30 Books for Woke Millennials

Nobody can remain apolitical in this digitized world we live in, where you can actively advocate against issues that concern social justice as well as racial justice.  However, feeling ‘woke’ is easier than acting on it. Do you stand behind a cause because you believe in it, or are you wildly following viral hashtags? Do you voice your own opinions against social adversities because you crave change, or do you simply do it to post it on the internet?

Being ‘woke’ is pretty abundant in the media today, with everyone cashing in on the phrase’s popularity. However, to become aware, truly aware of the issues concerning social injustice and racial injustice requires activism against such discriminations and oppression. To all those millennials out there, who genuinely want to be ‘woke,’ we’ve compiled a list of 30 books that you must read to better understand the modern society in all its imperfections.

1. Woke: A Guide to Social Justice by Titania McGrath

Wanna be ‘woke’ but don’t know where to start? Start with this one! It’s like a ‘how-to’ guide which gives you a step by step on how you can start contributing to social justice and bringing about the change that you want to see. There’s a baffling number of terminologies and ideologies that constitute woke-ness that can be daunting to some. The book, however, teaches you that ‘being woke’ is easier than expected. McGrath is that voice speaking loud and clear against racism, bigotry, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, and Islamophobia and will help you find your own voice along the way. 

2. The Souls of Yellow Folk: Essays by Wesley Yang

Millennials, steer away from ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ and pick up this book by Wesley Yang that features thirteen essays that touch on several issues such as race, the American society, masculinity, dating, and gender among others. The book is provocative and electric and an important read. There’s even one essay that starts with “Have you heard of Grindr, it’s this new app for gay men”!  “The face of Seung-Hui Cho” is a deeply moving essay that blurs the line somewhat between mental instability and grievance and talks of alienation that can drive anyone over the edge. But we’ve said too much already.

3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just another murder mystery (we know you love those). There is a lot in the book about crime and punishment, of course, but there’s more than just that. It’s about philosophy and psychology, social class and poverty, and the struggle between guilt and conscience. The protagonist, Raskolnikov, is a talented student who believes that some overtly ‘genius’ people should be allowed to kill without remorse. But after committing the murder, his conscience starts eating at him, and the psychology of this guilt-ridden murderer forms the body of the book.

4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

Dive into the mind of Viktor Frankl as he relives, in vivid detail, his horrific experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp in the first half of the book. In the second half, he proposes a theory that what drives humans is not pleasure but is the pursuit of something meaningful. We can’t escape suffering, but we have the power to deal with it, and to find hope in such trying times is almost superhuman. Read through this meaningful book and hopefully find your own ‘why’ that gives you the power to endure any situation in life. 

5. Factfulness: Ten Reasons Why We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think: Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund

Numbers and statistics aren’t just tools you use in school and then chuck away! This book relies on facts and figures to statistically debunk common misconceptions that the world we live in is in a much worse state than it actually is. The body of the book is dedicated to ten instincts that stop us from seeing the world for what it really is. What we need is to find quantifiable facts, not rely simply on the information that is fed to us. By changing our mindset towards facts, we realize that the world we live in is in a much better state than we perceive it to be.

6. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

Haidt, a psychologist who specializes in morals, tries to answer the questions as to why our political leaders cannot work together even as problems mount, and let’s be honest, that isn’t the only thing they do that baffles us! He starts with moral intuition, which feels like the righteous truth, and these shape our perceptions about others, making us believe that whoever thinks differently to us is wrong. He attempts to find a bridge to bring together people of different tribes and explains why we need the teachings and insights of everyone around us: conservatives, liberals, or libertarians.

7. 1984 by George Orwell

A world in which the government is always watching what you do, hanging on to your every word, and keeping track of your every move. Sound familiar? The dystopia of 1984 grows even more terrifying as its futuristic torment becomes more and more relevant today. Orwell envisioned a completely totalitarian, bureaucratic world where everyone is being watched, and news articles and books are rewritten to alter history. Misinformation and fake news thrive in today’s modern society as well, and any attempt to find individuality is scorned upon. In this regime, where “War is Peace” and “Ignorance is Strength,” Orwell challenges you to find yourself. 

8. Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics by Tim Marshall

Marshall explains the geo-political strategies of the world powers using ten maps that help us understand world events and provides a context as to how the physical characteristics of these countries affect their strengths and weaknesses. The book is a fantastic journey through the world, and you will find your historical knowledge getting better by adding the dimension of geography. Every country has its own history of rivalries with neighboring nations that often stem from geographical tensions. Marshall provides a valuable insight into understanding the geopolitical disputes that arouse in countries. Anyone interested in getting a bigger picture of today’s political climate must read this book.

9. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

In her witty and funny essays, Gay takes us on a journey of her evolution as a Black woman and comments on feminism in modern society. She begins with a discussion on what a ‘bad feminist’ entails: an imperfect woman in a world in which women are expected to strive for perfection. The book also addresses race, culture, social class, sexism, and scrabble competitions (?!). Feminism is flawed because it is powered by people and can’t be held at an unreasonable standard. She ends the book with “I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all,” and that’s really all we need.

10. White by Bret Easton Ellis

In his first nonfiction book, Ellis has presented us with eight essays focusing on the social-media age and freedom of speech or its lack thereof. This isn’t just a book on politics; it’s about the literary, celebrity culture that Ellis has belonged to since his first book. It starts with a picture of himself in front of a screen with absolute fury in his face, and the image sticks with you throughout the book. There’s one called ‘Acting’ in which Ellis writes brilliantly about male sexuality. He also discusses the Oscar-winning movie ‘Moonlight.’ Ellis is both authentic and self-centered while voicing his powerful opinions on social justice warriors.  

11. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey shares experiences of his career and explores what good leadership looks like. He talks about some of the most consequential cases of recent history that include prosecuting the Mafia, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, changing the Bush administration’s policies on electronic surveillance and ties between Trump campaign and Russia. Intrigued? Because it is an intriguing book where he presents these cases to the jury of public opinion, and the decision lies solely upon you. A must-read for anyone who wants to better understand the inner workings of today’s politics.

12. The Problem With Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars by Meghan Daum

Here’s a book that touches on feminism, the Resistance Movement, and the Trump era. With humor and passion, Daum tries to make sense of our problems, our identity politics, and our divide between Gen X and millennials. This is a take on woke-ness and modern feminism in a toxic technology era where some authors are forced to withdraw their books when attacked by social media! Daum voices her opinions on intolerant and self-righteous woke-ness. The problem with everything isn’t that people aren’t thinking the right way but that people aren’t thinking at all, and if that doesn’t touch a nerve, we don’t know what will.

13. Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It by Charlamagne Tha God

This one is for all the millennials who want to make it big but want it to happen with absolutely no effort! This memoir/self-improvement book is a big ‘as if!’ to their faces as Charlamagne presents his controversially honest insights on how living an authentic life is the quickest path to success. He tells the tale of how he evolved from his troubled early life by never giving up on his dreams and doing whatever he could to get there. We’re all privileged, and it’s up to us to use our privileges to achieve our goals. Charlamagne is vulgar and jarring at times, but it is just the push we needed. 

14. The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically by Peter Singer 

A new movement is introduced to us: effective altruism, the art of doing “the most good that you can do.” Living altruistically and doing the most good you can do leads to greater personal fulfillment and satisfaction than you thought possible and which cannot be achieved by living for yourself.  Living selflessly and allowing reason to determine how we live gives us the ability to tackle the world’s mounting problems. Singer discusses sanitation, mosquito nets, and even NASA’s programs on climate change, but in the heart of the book is the altruistic thought of giving as much as you can to society.

15. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atwood builds a story of a dystopian feminist nightmare, of stifling oppression and injustice that seems reminiscent of our modern society. This is a frighteningly powerful book that can drain you emotionally and turn you into a feminist. It’s terrible to think that the world she created is our current reality, where women everywhere have shackles on their feet, their hands, their thoughts, and even their wombs. She forces us to see that women today are living in a dystopian world but have preferred to remain blind to that fact. The book shows us exactly what we should strive to avoid.

16. Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Not a horror story but terrifying, all the same, Demons was inspired by a true story of a political murder that occurred in Russia in 1869. It contains a strong political element combined with psychology, socialism, and religious thinking. The main protagonists of the book are revolutionary terrorists who’re fascinated by the ideal philosophies of socialism. When fed with the wrong ideas, they turn into snakes who need something to hate. This hate is so powerful that if they were to live in a perfect world, they would have no meaning in life. When there is a void of spiritual understanding, men find themselves fighting for all the wrong causes. Relevant much?

17. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche is a towering philosopher who rejects the western thought with its belief system of good and evil, of truth and God. He urges us to get out of the dogmatic slave morality belief system that surrounds Christianity with our own ‘will to power’ upon the world. We must realize that the words ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are just words whose meanings have been forced upon us by those who are powerful enough to justify anything and fight ‘just’ wars that are motivated by the greed for power. The book is a nudge for us to redefine good and evil and take the first step to free ourselves. 

18. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is a classic novel that is almost similar to George Orwell’s 1984. The plot is based in a futuristic world where its inhabitants are genetically modified, and the social hierarchy is intelligence-based. The book has, in its core, the thought that a perfectly perfect world where everyone appears to be happy is only achieved when one gives up their freedom and personal responsibility.  The dangers of technology are presented to show that no matter how sophisticated tech is, it cannot save society. It talks of Utopia, meaning ‘perfect place’ and ‘no place,’ suggesting that achieving a perfect world is impossible. 

19. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn draws on his incarceration and exile to trace the history of the Soviet Gulag, the Soviet repression, and the horrors of the Soviet slave labor camps. The line that separates good and evil doesn’t pass through states or social classes but through the human heart. Every heart has the power to do something good, even those that are overwhelmed by evil. And in the best of hearts, there remains a small corner of malice. To do evil, one must first believe that what one is doing is, in fact, good, and this justification drives an evildoer to do what they do.

20. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Asha Bandele

A powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America and the founding of a movement that demands justice for everyone, that’s the heart of the book. Khan-Cullors retells her experiences and prejudices she has had to endure at the hands of a criminal justice system that serves a white privilege agenda where Black people are routinely subjected to racial profiling and brutality. The book is an empowering recollection of strength and resilience and a movement fueled by her might to tell the world that Black Lives Matter. She urges the reader to practice more compassion and empathy and fight harder against racial injustice.

21. Modern Man In Search Of A Soul by Carl Jung

Jung provides a valuable read on the fundamentals of psychoanalysis, including dream analysis, the primitive unconscious, Freudian psychology, spirituality, and the relationship between religion and psychology. He explains how a modern person who finds religious customs lacking can find shelter in his soul. A big part of the book is dedicated to the subconscious, which is sometimes thought of as irrelevant. But ignoring it comes with a price of damaged souls, and until we find a balance between the dark and the light parts of our mind, we can never really be whole. 

22. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

A literary masterpiece that takes its readers to the roots of human behavior – that’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ for you! On one level, the book is a straightforward coming of age story in a small Alabama town. On another, it’s a tale of happiness and human emotions, racism and equality, injustice, and redemption.

Despite its easy narrative flow, the book is compelling in its discussion of race, tolerance, and human decency. Through its plots and characters, Lee stresses the thought that you can never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.

23. The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray

Have you ever wondered why people act the way they do? Of course, you have! This book assesses today’s most discordant issues: race, sexuality, gender, and trans. In today’s society, people behave unpleasantly and irrationally, with puzzling and disturbing trends. Even when you see the symptoms everywhere, you don’t know the cause. It’s as if people need some kind of belief system to give meaning to their lives and so they invent the secular religion of social justice. Murray proposes that maybe we’ve all been taught to think the way we do, but no one ever really tells us why. He challenges the notion of being politically correct and gives us a new perspective.

24. Animal Farm by George Orwell

On the surface, this is just a book about an animal farm taken over by overworked animals. But dive down, and you see the real purpose of the book: a satirical fable on Stalinist Russia ranging from its revolution against oppression to totalitarianism that’s just as bad. Orwell wrote in an essay that the purpose of the book was “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole” and how beautifully he manages to do so. It captures the dreams of Marx and Lenin and chronicles the rising to power of Stalin. This incredibly well-written story will have you rethinking the book long after you’ve finished it.

25. The Portable Nietzsche by Friedrich Nietzsche

One of the greatest minds in the western tradition, the Portable Nietzsche includes four works: Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, Nietzsche Contra Wagner, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The book is a crossbreed of biography, philosophy, poetry, and myth put together brilliantly. Nietzsche puts forward the assertion that truth and knowledge are simply a matter of control, and freedom is the privilege of the few who can create their principles. He doesn’t try to convince. He says, even rants sometimes and his unorthodox ideas require focus, but when you’re done with the book, you get a sense of woke-ness that drives you into finding your voice.  

26. You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

If Nietzsche is too much of a challenge, we recommend you pick this one up instead. Robinson, a stand-up comic, discusses today’s cultural climate and racism with absolute wit and humor in this satirical educational book for the ‘woke’ millennials who’re savvy on pop-culture. She gets funnier as she goes on to discuss feminism, sexism, and identity. She writes about her experiences as a black woman and people’s uncomfortable relationship with black hair, her being the black friend, microaggressions, and the angry black woman myth. With humor as her only weapon, Robinson touches on serious topics and enlightens the readers while having their bellies hurt from laughing too hard. 

27. Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions

This is a brilliant book that is dense on information and is a challenging read. But if you can push through the terminologies, the scientific concepts, and the vast information, you’ll learn more about emotion and consciousness than you ever thought possible. It starts with a thorough explanation of the development of neuroscience and its history. Panksepp then proceeds to offer a summary of the neural sources of human feelings to study the emotional systems of the brain. It contains insights on sleep, pleasure, arousal, anger, and sexuality, as well as social loss, maternal care, and playfulness, making it an essential book to understanding the biology of emotion.

28. The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

 This is a powerful memoir of a Black man who was convicted of two murders he hadn’t committed and was placed on death row for over three decades until his case was taken by a lawyer who finally managed to have him exonerated. How do you find hope in a situation like that? Hinton discusses the mental and emotional torture of his state and builds a powerful story of hope and resilience, compassion, and forgiveness. The fact that he never gave up on his dreams and never lost humanity while awaiting his seemingly inevitable death moves the readers into tears and makes us fight harder for social injustice.

29. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

 Wolitzer brings feminism to the foreground and digs into what it means to find your true purpose in life with ‘The Female Persuasion.’ The main protagonist Greer Kadetsky meets a woman, Faith Frank, who has been a pillar of women’s movement. As she befriends Frank, she finds in herself a sense of purpose, which leads her down an exciting path of her life, winding away from the future she’d always imagined. Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, of womanhood and ambition. This is an entailing story about people who guide us into being the people that we’re meant to be and teach us never to settle.

30. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 The book touches on social injustice and racism in a light read so you won’t have to beat yourself up. The protagonist Starr tries to find a balance between being ‘Black enough’ since she attends a private school and trying to suppress her black mannerisms at school. It also portrays how easy it is for young adults to fall into bad influences. Resilient and authentic, Starr stands against the adversities in her way. Here’s a book that makes every millennial aware of current issues and encourages them to create change. After all, “What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”