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Books for changing the world

Revolutionary Lives: A Reading List

The lives and thought of radicals and revolutionaries, of the past and present, have much to teach us. Records of the debates they participated in, the movements they built, the actions they organized, the strategy and theory they forged, and the circumstances in which they lived offer today's leftists an important means to reflect on the history of working-class struggle and organizing. We've put together a reading list of biographies, memoirs, and collected letters and essays that provide indispensable introductions to some of history's most inspiring figures.

This beautiful new edition of Angela Davis’s classic Autobiography features an expansive new introduction by the author.

"Through exacting research, exacting presentation, and careful analysis, Leo Zeilig offers a remarkable contribution to radical thought and practice worthy of Walter Rodney's legacy.”Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

The remarkable true story of an Indigenous family who fought back, over multiple generations, against the world-destroying power of settler colonial violence.

An illuminating biography of the bold, principled, and fiercely independent woman who defied convention to make her own mark on the world. 

In this unforgettable memoir, Emerald Garner recounts her father’s cruel and unjust murder, the immense pain that followed, the pressures of an exploitative media, and her difficult yet determined journey as an activist against police violence.

In a series of journal entries—some original passages, others revisited and expanded in retrospect—Cherrié Moraga details her experiences with pregnancy, birth, and the early years of lesbian parenting. 

This heart wrenchingly vivid account of one man's arrest and imprisonment by the Nazis for the crime of homosexuality, now with a new foreword by Sarah Schulman, remains an essential contribution to gay history and our understanding of historical fascism, as well as a remarkable and complex story of survival and identity.

Daring to Struggle, Daring to Win tells the fascinating true story of an individual radical organizer turned independent Chicago city council member, and her forty year struggle for justice in Chicago.

An essential guidebook to influential Black women from Chicago’s South and West Sides, and their social, cultural, and artistic contributions to movements both past and present. 

A stirring memoir by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall: the late historian of slavery, veteran political activist, and widow of Black Bolshevik author Harry Haywood.

An intimate intellectual, political and personal portrait of Edward Said, one of the 20th century's leading public intellectuals. 

This collection of Howard Zinn's speeches on protest movements, racism, war, and US history, many never before published, covers more than four decades of his active engagement with the audiences he inspired with his humor, insight, and clarity.

Former Black Panthers Paul Coates and Eddie Conway discuss lives, politics, and their friendship that helped Eddie survive decades in prison.

Lucy Parsons, who the Chicago police considered “more dangerous than a thousand rioters,” was an early American radical who defied all the conventions of her turbulent era as an outspoken woman of color, writer, and labor organizer.

A compelling look at the rise and fall of the Black Panther generation, through the eyes of a founding member.

Erik Olin Wright, one of the most important sociologists of his time, takes us along on his intimate and brave journey toward death, and asks the big questions about human mortality.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith's Black Power salute on the 1968 Olympic podium sparked controversy and career fallout. Yet their show of defiance remains one of the most iconic images of Olympic history and the Black Power movement. Here is the remarkable story of one of the men behind the salute, lifelong activist John Carlos.

Tomas Young’s War is the tragic yet life affirming story of a paralyzed Iraq War veteran who spent his last ten years battling heroically with his injuries, while courageously speaking out against America's wars. 

A bracing, concise, and accessible intellectual biography of Karl Marx.

The definitive partisan biography of Rosa Luxemburg, telling the story of her life as only a contemporary and comrade could know it.

A remarkable collection of essays illuminating Rosa Luxemburg's tremendous contributions to revolutionary struggle and enduring relevance.

A personal account of Lenin’s life and thought, written by the woman who knew him best.

Combining Young Lenin and On Lenin in one volume, this is a fascinating political biography by fellow revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

This illustrated introduction offers an irreverent and sophisticated portrait of Trotsky's life and works.

A moving biography of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky by two of his close friends and collaborators.

Alexandra Kollontai was a key leader of the Russian Socialist movement, the only woman in the early Soviet government, and one of the most famous women in Russian history.

By translating and presenting for the first time many letters previously overlooked by other volumes, this collection greatly expands what the English-speaking world knows of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, both politically and personally. 

In this wide-ranging and engaging evaluation of Gramsci’s political thought, Rosengraten focuses on the Sardinian’s legacy and lasting influence.

Karl Kautsky was, for three decades before the First World War, the main authority on the intellectual heritage of Marx and Engels. In this gripping new intellectual biography, Jukka Gronow examines Karl Kautsky’s influence on the European labor movement.

The first English-language biography of one of Latin America’s most important, innovative, and enduringly relevant, Marxist thinkers.

A rich exploration of Frantz Fanon's life and times, combining interviews with those who fought alongside him with selections from his work. This book gives new insight into the extraordinary life and ideas of one of the twentieth century's most important revolutionaries.

A political portrait focused on Guevara’s thought and political record aimed at dispelling many of the myths about the revolutionary.

The classic historical biography reissued for the 150th anniversary of John Brown's celebrated uprising against slavery.

Orator, organizer, self-taught scholar, presidential candidate, and prisoner, Eugene Debs’ lifelong commitment to the fight for a better world is chronicled in this unparalleled biography by historian Ray Ginger.

An extensive compilation of articles, speeches, press statements, and open letters by American socialist Eugene V. Debs.

Radical songwriter and organizer Joe Hill was murdered by the capitalist state in 1915, but his songs continue to inspire working-class activists and musicians. Through this collection of letters, readers are provided a window into the political reflections and personal struggles behind Hill's legend.

A history of the Industrial Workers of the World's golden years as lived by one of its guiding lights.

Howard Zinn dramatizes the life of Emma Goldman, the anarchist, feminist, and free-spirited thinker who was exiled from the US.

The sole surviving diary of a Holocaust resistance fighter, written from inside the Nazi concentration camps.

Green Party leader and prominent social justice activist Peter Camejo tells the story of his life of struggle.

Considered by many Ireland's most important revolutionary, James Connolly devoted his life to struggles against exploitation, oppression, and imperialism. This volume collects Connolly's most important speeches and writing.

In the revolutionary tradition, the name of Louis Blanqui is either remembered with derision or as a noble failure. Yet during his lifetime, Blanqui was a towering figure of revolutionary courage and commitment as he organized nearly a half-dozen failed revolutionary conspiracies and spent half of his life in jail. This is Blanqui's story.

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