Hope and resistance. Those are two things I’m craving these days. This is a list of books and authors that might inspire both hope and resistance, as well as a deeper understanding of the world around us.
For an always current, eerily prescient and perceptive look at politics and power, revolution and repression, look no further than George Orwell‘s Animal Farm and 1984.
For a devastating and powerful depiction of the interior workings of a totalitarian regime, read Arthur Koestler‘s Darkness At Noon, set in 1938 during the Stalinist Great Purge and Moscow show trials. For a non-fiction work that deals with science, faith, and the often painful process behind the creation of new paradigms, read Koestler’s The Sleepwalkers (it explores the evolution of science since ancient times, and the main characters are Kepler, Galileo, and Copernicus).
For a rich, lush, and piercing story about how lies, false histories, and invented conspiracies can distort and poison the way we see the world, read Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco.
There are so many books by Ursula K. Le Guin that seem right to read right now. The Dispossessed, The Tombs of Atuan, The Lathe of Heaven… just pick anything from her bibliography.
Octavia E. Butler‘s Patternist series is great speculative fiction, first of all, and it’s also a terrific read because of the insights into power and power dynamics – in individual relationships, and society as a whole. I’d suggest starting with Wild Seed and going from there.
For a different perspective on the world, war, and specifically the war in Vietnam, read The Sorrow of War,by Bao Ninh.
To experience the sense of wonder and global responsibility that science can inspire, I suggestCosmos & A Pale Blue Dot, by Carl Sagan.
For an incandescent and original fantasy/scifi series that explores magic, science, and how patterns of power and repression might evolve in a society where magic and science are equally real (and may be interchangeable), read The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin. It starts with The Fifth Season, and continues with the sequel The Obelisk Gate.
Fran Wilde‘s Bone Universe books – Updraft and Cloudbound (a third book is coming!) – explore a uniquely imagined world of bone towers and people using wings and flight to get around. The politics and behind-the-scenes machinations within the society of the Bone Towers are crucial to the plot.
For a brilliant, brutal, and gut-wrenching look at human society and our relationship with animals (and each other), read Robert Repino‘s Mort(e).
Mikhail Bulgakov‘s The Master And Margarita is a “fantastical, funny, and devastating satire” that has kept its power and potency (and its sense of humour) through the years. Read this for a great story about good and evil, power and oppression, and life and resistance in a totalitarian state.
Swedish writer Pär Lagerkvist wrote many poems and stories about the darker side of society and human nature. I recommend his books Barabbas and The Dwarf.
Read Astrid Lindgren‘s The Brothers Lionheart for a wonderful fairy-tale-ish story of grief, loyalty, love and resistance.
Kai Ashante Wilson‘s speculative fiction story The Devil In America is a heart-piercing and unflinching look at evil and racism in America. It is also one of the best short stories I’ve read in recent years.
My go-to comfort read when I’m feeling down is J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings, because even though “my fave is problematic”, this is still such a powerful story of resistance and hope in a time of oppression. It has also provided me with one of the quotes I keep coming back to lately: