The original bibliography to The Lifelong Activist is listed below. First, here are some up-to-date resources for activists.
http://www.campusactivism.org/index.php – great online tools, geared toward students. Also, a good calendar of activist conferences, training and events.
http://www.jaysleftist.info/ – a huge list of links, organized by dozens of movements and also countries.
Macronet progressive portal
Note 1: although the books cited below are organized into the general categories of Mission, Time, Fear and Relationship Management, many pertain to more than one category.
Note 2: many of these books merit repeated reading.
Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem by Gloria Steinem. A unique and inspiring blend of autobiography, self-help guide and meditation on how we can work together to achieve a progressive society. Steinem not only writes candidly about her life and her successes and failures as an activist and human being; she also discusses the larger forces of power, self-esteem, spirituality, compassion and love as they play out in our lives and across society as a whole. New York: Little, Brown, 1993.
Letters to a Young Activist by Todd Gitlin. Gitlin was a leader of the 1960s Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) movement, and he has been doing, writing about and teaching activism and progressivism ever since. His book is packed with great advice and perspectives, including difficult topics such as anger, self-indulgence and what he calls “the discipline gap” between the Right and the Left. New York: Basic Books, 2003.
Why Are Artists Poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts by Hans Abbing. A fascinating book by an author who is both an economist and an artist. Abbing answers the title question in part by analyzing the economics of the art world, and in part by analyzing the psychology of artists. Briefly: the art market is irrational, and artists tend to be more motivated by internal rewards (as opposed to external ones such as status and paychecks) than most people. Artists are also prone to a “gambler” mentality that hopes for easy success and is not good at weighing the benefits, costs and risks of certain behaviors. Much of what Abbing says also applies to many activists. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004.
Money Drunk, Money Sober: 90 Days to Financial Freedom by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan. This eye-opening book, co-authored by Julia Cameron, author of the classic The Artist’s Way, is essential reading for all activists. It discusses the ways people tend to make themselves poorer, focusing on five common dysfunctional attitudes toward money: Compulsive Spender, Big Deal Chaser, Maintenance Money Drunk, Poverty Addict and Cash Codependent. The book also offers a plan for recovering from poverty. New York: Ballantine/Wellspring, 1999.
The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. Ignore the hype-y title. This book is useful because it deals mainly with those who accumulate wealth, not those who inherit it. It shows how, through frugality and wise investing, you can parlay even a moderate income (for example, a teacher’s income) into a comfortable living and retirement. (Hint: it’s more about how little you spend than how much you earn.) New York: Pocket Books, 1999.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money—That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter. This popular book explains which habits lead to wealth accumulation, and which don’t. Short, to the point, and easily understood. New York: Warner Business Books, 2000.
How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously by Jerrold Mundis. The classic guide to getting out of debt and living a debt-free life, based on the methodology and teachings of Debtors Anonymous. The beginning chapters help the reader recognize if he or she has a “debting” problem—symptoms include unopened mail, unbalanced accounts and soliciting family and friends for loans—and explain how it could have arisen. Later chapters offer a plan for “recovering” from the debt. New York: Bantam Books, 2003.
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2006: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters And Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles. Another classic guide—this time, to looking for a job and planning a career. Bolles recommends starting with your values and Mission (a word he, too, uses) and working outward from there. Goes into each phase of the job hunting process in useful detail. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2005.
The Ultimate Fit or Fat by Covert Bailey. There are a zillion health and fitness books out there, but I like Bailey’s for its exceptional clarity and straightforward approach. Bailey, who has a master’s degree in biochemistry from MIT, also knows the science behind fitness better than many authors, and that lends the book some added heft (so to speak). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. (P.S. Ignore Bailey’s nutritional advice and go vegetarian! See next entry. . . .)
Vegetarian/vegan resources: To learn why good nutrition means vegetarian nutrition, read Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina’s Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet (Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Co., 2000) and T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II’s The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health (Dallas, TX.: BenBella Books, 2005). And to learn why vegetarianism is in line with fundamental progressive values, read Pamela Rice’s 101 Reasons Why I’m a Vegetarian (New York: Lantern Books, 2004); Erik Marcus’s Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating (Ithaca, NY: McBooks Press, 2000); Will Tuttle’s The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony (New York: Lantern Books, 2005); and John Robbins’ The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World (Berkeley, CA: Conari Press, 2001).
The Effective Executive Revised: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker. First published in 1966, it remains one of the most-read management guides. Its emphasis is on goal setting, time management and prioritizing your activities so that you invest your time on those activities that best support your mission. Drucker’s advice applies not just to executives, but anyone shouldering a lot of responsibility. New York: HarperBusiness Essentials, 2006. Also recommended: The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management., New York: CollinsBusiness, 2001.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey. A perennial bestseller, it offers tons of useful advice pertaining to Managing Your Mission, Time, Fears and Relationships. Covey’s “four quadrants” method for organizing your time and tasks is particularly useful; and I also like the way he advises you to work toward effectiveness in both your professional and personal lives. New York: Gardners, 2004.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Stephen Pressfield. I recommend this book to everyone, and everyone I know who’s read it says it has changed his or her life. This is not just a book for artists; it’s for anyone with an ambitious goal. On top of its many other virtues, it’s also a short, pithy and entertaining read: you can finish it in an afternoon. New York: Warner Books, 2003.
