doing good.” Nineteen years…

Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding

By Daniel Patrick Moynihan,

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 the list on if you want government to work better.

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Greg's favorite books.

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

Expelling the Poor

By Hidetaka Hirota,

Book cover of Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy

Kevin Kenny Author Of The Problem of Immigration in a Slaveholding Republic: Policing Mobility in the Nineteenth-Century United States

From the list on US immigration in the nineteenth century.

Who am I?

I write and teach about nineteenth-century US history, and I am interested in immigration for both personal and professional reasons. A native of Dublin, Ireland, I did my undergraduate work in Edinburgh, Scotland, completed my graduate degree in New York City, moved to Austin, Texas for my first academic job and to Boston for my second job, and then returned to New City York to take up my current position at NYU, where I teach US immigration history and run Glucksman Ireland House. The key themes in my work—migration, diaspora, and empire—have been as central to my life journey as to my research and teaching. 

Kevin's book list on US immigration in the nineteenth century

Discover why each book is one of Kevin's favorite books.

Why did Kevin love this book?

Thoroughly researched, elegantly written, and deeply humane, Expelling the Poor shows how poverty—and Irish poverty in particular—shaped American immigration policy.

Until the late nineteenth century, Hidetaka Hirota demonstrates, individual states and cities controlled their own borders. They regulated, taxed, excluded, and removed the Irish poor, thereby laying the groundwork for the national policy that emerged in the 1880s.

By examining the impact of nativist sentiment, Hirota reveals how policies directed at the Irish-born poor, alongside the exclusion of Chinese laborers, explain the origins of immigration policy in the United States.

By Hidetaka Hirota,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Expelling the Poor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Expelling the Poor examines the origins of immigration restriction in the United States, especially deportation policy. Based on an analysis of immigration policies in major American coastal states, including New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Louisiana, and California, it provides the first sustained study of immigration control conducted by states prior to the introduction of federal immigration law in the late nineteenth century. The influx
of impoverished Irish immigrants over the first half of the nineteenth century led nativists in New York and Massachusetts to develop policies for prohibiting the landing of destitute foreigners and deporting those already resident in the…

I Yam a Donkey!

By Cece Bell,

Book cover of I Yam a Donkey!

Natasha Wing Author Of Bagel in Love

From the list on talking food books.

Who am I?

I love a good pun and have written a joke book all about food called Lettuce Laugh. I think food is relatable to kids and they can put themselves in the food’s shoes and learn about friendship and being true to themselves through talking food characters. Humor plays a big part in the books I recommended, but it’s a great way to deliver a lasting message. Another book I wrote is also about food - Jalapeño Bagels, but unlike Bagel In Love, these bagels don’t talk! I love Bagel In Love so much I had a dress made with some of the characters embroidered on it.

Natasha's book list on talking food books

Discover why each book is one of Natasha's favorite books.

Why did Natasha love this book?

When I hear bad grammar, I cringe. So this book was cringeworthy, but because it was done in a silly way to show bad grammar and how to correct it, it was very clever. A yam tries to get a donkey with poor grammar to speak correctly. When his vegetable friends butt in to see what the fight is about, the donkey has the last word.

By Cece Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Yam a Donkey! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I YAM a donkey!" said Donkey.
"I AM a donkey!" replied Yam.
"You is a donkey too?"

A Yam who hates sloppy pronunciation and poor grammar triest his hardest to correct an ungrammatical donkey. An escalating series of misunderstandings leaves the yam furious and the clueless donkey bewildered by the yam's growing (and amusing) frustration. The yam finally gets his point across, but regrettably, he's made the situation a little bit too clear... and the story ends with a dark and outrageously funny twist.

Why Nations Fail

By Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson,

Book cover of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Sergei Guriev Author Of Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century

From the list on why countries succeed and why they fail.

Who am I?

