Reading For Social Consciousness

An ever-expanding list of captivating content



Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place
bell hooks

bell hook’s compilation of poems draws on her harsh upbringing in Appalachia. “Meditative, confessional, and political”, it draws the reader into the experience of living firmly rooted in a place that is no longer whole, suffering from socioeconomic marginalization and resource pillaging.

1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus
Charles C. Mann

Radically challenges the ‘noble savage’ myth of pre-Columbian American Indian life, showing the richness and complexity of American Indian culture and asserting that Indians, too, actively molded and influenced their environments.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Matthew Desmond

Explores how the devastating process of eviction, which falls hardest on women with children, becomes part of a cycle of impoverishment for tenants and profit for landlords/courts/companies.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The fates of human societies
Jared Diamond

Considered to be a major advance in the study of human history, Diamond chronicles how Western hegemony came to be, emphasizing the effects of geographical and environmental happenstance and deftly dismantling racially and nationally based theories of human history.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America
Nancy Isenberg

Isenberg dispels the myth of a classless society, following the white poor from their origins in England through to Honey-Boo-Boo, exposing the widespread contempt for the poor and the systems that maintain class divisions.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
Audre Lorde

A hugely influential Black feminist thinker, Lorde’s compilation shows the basic outline and roots of her thinking about understanding social difference as an engine of change, and she encourages readers  “never [to] close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy.”

Zami: a new spelling of my name
Audre Lorde

Fast-moving autobiography/novel that created the genre of biomythography; chronicles Lorde’s life as a young Black lesbian growing up in Harlem.

Globalization: A Very Short Introduction

Part of a series offering concise (~150 page) discussions of complex issues: written by experts, but for a general audience

Also: Borders, African History, American Women’s History, Asian-American History, Capitalism, Citizenship, Decolonization, Democracy, Postcolonialism, International Migration, Islamic Ethics, Jewish History, Modern War, Neoliberalism, Terrorism, The Conquistadors

Gender Trouble
Judith Butler

A foundational text in queer theory, arguing that gender is an improvised and constantly constructed performance.

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
Michel Foucault

Essential to understanding the insidiousness of the modern prison system, Foucault’s brilliant (but dense) treatise explores how so-called reforms of prison systems have merely shifted the focus from control of the prisoner’s body to control of their soul.

Bastard out of Carolina
Dorothy Allison

A searing quasi-autobiography dealing with physical and sexual abuse, as well as the hopeless feeling of living as a marginalized ‘undesirable’. There is no happy ending, but an intensely rich and well-developed world of characters and places that does not perpetuate stereotypes of rural and poor Americans, but instead portrays them with empathy and complexity.


Code Switch

Journalists of color discuss race, ethnicity, and culture, how these themes play out in our daily lives and communities, and how all of it is continually in flux.

In Our Time

An hour-long weekly BBC podcast featuring experts on essentially any topic: ranging from Russian male short story writers and cannibalism in fiction to Yogic texts, the concept of zero, religious cosmology, computational neuroscience, and concepts of aesthetics. A truly impressive list of the 750+ episodes is available on BBC Radio 4’s website.