The best books on squatting

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

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Squatting in Europe

By Squatting in Europe Kollective,

Book cover of Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles

From 2009 to 2021, the Squatting Europe Kollective provided a platform for innovative research on squatting by both academics and activists. The group organized international meetings, created an interactive map of squatter actions in various European cities, and published a number of books. Their 2013 volume provided a state of the art of squatter research. The first chapter distinguishes between different modes (‘configurations’) of squatting; for example squatting as an alternative housing strategy, a strategy for saving monumental dwellings from demolition or squatting as a tactic for confronting neoliberalism. The subsequent chapters zoom into particular issues, such as the ways in which squatters organize the running of occupied places, respond to criminalization and form international travel networks. 


Who am I?

Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated by – and worked with - people protesting injustice and inequality. By standing up, following through, and letting their voice be heard, people have the potential to change the world for the better. As a researcher, I have studied the history of various European protest movements – from labor activists to squatters and direct action groups. I have published on radical philosophers, Dutch Trotskyists, and even a socialist astronomer - but my main focus has always been radical squatters in the Netherlands and Germany.


I wrote...

City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

By Bart Van Der Steen (editor), Ask Katzeff (editor), Leendert Van Hoogenhuijze (editor)

Book cover of City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

What is my book about?

Squatters are people who occupy houses and empty dwellings – so why do we even care? Well, actually, squatters have been at the forefront of campaigns to reclaim the city for common people - by fighting speculation, gentrification, and government-led ‘urban renewal’ projects. Who are the squatters, what drives them, and what are the keys to their success?

To answer these questions, we present eight local histories of squatter activism from European cities such as Amsterdam, London, and Berlin. Together, the histories paint a picture of a radical movement and lively subculture capable of effectively fighting for A City of All. 

A Reporter At Large

By A.J. Liebling,

Book cover of A Reporter At Large: Dateline: Pyramid Lake, Nevada

In 1949, renowned journalist A. J. Liebling went to Reno for a divorce. He stayed at the remote Pyramid Lake Ranch, thirty-four miles north of Reno at Sutcliffe, Nevada. In what can only be described as “vintage Liebling,” he writes about his stay on the ranch and the challenges of being surrounded by so many women. As Liebling says, “I have never been reluctant to buy a lady a drink, but there were thirty-eight ladies in residence at the ranch, and this offered a problem in economics.” In 1956, Arthur Miller stayed at the Pyramid Lake Ranch for a divorce so he could marry Marilyn Monroe. Miller got the idea for The Misfits during his residency on the ranch.


Who am I?

Sandra V. McGee has co-authored six books with her husband, William L. McGee. She is regarded as an expert on the Reno divorce ranch era, which flourished from the 1930s to the 1950s. Sandra’s passions are movies from the 1930s and ‘40s, many featuring a Reno divorce in the storyline. The Divorce Seekers is optioned for a streaming series.


I wrote...

The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler

By Sandra V. McGee, William L. McGee,

Book cover of The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler

What is my book about?

Reno, 1947. The heyday of the six-week divorce era when “I’m going to Reno!” was synonymous with “quickie” divorce. From 1947 to 1949, Bill McGee was the head dude wrangler on the Flying M.E., Nevada’s most exclusive divorce ranch (as they were called), twenty miles south of Reno. The Flying M.E. catered to wealthy divorce seekers… Easterners with names like Astor, du Pont, Roosevelt, and Hollywood celebrities, such as Clark Gable and Ava Gardner. Bill’s stories about the changing cast of characters that came and went every six weeks are like an old Hollywood movie coming to life. True stories with 500 photos.

The Autonomous City

By Alexander Vasudevan,

Book cover of The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting

Vasudevan is one of the first to provide an account of the global history of urban squatting, from the late 19th century to the present. His central claim is that squats are never simply about acquiring housing, but also ‘offer place[s] of collective world-making’. He wants to find out how squatters ‘reimagined the city as a space of necessity and refuge, experimentation and resistance’. As squatters take buildings into use, they recreate the space, filling it with new life and energies, forming new networks and identities as they work towards making abandoned places inhabitable again. Vasudevan’s study allows for global comparisons, and he explicitly includes the actions and experiences of migrants, women, and queer activists in the history of squatting.


