The most recommended social justice books

Who picked these books? Meet our 74 experts.

74 authors created a book list connected to social justice, and here are their favorite social justice books.
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Book cover of An Introduction to Language and Society

Neil Thompson Author Of The Social Worker's Practice Manual

From my list on promoting social justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father died when I was a young child, and so my uncle became the nearest I had to a father figure. He was a trade unionist and strongly committed to social justice. I was so enamoured by the compassion he showed towards socially disadvantaged people and the struggles they encounter through no fault of their own that I became an advocate for social justice from an early age. That passion for fairness and inclusion has stayed with me throughout my career and therefore figures strongly in my writings and, over the years, in my teaching, training, and consultancy work.

Neil's book list on promoting social justice

Neil Thompson Why did Neil love this book?

After football and music, my first love was languages. From an early age I became fascinated with how language works and how significant it is in shaping social life and interpersonal relationships.

That fascination still remains, but what I find particularly interesting (and significant) is the relationship between language and social justice. Unfortunately, this has been hijacked by the simplistic ‘political correctness’ approach that seeks to simply ban certain words. The reality is far more complex and nuanced than this, and so a much more sophisticated approach is needed.

That’s where this excellent book comes in. It provides a very helpful analysis of how language and society interact in a variety of ways. 

By Martin Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Introduction to Language and Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this third edition of the bestselling classic textbook, Martin Montgomery explores the key connections between language and social life. Guiding the student through discussions on child language, accent and dialect, social class and gender, as well as a number of other topics, Montgomery provides a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the function of language in modern society.

This third edition includes:

new sections on dialect levelling and estuary English; hip-hop and rapping as anti-language and 'crossing' between Creole, Panjabi and South Asian English new material on the Gulf War and the 'War on Terror' discussions on language in internet…


Book cover of Unsustainable Inequalities: Social Justice and the Environment

Alessio Terzi Author Of Growth for Good: Reshaping Capitalism to Save Humanity from Climate Catastrophe

From my list on the relationship between the economy and nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an economist at the European Commission, Adjunct Professor in Paris, former fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and now a first-time author, I thrive at the intersection of academia, think-tanks, and policy-making. My academic soul leads me to seek answers to the big questions: what is economic growth and how does it relate to the success of civilization, to science and technology, to people’s wellbeing, and to nature. My practical focus leads me to draw the policy implications of all this for how we ought to fight climate change. My critics accuse me of being an optimist. I take it as a compliment: the future of humanity is in our hands.

Alessio's book list on the relationship between the economy and nature

Alessio Terzi Why did Alessio love this book?

We intuitively understand that decarbonization and social justice are deeply interwoven as 21st-century challenges.

Dr. Chancel’s book shows us in great detail how this is the case, and therefore why it is important to keep inequalities in mind when designing policies to accelerate the decarbonization of the economy. After all, the poor are also more exposed to the catastrophic events associated with climate change.

But perhaps my greatest takeaway was looking at the problem the other way around, meaning that Chancel also shows us how tackling social inequalities can actually help us address some environmental challenges. 

By Lucas Chancel, Malcolm DeBevoise (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Financial Times Best Book of the Year

A hardheaded book that confronts and outlines possible solutions to a seemingly intractable problem: that helping the poor often hurts the environment, and vice versa.

Can we fight poverty and inequality while protecting the environment? The challenges are obvious. To rise out of poverty is to consume more resources, almost by definition. And many measures to combat pollution lead to job losses and higher prices that mainly hurt the poor. In Unsustainable Inequalities, economist Lucas Chancel confronts these difficulties head-on, arguing that the goals of social justice and a greener world can…


Book cover of David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Ben Wiener Author Of Murder at First Principles

From my list on non-business reads that teach business strategy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an experienced entrepreneur and venture capitalist and a voracious reader. My reading, particularly of non-business books, is motivated not just by a natural curiosity, but is also driven by a continuous search for metaphors and lessons from outside the traditional business genre that I can apply to situations and decisions in the business arena. My appreciation of the crossover benefit of non-business narratives to business contexts has motivated me to write my own Business Fiction works to “enlighten and entertain.” 

Ben's book list on non-business reads that teach business strategy

Ben Wiener Why did Ben love this book?

While David and Goliath is generally listed as a “self-help” book, Gladwell’s understanding of the biblical vignette unlocks a profound business strategy that Hamilton Helmer defines as “Counterpositioning” in his book 7 Powers.

Not a weak “underdog” at all, David (the Challenger) defeats Goliath (the Incumbent) by turning Goliath’s very strengths into his weaknesses.

David alters the rules of engagement and confidently strides into battle knowing that he has an excellent chance of success because Goliath, even as he sees David’s strategy unfolding, is incapable of competing David’s way.

David is the quintessential counterpositioner, adopting a model of behavior that Goliath is powerless to employ in response, much like Netflix streaming videos on demand and competing with giant Blockbuster and its megastores filled with physical VHS tapes. Game over.

By Malcolm Gladwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Explore the power of the underdog in Malcolm Gladwell's dazzling examination of success, motivation, and the role of adversity in shaping our lives, from the bestselling author of The Bomber Mafia.

Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David's victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn't have won.

Or should he have?

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwellchallenges how we think about obstacles…


Beautiful and Terrible Things

By S. M. Stevens,

Book cover of Beautiful and Terrible Things

S. M. Stevens

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Charley Byrne isn’t really living. She hunkers down in her apartment above the bookstore she manages, until quirky activist Xander Wallace lures her out of social exile with the prospect of friendship and romance. Charley joins Xander’s circle of diverse friends and thrives, even leaving her comfort zone to join protests in a city struggling with social justice ills.

But the new friendships bring back-to-back betrayals that threaten the bookstore—Charley’s haven—and propel her into a dangerous depression, in a stark reminder that friendship has the power to destroy as well as save lives. Can her friends save the store? And Charley?

Beautiful and Terrible Things

By S. M. Stevens,

What is this book about?

"A beautifully crafted story of friendship and self-discovery set amidst the harsh realities of today's world. Superb!" -Eileen O'Finlan, author of Erin's Children

Charley Byrne isn't really living. At age 29, she hunkers down in her apartment above the bookstore she manages, afraid of a 7-year curse. Then quirky activist Xander Wallace lures her out of social exile with the prospect of friendship and romance. Charley joins Xander's circle of friends diverse in their heritage, race, gender and sexual orientation. She thrives, even leaving her comfort zone to join protests in a city struggling with social justice ills.

But the…


Book cover of Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health

Neil Thompson Author Of The Social Worker's Practice Manual

From my list on promoting social justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father died when I was a young child, and so my uncle became the nearest I had to a father figure. He was a trade unionist and strongly committed to social justice. I was so enamoured by the compassion he showed towards socially disadvantaged people and the struggles they encounter through no fault of their own that I became an advocate for social justice from an early age. That passion for fairness and inclusion has stayed with me throughout my career and therefore figures strongly in my writings and, over the years, in my teaching, training, and consultancy work.

Neil's book list on promoting social justice

Neil Thompson Why did Neil love this book?

I’ve long been suspicious of the medical model of mental health.

My own work with people struggling with mental health challenges convinced me that simply regarding them as ‘mentally ill’ and in need of medication was not helpful. The reality I encountered was far more multidimensional, with psychological, social, and spiritual matters being just as important as the biological, if not more so.

This edited collection brings together critical analyses of the medical model from a wide range of authors. The basic message is that we need to rethink conceptions of mental illness and recognize that there is immense potential for discrimination and oppression if these wider aspects are not taken into consideration.

Anyone who doubts the wisdom of the medical model will find this book very informative.

By Bruce Cohen (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health offers the most comprehensive collection of theoretical and applied writings to date with which students, scholars, researchers and practitioners within the social and health sciences can systematically problematise the practices, priorities and knowledge base of the Western system of mental health. With the continuing contested nature of psychiatric discourse and the work of psy-professionals, this book is a timely return to theorising the business of mental health as a social, economic, political and cultural project: one which necessarily involves the consideration of wider societal and structural dynamics including labelling and deviance, ideological…


Book cover of Dear White Peacemakers: Dismantling Racism with Grit and Grace

Malinda Fugate Author Of The Other Three Sixteens

From Malinda's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Passionate Jesus-follower Curious Compassionate Kids Ministry Director

Malinda's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Malinda Fugate Why did Malinda love this book?

