Radical Reads: Proprietors of Burning Books offer summer books to blow your mind

Posted by Leslie Pickering on


Burning Books owners Leslie James Pickering and Theresa Baker-Pickering

One of the more pleasurable summer pursuits is taking advantage of the long days to catch up on some reading. While you can consult with with various mainstream outlets like Oprah’s Book Club—where you are currently encouraged to read Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel Far From the Madding Crowd which recently became a major motion picture (again)—we thought it would be fun to suggest a number of titles that would make your summer reading something more than simple entertainment. Without further ado, here are some books as recommended by Leslie James Pickering and Theresa Baker-Pickering, who, along with activist Nate Buckley, run Buffalo’s most radical bookstore, Burning Books, located at 420 Connecticut Street. There you’ll find several titles that you won’t find on Amazon, and some that you won’t find in any other brick and mortar bookstore in the entire country.

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous

This is the only account on the underground computer hacking movement approved by the hackers themselves, including Jeremy Hammond, who is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for a massive Anonymous hack into global intelligence corporation Stratfor (Strategics Forcasting). Here is the ultimate book on the worldwide movement of hackers, pranksters, and activists that operates under the non-name Anonymous, filled with insights into the meaning of digital activism.

Capitalism Must Die!

A basic introduction to capitalism: what it is, why it sucks, and how to crush it. Author and Illustrator Stephanie McMillan uses text and comics to explain in simple terms how oppression, ecocide, inequality, and exploitation can’t be voted away or escaped—you need to join the worldwide fight against capitalism! Capitalism Must Die is just the primer you need and the comics will have you laughing along the way.


In Race Course, former Weather Underground leaders (and Burning Books guest lecturers) Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn tackle white supremacy and its troubling endurance in American life. While addressing unexamined bigotry in the criminal justice system, election processes, war policy, and education, the book draws upon the authors’ own confrontations with authorities during the Vietnam era, reasserts their belief that racism and war are interwoven issues. It’s a textbook on understanding race in America, then and now, and a case study on being an ally.

Until All Are Free—The History of the Swedish Animal Liberation Front

With an amazing collection of over 300 full-color images, Until All Are Free—The History of the Swedish Animal Liberation Front, takes readers closer to the underground struggle for animal liberation than has previously been possible. Thirty years ago, a single mother-of-two placed an ad in the local paper to find others who were willing to risk their own freedom rescuing animals in need. Since then, the activists have carried out thousands of actions and saved countless animals. Never before has the animal liberation movement been portrayed so intimately and readers been able to hear the activists’ own stories about their actions.

Eliza Pickering and O May Mar.
Radical Books for
Young Adults

While you’re soaking up some sun with a good book this summer, bring along the kids. Burning Books has a surprising collection of radical books for youth of all ages. Suggested summer reads for young adults include:

Little Brother—a techno-geek novel on teenage hacker resistance against an out-of-control Department of Homeland Security.

Missing from Haymarket Square—historical fiction about a 12-year-old girl’s daring fight against child labor and for the 8-hour work day set during the 1886 worker uprising.

Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues—where a brother and sister embark on a mystery/adventure against poverty and racism during the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.

The Story of the Blue Planet—about a wild and free world populated with children that is under siege by intergalactic adults with business cards and false promises.

Young Marian’s Adventures in Sherwood Forest—where the Sheriff of Nottingham learns the hard way not to mess with a 13-year-old Maid Marian.

Hoot—condemned as “softcore eco-terrorism for kids” by the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.


Killer cops and cop-killers, “police as workers” and police as soldiers, copwatching and counterinsurgency operations are all examined in the new and very timely book Fire the Cops. Author (and former Burning Books guest lecturer) Kristian Williams shows how police violence and impunity function to buttress the power of the State and how “anti-gang” operations and “community policing” are used to apply military theories of repression to oppressed communities across the United States.


The world watched in horror last autumn as the ruthless Islamic State (commonly referred to as ISIS) marched on the small city of Kobane in northern Syria. No one expected the city to survive the attack, but it did. A Small Key Can Open a Large Door tells the story of the militias who held the city, fighting to defend the Rojava Revolution. Partially based on the writings of social ecologist Murray Bookchin, the people of Rojava have developed an anti-state and anti-capitalist way of life that values feminism, direct democracy, ecological stewardship, and ethnic, linguistic, and religious pluralism. Western media attention has shamefully moved on, but their inspirational struggle continues.


Envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism... Octavia’s Brood is an anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The visionary tales of Octavia’s Brood span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to inject a healthy dose of imagination and innovation into our political practice and to try on new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be.

Indigenous People’s History of the United States

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (who will be speaking at Burning Books this fall) offers Indigenous People’s History of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.


Like all A-Z books, this one illustrates the alphabet—but instead of “A is for Apple,” A is for Angela—as in Angela Davis, the iconic political activist. And the list of great women continues, spanning several centuries and multiple professions. There are artists and abolitionists, scientists and suffragettes, rock stars and rabble-rousers, and agents of change of all kinds. With striking visuals, Rad American Women A-Z reminds readers that there are many places to find inspiration, and offers a fresh and diverse array of female role models.


Does gay marriage support the right-wing goal of linking access to basic human rights like health care and economic security to an inherently conservative tradition? Will the ability of queers to fight in wars of imperialism help liberate and empower LGBT people around the world? Does hate-crime legislation affirm and strengthen historically anti-queer institutions like the police and prisons rather than dismantling them? In Against Equality, queer thinkers, writers, and artists challenge mainstream gay and lesbian struggles for inclusion in elitist and inhumane institutions, seeking to reinvigorate the queer political imagination with fantastic possibility.

Guantánamo Diary

This is the first and only account published by a still-imprisoned Guantánamo detainee. Mohamedou Slahi has been imprisoned at Guantánamo since 2002. In all these years, the United States has never charged him with a crime. A federal judge ordered his release in 2010 but the U.S. fought that decision and there is no sign that they plan to let him go. Slahi has been subjected to multiple forms of torture, including isolation, beatings, sexual humiliation, death threats, and a mock execution. His diary is a riveting and profoundly revealing read, as well as a vivid record of injustice.