9 Social Justice Books to Read This Fall

It's never too early to start planning your fall reading list.

When we think of social justice, we typically think of action, and action is certainly vital, but we also need study and reflection to help us understand the complexity that surrounds any given issue.

Here are nine new and upcoming books that span a wide range of social justice issues and will be worth reading this fall.

The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence

by Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros (Oxford University Press)

Although we have made great strides in the battle against global poverty over the last three decades, Western generosity alone will not eliminate poverty. This important book looks at various forms of violence—for instance, rape, slavery, land theft—and how they contribute to the cycle of poverty. The authors make a convincing case that efforts to work for a world beyond poverty must include the messy work of resisting violence.

Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?

by Eugene Cho (David C. Cook)

Never afraid to ask a pointed question, Eugene Cho calls us not just to love and talk about justice, but to be actively engaged in seeking justice. It is not just others who need to be healed and transformed, but we ourselves as well, and Cho maintains that we start to find our own transformation in working for change among others.

Just Mercy

by Bryan Stevenson (Speigel and Grau)

This is a legal narrative that has been praised by the master of this genre, John Grisham, but this story is not fiction, but rather Stevenson’s memoir of a life in law, defending “the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.” Just Mercy, however, is more than simply Stevenson’s story; it offers a profound argument for compassion in the American legal system.

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

by Dan Barber (The Penguin Press)

This new work by Dan Barber is likely the most important book on food to be published this year. Barber argues that the food produced by neither conventional agriculture (the first plate) nor local and organic agriculture (the second plate), is a sustainable way to farm and eat. Rather, he argues for the third plate, “an integrated system of vegetable, grain and livestock production that is ... dictated by what we choose to cook for dinner.”

Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White—Who's More Precious In God's Sight?: A call for Diversity in Christian Missions

by Leroy Barber (Jericho Books)

Rooted in over 20 years of urban ministry, Leroy Barber’s newest book makes the pointed observation that people of color almost never serve in the mission field. Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White explores the implications of this observation, and argues persuasively that a diversification of both church and mission field is sorely needed.

Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships

by Tim Otto (Cascade Books)

Tim Otto, a pastor and celibate gay man, makes a compelling case for a third way between the culture wars that have deeply divided the church on how it understands members of LGBT community. Writing out of his own deep well of personal experience, Otto describes the way forward as marked out by the virtues of humility, compassion and above all, patient conversation. Oriented to Faith is an important and timely book, as many denominations have already split or are on the verge of fragmenting over questions of sexuality.

Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength

by Chanequa Walker-Barnes (Cascade Books)

“Ten years ago I came to a startling realization:” begins Walker-Barnes, “I was a StrongBlackWoman, and being one was not working for me.” Over the remainder of the book, she dismantles the myth of the StrongBlackWoman, and emphasizes the role churches should play in unraveling the mythology.

The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose

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by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson (Oxford University Press)

Drawing up deep sociological research, Smith and Davidson explore the effects of generosity in 21st century America. Their conclusion? “More generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression.” Sounds an awful lot like the way of Jesus.

Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community

by Leah Kostamo (Cascade Books)
Planted is Leah Kostamo’s well-crafted memoir of the journey that she and her husband made to starting A Rocha, the first Christian environmental center in Canada. “Maybe a major contribution this book can make to the Christian community these days,” writes Eugene Peterson, “is to challenge the widespread reluctance, a procrastination to embrace creation care—right now.”

Top Comments

Juan Rubalcava

4

Juan Rubalcava commented…

Actually reading... "When Helping Hurts" / Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

Mike Dion

1

Mike Dion commented…

Another worth taking a look at is called Toxic Charity. Really forces you to think about the end result more than just doing something with good intentions.

14 Comments

Emily Selway

1

Emily Selway commented…

If you're looking for two more, I recently read these two. The first is narrative, and the second biographical, although the narrative is thick. Both really interesting ways to really understand the people behind socioeconomic systems.
1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo
2. "The Other Wes Moore" by Wes Moore

James P. O'Brien

9

James P. O'Brien commented…

isn't the term "social justice" a bit redundant? I'm finding it hard to think of a time when justice isn't inherently a social concept.

Mike Dion

1

Mike Dion commented…

Another worth taking a look at is called Toxic Charity. Really forces you to think about the end result more than just doing something with good intentions.

Jemma Hartley

1

Jemma Hartley commented…

"Drawing up deep sociological research, Smith and Davidson explore the effects of generosity in 21st century America. Their conclusion? “More generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression.” Sounds an awful lot like the way of Jesus."

I'm interested that the reasons for being generous are because it makes you healthy and less depressed, not because it is what God calls us to do for the betterment of others (which will in turn benefit ourselves). I don't know if Jesus said he'd make us healthier and happier because of our generosity... I'm disappointed at this summary, and that you believe the value of generosity lies in how it will ultimately benefit the giver's health and life, therefore making life 'easier' for them.

Nancy Thome

2

Nancy Thome replied to Jemma Hartley's comment

I was disappointed in that summary as well. I personally, as a volunteer coordinator, wouldn't want volunteers who were volunteering with those motives...or with a savior complex.
But thankfully, God is gracious, and he teaches even those with those motives when they do decide to show up.

Nancy Thome

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Nancy Thome commented…

I'd like to vouch for the Bible on this one. Seriously reading and retaining the actions of Jesus in the Gospels, and seeking what is close to his heart will lead you to true "social justice"...
Getting sick of that phrase though...
So, let's just call it love, with a hand of mercy and a hand of justice.

But for additional reading that I am quite shocked didn't make the list:

*When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor ... and Yourself" - Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

*Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It - Robert Lupton

*Jesus for President - Shane Claiborne

*Making Neighborhoods Whole: A Handbook for Christian Community Development - John Perkins, Wayne Gordon

And basically anything on this list:
http://www.ccda.org/storage/documents/2013_Events/Conference/wrap_around...

Get plugged in with Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) to really make a difference in your community in a wholistic, Christ-centered, God honoring way! http://www.ccda.org/

Chris Smith

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Chris Smith replied to Nancy Thome's comment

Those are all great books, but none of them would qualify as "new or upcoming," which was the focus of this list...

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