Who am I?

Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated by – and worked with - people protesting injustice and inequality. By standing up, following through, and letting their voice be heard, people have the potential to change the world for the better. As a researcher, I have studied the history of various European protest movements – from labor activists to squatters and direct action groups. I have published on radical philosophers, Dutch Trotskyists, and even a socialist astronomer - but my main focus has always been radical squatters in the Netherlands and Germany.


I wrote...

City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

By Bart Van Der Steen (editor), Ask Katzeff (editor), Leendert Van Hoogenhuijze (editor)

Book cover of City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

What is my book about?

Squatters are people who occupy houses and empty dwellings – so why do we even care? Well, actually, squatters have been at the forefront of campaigns to reclaim the city for common people - by fighting speculation, gentrification, and government-led ‘urban renewal’ projects. Who are the squatters, what drives them, and what are the keys to their success?

To answer these questions, we present eight local histories of squatter activism from European cities such as Amsterdam, London, and Berlin. Together, the histories paint a picture of a radical movement and lively subculture capable of effectively fighting for A City of All. 

Public Goods Versus Economic Interests

By Freia Anders (editor), Alexander Sedlmaier (editor),

Book cover of Public Goods Versus Economic Interests: Global Perspectives on the History of Squatting

Histories of squatting mainly focus on radical activists in Europe during the 1970s and 1980s, ignoring the fact that squatting has always been a global phenomenon. Anders and Sedlmaier have responded by creating a collection of chapters that highlight the global and historical nature of squatting. Their volume is the first to initiate an in-depth discussion of the similarities between first world and third world squatting, and thus covers cases from Seoul to Bucharest and Bangkok, and from Turkey to Brazil and the UK. In doing so, the book raises fascinating questions on how squatting oscillates between being a self-help and a collective protest strategy, on the relationship between migration and squatting, and on the influence of squatter movements on urban development. 


Who am I?

Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated by – and worked with - people protesting injustice and inequality. By standing up, following through, and letting their voice be heard, people have the potential to change the world for the better. As a researcher, I have studied the history of various European protest movements – from labor activists to squatters and direct action groups. I have published on radical philosophers, Dutch Trotskyists, and even a socialist astronomer - but my main focus has always been radical squatters in the Netherlands and Germany.


I wrote...

City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

By Bart Van Der Steen (editor), Ask Katzeff (editor), Leendert Van Hoogenhuijze (editor)

Book cover of City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

What is my book about?

Squatters are people who occupy houses and empty dwellings – so why do we even care? Well, actually, squatters have been at the forefront of campaigns to reclaim the city for common people - by fighting speculation, gentrification, and government-led ‘urban renewal’ projects. Who are the squatters, what drives them, and what are the keys to their success?

To answer these questions, we present eight local histories of squatter activism from European cities such as Amsterdam, London, and Berlin. Together, the histories paint a picture of a radical movement and lively subculture capable of effectively fighting for A City of All. 

Between Jobs

By W.R. Gingell,

Book cover of Between Jobs

The Tasmanian setting and more subtle, understated snark of the protagonist threw me for a loop for the first part of this book, but it had been highly recommended to me so I stuck with it (plus I loved the premise and characters of this urban fantasy romp). By the end of it and into the second and third books in the series I was head-over-heels in love with the series, the author’s voice, and her wonderfully unique Aussie sense of humor. We all know that the first book can be a bit rough, and I promise you that by the end of the series I was so blown away by the excellent story-smithing and craftsmanship of Ms. Gingell that this series is one of my top favorite.


Who am I?

As the author of 10+ books in my snark-filled and magical Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus universe, I’ve had plenty of practice mixing humor and urban fantasy. I’m also addicted to British humor like Monty Python and Black Books. Sir Edgar Allan Kipling, the magical talking cat in my books is my main outlet for humor with his feline aphorisms like “pride is unbecoming to humans, only cats and dragons do it justice,” and “if you wanted sympathy, you should have adopted a dog.” It has been my joy to seek out the snort-laugh-worthiest novels, learn from them, and produce laugh-out-loud adventures for my own wonderful readers.


I wrote...

Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus Beginnings

By Lydia Sherrer,

Book cover of Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus Beginnings

What is my book about?

Wizard and archivist Lily Singer is having a bad day. Her troublemaking friend Sebastian Blackwell has dragged her into one of his “professional witch” jobs again. That would be business as usual in the magical underworld, except that, unlike Sebastian, Lily avoids adventure like most people would avoid the plague. Avoidance may not work this time, though, because adventure is coming for Lily whether she likes it or not, complete with angels, demons, fae, and a talking cat.

Come enjoy shenanigans galore with the first installment of this snarky magical adventure.

Migration, Squatting and Radical Autonomy

By Pierpaolo Mudu (editor), Sutapa Chattopadhyay (editor),

Book cover of Migration, Squatting and Radical Autonomy

Migration and squatting are integrally linked. Migrants have always been the ones who have had the most difficulty in finding adequate and affordable housing – and this is even more so for undocumented migrants. Mudu and Chattopadhyay are the first to systematically document and analyze the recent squatter experiences of illegalized migrants in Europe and the US. While some chapters discuss political actions - such as seeking sanctuary in churches and occupying houses and squares - others focus on more covert strategies of migrants for seeking shelter. The contributors ask how migrants are being portrayed in politics and the media, how they can form coalitions with others, and under what conditions they can build power. 


Who am I?

Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated by – and worked with - people protesting injustice and inequality. By standing up, following through, and letting their voice be heard, people have the potential to change the world for the better. As a researcher, I have studied the history of various European protest movements – from labor activists to squatters and direct action groups. I have published on radical philosophers, Dutch Trotskyists, and even a socialist astronomer - but my main focus has always been radical squatters in the Netherlands and Germany.


I wrote...

City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

By Bart Van Der Steen (editor), Ask Katzeff (editor), Leendert Van Hoogenhuijze (editor)

Book cover of City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements in Europe from the 1970s to the Present

What is my book about?

Squatters are people who occupy houses and empty dwellings – so why do we even care? Well, actually, squatters have been at the forefront of campaigns to reclaim the city for common people - by fighting speculation, gentrification, and government-led ‘urban renewal’ projects. Who are the squatters, what drives them, and what are the keys to their success?

To answer these questions, we present eight local histories of squatter activism from European cities such as Amsterdam, London, and Berlin. Together, the histories paint a picture of a radical movement and lively subculture capable of effectively fighting for A City of All. 

Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays

By George Orwell,

Book cover of Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays

No surprise that George Orwell, author of the two defining parables of the 20th century, should be at the top of my list, especially as his five years in Burma attuned him to the suffering of the oppressed. More moving than ‘Burmese Days’ is his short story ‘A Hanging’ in which he watches a condemned criminal walk towards the gallows … and sidestep a puddle. In that fleeting moment Orwell marks the preciousness of human life and the heartlessness of power.


Who am I?

Rory MacLean is one of Britain's most innovative travel writers. His books – which have been translated into a dozen languages — include UK top tens Stalin's Nose and Under the Dragon as well as Pravda Ha Ha and Berlin: Imagine a City, "the most extraordinary work of history I've ever read" according to the Washington Post which named it a "Book of the Year". Over the years he has travelled throughout Burma – apart from when banned by the military government for his writings – coming to know it as a deeply-wounded and fractured golden land of temple bells, be-medalled generals who enrich themselves through drug deals and ever-optimistic men and women who fight on to restore its ‘democratic transition’.


I wrote...

Under the Dragon: Travels in a Betrayed Land

By Rory MacLean,

Book cover of Under the Dragon: Travels in a Betrayed Land

What is my book about?

Thirty-four years ago the Burmese people rose up against their military government. The unarmed demonstrators were cut down, leaving more than 5,000 dead. In Under the Dragon, Rory MacLean meets the victims and perpetrators of that first great national uprising, unravelling a paradox of selfless generosity and sinister greed in a country stitched together by love and fear. He exposes the tragedy of a thousand betrayals, giving voice to those too frightened to speak for themselves. Under the Dragon is an important, perceptive, historical, and heart-breaking portrayal of a golden land that remains shot through with desperation and fear, but also – in even the darkest places -- with beauty and courage.

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