What are some countries rich and others are poor? I strongly believe that this is the most important question for modern economics. I've become an economist to understand this. I am happy that in recent decades economists – working closely together with other social scientists – have made so much progress in this field. And this is not abstract knowledge – it is being applied already to help developing countries catch up with the rich world. I have seen it myself when I took a leave from academia to work as a Chief Economist of a development bank (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) – to learn more from and to contribute to this work.

Sergei's book list on why countries succeed and why they fail

Discover why each book is one of Sergei's favorite books.

Why did Sergei love this book?

This is a bestselling book that tackles the most important question in economics: why some countries are rich, and some are poor.

This well-written and convincing book provides a very broad and accessible overview of history of successful and failing societies. It argues that inclusive democratic institutions deliver better economic outcomes than authoritarian ones.

Given that this view is based on recent research in political economy and development economics – including the authors’ own groundbreaking work – this is a must-read for all advocates of liberal democracy who want to have quantitative arguments and historical narratives to stand up to the rise of authoritarianism around the world. 

I teach political economy of development. My job is to explain to the students why some countries are rich and others are poor.

Acemoglu and Robinson is a wonderful and accessible textbook. Students love it – even if they often argue with the…

By Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2012.

Why are some nations more prosperous than others? Why Nations Fail sets out to answer this question, with a compelling and elegantly argued new theory: that it is not down to climate, geography or culture, but because of institutions. Drawing on an extraordinary range of contemporary and historical examples, from ancient Rome through the Tudors to modern-day China, leading academics Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson show that to invest and prosper, people need to know that if they work hard, they can make money…

Unsettled Ground

By Claire Fuller,

Book cover of Unsettled Ground

Joy M. Lilley Author Of The Liberty Bodice

From the list on WW2 and women of the Special Operations Executive.

Who am I?

My name is Joy Gerken pen name Joy M., Lilley. I live in Kent, England with husband Michael and our three rescue cats. We have four children, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. I began writing in 2013 after retiring from a long nursing career. My list is multi-genre, I like to both read and write books from all genres. It broadens my horizons and helps me focus more clearly on my own writing. I recommend all five books to you as I have enjoyed the reading of them all.

Joy's book list on WW2 and women of the Special Operations Executive

Discover why each book is one of Joy's favorite books.

Why did Joy love this book?

This is a glorious read that supplies verve, love, and heart. Two siblings are still living with their mother in their fifties in poverty and isolation. There is a serious risk of the inability to cope following their mother's demise. Music is a theme running throughout this charming story of resilience, and the survival instinct.

The two find they are living on the fringes of society, however, the ending proves that light can be spun from darkness.

By Claire Fuller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2021 Costa Novel Award

Finalist for the Women's Prize in Fiction

Named a Best Book of the Month by Entertainment Weekly, PopSugar, Bustle, Chicago Review of Books, PureWow, a Best Book of Summer by Daily Beast and one of Good Housekeeping's Best Books of 2021

"Full of dramatic twists and turns right up until its moving, beautiful end." —NPR Books

At fifty-one years old, twins Jeanie and Julius still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation in the English countryside. The cottage they have shared their entire lives is their only protection against the modernizing world…

It's All Good

By Boogie,

Book cover of It's All Good

Tom Carter Author Of China: Portrait of a People

From the list on documentary photography.

Who am I?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for a two-year backpacking sojourn across the country. I took a bunch of snapshots along the way with a little point-and-shoot camera. 800 of those images became my first book. Photography – be it travel, documentary, street or reportage – is my passion. The following are but five of five hundred books I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on documentary photography

Discover why each book is one of Tom's favorite books.

Why did Tom love this book?

I’ll bookend this list with what I consider to be a sort of updated take on Larry Clark’s Tulsa. Serbian photog Boogie has published similarly solemn collections on Moscow and war-torn Belgrade. With It’s All Good, he arrived in New York’s most violent neighborhoods circa 2010 to document the hard and often tragic lives of urban youth. Gangsters pointing their guns into the lens or jabbing their veins with needles might not make the most appealing coffee table book, but the photos themselves are even more sublime than anything shot by Clark, making this book a worthy successor.

