We asked our new steering members to share their thoughts on books, media, and resources that have influenced their growth as socialists and challenged their perspectives. See a book you’re interested in? Having trouble finding another resource on the list? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any trouble affording a book below or you need a link to any other resources mentioned.
And for your reference – our new Steering Committee:
At large: Abby S, Dana, Marg R, Milo K
Officers: Craig I (treasurer), John A (membership), Julie L (secretary)
Manufacturing Consent by Edward Herman & Noam Chomsky – Dana
I studied journalism and mass media in college. I was intrigued by this book’s analysis of propaganda and media biases, particularly in the wake of the War on Terror.
Beloved by Toni Morrison – Abby S.
This is one of my two fiction picks. It’s an incredible work about the devastating effects of slavery. It’s a beautiful and powerful book. Everyone should read it.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair – Marg R.
This was the first even remotely socialist book that I read in high school. It is a fictional work following the lives of a Lithuanian immigrant family living in Packingtown, Chicago. Throughout the book, we see the tragedies that the main character, Jurgis, endures, both in his home with his family and with the terrible working conditions of the meatpacking industry. Sinclair’s goal was to depict the struggles and inhumane conditions that immigrant laborers were facing at the time. However, when the book became popular, the takeaway from wealthy Americans was that the quality of their food was tainted, which resulted in food safe legislation. Reading this work was one of the first things that gave me a level of class consciousness. It encouraged me to be more critical and aware of how our system functions and who it functions for.
To Our Friends by The Invisible Committee – Craig I.
Written in 2014 by a group of French Anarchists, this book covers a wide variety of topics including resistance, the nature of power in the 21st century, organizational legitimacy, and counter-insurgency. It’s a fun and challenging piece that had me reconsidering the nature of my organizing.
Nixonland by Rick Perlstein – Julie L.
I’m OBSESSED with Perlstein’s book series on American conservatism. These four books are so good I had to resist making most of my list just them. They’re an almost-perfect guide to how and why American politics are how they are. I have a special spot in my heart for the strange and destructive presidency of Richard Nixon, so this was my favorite read of the lot.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty – John A.
This is not a leftist book at all. The author actually argues that the solution to inequality is a more regulated capitalism— but let’s just say I came to an entirely different conclusion.
Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko – Dana
I came across this book while researching police militarization for a law school course in 2016. It’s a solid read for anyone interested in the history of policing in America (and even before) and its continuous ramping up over the past few decades.
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – Abby S.
Just such a very succinct and foundational text, helped radicalize me when I was very young and I still refer back to it.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad – Marg R.
I decided to pick up this book this year because I realized that it’s extremely important that I begin reading actual books about the ways in which I contribute to white supremacy in our society. This book helped to educate me on how to be more aware of the ways in which I’m speaking about race, and the not so blatant ways that all white people contribute to our system and culture that are so rooted in white supremacy. I believe this book is an important tool for people to begin understanding what is needed to be anti-racist and combat white supremacy.
Evicted by Matthew Desmond – Julie L. and John A.
An extremely readable but devastating book that gets to the heart of why housing desperately needs to be decommodified. Evicted shows the housing crisis vividly by following the lives of people who struggle to pay rent and stay in their homes. When recommending books to newly-minted socialists, I like to start with books like Evicted that show the material effects of capitalism on the poor and working class, rather than going straight into theory. – Julie L.
This book tells the story of multiple people struggling with evictions and staying housed in Milwaukee. It’s a very well-written and a captivating read. – John A.
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein – Dana
This is among the first books I read when digging into more leftist political thought. Throughout the book, Klein discusses how her proposed doctrine of economic shock therapy fits into various conflicts, natural disasters, and other monumental events that have occurred throughout the world in the second half of the twentieth century to present day. As someone with an interest in history, sociology, and world affairs but with limited understanding of economics, I found this an engaging book to read.
No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age by Jane McAlevey – Abby S.
A practical and hope giving book. It lays out so specifically and thoroughly how to organize effectively and in a principled way.
Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – Julie L.
I read my friend’s copy of this book on a Megabus from Boston to New York after he basically forced it into my hands. I loved it, and every page felt like my mind was actively being blown open. My Twitter bio contains a link to a PDF of this book. Marxist Feminism, my dudes!!!!
Why Art? by Eleanor Davis – Abby S.
I don’t really know how to sum this little book up. It is about art, and why we make art, and then it gets super metaphysical and weird for a while. You guys should read this book. I will lend it to people if they would like, and it’s a short read!
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire – John A.
This book details a radical and leftist approach to education.
Hammered by the Irish by Harry Browne – Julie L.
