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5 Must-Read Books for Activists

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mt Holyoke chapter.

Whether you’ve been involved in social activism for a while or you’ve been recently inspired to get involved because of the current political climate, there is a wealth of literature to help further your knowledge of the inequalities in our society. It would be impossible to list every single book or article that would be helpful for new and old activists alike, so here are, in my opinion, the 5 Must-Read Books for Activists.

1. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Pretty much any book written by Roxane Gay is amazing, but this one is my favorite. The book is a collection of essays focusing on a range of topics including pop culture, politics, fairy tales, race, and violence. Gay’s writing is both entertaining and thought-provoking,  and since each essay is only a few pages long it’s a fairly easy read. If you’re a Roxane Gay fan, you should definitely consider going to her lecture on February 16th or her writing workshop on February 17th! Both of these events are being held right here at Mount Holyoke!

2. My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King and Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds

Though I haven’t completed this autobiography, it is extremely relevant considering the recent controversy surrounding King’s letter, which criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ civil rights record, leading to the silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren. But regardless of the letter controversy, King was a major player in the Civil Rights Movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and her story should be shared with all budding activists. Unfortunately, Coretta Scott King passed away in 2006, but her legacy will remain.

3. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

If you are passionate about education, especially women’s access to education, this is a definite must-read. Malala Yousafzai’s story will inspire you to stand up for what is right, and it will remind you that no voice is too small to be heard around the world. Yousafzai has since won the Nobel Peace Prize and has become a major proponent of peaceful protest.

4. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Unfortunately, feminism has a bit of a bad reputation in some circles. Have you ever wanted to argue about the importance of feminism, but struggled to put its importance into words? Adichie’s book is the perfect primer for anyone who considers themselves a feminist or for people who are just beginning to learn about feminism. Not only that, but the book takes a very intersectional view on feminism, so the reader may get a much broader understanding of the social movement. I definitely recommend this book for new feminists, however, it is also a great refresher for those who have been feminists for a while!

5. The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQI Activism by Adrian Brooks

This book is a fascinating collection of mostly first-person narratives of LGBTQI activists, including well-known names and those the history books forgot. The book itself is split into two parts: before and after the Stonewall riots. This collection of interviews and essays will give any reader a more comprehensive history of LGBTQI activism.

Hopefully you will add these books to your reading lists. This is not an exhaustive list of activist literature, however, this list will give you a nice variety of ideologies. Since we live in a time where marginalized people are being increasingly targeted, it is important to stay informed.

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If you would like to write for Her Campus Mount Holyoke, or if you have any questions or comments for us, please email mt-holyoke@hercampus.com.


Sarah Washington is a sophomore at Mount Holyoke College. She is from Wilbraham, Massachusetts. She is a prospective Sociology Major. Sarah's passions include social justice, increased visibility for multiracial individuals, feminism, and LGBT rights. Her other loves include makeup, writing, reading, and music.
Mount Holyoke College is a gender-inclusive, historically women's college in South Hadley, MA.