Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

A Social Justice Reading List for Those Who Want to Rise Up

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Steph Auteri

Senior Contributor

Steph Auteri is a journalist who has written for the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, VICE, and elsewhere. Her more creative work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, under the gum tree, Poets & Writers, and other publications, and she is the Essays Editor for Hippocampus Magazine. Her essay, "The Fear That Lives Next to My Heart," published in Southwest Review, was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2021. She also writes bookish stuff here and at the Feminist Book Club, is the author of A Dirty Word, and is the founder of Guerrilla Sex Ed. When not working, she enjoys yoga, embroidery, singing, cat snuggling, and staring at the birds in her backyard feeder. You can learn more at and follow her on Insta/Threads at @stephauteri.

I’m not gonna lie. I cried myself to sleep on Election Day. And when I finally opened my eyes the next morning, I lay there, hovering in a space of unreality and dread. I rolled over to check my phone, which only confirmed that I had not tossed and turned my way through a nightmare. This was real. People had voted for hate instead of love.

Since joining the Book Riot team, my TBR pile has ballooned to include so many voices that are different than my own. These voices have provided me with new perspectives. They have taught me empathy and understanding and love. They have given me hope that, even in the midst of great horrors, the voices of minorities are getting louder. It seemed to me that with this growing, glorious sound, things could only get better.

This seems like a natural enough time to want to give up. To pull the covers over our heads and hit the snooze alarm and refuse to step into this new future. To flee.

Just one day before the election, Rebecca Solnit wrote in The Guardian that “… it matters who is president, but what a president does has everything to do with what the people demand or refuse or do themselves…” Other people have since tweeted similar sentimentssimilar calls to action. It’s an important reminder. But I also know that many of us feel powerless. That we don’t know what to do.

Some books I hope can help:

rad american womenKate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl’s Rad American Women A-Z, a collection of radical women throughout history that includes resources for how you, yourself, can take action.

bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgressa meditation on how we can teach our young people to embody the principles of the world we ourselves wish for.

Greg Jobin-Leeds and Agit-Arte’s When We Fight, We Wina look at social movements and activists who are changing the world, and how we can use their successes as a blueprint in our own lives.

Rinku Sen’s Stir It Upa how-to manual on community activism and organizing.

Mark and Paul Engler’s This Is an Uprisinga look at various forms of nonviolent revolt and the impact they can have.

Necessary TroubleSarah Jaffe’s Necessary Troubleanother look at the movements that have made average Americans into activists.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feministsa book I’ve mentioned in a previous post about calls to feminist action, but it bears repeating.

Angela Y. Davis’s Freedom Is a Constant Strugglea collection of essays, interviews, and speeches that highlight struggles against oppression throughout history.

Innosanto Nagara’s A Is for Activista board book I just added to my 2-year-old’s TBR list.

Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards’s Grassrootsa book that taught me a lot about feminist activism back when I was just starting to claim that word for myself.

Paul Loeb’s The Impossible Will Take a Little Whilewhich… no kidding. This book is a book of hope from voices who know.

And of course, please continue to keep reading the books my fellow Book Rioters continue to champion… the kinds of books that blast open minds and create allies of us all. You can start with Rachel Manwill’s post on advanced citizenship but, really, every post on this site will do you right.