This was the first book about socialists doing stuff I can remember picking up with the actual intent to learn about socialists doing stuff. A very short book about the Pitstop Ploughshares, a small anti-war, anti-imperialist group of Catholic Workers who broke into Shannon Airport to damage US Navy aircraft in 2003. I’ve spent a lot of time in Shannon Airport and can’t imagine anything that exciting happening there.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – Dana
A must-read about systemic racism within the criminal justice system. This book was published while I was in law school considering a career as a civil rights attorney (not unlike the book’s author). This book is very well-researched, pointing to a mass of historical facts and data that demonstrate the racial caste system that is alive and well in the U.S.
The Dispossessed by Ursula K LeGuin – Craig I.
Recently featured in our chapter’s Book Club, Le Guin’s The Dispossessed is a story of a scientist living in an anarchist civilization. Capitalism can feel all-consuming and it often feels like the best I can work toward is a golden cage. It’s a terrific novel about a post-capitalist society that feels real and like it’s working.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K LeGuin – Abby S.
Another fiction pick with themes of gender, power, and culture. This book rules you guys should read it.
The Dollop – Marg R.
I am not exaggerating when I say that through these two comedians I became much further radicalized. This podcast covers stories throughout American history that are told through both a comedic and socialist lens. It’s a version of history that we should be taught in school, and opened my eyes to more events in our history that I previously would have never known or understood.
“The Newsie Strike”, episode 275, The Dollop – Craig I.
The Dollop is a comedy-history podcast created by Dave Anthony and Garreth Reynolds where one tells a story from (usually) American History to the other. The Newsie Strike is my favorite episode and one of my favorite strikes. The boys (literally they were children) demonstrated a militancy and understanding of collective power that I strive to match. Below is a quote from the July 24th, 1899 rally from Kid Blink, a leader in the union:
“Ain’t that 10 cents worth as much to us as it is to Hearst and Pulitzer, who are millionaires? Well, I guess it is. If they can’t spare it, how can we?”
(“Soak ’em, Blink!”)
Soak nothing. I’m telling the truth. I’m trying to figure out how 10 cents on a hundred papers can mean more to a millionaire than it does to a newsboy, and I can’t see it. We can do more with 10 cents than he can with twenty-five. Anyway, we wants it. And we’ll strike and restrike until we get it. Won’t we boys?”
srsly wrong – John A.
This podcast discusses societal problems in an optimistic and humorous way. It often imagines how a socialist society might function and solve many of the problems we see in society now.
In the Dark Season 2 – Marg R.
This season of the podcast shows very clearly the harsh reality that many black Americans face in our criminal justice system. It shows just how far the system will go and how those in positions of power are allowed to carry out white supremacy over and over again with no consequence. It follows the story of Curtis Flowers, a black man wrongfully convicted in Mississippi who was tried 6 separate times for the same crime before his case made it to the Supreme Court.
Radio Dispatch Podcast – Dana
One of the first “lefty” podcasts I ever listened to, nearly a decade ago. The brother and sister hosts began as Occupy Wall Street organizers and continue to cover a range of topics from inequitable access to early education in NYC schools to human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay.
So You Haven’t Radicalized Yet – Marg R.
This is actually not just one podcast, but is a 32.5 hour playlist on Spotify that is a combination of podcast episodes that provide things like socialism in history, an overview of theory, and how theory should be applied in today’s world. I haven’t made my way through it all yet, but I’m so far finding it really informative and helpful. Up until this year I haven’t read or listened to much on actual theory, and this is nice if podcasts/listening is more for you.
Essays, Movies, and Miscellaneous
“The Tyranny of Structurelessness” by Jo Freeman – John A.
This essay was written in the 1970s, but it perfectly describes what I’ve recently seen in DSA and other groups. It has such a ring of truth about it that it really changed how I understand group structures.
Preamble to the IWW Constitution – Craig I.
I appreciate brevity and the preamble to the IWW constitution does a good job of summing up my politics and the vision of a better world that I subscribe to in only three sentences.
“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”
United in Anger: A History of ACTUP (2012), directed by Jim Hubbard – Julie L.
This one is a documentary. Documentaries have been crucial to my continuing political education, and this is a favorite. ACTUP is an inspirational organization that has done, and continues to do, absolutely invaluable work. There’s so much to learn here, it’s incredible. It’s a necessary watch for activists working during the pandemic.
Sorry to Bother You (2018), directed by Boots Riley – Craig I.
Boots Riley’s 2018 film Sorry to Bother You floored me when I saw it in theaters. It’s a terrifically sharp satire that, in under two hours, shows the power of a union, collective action, solidarity, and how capitalism seeks to nullify and co-opt working class power.