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5 impactful books every volunteer organizer should read

There’s always more to learn about organizing, movements, & social change. Check out our top recommendations for essential organizing reads.

Whether you’re a lifelong organizer or newly called to the field, there’s always more to learn about organizing, movements, and social change. 

Here are our top picks for the five books every organizer should read:

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown

Author, doula, and activist adrienne maree brown is at the forefront of movements for radical social change. Through a creative, poetic, and even spiritual lens, Emergent Strategy argues something key: change is constant, and we must embrace it to thrive and shape the world we want to live in. 

If you’re feeling organizer burnout and seeking to regroup and find hope in the chaos, this is the book for you. “I think it is healing behavior, to look at something so broken and see the possibility and wholeness in it,” brown writes.  

Give Us The Ballot by Ari Berman

The Nation senior contributing writer Ari Berman writes an important history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the struggles we still face as a country to realize its promises more than 50 years later. 

“For a country that is famous for exporting democracy across the globe and has branded itself as the shining city on the hill, the United States has a shameful history when it comes to embracing one of its most basic rights at home,” writes Berman. Give Us The Ballot is essential background reading to understand the barriers for many Americans to show up at the voting booths. 

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit

Hope in the Dark draws on Rebecca Solnit’s decades as an activist and transformative political victories of the past, often forgotten in despairing times. “To hope is to give yourself to the future—and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable,” Solnit reminds us. 

If you need yet another reason to read this one: it comes highly recommended by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Understanding the complex layers of identity and privilege is essential for any organizer. Ijeoma Oluo guides readers through the uncomfortable conversations that we all must have to confront racism and systems of oppression. 

A review from comedian and writer Hari Kondabolu: "Ijeoma Oluo is armed with words. Her words are daggers that pierce through injustice, while also disarming you with humor and love."

They Said This Day Would Never Come by Chris Liddell-Westefeld

“Every four years, ordinary Americans invest their hopes for the future in a new candidate for president. Despite the stereotype that politics is a cynical quest for power, for thousands of volunteers and activists, campaign fieldwork is an earnest act of blind faith—the belief that your labor might alter the trajectory of the most powerful country on earth.”

They Said This Day Would Never Come tells the stories of the field organizers and volunteers whose efforts elected President Obama in 2008, from former Obama campaigner and White House staff member Chris Liddell-Westefeld. This book is a must-read for all organizers as a reminder that the story of each elected official starts at the grassroots. 

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