By Boogie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It's All Good as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A whole lot of initiations happen every day. You hear about them on the news, but you don’t know it was an initiation. You hear about somebody getting shot somewhere in New York, and nobody knows why that person got shot; nine times out of ten it was a gang initiation. I am a three-star general in the Bloods, so I know what’s going on. The majority of crime in New York City is ’cause of gangs; drugs, killings, stabbings, robberies, even the bullshit car theft, the fucking pettiest crimes and misdemeanors are all ’cause of gangs.”
—Kasino, from his…

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt

By Chris Hedges, Joe Sacco,

Book cover of Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt

Mckay Jenkins Author Of Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness and Murder in the Arctic Barren Lands

From the list on environmental justice.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing books on environmental journalism and teaching Environmental Humanities and Environmental Justice at the University of Delaware for 25 years. Each of these books has made a particularly powerful impression on me and my students in recent years. They are powerful calls for a genuine reckoning with racial and environmental injustice throughout American history

Mckay's book list on environmental justice

Discover why each book is one of Mckay's favorite books.

Why did Mckay love this book?

An illustrated book of long-form nonfiction that examines poor Black, Indigenous, White, and Migrant communities in the United States, and how they have all been broken by extractive capitalism and racist public policy. Hedges’ writing is intentionally polemical, designed to shatter any illusions about the welfare of our fellow citizens living in communities ruined by racism and industrial-scale environmental degradation. Sacco’s long-form graphic illustrations are equally haunting. I’ve taught this book continually for many years.

By Chris Hedges, Joe Sacco,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book of the Year by and the Washington Post Three years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges and award-winning cartoonist and journalist Joe Sacco set out to take a look at the sacrifice zones, those areas in America that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement. They wanted to show in words and drawings what life looks like in places where the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is the…

Once You Know This

By Emily Blejwas,

Book cover of Once You Know This

Lisa Lewis Tyre Author Of Hope in the Holler

From the list on to help kids build empathy for those in need.

Who am I?

I am the author of two middle grade books, and I love writing about kids who may not have much materially but abound in heart and courage. I grew up in a small southern town and my childhood was just like that—low on income but full of love, hope, and friendship. I want kids to know that despite their circumstances there is hope for a better life. Like Wavie’s mom tells her in my book, Hope In The Holler, “You’ve got as much right to a good life as anybody. So go find it!”

Lisa's book list on to help kids build empathy for those in need

Discover why each book is one of Lisa's favorite books.

Why did Lisa love this book?

This beautiful book opens with the line, “Every day Mr. McInnis tells us to imagine our future.” Unfortunately, for Brittany, she can’t envision a future that holds anything good. Her mother is in an abusive and controlling relationship and her grandmother suffers from dementia. I love that this book shows a positive teacher, a mom who, despite her own bad choices, truly loves her children, and a family willing to go to bat for one another. Extra points for the intergenerational storyline of a grandmother who lives with the family.

By Emily Blejwas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once You Know This as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A girl wishes for a better life for herself, her mom, and her baby brother and musters the courage to make it happen in this moving and emotionally satisfying story for readers of Kate DiCamillo and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

“Once You Know This reminds me of a flower blooming in the crack of a sidewalk. It’s important, and it’s special. Just read it.”—Ali Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Thing About Jellyfish
Eleven-year-old Brittany knows there has to be a better world out there. Lately, though, it sure doesn’t feel like it. She and her best friend, Marisol,…

Revolutionary Power

By Shalanda Baker,

Book cover of Revolutionary Power: An Activist's Guide to the Energy Transition

Clark A. Miller Author Of Cities of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures

From the list on leading the clean energy revolution.

Who am I?