Stories that give us a new perspective are gifts. As a white person learning about racism, I appreciate beyond words when someone from the Black community takes time to generously share their experience.

Beyond learning to recognize the ways I’ve been oblivious to my own biases, it was a blessing to figuratively walk with Osheta Moore through Dear White Peacemakers, as she shares her story and shows us a better way to care for our neighbors. 

By Osheta Moore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Dear White Peacemakers is a breakup letter to division, a love letter to God’s beloved community, and an eviction notice to the violent powers that have sustained racism for centuries.

Race is one of the hardest topics to discuss in America. Many white Christians avoid talking about it altogether. But a commitment to peacemaking requires white people to step out of their comfort and privilege and into the work of anti-racism. Dear White Peacemakers is an invitation to white Christians to come to the table and join this hard work and holy calling. Rooted in the life, ministry, and teachings…


Book cover of Dinosaurs

Chuck Augello Author Of The Revolving Heart

From Chuck's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Wildlife enthusiast Vonnegutian All around human being

Chuck's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Chuck Augello Why did Chuck love this book?

I’ve always been drawn to lonely characters.

Gil, the protagonist of Dinosaurs, has two good friends and a live-in partner, but one feels his essential aloneness, and when his girlfriend suddenly abandons him, he leaves home in New York and walks to Arizona. After his arrival, a family moves into the glass-walled house next door and Gil soon becomes enmeshed in their lives.

This might seem far-fetched, but Millet captures the reader through close observation and empathy for her characters. The friendship between Gil and Tom, his adolescent neighbor, is the most surprising fictional friendship I’ve read in years.

The need for community and connection in a precarious world is the underlying theme, and I left Dinosaurs feeling more hopeful than I had before.

By Lydia Millet,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Over twelve novels and two collections Lydia Millet has emerged as a major American novelist, writing vividly about the ties between people and other animals and the crisis of extinction. Her exquisite new novel, the first since A Children's Bible (ISBN 978 0 393 86738 1) ("a blistering little classic"-Ron Charles, Washington Post), tells the story of an Arizona man's relationship with the family next door, whose house has one wall made entirely out of glass.

The story delivers attraction and love, friendship and grief. But Millet also evokes the uncanny. Through close observation of human and animal life in…


Book cover of Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in Eighteenth-Century Virginia

Marc Dollinger Author Of Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s

From my list on social justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve devoted my academic career and personal life to the limits and possibilities of white liberal approaches to civil rights reform. Trained in U.S. history and published in American Jewish history, I look closely at how ethnic groups and religious minorities interact with their racial and gender status to create a sometimes-surprising perspective on both history and our current day. At times powerful and at other times powerless, Jews (and other white ethnics) navigate a complex course in civil rights advocacy.

Marc's book list on social justice

Marc Dollinger Why did Marc love this book?

A classic, this book was one of the first to challenge prevailing white attitudes about the assimilation and acculturation of Africans and African Americans to life under slavery. Mullin describes how greater levels of assimilation translated into more effective means of protest.

Book cover of My Name is Seepeetza

Ellen Schwartz Author Of Heart of a Champion

From my list on children’s books about social justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up during the civil rights movement in the US, and my ancestors—the lucky ones—escaped pogroms in eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century and made it to North America. (The unlucky ones were slaughtered in the Holocaust.) So I suppose it is natural that I would be drawn to write stories about the struggle to overcome persecution, racism, and injustice. I love creating characters who, at the beginning of the story, don’t know that they have what it takes to fight for justice, but then slowly build the confidence and courage to make a difference. And writing about these triumphs is fun, too!

Ellen's book list on children’s books about social justice

Ellen Schwartz Why did Ellen love this book?

Before I read this book, in the 1990s, I had never heard of Canada’s residential school system for Indigenous children. I was horrified, and also ashamed to have been so ignorant. Over the years, I have heard many Indigenous authors speak and have read many books on the subject, and have come to realize that the residential school tragedy is parallel to the Holocaust for Jews—my family’s story. This is the book that opened my eyes.

