Read on for a rundown of ten books for activists suggested by the Campaign Bootcamp team - offering new perspectives, stories and advice.
Blueprint for Revolution by Srdja Popvic
Popvic is one of the leaders of the CANVAS (The Centre of Nonviolent Actions and Strategies), the Serbian based organisation that was behind the movement overthrowing Slobodan Milošević, and has taken these lessons to help other movements around the world. It’d be easy to think that the book is only intended for those who are interested in learning about overthrowing dictators, but it’s not. I found the book packed full of practical insight and brilliant stories that are relevant to anyone involved in campaigning. It’s an easy and enjoyable read, with Popvic mixing a range of stories from his personal experience with lessons from history
Bury the Chains by Adam Hochchild
Extraordinary and inspiring account of the first grassroots human rights campaign, which freed hundreds of thousands of slaves around the world. It traces the campaign which was started by 12 men gathering in London in 1787 with a seemingly impossible task: ending slavery in the world’s biggest empire. Along the way they pioneered many of the tools citizen activists still rely on.
The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin
This book is the reason why I love feminist and radical sci-fi, and why you should too! Ursula le Guin is just a personal hero, and since her death last year her books are getting read more and more! The Dispossessed tells the story of a moon run under a sort of anarchist system, since a revolution where people broke away from the deeply unequal system on their home planet, and is awesome. Also recommended: Octavia Butler.
Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Marie Brown
Inspired by Octavia Butler’s explorations of our human relationship to change, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invites us to feel, map, assess, and learn from the swirling patterns around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen.
Facilitating Group Learning by George Lakey
If you want to understand more about why we do what we do at Bootcamp in terms of education and training style, this is the one. It’s written by George Lakey, the person behind Training for Change, a hugely influential organisation who have trained most Bootcamp trainers in how to run and deliver transformative, social justice training which Tamara-Jade talks about here . With a focus on training viewed through the lens of power and transformation for social justice, this book really lays out how to work through so many things that come up when facilitating groups, using anecdotes drawn from decades of Lakey’s experience. I particularly enjoyed reading anecdotes and thoughts from trainers like Erika, who Bootcamp trainers were lucky enough to receive training from twice in 2018, and who took part in this interview for us.
Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach
Even though this was published in 1978, it’s still very readable and sadly relevant. I want to include this as a self-care book, as it taught me a lot about accepting my body. Something which, as a campaigner for issues which directly affects the bodies of (mostly) women and non-binary people, is important to me both on a personal level but also for my campaigning. I also like that it’s written from a place of experience. Orbach is a Psychoanalyst – so understands the academics behind it – but she also has lived experience of eating disorders. She describes experiencing over 10 years of dieting, bingeing and self-hatred, before signing up to a course that gave her a new outlook on life and caused her to write this book.
How to Survive a Plague by David France
About ACT UP and AIDS activism in the 80s/90s, and how to keep working when everyone around you is literally dying and no one cares.
The Politics of Disablement by Mike Oliver
Mike Oliver is a disability campaigner and academic. He defined the concept of the social model of disability which has helped so many disabled people in the UK realise our impairment is not the problem, what disables us is the physical and attitudinal barriers we face. This for me as teenager was revolutionary and contrary to everything I’d ever been told about disability
The Revolution Starts at Home by Ching-In Chen
This book explores and breaks the dangerous silence surrounding the secret of domestic or intimate violence within social justice and organising circles. The book includes a collection of stories and strategies to tackle and prevent the multiple forms of violence encountered right where we live, love, and work for social change. As a prison abolitionist, I was interested in the strategies that are proposed to prevent abuse without relying on state violence. This book is potentially life-saving – and as a survivor activist, it is an issue I care about deeply.
Unapologetic by Charlene Carruthers
Unapologetic really resonates for new organisers by presenting a new way to organise with a community, drawing on her experience with Black Youth Project 100 in Chicago. I think of Charlene’s book as more about how to build groups in the face of oppression.
Previous & Next Articles
10 Places to find Campaigning and Activism Books in the UK
Independent bookshops often support us in our creativity and community building; they offer a place for folks to convene in ways that the internet does not.
Assistive Technology and Disability Campaigning
Bootcamp graduate Kush was recently named one of the most influential BAME people in tech in the UK. We spoke to him about the future of Assistive Technology and campaigning for disability rights.