A Life in the Arts by Eric Maisel. Maisel is a psychotherapist who specializes in helping artists and performers, and his book dissects the motivations, attitudes, rewards and punishments of the artistic life better than anything else I’ve read. It goes into great detail on topics such as talent, isolation, moods and “obscurity and stardom;” and he also includes a “transition program” for moving into and out of a professional art career. Because of the similarities between art and activism, and because so many activists are also artists, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to activists. New York: Tarcher, 1994.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “Flow” is the feeling of being fully and happily immersed in whatever you’re doing, so that time appears to stand still, the rest of the world recedes, and you are maximally effective. Others call the same phenomenon “being in the zone” or “peak performance.” Whatever you call it, you probably want to experience it as much as possible, and Flow will help. It begins with a discussion of what flow is, then moves on to what causes it, what impedes it, and how you can encourage it in different areas of your life. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991.
Are Your Lights On? How to Figure Out What the Problem Really Is by Donald C. Gause and Gerald M. Weinberg. The first and most crucial step to solving any problem is determining what exactly the problem actually is—often a tougher challenge than it might seem. This book discusses this subtle topic in simple language and using fun examples. I’m partial to Weinberg’s work ever since having taken a class on Problem-Solving Leadership with him that changed my life. New York: Dorset House, 1990. Also recommended: Weinberg’s Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully. New York: Dorset House, 1986.
Addictive Thinking: Understanding Self Deception by Abraham Twerski, M.D. If you have an active addiction, deal with that problem before all others and seek professional help. This book will provide insight into some of the probable causes of your addiction and the mindset that keeps you addicted. Topics covered include self-deception, impatience (a warped time sense), denial, guilt, shame and hypersensitivity. If you don’t believe you are an addict, but any part of your life feels out of control, or any serious problem you have seems intractable, then you should also read this book. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 1997. Also recommended: The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior by Craig Nakken. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 1988; and The Heart of Addiction: A New Approach to Understanding and Managing Alcoholism and Other Addictive Behaviors by Lance M. Dodes, M.D. New York: Harper Paperbacks, 2002.
There Must Be More Than This: Finding More Life, Love, and Meaning by Overcoming Your Soft Addictions by Judith Wright. Wright lists more than forty “soft addictions”—everything from compulsive video game playing and email checking to fantasizing and hair twirling—that can interfere with your success. Although not as dangerous as traditional “hard” addictions like alcoholism, soft addictions can nevertheless impair your life and success. This book tells you what causes soft addictions and how you can deal with them. New York: Broadway Books, 2003.
The Myth of Laziness by Mel Levine, M.D. An important book for anyone who is having trouble getting his or her work done. Such people are often called “lazy,” but, as the title implies, Levine considers laziness a myth at best, and an improper diagnosis at worst: he says many underperformers actually suffer from “output failures” linked to learning disabilities or poor educational support. His book focuses on those topics, but he also discusses how underperformers use, or misuse, time and other resources. Levine writes mainly about children, but much of what he writes can be applied to adults as well. He pays particular attention to writing blocks and problems, since he considers writing the most challenging project most kids tackle, or, as he puts it, “the largest orchestra a kid’s mind has to conduct.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
The Mental Edge: Maximizing Your Sports Potential with the Mind-Body Connection by Kenneth Baum. Tips from a top sports coach that can help you attain both your athletic and non-athletic goals. Baum’s approach is similar to The Lifelong Activist’s in that he advises you to work to envision your goal in great detail, and plan for how you will get there. He also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and not arbitrarily setting limits on what you can achieve; and also offers useful tips for improving your ability to focus and concentrate and stay “in the moment.” New York: Perigee Trade, 1999.
Rules for Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky. A unique and irreplaceable classic. Alinsky spent decades doing labor and other activism, chalking up many victories. His book contains a wealth of pragmatic wisdom on not just how to create change, but how to live as an activist. It is distinguished by a very plain-spoken and candid approach, and Alinsky is not just forthcoming in his opinions—writing in 1968, he accuses the hippies of “copping out”—but fearless in tackling some very tough questions, including, in a long chapter entitled “Of Means and Ends,” the appropriate uses of propaganda and violence. New York: Vintage, 1989.
Ethics Into Action: Henry Spira and the Animal Rights Movement by Peter Singer. Probably the best activist biography, it also explores the attitudes and behaviors that contributed to Spira’s many successes, as well as his preferred strategies and tactics. I was struck by how, though an avid coalition builder, Spira preferred to work solo or with just a couple of part-time assistants, to avoid what he considered time-wasting bureaucracy and meetings. The book is also a guide to what it’s like to live as a truly dedicated activist, and the rewards of such a life. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.
