Social Justice Book Club

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year my reading goals are simple:

  • Read 52 books
  • Read 1 book each month about a social justice topic

Some of the best books I’ve read in the past couple of years (Tattoos on the Heart, Just Mercy, Hillbilly Elegy) are about complex issues our society faces that matter deeply – or should matter deeply – to each of us. It can be hard to face these topics, but it’s important to make the effort, and reading about them is a good first step.

In order to foster dialogue among my real-life-and-online literary friends, I’m hosting five social justice book discussions throughout 2017. Each Facebook event will be active for one week, and I’ll post questions throughout the week to facilitate the discussion.

Below are the details for the 2017 Social Justice Book Club online events. Hope you’ll join us!

Evicted: Poverty and Pro25852784fit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Matthew Desmond, Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius,” has written an extensively researched book about landlord-tenant relationships, evictions, and extreme poverty in American cities.

Online Discussion: February 27-March 6, 2017




Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones22529381

Since I live in a state where heroin use is on the rise, America’s opiate epidemic has been on my mind. I’m eager to read journalist Sam Quinones’s account of how the problem has spread. Dreamland has made many “best of” book lists and was awarded the NBCC Award for General Nonfiction.

Online Discussion: April 24-May 1, 2017




An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz


The history of the Native Americans who originally inhabited the U.S. is something that we all know to be deeply troubling, but we tend to guiltily shove that darkness into the back of our minds. At least, that’s been my method of “dealing with it.” I hope that reading this book, which received both the 2015 American Book Award and the 2015 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature – will provide us with more educated, less escapist viewpoints on this topic.

Online Discussion: July 10-17, 2017



The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Miche6792458lle Alexander

2016 reminded us time and again that – to our horror – racial injustice is not a thing of the past. Having worked with ex-offenders transitioning from incarcerated life back to the outside world, I am somewhat aware of the effects of imprisonment on individuals, but I want to understand more about the larger structure of the criminal justice system and the racial injustices that have been ingrained in the system. Another important book on this topic is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

Online Discussion: September 18-25, 2016


Tatt7090193oos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

This is the only book on this list that I’ve already read. Since one of my goals in life is to get everyone to read it, clearly I had to include it as part of the Social Justice Book Club. Plus, I need a good excuse to buy a hard copy. Gregory Boyle’s stories about ministering to gangs in Los Angeles are deeply moving and will challenge your misconceptions about people and how to love them. (Spoiler Alert: That’s the whole point of this book club.)

Online Discussion: November 13-20, 2017


““If there is a fundamental challenge within these stories, it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives.”

– Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart


*Links in this post are not affiliate links. They connect you to my local independent bookstore, Gibson’s.



4 thoughts on “Social Justice Book Club

  1. Great list and a noble undertaking. I’ve long been thinking about how much more of a social conscience I had in university and this has inspired me to get back in touch with that person. Thanks for the motivation!

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