Activism and... Reading

IssueFebruary 2008

Reading has changed for me over the years.

Much time is now spent reading a computer screen: emails, websites, blogs. Communication is much easier but there is so much of it that it is hard to choose.

There is instant access to every campaign, every injustice. The unreasonable and the inarticulate can also have their day.

And yet along with the potential to overwhelm comes the opportunity to select. Social networking sites like Facebook offer advertisers the chance to target their adverts to individuals by picking up on certain words that appear on their profiles.

Activists can also use such sites to communicate/inform/ sustain each other. We need never feel like the only activist in the village again.

In the past reading was for inspiration, passion and anger.

Nowadays, reading is about community.
Feminist, female, Belfast


I've been politically active from the age of 15 or 16 years, as a member of the anti-apartheid and the youth trade union movements.

A number of publications have caused me to question the status quo. Iraq Under Siege edited by Anthony Arnove explores the real consequences of the western-imposed sanctions and provides the context underlying the West's relationship with the Iraqi government and people.

War Plan Iraq by Milan Rai is a particularly effective thesis against military action and successfully exposes the real rationale behind the military invasion. 

Hidden Agendas by John Pilger provides an incisive analysis of human rights abuses around the world and governments' profit from such abuses. The chapter on Burma simultaneously enraged me and reduced me to tears.

On a broader level, The Inclusive Society? by Ruth Levitas is a highly readable and erudite analysis of New Labour's discourse concerning community and social inclusion. It peels back the layers of spin to reveal the true nature of Tony Blair's agenda on social exclusion.

How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson is a great recommendation for guilt-free hedonism and anti-consumption. It's funny, well written and researched and truly thought provoking.

Finally, a superb expose of capitalist extortion and excess is Captive State by George Monbiot. The placement of Renault's symbol on top of a Christmas tree sponsored by the car manufacturer in Manchester is unforgettable.
Anti-war activist, female, Hastings


I got hooked on reading when my mother used to read fairy tales from a book her mother handed on to her. I started to read rather than just being able to listen only from going through my father's record collection then building up my own.

To cut a long story short, I now choose to read fiction, due to knowing the world is falling apart, so just read books to give me inspiration and laughter.

But my favourite book at the moment is Another meal is possible by the Anarchist Teapot. Get in that kit.
Environmental activist, male, East Sussex


At first, books helped draw me into activism - slogans plus evidence.
Then, they were a vital piece of activist equipment - something to bring with you, for the cells.
Lately, though, they have been accumulating, by the truckload, by the bed. From time to time I dust them, or move another pile into the shed.
Anti-war activist, male, East London


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