Bridging the Class Divide and Other Lessons for Grassroots Organizing by Linda Stout. This activist autobiography is filled with practical advice and inspirational stories. Stout grew up poor and, as the title states, a major theme of her book is how activists can reach out to, and connect with, people of other classes. Some of the stories she relates of activists who failed to do so—or, worse, failed to even try—are painful to read. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. An easy book—or title—to mock, but this may be the best book ever written on how to get along with people and, yes, influence them. Critics consider some of the techniques manipulative, but they can be used manipulatively or sincerely—take your pick. If every progressive activist put the techniques described in How to Win Friends to work, the world would be a much better place. New York: Pocket, 1998. Also recommended: everything else by Carnegie.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I love this book. It’s a parenting book that has sold millions of copies, but I recommend it to everyone, whether they have kids or not. It is basically about how to deal with people and get them to buy into your agenda without exploiting or undermining them. (That’s what good parents seek to do with their kids, after all.) Topics discussed include praise, compromise, effective communication and the dangers of shame, blame and negative labeling. Also, good stuff on effective problem solving. New York: Collins, 1999.
Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment by Gay Hendricks and Kathlyn Hendricks. One of the best guides to building successful long-term intimate relationships, it takes the approach that, to build such a relationship, we must overcome any ingrained, often unconscious, thought patterns and behaviors we have that can sabotage relationships. The book offers a process for doing so, and also discusses the “upper limits problem,” the common misconception that we are not supposed to be feel good much of the time. New York: Bantam, 1992.
Overcoming Your Strengths: 8 Reasons Why Successful People Derail and How to Remain on Track by Lois Frankel. A guide to avoiding self-sabotage in your job and career. Frankl, a corporate coach, says talented people often make the serious mistake of over-relying on their core talent, and neglecting other important talents and skills (think of your typical activist geek who knows everything about strategy, social movements, etc., but can’t get along with people). Frankel also discusses common problems underachievers have, including overlooking the importance of people, inability to function effectively in a work group, failure to focus on image and communication, and insensitivity to the reactions of others. Pasadena, CA: Corporate Coaching International, 2003.
Outing Yourself: How to Come Out As Lesbian or Gay to Your Family, Friends, and Coworkers by Michelangelo Signorile. The definitive guide to coming out as a gay man or lesbian, but it can be used by anyone who wishes to live a more authentic life and speak the truth about himself or herself. I love its systematic, commonsense approach that begins with coming out to yourself, and then to other gays, friends, family, coworkers and strangers. New York: Fireside, 1996.
Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, And Their Diverse Tribe Of Countercultural Conservatives Plan To Save America (Or At Least The Republican Party) by Rod Dreher. A terrific and fun book that may profoundly change your view of the “opposition.” Many principled conservatives, it turns out, like many of the same things we do, including an honest government, healthy food, a clean environment and a reduction in the role of corporations in American society, politics and culture. New York: Crown Forum, 2006.
Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate—The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff. Many readers of The Lifelong Activist are probably already familiar with Lakoff’s work on the different ways progressives and conservatives use political and social language. Don’t Think of an Elephant! discusses how conservative politicians have made far better use of language than progressives, in recent decades, and how this has been a major reason for the Right’s electoral victories. It then goes on to discuss what progressives can do to correct the problem. Every activist should read this. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004. Also recommended: Lakoff’s longer, more scholarly work on the same topic, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.
Selling the Invisible: a Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith. A terrific book that distills the essence of effective marketing into 250 short and entertainingly written pages. Beckwith often disdains things that other marketers hold dear, such as focus groups and the idea that “strategy is king.” That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, however, and most of the things he disdains are money— and time-sinks that most grassroots activist organizations shouldn’t be bothered with in the first place. That, plus his focus on marketing and selling “intangibles” (in his meaning, services, but it also applies to ideas and ideals such as progressivism) make this valuable reading for any activist. New York: Warner Business Books, 1998.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. A short and easy read. The examples are somewhat dated, but the principles the authors write about—e.g., that marketing is more about perception than reality—still very much apply. New York: Collins, 1994.
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore. Another marketing classic, this time in the field of high tech. It should be of interest to activists because marketing high tech and marketing social ideas are both about marketing innovation. Crossing the Chasm is perhaps the best-known high tech marketing guide, and the one that popularized the term “early adopter,” meaning a “mainstream” (non-geek) person who is highly receptive to new ideas and products. Its market segmentation approach (dividing your market into Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards) is particularly useful. New York: Collins, 2002.
Guerrilla Marketing: Secrets for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business by Jay Conrad Levinson. The classic book on how to market cheaply yet effectively. It’s been around forever, and has probably contributed to the growth and success of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of activist and other endeavors. Levinson offers good explanations of marketing strategy, and good discussions of the pros and cons of various traditional marketing techniques, including public relations, advertising, flyers and postcards. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. The book’s coverage of the Internet and online technology remains a weak spot, so you may want to read additional books specific to that topic, such as Holly Berkley’s Low-Budget Online Marketing for Small Businesses. Bellingham, WA: Self-Counsel Press, 2003.