Reading list

US Politics Reading List

Socialism is more popular than ever in the US. This US politics and history reading list will introduce readers to key socialist ideas through an American lens.

Verso Books11 February 2016

US Politics Reading List

What does it mean that the most popular politician in the US is a democratic socialist? With a majority of young people expressing a dissatisfaction with capitalism, this is the moment to embrace the resurgence of socialist ideas by picking up some recently published and classic books on socialist history and American politics.

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The political autobiography of the insurgent presidential candidate

“Bernie’s been in the forefront of all the crucial environmental fights of recent years.” – Bill McKibben, cofounder of

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A short, sharp, irreverent rejoinder to right-wing red-baiting.

“Of all the giant slayers now afoot in the great American desert, John Nichols’s sword is the sharpest, his footwork the most graceful, his brain the most cunning.” – Gore Vidal

“[A] search for the legacy of our homegrown radicals.” – Washington Post

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Powerful critique of UK and US surveillance and repression of Muslims and prosecution of homegrown terrorism

“A bold new look at the much discussed issue of surveillance, documenting how it impacts the communities most affected – American and British Muslims. With incisive reporting from across the US and the UK, combined with trenchant analysis, Arun Kundnani captures what it feels like to be a ‘suspect population.’” – Deepa Kumar, author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire

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How do mass protests become an organized activist collective?

“Jodi Dean’s new book isn’t just a timely reminder that to change our thoroughly and deliberately atomized society demands collective action and militant organization; it is also a passionate analysis of the fractured passion of shared political commitment, linking the enthusiasm of group experience with the sustained and steady discipline of popular empowerment.” – Peter Hallward, author of Damming the Flood

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“Deserves careful reading.” —The New Republic 

“The most interesting implication of Anderson’s argument is that the long catalog of US foreign policy disasters—the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, the twin quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq—were more than just errors of presidential judgment. They were the price America recurrently pays for the hubristic embrace of a messianic foreign policy, one that never disciplined its priorities according to rationally defined national interests.” – New York Review of Books

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“Courageous, outspoken, clear-eyed.”—Publishers Weekly

“Serious, well-written, effective in its demystification, valuable as a model of hardheaded but caring analysis, principled in its criticism ... Wallace’s fearless presentation of her analysis quite takes the breath away.”
Washington Post

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The decisive role of the illegal slave trade in the making of the United States

“Through huge investment in Cuba, American interests, including northern interests, deepened their dependence upon slavery and the slave trade, at exactly the moment it was supposed to be in decline. No God But Gain is an important corrective to the historical record.” – Ted Widmer, author of Brown: The History of an Idea

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Forceful and detailed account of the struggle for “freedom” after the American Civil War

“Evocative and inspiring, Seizing Freedom represents a landmark study by one of the foremost scholars of the history of race and labor in our time that will fundamentally challenge the way we understand the moral and practical power of emancipation.” – Thavolia Glymph, Duke University

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How slavery shaped the market economy and abolitionists gave us our ideals

“The finest one-volume history of the rise and fall of modern slavery.”
The Nation

“Blackburn describes emancipation in all its vexed, indeterminate grandeur, propelled by violent clashes, public debate, harrowing exposés, and the consolidation of new notions of freedom and equality.” – Greg Grandin, Guardian

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Bestselling narrative history of American media that puts race at the center of the story.

“Truly a masterpiece; I could not put it down. After years of research, Juan González and Joseph Torres have produced a book that will be nothing short of mandatory reading for all who care about the media or democracy. It will change how you think about media and American history.” – Robert W. McChesney, coauthor of The Death and Life of American Journalism

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“The most important leftist book of the year, and probably the decade.”
Charles Mudede, The Stranger

“A must read for everyone who is concerned about where the future of capitalism might lie.” – David Harvey, CUNY Graduate Center, author of A Brief History of Neoliberalism

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The decline of the American union movement—and how it can revive, by a leading analyst of labor

“Nothing less than a brilliantly argued demand for the labor movement to shed its ill-conceived twentieth-century ‘partnership’ garb with Capital and the Democratic Party and reinvent itself in the twenty-first century.” – Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director, National Nurses United

Irregular Army
How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror
by Matt Kennard

Reveals the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to extremists in its ranks.

“Matt Kennard’s careful and judicious investigations reveal an aspect of the modern US military system that should be of deep concern to American citizens.” – Noam Chomsky

“Armies corrupt and disintegrate when they fight colonial wars. Matt Kennard’s outstanding, meticulous book exposes the secret recruiting of criminals in an army whose wars are criminal. This is journalism as it should be.” – John Pilger

It Started in Wisconsin: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Labor Protest
Edited by Paul Buhle and Mari Jo Buhle
Foreword by Michael Moore
Introduction by John Nichols 

First-hand accounts of the largest pro-labor mass mobilization in modern American history

“[A] collection of stories from those that participated in one of the most inspiring movements to erupt in the US heartland in decades. Those stories provide the observer from afar with a fairly universal and nuanced look at the daily lives of those involved in organizing, occupying, reporting and otherwise participating in those weeks of popular democracy.” – Ron Jacobs, Counterpunch, 02 March 2012

“[W]ill help readers, regardless of their own stance, to understand much of what's at stake in the country's current labor and political battles.” – Carol J. Elsen, Library Journal, 15 March 2012

Outsider in the White House

Outsider in the White House

In this book, Senator Bernie Sanders explains where he comes from. He describes in detail how, after cutting his teeth in the Civil Rights movement, Sanders helped build an extraordinary grassroots...
The "S" Word
During the Cold War it became a dirty word in the United States, but “socialism” runs like a red thread through the nation’s history, an integral part of its political consciousness since the found...
The Muslims Are Coming!
The new front in the War on Terror is the “homegrown enemy,” domestic terrorists who have become the focus of sprawling counterterrorism structures of policing and surveillance in the United Stat...
Crowds and Party
Crowds and Party channels the energies of the riotous crowds who took to the streets in the past five years into an argument for the political party. Rejecting the emphasis on individuals and multi...
American Foreign Policy and Its Thinkers
Since the birth of the nation, impulses of empire have been close to the heart of the United States. How these urges interact with the way the country understands itself, and the nature of the dive...
Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman
Originally published in 1978, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman caused a storm of controversy. Michele Wallace blasted the masculine biases of the black politics that emerged from the si...
No God But Gain
From 1501 to 1867 more than 12.5 million Africans were brought to the Americas in chains, and as many as 100 million Africans died as a result of the slave trade. The U.S. constitution set a 20-yea...
Seizing Freedom
How did America recover after its years of civil war? How did freed men and women, former slaves, respond to their newly won freedom? David Roediger’s radical new history redefines the idea of fr...
The American Crucible
For over three centuries, slavery in the Americas fuelled the growth of capitalism. But the stirrings of a revolutionary age in the late eighteenth century challenged this “peculiar institution” an...
News for All the People
From colonial newspapers to the Internet age, America’s racial divisions have played a central role in the creation of the country’s media system, just as the media has contributed to—and every so ...
The Making of Global Capitalism
The all-encompassing embrace of world capitalism at the beginning of the twenty-first century was generally attributed to the superiority of competitive markets. Globalization had appeared to be ...
The Death and Life of American Labor
Union membership in the United States has fallen below 11 percent, the lowest rate since before the New Deal. Labor activist and scholar of the American labor movement Stanley Aronowitz argues that...

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