The Bookshelf: Discovering and Understanding Justice

Books about Justice

Our organization here has been reading about poverty, corruption, and injustice lately. And we’ve been reading about how to ‘help without hurting.’ For me, the conversation has been deepened because of this TED Talk by Gary Haugen and by watching Yemeni refugees stream to Djibouti and start filling the streets, grocery stores, and the waiting area outside the US consular office. Every single nation deals with these issues and I’ve specially been challenged by reading about the broken systems in my own birth-country. Since I’m not around them on a day-to-day basis, I need to learn through reading and books have been excellent resources.

Here are some of my favorites:

Good News About Injustice, Updated 10th Anniversary Edition: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World by Gary Haugen

My friend Kari H. recommended this book years ago and then bought me a copy (which, by the way, is the best way to recommend books!). I’ve since read it and scanned it again multiple times. Can there be any good news about injustice? There can be when we are filled with hope and faith and when we engage in doing something about it.



Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

I don’t remember who recommended this but thank you! I just finished this book in the past few days and it is amazing. Sad and infuriating but also inspiring and challenging. I was already against the death penalty (I know I don’t get into much politics here but this one I feel strongly about) and after reading this book I feel even more enforced in that opinion. Race, class, education…Bryan does an incredible job of sharing stories at the same time as offering facts and statistics about the way these issues affect the US incarceration policies and actions. Most of the time I am happy to be American, the issues this book raises though, are ones that shame our country. He is, somehow, able to finish this book with hope. Highly recommend it.


The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence by Gary Haugen.

Yeah, I’ve talked a lot about this book and his Ted Talk lately. What can I say? I’m challenged, convicted, inspired, enraged, and encouraged. I highly recommend this and recommend that reading it is followed up by some kind of action. I can’t say specifically what, that depends on each person and your situation. Think creatively, look around you and pay attention, an opportunity just might jump out.



Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof

What has happened to the world’s girls? Where are they? What are their lives like? If you haven’t read this yet, you need to. ‘Nuf said. I do struggle with their section on abortion, however. After spending much of the book talking about girlfanticide and the killing and oppression of girls, their discussion of abortion seemed disingenuous. However, don’t let that steer you away from the book, it is still a deeply important read.



The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

This one came to me from a former co-worker’s mother, who left it on my bookshelf after visited. Thank you! The things I never knew about my own nation’s history shocked me. Why didn’t we read books like this in history? Forget formal textbooks, give me stories rooted in fact. This is an incredible journey of three black Americans during the Great Migration, something I had shamefully never even heard of. Their stories and Wilkerson’s research put racial issues into a context that is is vital and pertinent to where we are as a country today.



Mending Rips in the Sky: Options for Somali Communities in the 21st Century Edited by Hassan M. Adam and Richard Ford

It is hard to call this a book about justice, per say, but through multiple essays it lays out the historical context for where Somalia is today, the roles various nations, policies, and internal issues have played in the search for peace, and what people are currently doing to pursue that peace. This is an academic read but for anyone interested in delving deep into Somalia, it is powerful.



What am I reading this week?

Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland (I really enjoyed this, there are some rough sexual scenes but the topic is super important and her writing is incredibly brave)

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson – just finishing up

The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (listening) by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Plus I’m a geeky fan of their podcast.

What are you reading? What would you recommend?