It's hard not to feel fatigued right now as an American. Our president both looks and acts like a Captain Planet villain. Our government keeps trying to find ways to replace healthcare for poor people with free money for the rich. The groundhog was right about spring not coming early. The last thing you want to do right now is to dive headfirst into a high stress, high bureaucracy job. But if we want to live in a democracy, then we need people who actually care to start running for government positions. And that caring person could be you. Here are some books that will inspire you to run for office, because you can make a difference (and get paid).
I'm serious. If you've ever given a passing thought to a career in politics, now is the time to start reading up on what creating change actually looks like. Overthrowing the government and going to live in the woods sounds like a fun shortcut, but running for office is probably more effective in the long term. Federal or local, every elected position has the power to make some kind of positive impact.
So read these books. Give them to your one friend who was president of 9th grade school council. Volunteer for the campaigns of politicians who aren't terrible. And don't lose hope:
1'The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century' by Grace Lee Boggs
Looking for a straightforward manifesto of ways we can all fix America? Grace Lee Boggs has got you covered. Boggs has been an activist for seven decades, so she knows her stuff. This book will make you believe that radical social change is possible. Her ideas for alternative methods of work, politics, and human interaction will inspire you to start your campaign tomorrow.
2'Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice for Change' by Kirsten Gillibrand
This book is half memoir, half playbook for young woman who want to step into politics. Hillary Clinton once told a young Kirsten Gillibrand, “Decisions are being made every day in Washington, and if you are not part of those decisions, you might not like what they decide, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.” That's the philosophy Gillibrand lives by, and her book is a no-nonsense guide to being part of the decision making.
3'Living History' by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Speaking of Hillary... this is a book by Hillary, about Hillary. You might love her, or hate her, or have voted for her grudgingly while simultaneously having a lot of opinions about her political stances. Either way, you have to respect her tenacity. Long before the 2016 election, Hillary was hard at work fighting for women's rights and constantly campaigning, and her dedication to public service is clear throughout this autobiography.
4'Citizen: an American Lyric' by Claudia Rankine
Yes, this book of poetry and personal essays is going to inspire you to run for office. Rankine's Citizen is a gorgeous, gut-wrenching meditation on race in America. Who gets to be treated as a rightful citizen? From constant micro-aggressions to the murder of African-American teenagers at the hands of the police, Citizen exposes the everyday violence of prejudice, and the ways in which the government fails its people.
5'Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America' by Leslie Knope
Look, it might not be a cutting edge political masterpiece, but Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America just might make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside about local government. It's funny, it's silly, it's full of inside jokes, but it also has the genuine heart and ambition of fictional government gal Leslie Knope from beginning to end.
6'The Audacity of Hope' by Barack Obama
So far, it seems like screaming, "COME BACK" into the night is not going to make Obama come back and be president again (let me know if you get different results). But you can still read Obama's The Audacity of Hope, and find yourself infected by the hope, change, and political savvy that made his first presidential campaign so successful.
7'The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt' by Kara Cooney
Sure, political autobiographies and manifestos might be more relevant to running for office in modern day America... but sometimes, you just need a freaking female pharaoh to inspire your own ascent to power. Hatshepsut was meant to marry her brother and bear his children, but instead she wheedled her way onto the throne at age 20, started cross-dressing, and reigned over Ancient Egypt for a spectacular twenty-two years. Channel Hatshepsut, and go talk your way into a position of power while in drag.
8'A People's History of the United States' by Howard Zinn
History is not just made by great men riding horses and stabbing things with swords. History is also made by factory workers, immigrant laborers, and stay at home moms. A People's History of The United States will remind you exactly why it matters that we live in a democracy, and why the people deserve to have their voices heard.
9'Hope in the Dark' by Rebecca Solnit
If the only thing keeping you from running for office is your crippling despair over America's political nightmare system, then pick up Hope in the Dark. Rebecca Solnit makes the radical case for a hopeful future, even though the present seems terribly bleak. She'll inspire you to always, always keep fighting for change, no matter how dark it gets.