My motto is: we are techno-humans. Whatever nature or God created, we re-created. We move in cars, chat via the Internet, and eat industrial food. Technologies shape our bodies, identities, even imagination. That’s why the energy transition fascinates me. We propose to rip out and replace the technological foundations of the global economy. No less than the data revolution, energy transitions are about human re-invention. So, what kinds of human futures are we engineering? And can we design energy futures that make human futures better, more inclusive, more just? Figuring that out is my job as Director of the Center for Energy & Society at Arizona State University.

Clark's book list on leading the clean energy revolution

Discover why each book is one of Clark's favorite books.

Why did Clark love this book?

There’s no better place to start exploring the revolutionary potential of renewable energy than Revolutionary Power. The new justice tsar at the US Department of Energy, Baker takes you inside the struggle of African American communities with the environmental injustices of fossil fuels. No industry has created more inequality, violence, injustice, pollution, and corruption, worldwide, over its history than energy. The great hope of renewable energy is to solve climate change while also restoring justice: creating new energy technologies and also new practices of energy development, new forms of ownership, and new ways to integrate technology generatively into communities and landscapes. In the story of her life and her community, Baker illustrates why the quest for energy justice and democracy is critical to the success of the clean energy revolution.

By Shalanda Baker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, completely upending the energy grid of the small island. The nearly year-long power outage that followed vividly shows how the new climate reality intersects with race and access to energy. The island is home to brown and black US citizens who lack the political power of those living in the continental US. As the world continues to warm and storms like Maria become more commonplace, it is critical that we rethink our current energy system to enable reliable, locally produced, and locally controlled energy without replicating the current structures of power and…

The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls,

Book cover of The Glass Castle

Lynn Alsup Author Of Tinderbox: One Family's Story of Adoption, Neurodiversity, and Fierce Love

From the list on memoirs that crack open a brutal and beautiful world.

Who am I?

As a young social worker, I left the world I knew and moved into violent urban centers and traveled the developing world. The suffering and beauty entranced me. Questions reverberated in me: What does it mean to be part of the vast human community? How can I live most fully? When I adopted children, violence and difference confronted me not “out there” but at home. I wrestled, shocked by my own judgment and narrowness—until I accepted in my bones the myriad ways to live a remarkable life. Curiosity became my superpower. Tinderbox, my unflinching memoir, invites readers into my family’s brutal and beautiful transformation through embracing neurodiversity. 

Lynn's book list on memoirs that crack open a brutal and beautiful world

Discover why each book is one of Lynn's favorite books.

Why did Lynn love this book?

Walls tells the truth. Just her mom’s advice to, “What do I tell people?”—an ache of a question that’s twisted my own writer’s stomach.

I felt my own family shame as Walls found her mom dumpster diving in the East Village, triggering her escape back to her Park Avenue apartment. And the love that landed them together for Chinese food soon after. Her father, brilliant and inhumane, became a mirror for the contradictions inherent in my family, in us all.

She sets us down smack in the middle of the desert and the Appalachians by engaging all our senses. Writing in a version of the voice I slip into returning home for Thanksgiving, she reintroduced me to the child living inside me, still striving to be free.

By Jeannette Walls,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Glass Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson.

This is a startling memoir of a successful journalist's journey from the deserted and dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. Jeanette Walls narrates her nomadic and adventurous childhood with her dreaming, 'brilliant' but alcoholic parents.

At the age of seventeen she escapes on a Greyhound bus to New York with her older sister; her younger siblings follow later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, Jeanette eventually succeeds in her quest for the 'mundane,…


By Coe Booth,

Book cover of Tyrell

Paul Volponi Author Of The Great G.O.A.T. Debate: The Best of the Best in Everything from Sports to Science

From the list on for fearless readers.

Who am I?

