More Radical Reads: A holiday rundown of books to blow your mind

Posted by Leslie Pickering on

by Buck Quigley, Artvoice, 11/26/2015


Our friends Leslie James Pickering and Theresa Baker-Pickering at Burning Books (420 Connecticut St./ have offered us a list of titles sure to appeal to those progressive friends on your shopping list—those that can’t see an ad for holiday diamonds without clenching their teeth in disgust at how those diamonds were likely obtained. Without further ado, here are some gift ideas for designed to shine a bright light throughout the holiday season...


Sisters of the Revolution gathers a selection of feminist speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, and more), expanding the conversation about feminism while engaging the reader in a wealth of imaginative ideas. Moving from the fantastic to the futuristic, the subtle to the surreal, these stories will provoke thoughts and emotions about feminism like no other book available today.

Asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass all offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.

Escaping the Prism…Fade to Black is a collection of Jalil Muntaqim’s poetry and essays, written from behind the bars of Attica prison. Combining the personal and the political, these texts afford readers with a rare opportunity to get to know a man who has spent most of his life—over forty years—behind bars for his involvement in the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Snowden is a portrait of a brave young man standing up to the most powerful government in the world and, if not winning, at least reaching a stand-off, and in this way is an incitation to us all to measure our courage and listen to our consciences in asking ourselves what we might have done in his shoes.

Want to learn to make your own soap? Mend your torn clothes? Grow your own cucumbers? Carry your groceries and children on a bicycle? This four book box set teaches you the basics and beyond. The Urban Homesteader offers friendly guides to a new, cozy, sustainable life at home and in the world. Live your own revolution!

Pathologized, terrorized, and confined, trans/gender non-conforming and queer folks have always struggled against the enormity of the prison industrial complex. Captive Genders was the first book of its kind and remains the touchstone for studies of trans and gender-queer people in prison. It has been revamped to appeal to recent broadened interest with a new Foreword by CeCe MacDonald and essay by Chelsea Manning.

Countering images of the South as pacified and conservative, Dixie Be Damned engages insurrectionary episodes in Southern history to demonstrate the region’s long arc of revolt. Not the image of the South many expect, this is the South of maroon rebellion, wildcat strikes, and Robert F. Williams’s book Negroes with Guns, a South where the dispossessed refuse to quietly suffer their fate. This is people’s history at its best: slave revolts, multiracial banditry, labor battles, prison uprisings, urban riots, and more.

In the early morning hours of December 8, 1969, three hundred officers of the newly created elite paramilitary tactical unit known as SWAT initiated a violent battle with a handful of Los Angeles-based members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP). Five hours and five thousand rounds of ammunition later, three SWAT team members and three Black Panthers lay wounded. Nine Lives of a Black Panther tells Wayne Pharr’s riveting story of the Los Angeles branch of the BPP and gives a blow-by-blow account of how it prepared for and survived the massive military-style attack.

Permaculture is more than just the latest buzzword; it offers positive solutions for many of the environmental and social challenges confronting us. And nowhere are those remedies more needed and desired than in our cities. The Permaculture City provides a new way of thinking about urban living, with practical examples for creating abundant food, energy security, close-knit communities, local and meaningful livelihoods, and sustainable policies in our cities and towns.

For young adults and kids

Teenage Rebels provides a glimpse into the laws, policies, and political struggles that have shaped the lives of American high school students over the last one hundred years. Through dozens of case studies, Dawson Barrett recounts the strikes, marches, and picket lines of teens all over the U.S. as they demand better textbooks, start recycling programs, and protest the censorship of student newspapers. With historically-influenced artwork and accessible writing, this book is for anyone who has ever challenged the rules and wished for a better world.

Howard Zinn, historian Paul Buhle, and cartoonist Mike Konopacki have collaborated to retell, in vibrant comics form, the centuries-long story of America’s actions in the world. This version opens with the events of 9/11 and then jumps back to explore the cycles of U.S. expansionism from Wounded Knee to Iraq, stopping along the way at World War I, Central America, Vietnam, and the Iranian revolution. A People’s History of American Empire presents the classic ground-level history of America in a dazzling new graphic format.

On a cool December morning near San Francisco, a distress call was radioed to shore by a local fisherman. He had discovered a humpback whale tangled in hundreds of yards of crab-trap lines, struggling to stay afloat. The Eye of the Whale: A Rescue Story will make you wonder about animal emotions and the unique connections we can have with other animals, even whales.

Sit-In is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement. Expressive paintings combine with poetic, powerful prose to mirror the hope, strength, and determination that fueled the dreams of not only these four young men, but also countless others.

A is for Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. This popular and engaging little book carries huge messages as it inspires hope for the future, and calls children to action while teaching them a love for books.


Besides Books

CIVIO is a strategy card game that explores the relationship of issues, freedoms, laws, and Supreme Court cases that have both strengthened and reduced civil rights and civil liberties. The game is a race against other players to combine cards into precedents. The more points you earn, the higher your ranking. In time, you could become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court!

There’s plenty of inspirational literature for those who want more money, romance, spiritual purity, and professional advancement—but none for those of us who define success as overthrowing global capitalism. Until now! Stephanie McMillan’s 365 Daily Affirmations is a full-color, 365-day perpetual desk calendar. Flip to a new page each day. The dates are printed but not the weekdays or year, so you can use it over and over.

The holidays are a great time to start thinking about the coming new year. Burning Books has beautiful 2016 wall calendars from Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners as well as We’Moon: Gaia Rhythms for Womyn. The ever popular Slingshot Organizers have been getting some competition lately from the beautiful and politically poignant datebooks by Justseeds artist collective. Stop by and see what best fits your needs to get organized for 2016.