By Shirley Sterling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Name is Seepeetza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Her name was Seepeetza when she was at home with her family. But now that she's living at the Indian residential school her name is Martha Stone, and everything else about her life has changed as well. Told in the honest voice of a sixth grader, this is the story of a young Native girl forced to live in a world governed by strict nuns, arbitrary rules, and a policy against talking in her own dialect, even with her family. Seepeetza finds bright spots, but most of all she looks forward to summers and holidays at home.


Book cover of The Relevant Lawyers: Conversations Out of Court on Their Clients, Practice, Politics and Life Style

Lise Pearlman Author Of Call Me Phaedra: The Life and Times of Movement Lawyer Fay Stender

From my list on trail-blazing lawyers passionately fighting for social justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired lawyer and judge with a long-held concern about access to justice, especially as we face the need for stepped-up activism to protect minority rights today. I first became fascinated by Fay Stender’s pioneering career as a board member of California Women Lawyers, which she helped found in 1974. I related to her passion for justice, which led me to research and write her biography and two books on “the trial of the century” of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton. That trial took place in my home city of Oakland over half a century ago, yet its focus on systemic racism remains just as important now.

Lise's book list on trail-blazing lawyers passionately fighting for social justice

Lise Pearlman Why did Lise love this book?

I recommend Ginger’s book because it inspired so many college students to go into law as well as young lawyers interested in effecting societal change. In one chapter, Ginger interviews Fay Stender, a source I consulted in writing Stender’s biography. Ginger also interviewed Fay’s law partner Charles Garry about his representation with Stender of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton in the case I consider the trial of the century. Fay’s husband Marvin Stender was also interviewed about his progressive law practice. Ginger’s book, and my interviews of Ann Ginger herself, proved essential to my understanding of the circle of Movement lawyers in the Bay Area to which they all heavily contributed during an extraordinary period of activism from the ‘50s through the ‘70s.     

By Ann Fagen Ginger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

See what lawyers have to say about their business and the people involved.


Book cover of The Struggle for Social Sustainability: Moral Conflicts in Global Social Policy

Faye Miller Author Of Producing Shared Understanding for Digital and Social Innovation: Bridging Divides with Transdisciplinary Information Experience Concepts and Methods

From my list on social sustainability.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have long been interested in understanding the role of knowledge in social-ecological systems. After experiencing and surviving a series of geological disasters in childhood, I began writing nonfiction and fiction about the importance of human relations and socio-cultural dimensions of sustainability. Since completing a PhD developing a knowledge ecosystems model for research innovation, I've published widely across areas such as knowledge management, information and computer sciences, higher education, and social policy. I'm a researcher in social technology, a qualified career development practitioner, and educator. I'm currently Director and Principal Consultant at Human Constellation. I've led and partnered on projects with many organizations including Reddit, Twitter, CSIRO, the Australian National University, and Harvard University. 

Faye's book list on social sustainability

Faye Miller Why did Faye love this book?

While future speculation inspires our research imaginations, I believe that our hopes for humanity will never be fully realized without building the critical capacity to connect research into policy processes in governments and intergovernmental organizations. This edited volume of authoritative essays is a pivotal contribution towards accelerating social progress and quality of life. The book contains useful clarification on the meaning of a relatively new term social sustainability, in light of pressing global sustainability issues, such as growing inequality, changing world population, ageing societies, and migration. Based on evidence-based pragmatic wisdom from distinguished academics with international policy experience, these essays examine social sustainability from morally conflicting perspectives - i.e. social cohesion, social justice, social wellbeing - and how they can be navigated through and implemented meaningfully by stakeholders.

By Christopher Deeming (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The ongoing social crises and moral conflicts evident in global social policy debates are addressed in this timely volume.
Leading interdisciplinary scholars focus on the 'social' of social policy, which is increasingly conceived in a globalised form, as new international agreements and global goals engender social struggles. They tackle pressing 'social questions', many of which have been exacerbated by COVID-19, including growing inequality, changing world population, ageing societies, migration and intersectional disadvantage.
This ground-breaking volume critically engages with contested conceptions of the social which are increasingly deployed by international institutions and policy makers. Focusing on social sustainability, social cohesion, social…