Updated: Jul 6
Here are some book recommendations for when you are looking for a gift for your friends or family to get you, or if you’re interested in getting yourself an book that discusses oppression in a way that is much easier to read than Das Kapital. Also, all these books could work for your family who is conservative and looking to get you a gift. They are not aggressively "left" on the cover and would allow you to increase your knowledge about oppression and what it means to stand in solidarity.
I have a list of ten books, four of which are nonfiction, three of which I would classify as philosophy and are more academic, and three of which are fiction. They are in no particular order and I hope you consider reading them.
This book is a fascinating story about the Osage Native Americans and the systems that were created to oppress them. The Osage became incredibly wealthy because they owned the mineral rights to a massive amount of oil which ultimately made many of them targets for exploitation by white people. It is a really good discussion of the history of Native American oppression in the early 20th century. If you are interested in Native rights issues this is a good book for you.
Bryan Stevenson’s memoir about what it means to be a defense lawyer who fights against the death penalty throughout the United States. Stevenson is the director of the Equal Justice Initiative that works to fight against the death penalty across the United States. Tells a story about how the criminal justice system is fundamentally flawed and biased against Black people. If you want to learn more about the criminal justice system and the inherent discrimination within it.
A book was written by South African comedian Trevor Noah, current host of the Daily Show. It talks about Noah’s living in South Africa before the end of apartheid and what it meant to be a mixed child living in a society that criminalized you. Throughout the book, there is a poignant discussion of what racism means within the context of former colonial rule. If you want to read about colonialism and systemic oppression this is a great book for you.
If you want to read about the troubles in Northern Ireland this would be a great book for you. It is a story about the Irish Republican Army and how they fought against British rule. For someone who did not know very much about the troubles, this is a great book to start. It talks about the atrocities committed on both sides of the war with a brutal description of the force-feeding of two IRA members who were critical to a bombing in London. If you are interested in learning more about the liberation of Northern Ireland this book is a great place for you to start.
I classified this book as philosophy because although it is nonfiction it is more insightful into the theories behind capitalism and slavery. The book was written by Frederick Douglass in the mid 19th century, about his life as a slave and the slave system as a whole. Douglass’s profound insights into what it means to be free and the effects of the slave system upon both the slaveholder and the slave are incredibly profound. He shows what it means to stand up to oppression and fight against the system. If you are interested in reading one of my favorite books and a fascinating philosophical discussion about the dynamics of slave relations in 19th century America then this is the book for you.
The Plague is my favorite philosophical work, I think the ideas that Camus presents are the ones that I most agree with in regards to dealing with life. This book is about the bubonic plague that sweeps through a town in Algeria called Oran. It is quite fitting work given the situation with the pandemic that is occurring right now. If you are interested in reading a work of philosophy that is easier to understand than Marx this would be a good place to start.
I would be remiss if I did not include one of Simone De Beauvoir’s works on this list. This is the densest work on the list. However, it is also one of the most insightful into the liberation of the proletariat. This work is the most closely tied to Marx out of all of the works in the list and if you are looking to expand your understanding of philosophy beyond those directly influenced by Marx’s teachings this is a great place to start.
Written about 1960’s America and Anarchism as well as an overview of the riots in Newark, New Jersey. It is an open critique of traditional American society and the foundations upon which America rests. I would describe it as an engaging book that would be good for you to read if you are interested in any of the themes mentioned above. Also, if you are looking for a book for your conservative family members to buy this book has the most innocuous title.
If you like romance, modern retellings of fairy tales, robots, and fights against oppression this is the book for you. This series is a quick read however that does not mean that you should discount it. There is a big fight against the oppressors who have created a military state and want to destroy the Earth. This is a great book and is a way to destress while still reading within the liberal literature. It is a fantasy book that is less problematic than Harry Potter and intended for slightly older audiences than Percy Jackson. I would recommend this book to anyone who reads a more complex book off of the list as it would be a good way to relax your brain after reading the intricacies of Beauvoir.
Finally on the list is Maus, a graphic novel series about the horrors of the concentration camps during WWII. Based on the story of Vladic Spigalman who suffered through the concentration camps. If you like graphic novels and you are interested in learning more about the horrors that occurred during WWII then this is a very good place to start.