In Iceland there is a Christmas tradition called ‘Jólabókaflóð‘ which is essentially where everyone gives each other a book for Christmas. I may be biased as a Creative Writing graduate but I love finding books under the Christmas tree, and I also think they can be a great resource in inspiring activism. So here is a list of books to suit every kind of activist in your life. A lot of these books are not brand new which means you can find them on second-hand websites like Abe Books or in your local independent bookshop.
‘Greta and the Giants’ by Zoe Tucker & Zoe Persico Themes: Climate change, activism, sustainability, community
Overview: This is such a beautiful book which handles the issue of the climate crisis in a really good way. It is about a little girl, Greta, living in the forest, who hears from the woodland animals that the giants are destroying their home. Greta decides to do something and holds up a sign to try and get the giants attention. The book ends with a lovely resolution of harmony and sustainability, with an added disclaimer explaining in simple terms the facts of the climate crisis. It is a beautiful narrative with amazing illustrations and a really good way to explain the climate movement to children.
‘Little People, Big Dreams Colouring Book’. Themes: activism, creativity, identity, inspiration
Overview: This interactive book allows children to creatively visualise and learn about inspiring people such as David Bowie, Greta Thunberg, Frida Khalo and Ella Fitzgerald. Beside the colouring page is a simple bio for each person. This is a great gift for any creative child with big hopes and dreams.
‘The Once and Future Witches’ by Alix E. Harrow Themes: feminism, activism, LGBT+, witchcraft, fairytales, folklore, motherhood, sisterhood, family. Trigger warnings: abuse, violence.
Overview: ‘The Once and Future Witches’ is about three sisters who come together and organise a feminist witchcraft movement in order to fight oppression and overthrow the patriarchy. The book interweaves fairytales and folklore into the fabric of the overall tale. I have written a full article about this book if you would like to find out more. I definitely recommend it for anyone who loves reading about fantasy, badass women, and witchcraft.
‘The Black Flamingo’ by Dean Atta Themes: coming-of-age, gay, drag, poetry, family, heritage, race
Overview: My mum actually gave me this book for Christmas a few years ago and since then it has been one of my favourite Christmas reads. The book is about Michael and his experiences of growing up as a young gay person with Jamaican and Greek-Cypriot heritage. The narrative explores identity and relationships in an incredible way by looking at single mother families and how you create your own family. The book is written beautifully with a lot of poetry woven into the fiction as well as some illustrations that make it visually immersive.
‘The colour purple’ by Alice Walker. Themes: race, lesbian, polyamory, feminism, spirituality, colonialism, family. Trigger Warnings: rape, abuse, racism
Overview: ‘The Colour Purple’ is a classic novel which is still very relevant today. The book tackles many important social issues, as well as exploring lesbianism and polyamory years before these kinds of relationships were talked about in the mainstream. The novel is formatted in letters mostly between Celie, God and her sister. The narrative follows Celie as she goes through life from a teenager given away to an abusive husband, to a lesbian woman starting a business, as well as her sister’s missionary voyage to Africa and back. The books explores topics such as relationships, race, feminism and spirituality beautifully and my favourite quotes are actually when Celie and her lesbian lover discuss who God is and finding religion in nature and every day life. The book may be upsetting to some readers, it starts on the first page with mentions of rape, however it covers these important issues very well.
‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo. Themes: race, lesbian, gay, trans, feminism, immigration, family, relationships, Britain. Trigger Warning: sexual abuse, rape, manipulation.
‘Girl. Woman, Other’ has won numerous awards and made it to many university reading lists, and for good reason. The novel explores the lives of twelve characters, all black British women or non-binary people, whose experiences are often intertwined. I love the way the book is written and how some of the stories are intergenerational — exploring different perceptions of shared experiences from daughter to mother to grandmother. Topics in this book include immigration, race, relationships, feminism and a lot more. I have written more about this book in this article if you would like to know more, but I would recommend it as a good read for anyone interested in social issues and family dynamics.
Non-Fiction Environmental Books
‘Writing Wild’ by Kathryn Aalto‘ Themes: nature writing, eco fiction, feminism, fiction, essays, poetry, travel writing.
This book is a brilliant anthology of women nature writers from the 1800s to present day. Shout-out to my friend Sienna for recommending this to me. I enjoyed it so much. I loved the examples of nature writing (I have so much to add to my reading list now) as well as learning about these incredible women’s lives. Something else I enjoyed about the book was how intersectional it is. Quite a few of the women were LGBT+ which really interests me as those of us in the LGBT+ community rarely hear of people like us in history. The nature writing in this book covers poetry, memoir, non-fiction, travel writing, fiction and more. I can’t recommend it enough.
‘Vegan Life’ by Jo Peters. Themes: veganism, sustainability, eco-friendly living, lifestyle
This book is a wonderful guide on how to go vegan. It has many handy tips from how to look at diet, how to live more sustainably, and also considering veganism in non food-related ways such as makeup and clothing. This is the perfect book to get anyone who has becoming plant-based on their 2022 resolution list.
‘Earth Heroes’ by Lily Dyu. Themes: climate heroes, sustainability, hope, activism.
This book turns the doom and gloom climate narrative on its head. One of my favourite sayings on the climate crisis is this quote by Mary Annaïse Heglar: “Climate change defeatism is just as dangerous as denialism”. If we feel hopeless and defeated by the climate crisis then we have no hope of changing things or creating a more sustainable future. This novel is an incredibly inspiring and uplifiting anthology of climate activist heroes who have used their creativity and innovation to make sustainable change on a local and global level. I really enjoyed this and I think this would be a joyous book to give anyone this Christmas.
I hope you have found something you like here. This list is comprised purely of books that I have read and can wholly recommend, however there are many other great activist books out there (which are on my TBR list). If you have any recommendations please do comment down below. And I hope you have a merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a fabulous 2022 full of hope and activism.