I spent 16 years teaching in NYC public schools, six of them on Rikers Island the world's biggest jail where I helped incarcerated teens improve their reading and writing skills. That experience helped to launch me on my own writing career. The job of the author? To hold up a mirror to society and reflect upon the page what the reader may not have experienced yet or missed seeing in the world outside the borders of a book.

Paul's book list on for fearless readers

Discover why each book is one of Paul's favorite books.

Why did Paul love this book?

Booth is an extraordinary writer and Tyrell is her signature story. Tyrell is a young man living under incredible pressure with a family that needs him to have both feet on the ground. But he's always on the verge of going the wrong way. Will the need for fast money put him in prison like his father? Booth is in complete command of her characters, story and pacing here. A marvelous book that will make you grateful for your own choices in life.

By Coe Booth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An astonishing new voice in teen literature, writing what is sure to be one of the most talked-about debuts of the year.

Tyrell is a young African-American teen who can't get a break. He's living (for now) with his spaced-out mother and little brother in a homeless shelter. His father's in jail. His girlfriend supports him, but he doesn't feel good enough for her -- and seems to be always on the verge of doing the wrong thing around her. There's another girl at the homeless shelter who is also after him, although the desires there are complicated. Tyrell feels…

Book cover of The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660–1720

Andrew Konove Author Of Black Market Capital: Urban Politics and the Shadow Economy in Mexico City

From the list on everyday life in Mexico City.

Who am I?

I grew up hearing stories about Mexico City from my grandmother, who spent her childhood in the 1930s there after emigrating from the Soviet Union. I fell in love with the city’s neighborhoods during my first visit in 2006, and I am still mesmerized by its scale and its extremes. I am especially interested in the city’s public spaces and the ways people have used them for work and pleasure over the centuries. Those activities often take place in the gray areas of the law, a dynamic I explored in the research for my Ph.D. in History and in my book, Black Market Capital

Andrew's book list on everyday life in Mexico City

Discover why each book is one of Andrew's favorite books.

Why did Andrew love this book?

Douglas Cope’s book is a wonderful work of social history that explores how issues of race and class impacted the lives of working people in colonial Mexico City. Cope shows that Spain’s so-called “caste system” was more ideal than reality. A person’s physical appearance, occupation, and social milieu shaped perceptions of their race and ethnicity far more than their lineage, which was not something most people documented in this era. The book combines quantitative and qualitative analysis to provide a rich description of everyday life, bringing readers into artisans’ workshops, market vendors’ stalls, and other spaces where people lived and worked in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

By R. Douglas Cope,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

     In this distinguished contribution to Latin American colonial history, Douglas Cope draws upon a wide variety of sources—including Inquisition and court cases, notarial records and parish registers—to challenge the traditional view of castas (members of the caste system created by Spanish overlords) as rootless, alienated, and dominated by a desire to improve their racial status.  On the contrary, the castas, Cope shows, were neither passive nor ruled by feelings of racial inferiority; indeed, they often modified or even rejected elite racial ideology.  Castas also sought ways to manipulate their social "superiors" through astute use of the legal system.  Cope shows…

Automating Inequality

By Virginia Eubanks,

Book cover of Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor

Jerry Fishenden Author Of Fracture. The collision between technology and democracy-and how we fix it

From the list on technology and democracy.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved technology. I like the constant change, the sense of creativity and invention, of how it can act as an incredible force for good and human progress and betterment in the world. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t tinkering with gadgets—taking radios apart to mend them or learn how they worked; designing electronic circuits for music synthesis; programming computers. But I’ve also always been interested in politics and the complex intersection of technology and public policy. So much so that most of my working life has been spent at this intersection, which is why I love these books—and hope you will too.

Jerry's book list on technology and democracy

Discover why each book is one of Jerry's favorite books.

Why did Jerry love this book?

From the moment I picked this up, it gripped me.

Virginia Eubanks writes in an incredibly immersive and engaging style, making her book as compulsive as a work of fiction—and equally hard to put down. It exposes the deeply toxic consequences of the way automated decision-making increasingly dominates our public institutions, creating a sort of “twenty-first century digital poorhouse”.

