108 Epic Books: Social and Environmental Justice (2/8)

From the series Workers, by Sebastiao Salgado.

This is a continuation of my 108 Books post from earlier this week.

I’m publishing the list in sections in these categories: Social Entrepreneurship, Social and Environmental Justice (this post), Moral Philosophy and Faith, Leadership, Your Brain (Understanding and Protecting it), Creativity, Life Skills, and When You Need An Antidote to Stress or Suffering.

Tell me what you think of the list below, and whether I missed something.

Social and Environmental Justice, Economics, and History Books

  1. *Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo — this chronicle of life in a Mumbai slum reads like a telenovela. Boo, winner of a Pulitzer for her reporting on American poverty, will be remembered as our generation’s Upton Sinclair. If you read nothing else on this list, read this book.
  2. Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer — a modern, very readable version of Animal Liberation, Peter Singer’s classic work from the 1970s. Foer’s book familiarizes us with the suffering of 50B farm animals, links our eating habits to global warming, and makes it impossible to look at a piece of pork without wanting to throw up.
  3. Poor Economics, by Abhijit Bannerjee and Esther Duflo. Two MIT development economists transform the way we think about aid and argue that we should apply the same kind of scrutiny to development interventions as we do to clinical drug testing.
  4. We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, by Philip Gourevitch — an overview of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the factors that led neighbors and families to turn on each other.
  5. King Leopold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild. Countless people have told me over the years “Africa is to blame for its own problems.” This book, which chronicles the despotic acts of Belgium’s King Leopold in the Congo (responsible for the deaths of at least 5 million Congolese people), makes plain the barbarism of colonialism in Africa’s past.
  6. Savage Inequalities, by Jonathan Kozol — a classic text on the disparities in America’s public schools. This was the first book I ever read in the social justice genre, and the reason I started doing community service in high school.
  7. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Eirenreich. To better understand how the US economy is shifting from the perspective of low-wage workers, read this. It’s a startling and incredible work of journalism by a powerful woman writer.
  8. A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn. The classic history book that reexamines American history from the perspective of those who lost out, rather than those who triumphed. A good start for understanding social problems of today.
  9. Workers, by Sebastiao Salgado. This Brazilian photographer first picked up a camera at age 30, after he’d been in grad school. His work covers displaced people and low-wage workers around the world.
  10. Disgrace, by JM Coetzee. This fictional account of a crime in South Africa helps outsiders understand the brutality of apartheid. Coetzee is dark. Be prepared.

Films, Music, Art, Etc.

  1. Waiting for Superman. A film about US educational inequity and the movement to create high-quality schools around the country.
  2. Guernica, Pablo Picasso- not really about social justice, but about what happens when war tears through a community.
  3. Blackfish (the movie) and Beneath the Surface, John Hargrove. A former Sea World trainer details abuses against animals and poses broader questions about how our economic system shapes our treatment of the environment and animals.
  4. Fed Up. A film narrated by Katie Couric about the epidemic of obesity in the US, and how it’s linked to food policy and profit-seeking on the part of major agriculture companies.
  5. “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday. This recording gives me chills every time I hear it. It’s a reminder that terrorism in the United States has its roots in violence against African Americans.
  6. “Mr. Wendell” — other social justice song, this one a rap by Arrested Development
  7. A Walk to Beautiful. A film about fistula, a birth injury that affects millions of women globally who can’t afford decent medical care, and a women’s clinic that treats the condition in Ethopia.

Enjoy, and all my best for a wonderful 2016!

If you’d like to receive more stuff like this, you can subscribe to my weekly letter here.

Like what you read? Give Leila Janah a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.