Recommended Books

*Note: Links to the Amazon listings of these books are provided for information purposes, but we encourage you to go support your local independent bookstores!

See our recommend books on:


Civil Rights Movement

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Recommended Books on Nonviolence

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolence Conflict
By Erica Chenoweth & Maria J. Stephan
A groundbreaking book that documents hundreds of the most recent violent and nonviolent mass movements from around the world.  The empirical, data-driven study found that, among other things, nonviolent movements are twice as likely to be effective in meeting it’s objective, and more likely to have sustained success after the revolution.  Watch a short TED talk by Erica here.

The Search for a Nonviolent Future
By Michael Nagler
A look into the movement led by Gandhi, as well as lesser known examples of nonviolent struggles against the Nazi regime, in China, Africa and elsewhere.  A great and comprehensive study on the campaigns and theory of nonviolence.

Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential
By Gene Sharp & Joshua Paulson
This book documents 23 nonviolent struggles from around the world.  This book has been used to help movements around the world fight oppressive regimes.  Gene Sharp is one of the most well known scholars and authors of nonviolence, and has written multiple books on nonviolence.

The Politics of Nonviolent Action (Three part series)
By Gene Sharp
A three part series, part one is entitled “Power in Struggle,” and analyzes where political power comes from.  Part two, called “The Methods of Nonviolent Action” documents 198 various nonviolent tactics that can be utilized, which can also be seen here.  The third books, “Dynamics of Nonviolent Action,” analyzes the dynamics of how a nonviolent movement may win over violent political repression.

The Power of Nonviolence
By Richard B. Gregg
Beginning with some historical examples of successful nonviolent campaigns, Gregg then goes into the philosophical underpinnings of nonviolence.  A very underrated book.

A Force More Powerful
By Peter Ackerman & Jack DuVall
A critically acclaimed book that shows the power of nonviolent movements from around the world.  Tells the story of how various communities have used nonviolence to win human rights, overthrow dictators, obstruct military invasions and more.  Highlighted movements include the Danish opposition to the Nazi regime, the fight against Polish communism, and the removal of a dictator in Chile.  There is also an accompanying DVD.

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
By Marshall Rosenberg
This book uses narratives, concrete examples and practical tools to teach the methodologies of Nonviolent Communication (NVC).  These tools will help you identify needs, express anger, and explore power in ways that will lead to fruitful dialogues, rather than escalating into violence.  Learn more about NVC here.

Gandhi’s Authobiography: My Experiments with Truth
By Mohandas Gandhi
The autobiography of one of the most influential figures in the entire history of nonviolent struggle.  Dr. King described Gandhi as the first person to take the love ethics of Jesus and use it as a tool for social change.  Gandhi was able to free India from British rule without firing a single bullet.  Also check out this anthology of his writings.

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
By Henry David Thoreau
A classic essay written in 1849 by one of the early pioneers of nonviolent civil disobedience, Thoreau advocates that citizens have a responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

Tolstoy’s Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence
By Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy is known as one of the greatest authors throughout history, yet his writings on nonviolence and civil resistance are unknown to many.  A devout christian anarchist and pacifist, he also wrote the “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” a book that would be a major influence to both Gandhi and King.

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Recommended Books on the Civil Rights Era

America in the King Years (Three Part Series)
By Taylor Branch
This three part series is a fantastic collection that documents not only the work of Dr. King, but the context in which the movement grew.  The books talk about the players who were organizing behind the scenes, what was going on in the political world, within law enforcement, the courts, and so much more.  The series includes “Parting the Waters: 1954-1963,” “Pillar of Fire: 1963-1965,” and “At Canaan’s Edge: 1965-1968.”

In Peace & Freedom: My Journeys in Selma
By Bernard LaFayette, Jr.
A memoir by the co-author of the Kingian Nonviolence curriculum.  Before developing this powerful training, Dr. LaFayette was a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins.  Following their success in Nashville, he went on to lead SCLC’s voter registration campaigns in Selma, a city that had previously been taken off the organization’s list because “the white people were too mean and the black people were too scared.”

Ready from Within: Septima Clark & the Civil Rights Movement, A First Person Narrative
By Septime Clark and Cynthia Stokes Brown
A first hand account of the movement from Septima Clark, who worked with the Highlander Folks School and was instrumental in the development of the Citizenship Schools which helped thousands of African Americans learn to read and write, so they can register to vote.

Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement
By John Lewis
Congressman John Lewis began his political career not in the halls of Washington, but in the lunch counters of Nashville, TN.  As chairman of SNCC, he was arrested more than 40 times and was beaten during several campaigns.

The Children
By David Halberstam
This book highlights the students that came together under the leadership of Rev. James Lawson during the trainings he led in preparation for the Nashville Lunch Counter Sit-In movement, one of the most successful campaigns during the civil rights era.  Many of these students would go on to lead other campaigns throughout the movement.

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Books on Martin Luther King

*Note: For books by Dr. King and books containing his speeches and writings, click here.

Bearing the Cross (1986)
By David Garrow
Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biographies as well as the Robert F. Kennedy Book  Award, this may be the most comprehensive biography of Dr. King.

My Life with Martin Luther King (1969)
By Correta Scott King
A memoir written by the widow of Dr. King, just one year after his assassination.  An inside look at Dr. King’s work, his speeches and sermons, and his family life.

Gospel of Freedom (2013)
By Jonathan Rieder
Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation is the background story of Dr. King’s most famous piece of writing.  While sitting alone in his jail cell in Birmingham during one of the lowest moments of his career, Dr. King penned the famous “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” on the margins of newspapers with no access to notes or research materials.

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Leadership (1999)
By Donald T. Phillips
Phillips, a leadership motivational speaker, looks into the leadership model of Dr. King.

Martin Luther King: A Life (2005)
By Marshall Frady
A shorter biography of Dr. King written by a journalist well known for his work covering the Civil Rights Movement.

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