This automated inequality denies citizens their humanity and any sense of agency, condemning them to the sort of negative moral judgments and cycle of decline and despair that would have been familiar to Charles Dickens in his day. 

By Virginia Eubanks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Indiana, one million people lose their healthcare, food stamps, and cash benefits in three years-because a new computer system interprets any application mistake as "failure to cooperate." In Los Angeles, an algorithm calculates the comparative vulnerability of tens of thousands of homeless people in order to prioritize them for a shrinking pool of housing resources. In Pittsburgh, a child welfare agency uses a statistical model to try to predict which children might be future victims of abuse or neglect.

Since the dawn of the digital age, decision-making in finance, employment, politics, health and human services has undergone revolutionary change.…

Book cover of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Priscilla Gilman Author Of The Critic's Daughter: A Memoir

From the list on loving and losing a complicated father.

Who am I?

I'm the daughter of a charismatic and complicated father, the late theater and literary critic and Yale School of Drama professor Richard Gilman. My memoir, The Critic's Daughter, tells the story of how I lost him for the first time when I was ten years old and over and over in the ensuing months and years; the book is my attempt to find him. I'm a former professor of English literature at Yale and Vassar, the mother of two boys, a book critic for the Boston Globe, and a literature, writing, and meditation teacher.

Priscilla's book list on loving and losing a complicated father

Discover why each book is one of Priscilla's favorite books.

Why did Priscilla love this book?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the semi-autobiographical novel by Betty Smith, gives us one of the most vivid and endearing, appealing yet vulnerable fathers in all of literature.

Johnny Nolan is handsome, debonair, a talented singer, and a terrible alcoholic. His bond with his only daughter, Francie, is at once playful and profound. Francie adores her charming and doting father, worries incessantly about his well-being, delights in his exuberance and gallantry, and fears his inevitable demise.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was first published in 1943; the 1945 film version, directed by Elia Kazan, won the best supporting actor for the actor who played Johnny and a special Juvenile Oscar for the actress who played Francie.

Johnny is one of the 40 Characters In Search of My Father that flit through the pages of my memoir.

By Betty Smith,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

A special 75th anniversary edition of the beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could…

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

By Thomas Hardy, Simon Gatrell (editor), Juliet Grindle (editor)

Book cover of Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Robert Wynne-Simmons Author Of Blood on Satan's Claw: or, The Devil's Skin

From the list on supernatural challenging the way we see the world.

Who am I?

I was born a polymath in Cheam, Surrey, England. Even as a child I had a passionate interest in music, architecture, film, poetry, drama, and storytelling. I lived very much in the world of my imagination and was able to apply it to a wide variety of projects. I have worked in Film, TV, Theatre, and have written scripts, plays, novels, songs, a musical, and an opera, all different in feeling. I have therefore had a special interest in innovative artistic work, and story-telling which pushes the boundaries of the imagination.

Robert's book list on supernatural challenging the way we see the world

Discover why each book is one of Robert's favorite books.

Why did Robert love this book?

What a wonderful book, which has a murderess as its heroine, and makes a mockery of the English Class System! It is still banned in a number of American schools. 

When I was a small child I was shown Tess’s grave. It was a huge empty stone sarcophagus. Where was she? In the novel she was put there by the man I regard as the true villain of the book, “Angel” Clare. She never forgets that coffin, and as she is travelling to her death, she encounters even older stones, when she spends the night at Stonehenge. 

The book is infused with the dark presence of the ancient English countryside. Hardy may be a realist, but the “dreaming dark, dumb thing that turns the handle of this idle show” is never far away.

By Thomas Hardy, Simon Gatrell (editor), Juliet Grindle (editor)

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Tess of the D'Urbervilles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'She looked absolutely pure. Nature, in her fantastic trickery, had set such a seal of maidenhood upon Tess's countenance that he gazed at her with a stupefied air: "Tess- say it is not true! No, it is not true!"'

