The best socialism books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about socialism and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Heaven on Earth: The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism

Heaven on Earth: The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism

By Joshua Muravchik,

Why this book?

If one wants to find a world history of the socialist phenomenon in a user-friendly format, this is your book to turn to. Muravchik is not only a good scholar, but he is also a good writer. A former member of the democratic socialist movement in the United States, he combines a deep knowledge of his subject and a lively narrative accompanied by representative anecdotes. You will not be able to put this text aside. It represents a collection of critical essays on socialist experiences from Robert Owen, Karl Marx, and Vladimir Lenin to Western European democratic socialism, African socialism…

From the list:

The best books about the history of socialism

Book cover of Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies

Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies

By Christian Niemietz,

Why this book?

This volume complements well the Muravchik book. Written in an easy user-friendly language, the text represents a set of short essays that deal with socialist construction in various countries (Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Kim Il Sung North Korea, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Castor’s Cuba, Chavez Venezuela). Besides these well-known cases of socialism, Niemietz, a libertarian scholar of a German extract, gives an excellent succinct analysis of the Eastern German communist regime from 1945 to its collapse in 1989.  The reader should also benefit from reading his comprehensive introductory chapter on the enduring appeal of socialism. Both high and home school and…

From the list:

The best books about the history of socialism

Book cover of Stalked by Socialism: An Escapee from Communism Shows How We'Re Sliding into Socialism

Stalked by Socialism: An Escapee from Communism Shows How We'Re Sliding into Socialism

By Jana Kandlova,

Why this book?

This is a captivating, personalized memoir that simultaneously explores the current ascent of socialism in the United States. The author escaped Eastern European communism in 1988, during its decaying stage, and moved to the United States in hope that she would enjoy freedom of speech and individual liberty in this country. Yet, to her surprise, she had to deal with the escalating rise of the left in the United States that has been recently seeking to curtail the freedom of speech and impose a greater regulation, trying to replace equality of opportunity with the equality of outcomes. Designed as a…

From the list:

The best books about the history of socialism

Book cover of The Socialist Phenomenon

The Socialist Phenomenon

By Igor Shafarevich,

Why this book?

A Soviet dissident scientist and prominent conservative ideologist of Russian nationalism, Shafarevich (1923-2017) traces the roots of modern socialism to statist and collectivist experiments in ancient Egypt, China, and Inca civilizations. He also explores the aggressive egalitarianism of modern socialism’s predecessors among European eschatological movements in medieval and early modern Europe (e.g., Lollards in England, Taborites in Bohemia, Peasants’ War during the Protestant Reformation in Germany, and the Jesuit state in Paraguay). Among other things, the author examines in detail the early 1920s Bolshevik activities in Russia, Maoist assaults on traditional society in China, and the rise of the Western…

From the list:

The best books about the history of socialism

Book cover of Woman Under Socialism

Woman Under Socialism

By August Bebel,

Why this book?

Written while August Bebel was serving a jail term under Germany’s anti-socialist laws, Woman and Socialism was published in over fifty editions and in more than twenty languages between 1879 and 1914. The first English edition was published in 1908 and became something of a sensation in the United Kingdom and the United States. Unlike other men in the labor movement at the time, Bebel believed that women were the full equals of men and should have the same economic, social, and political rights. More importantly, he argued that socialism would give women economic independence, and that this would allow…

From the list:

The best books about women and socialism

Book cover of The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State

The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State

By Friedrich Engels,

Why this book?

Engels provides the canonical theoretical framework for understanding how capitalism uniquely impacts women’s lives and how a more collectivized economy lays the foundation for women’s full emancipation. While many subsequent feminist and socialist scholars have disagreed with this book, The Origin of the Family is a classic that has inspired countless generations of theorists and activists. 

From the list:

The best books about women and socialism

Book cover of Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917 1936

Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917 1936

By Wendy Z. Goldman,

Why this book?

This deeply researched book explores the massive upheavals that followed the Bolshevik Revolution in the young Soviet Union. By mining a rich body of archival research, Goldman reveals just how radical Soviet policies to emancipate women really were in their historical context. More importantly, she uncovers the heated debates that characterized this early period of Soviet history before the rigidity and paranoia of Stalinism takes over and he reverses many of the early gains.

From the list:

The best books about women and socialism

Book cover of People's Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons

People's Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons

By Ashley Dawson,

Why this book?

In order to have socialism, we need to have a planet on which to be socialists—preferably a planet that isn’t constantly on fire or under water from climate change. So we need to convert our energy systems from fossil fuels to renewables like solar and wind, but as Ashley Dawson argues in this great book, we can’t afford to then let energy corporations start owning sunlight and air the way they do oil and coal. 

People’s Power introduces us to the age-old idea of commonly owned natural resources and looks to modern examples from around the world where cities, towns,…

From the list:

The best books on winning socialism in our lifetime

Book cover of Socialism: A Very Short Introduction

Socialism: A Very Short Introduction

By Michael Newman,

Why this book?

This short book by a UK humanities professor represents a very brief sympathetic history of socialism written from the left perspective that currently dominates our academic mainstream. In a benign manner and downplaying the dark sides of socialism, Newman narrates the history of the socialist phenomenon from the 1820s “utopian socialism” and Marxism to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution (Stalinist terror has been totally skipped), and to the current eco-socialism and socialist feminism. The best and most informative parts of the book are chapters on Cuban communism and the so-called Swedish model of socialism. I recommend this brochure as a textbook…

From the list:

The best books about the history of socialism

Book cover of African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World

African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World

By Priya Lal,

Why this book?

This book is exciting in many ways. It tells a story of Tanzania’s socialist experiment in 1967-75, which was known as “ujamaa” (“familyhood” in Swahili). It shows how Cold War politics intertwined with local situations, and how Tanzanian leaders and common people used Cold War rhetoric to envision and enforce their own national agricultural development program. At a glance, thus, the book can be seen just as another example of the recently growing literature that explores the crossroads between Cold War politics, decolonization, and developmental politics, such as Artemy Kalinovsky’s Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in…

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The best books to reconsider what the Cold War really was

Or, view all 32 books about socialism

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