A book list for intellectual activists and difference makers

In my forthcoming law review article, “Intellectual Activism and the Practice of Public Interest Law” (Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice), I include an annotated bibliography of some 40 books that provide insights and guidance on intellectual activism, which I define “as both a philosophy and a methodology for engaging in scholarship relevant to real-world problems and challenges, putting its prescriptions into action, and learning from the process and results of implementation.”

Here are 10 representative listings from that bibliography. You may freely download a draft of the article, which contains the full bibliography, here.


Kim Bobo, Jackie Kendall, and Steve Max, Organizing for Social Change: Midwest Academy Manual for Activists 4th ed. (2010). Manual for grassroots activists by leading trainers and educators associated with the Midwest Academy, which has trained thousands of activists since its creation in 1973.

Community and the World: Participating in Social Change (Torry D. Dickinson, ed., 2003). This valuable and welcomed collection of articles covers many topics related to community-based learning, adult education, and scholarly activism, featuring a multicultural and global orientation. A diverse array of educators, learners, and social change agents contributed to it.

John-Paul Flintoff, How to Change the World (2012). Provides a trenchant historical and practical overview on the different ways to make an impact on society.

Howard Gardner, Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds (2004). The renowned psychologist examines how people change their minds on matters ranging from everyday choices to major social and political issues.

Robert Jensen, We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out (2013). A journalism professor, Jensen urges intellectuals to be “responsibly apocalyptic” in helping us to understand and confront the economic and social challenges of our era.

Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett, How to Write for a General Audience: A Guide for Academics Who Want to Share Their Knowledge With the World and Have Fun Doing It (2007). Helpful, encouraging guidebook for those who want to translate their research for more general audiences via articles, books, and social media.

George Lakoff, Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision (2006). Linguistics professor Lakoff applies his expertise to political communication, suggesting ways in which progressives can more effectively persuade the public.

Michelle E. Martin, Advocacy for Social Justice: A Global Perspective (2015). Interesting takes on social justice advocacy, framed by human services and social work perspectives.

The Public Intellectual (Helen Small, ed., 2002). Sampling of perspectives on the role of public intellectuals in society. The late Edward Said’s essay, “The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals,” is particularly recommended.

Telling Stories to Change the World (Rickie Sollinger, Madeline Fox & Kayhan Irani, eds. 2008). Stimulating collection of essays about storytelling as a strategy for social justice advocacy on a global scale.

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