Young Tess Durbeyfield attempts to restore her family's fortunes by claiming their connection with the aristocratic d'Urbervilles. But Alec d'Urberville is a rich wastrel who seduces her and makes her life miserable. When Tess meets Angel Clare, she is offered true love and happiness, but her past catches up with her and she faces an agonizing moral choice.

Hardy's indictment of…

Mountains Beyond Mountains

By Tracy Kidder, Michael French,

Book cover of Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World

Stephanie Nolen Author Of 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

From the list on understanding Africa’s AIDS pandemic and feeling hopeful.

Who am I?

I’m the global health reporter for The New York Times, the latest iteration in 30 years as a foreign correspondent. I’ve covered wars and humanitarian disasters, but it’s health stories that have always drawn me most. Health stories are intimate and personal, but they’re also about politics and economics, and social norms – about power. I’ve written about the Zika virus crisis in Brazil, child malnutrition in India, teen suicide in the Arctic – but no story has drawn me in and kept me riveted like Africa’s AIDS pandemic has over the past 25 years. I intend to keep reporting on it until the day a cure is found.

Stephanie's book list on understanding Africa’s AIDS pandemic and feeling hopeful

Discover why each book is one of Stephanie's favorite books.

Why did Stephanie love this book?

Wait, this book isn’t about Africa! No: it’s a biography of Dr. Paul Farmer, a co-founder of the medical humanitarian agency Partners in Health who died in 2022, and who had a major influence on how I, and thousands of others, think about providing healthcare in low-resource settings.

This extremely readable biography of Farmer focuses mostly on his work in Haiti – where Farmer did pioneering work on HIV treatment – and while it’s the other side of the world, it’s a crucial text for rethinking how we understand structural inequalities and access to health care.

The seeds of Farmer’s radical approach were taken by many idealistic medical workers into African HIV programs and indeed when he died, he was in Rwanda, where he co-founded the University of Global Health Equity.

By Tracy Kidder, Michael French,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tracy Kidder's critically acclaimed adult nonfiction work, Mountains Beyond Mountains has been adapted for young people by Michael French. In this young adult edition, readers are introduced to Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard-educated doctor with a self-proclaimed mission to transform healthcare on a global scale. Farmer focuses his attention on some of the world's most impoverished people and uses unconventional ways in which to provide healthcare, to achieve real results and save lives.

Book cover of Rethinking the Welfare Rights Movement

Ángela Vergara Author Of Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile

From the list on the history of the welfare state.

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Ángela's favorite books.

Why did Ángela love this book?

It is difficult to find an accessible and comprehensible history of the welfare state in the United States. But this book does exactly that. Premilla Nadasen writes an engaging overview of the welfare rights movement and the role played by radical Black feminist organizations. By analyzing the primary campaigns of the movement for welfare reform throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the reader gets a complete picture of the main actors involved and their political demands.

By Premilla Nadasen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rethinking the Welfare Rights Movement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The welfare rights movement was an interracial protest movement of poor women on AFDC who demanded reform of welfare policy, greater respect and dignity, and financial support to properly raise and care for their children. In short, they pushed for a right to welfare. Lasting from the early 1960s to the mid 1970s, the welfare rights movement crossed political boundaries, fighting simultaneously for women's rights, economic justice, and black women's empowerment through welfare assistance. Its members challenged stereotypes, engaged in Congressional debates, and developed a sophisticated political analysis that combined race, class, gender, and culture, and crafted a distinctive, feminist,…

Through the Barricades

By Denise Deegan, Aimee Alexander,

Book cover of Through the Barricades

Mahrie G. Reid Author Of The Left-Behind Bride

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

Who am I?

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

Discover why each book is one of Mahrie's favorite books.

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.

What is this book about?


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…