Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Books as Self Defense

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Alex Acks

Contributing Editor

Alex Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. They've written for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Alex lives in Denver with their two furry little bastards, where they twirl their mustache, watch movies, and bike. Twitter: @katsudonburi Website:

In today’s current fraught dumpster fire that is America’s political environment, a lot of us have been going to protests and considering how to get fit to protect our marginalized neighbors. Here are some helpful books that serve a second, very useful purpose: as personal defense weapons.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Pros: Weighing in at a powerful 1,664 pages, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a hefty weapon to have on one’s side. Hardcover recommended, but paperback will do in a pinch. Useful for reminding Facebook trolls what fascism actually means. Already a leader in the Resistance.

Cons: Not recommended for long marches unless you have a sturdy backpack or biceps that rival Dwayne Johnson’s.

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Pros: Hardback edition is 576 pages, not bad for midweight effort. Learn more about our economic system versus the environment and hone your BS detector for when politicians are talking.

Cons: Deeply depressing.

Iraq+100 edited by Hassan Blasim

Pros: 10 Iraqi authors imagine their country 100 years in the future, offering a much-needed perspective shift which could be very useful if you can convince certain people to read it. Good for your soul.

Cons: Artistically heavyweight, but only a slim less than 300 pages, which makes it less than ideal as a weapon.

The Sandman Omnibus Volume 1 or Volume 2 by Neil Gaiman

Pros: Hardcover and over 1,000 pages each; the author himself called out their efficacy as anti-burglar weapons, which makes them worth trying out on white supremacists. Excellent graphic novels.

Cons: The NYT best seller list doesn’t think grown ups read graphic novels, but this is only a con if you actually care what people that silly think.

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

Pros: Over 1,200 pages, which makes it almost as hefty as the dictionary if you can find a hardcover edition. A solid reminder that the first novel was written by a woman, setting the pattern for female writers to act as pioneers throughout the arts. Hardcover should shed MRA tears effectively.

Cons: Don’t skip arm day.

The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde

Pros: About 500 pages, good for stowing in a purse for all your Nazi-whapping needs. And it’s the poems of Audre Lorde. Get angry, get fired up, and remember the greatest act of rebellion is surviving.

Cons: None.

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Houston

Pros: I don’t know why a book about the inexcusable internment of Japanese-Americans during the second World War, a reminder of one of the many indelible black stains of injustice on America’s conscience would be at all topical, but it’s a good book anyway. Will fill you with shame, which will prove you still have a soul in case you were wondering.

Cons: It’s very short, so will need to be supplemented, possibly with duct tape and a brick.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Pros: Nearly as long as Genji. Easy to find at used book stores as shame-faced former students clear out their shelves and insist it was just a phase. Lets this book be useful as something other than a doorstop.

Cons: Might cause people who can’t tell the difference between a trilby and a fedora to think you actually like Ayn Rand.

The United States Constitution (pocket-sized)

Pros: Useful for all those times someone can’t seem to remember what the first amendment actually says. The last line of defense we have, if we can keep it.

Cons: Not a particularly effective physical weapon unless wrapped in a copy of Miss Macintosh, My Darling.