7 books every activist needs to read

Activism can be a long and exhausting road but there are so many sources of inspiration out there. From indigenous protesters to LGBTQ heroes, recharge your activism with these essential stories of standing up to power.


Activism can be an incredibly rewarding pursuit, but it’s also a challenging one. Drawing inspiration from stories of past heroes or exploring ways technology is offering new avenues for change can re-energize your activism. Here are seven essential books for the activist’s reading list.

1) Memes To Movements: How the World’s Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power by An Xiao Mina

The internet isn’t always a source of hope – from cyberbullying to simple time-vortexes, it’s often a demoralizing presence in our lives. Yet, social media is also creating enormous potential for change in our world as a way for activists to organize on a grassroots level, fundamentally challenging traditional power structures around the globe.

“In Memes To Movements, An Xiao Mina charts the meteoric rise of several social movements, demonstrating the impact that technology can have when it’s put to appropriate use,” says Troy Berg, a book editor at State Of Writing and Paper Fellows. “This book will inspire you to see the world-changing potential in even the smallest digital actions, such as the creation of memes.”

2) Free All Along: The Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Interviews by Stephen Dury Smith and Catherine Ellis

Robert Penn Warren was an American novelist and poet who, born and raised in Kentucky, witnessed the civil rights movement in its inception. In this collection of interviews with prominent activists from the era, Warren provides heroes of the movement from Stokely Carmichael to Martin Luther King Jr a platform to speak for themselves.

The first time these conversations have been published in full outside of Warren’s own work, this is a fascinating and powerful account of how the civil rights movement stood up to power.

3) Reclaiming Our Space by  Feminista Jones

Author Feminista Jones is a social worker and activist who has seen first hand the impact of powerful social movements. In Reclaiming Our Space, Jones tracks the way an intersectional movement of black feminists have used a variety of tools to state their demands and enact real change.

From protest movements on the streets to digital campaigns, Jones reveals that there are many ways we can change the world if we unite with one voice. Her discussion of hashtags, from #blacklivesmatter to #sayhername reveals how we can utilize social media to build momentum behind political campaigns.

4) Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by Adrienne Maree Brown

Often, activists devoting themselves to a cause end up burned out and exhausted. Committing to create change in the world, whether for climate action or racial equality, can feel like hard work and often challenging the entrenched power structures takes its toll.

That’s why Maree Brown’s case for “pleasure activism” – activism that has the capacity to make us feel good through our work – is so important. Sustained activism is the most important way we can leave an impact on the world and by avoiding burnout and finding pleasure in our activism we can work harder on the topics that inspire us the most.

5) Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt

“Unfortunately we all have our biases, ways of seeing the world that have been reinforced through our upbringing,” says June Howell, a writer at Coursework Help and Academized. “A commitment to equality entails both the acceptance and challenging of these biases, and in Eberhardt’s powerful book she gives us the tools to do so.”

6) As Long as Grass Grows by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

Tracking the indigenous movement of resistance to the exploitation of resources at Standing Rock, Gilio-Whitaker provides insight into a powerful protest movement as well as offering us a history of colonial and racist power. History, equality and climate coincide in the story of environmental justice contained in this book. 

7) The Book of Pride: LGBTQ Heroes Who Changed the World by Mason Funk

Presenting new biographies of over fifty activists who stood up for LGBTQ rights from the 1960s to the 21st century, Funk’s book offers multiple powerful accounts that can inspire our own activism. The revolutionaries included in this book include famous names as well as the story of lesser-known individuals, offering a glimpse into the LGBTQ diaspora of activists.

Stand Up!

Activism can be a long and exhausting road but there are so many sources of inspiration out there. From indigenous protesters to LGBTQ heroes, recharge your activism with these essential stories of standing up to power.


If you liked this article, please donate $5 to keep NationofChange online through November.