Suggested Readings

Additions, corrections and comments always welcome!

  1. General List: Alternative, Critical, Non-Elite Perspectives |
  2. For American Studies (inspired by Howard Zinn) |

Alternative, Critical, Non-Elite Perspectives:
Interpreting the Past, Transforming the Present, Creating the Future

Over the years, I have repeatedly been asked by students for books that I might recommend as introductory texts to some of the topics covered in my courses. Often, students would ask for the title of one book that was a classic in the field or that had a profound influence on my own intellectual development. With that in mind, I have limited my list of selections to only one or two books per topic area. It is my hope that this introductory (and highly selective) list of books offering alternative analyses will motivate students to attempt to overcome the ideological obfuscation of the mainstream and become better informed and thus able to help create alternative futures based on universal principles such as peace, human rights, and social justise.

Amnesty International.
United States of America: Rights for All. Amnesty International Press: London. 1998
Asad, Talal, ed.
Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter. Ithaca Press: London. 1975
Barnet, Richard J., and John Cavanagh.
Global Dreams: Imperial Corporations and the New World Order. Simon and Schuster: New York. 1994
Bello, Walden, David Kinley, and Elaine Elinson, eds.
Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines. Institute for Food and Development Policy: San Francisco. 1982
Bello, Walden and Stephanie Rosenfeld.
Dragons in Distress: Asia’s Miracle Economies in Crisis. Institute for Food and Development Policy: San Francisco. 1990
Benjamin, Medea and Andrea Freedman.
Bridging the Global Gap: A Handbook to Linking Citizens of the First and Third Worlds. Seven Locks Press: Washington D.C. 1989
Buckley, Sandra.
Broken Silence: Voices of Japanese Feminism. University of California Press: Berkely. 1997
Burger, Julian.
The Gaia Atlas of First Peoples: A Future for the Indigenous World. Anchor Books: New York. 1990
Burbach, Roger and Patricia Flynn, eds.
The Politics of Intervention: The United States in Central America. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1984
Carson, Rachel.
Silent Spring. Houghton Mifflin: Boston. 1962
Chomsky, Noam and Edward S. Herman.
The Political Economy of Human Rights – Volume 1: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism. South End Press: Boston. 1979
Chomsky, Noam and Edward S. Herman.
The Political Economy of Human Rights – Volume II: After the Cataclysm. Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology. South End Press: Boston. 1979
Chomsky, Noam and Edward S. Herman.
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. Pantheon Books: New York. 1988
Chomsky, Noam.
Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies. South End Press: Boston. 1989
Chomsky, Noam.
Deterring Democracy. Hill and Wang: New York. 1991
Chomsky, Noam.
Chronicles of Dissent. Common Courage Press: Monroe, Maine. 1992
Chomsky, Noam.
Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order. Seven Stories Press: New York. 1999
Cultural Survival Staff.
State of the Peoples: A Global Human Rights Report on Societies in Danger. Beacon Press: Boston. 1993
Dale, Peter N.
The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness. St. Martin’s Press: New York. 1986
Deloria, Vine Jr.
Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. Macmillan: New York. 1969
Diamond, Stanley.
In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization. Transactions: New Brunswick, New Jersey. 1974
Dower, John.
“Occupied Japan and the American Lake: 1945-1950.” In Edward Friedman and Mark Selden, eds. America’s Asia: Dissenting Essays on Asian-American Relations. Pantheon: New York. 1969
Dower, John, ed.
Origins of the Modern Japanese State: Selected Writings of E.H. Norman. Pantheon: New York. 1975
Dower, John.
Empire and Aftermath: Yoshida Shigeru and the Japanese Experience, 1878-1954. Harvard East Asian Monographs: 84. 1979
Dower, John. W.
War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. Pantheon Books: New York. 1986
Dower, John W.
“Peace and Democracy in Two Systems: External Policy and Internal Conflict.” In Gordon, Andrew, ed. Postwar Japan as History. University of California Press: Berkeley. 1993
Enloe, Cynthia.
Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. University of California Press: Berkely. 1989
Firestone, Shulamith.
The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. William Morrow: New York. 1970
Foster, John Bellamy.
The Vulnerable Planet: A Short Economic History of the Environment. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1994
Franke, Richard W. and Barbara H. Chasin.
Seeds of Famine: Ecological Destruction and the Development Dilemma in the West African Sahel. Allenheld, Osmun and Co.: Monclair, New Jersey. 1981
Gayn, Mark.
Japan Diary. William Sloane Associates: New York. 1948
George, Susan.
Ill Fares The Land. Institute for Policy Studies: Wash. D.C. 1984
George, Susan.
A Fate Worse Than Debt. Penguin Books: London. 1988
Gerson, Joseph and Bruce Birchard, eds.
The Sun Never Sets: Confronting the Network of U.S. Military Bases. South End Press: Boston. 1991
Giraldo, Javier.
Columbia: The Genocidal Democray. Common Courage Press: Monroe, Maine. 1996
Gramsci, Antonio.
Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Lawrence and Wishart: London. 1971
Halliday, Jon, and Gavan McCormack.
Japanese Imperialism Today. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1973
Halliday, Jon.
A Political History of Japanese Capitalism. Pantheon: New York. 1975
Horio, Teruhisa.
Educational Thought and Ideology in Modern Japan: State Authority and Intellectual Freedom. Edited and translated by Steven Platzer. University of Tokyo Press: Tokyo. 1988
Kolko, Joyce and Gabriel.
The Limits of Power. Harper and Row: New York. 1972
Kolko, Gabriel.
Confronting the Third World: United States Foreign Policy, 1945 – 1980. Pantheon: New York. 1988
Koning, Hans.
Columbus: His Enterprise. Exploding the Myth. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1976
Koning, Hans.
The Conquest of America: How the Indian Nations Lost Their Continent. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1993
Kruks, Sonia, Rayna Rapp, and Marilyn B. Young, eds.
Promissory Notes: Women in the Transition to Socialism. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1989
Lappe, Frances Moore and Joseph Collins with Cary Fowler.
Food First: Beyond the Myth of Scarcity. Institute for Food and Development Policy: San Francisco. 1977
Lappe, Frances Moore and Joseph Collins.
World Hunger: Twelve Myths. Glove Press: New York. 1986
Leacock, Eleanor Burke.
Myths of Male Dominance: Collected Articles on Women Cross-Culturally. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1981
Livingston, Jon, Joe Moore, and Felicia Oldfather.
Postwar Japan: 1945 to the Present. Pantheon: New York. 1973
McCormack, Gavan, and Yoshio Sugimoto.
Democracy in Contemporary Japan. Hale and Iremonger: Sydney. 1986
McCormack, Gavan, and Yoshio Sugimoto.
Modernization and Beyond: The Japanese Trajectory. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. 1988
Mintz, Sidney W.
Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Viking Penguin: New York. 1985
Moore, Henrietta L.
Feminism and Anthropology. Polity Press: Oxford. 1988
Moore, Joe.
Japanese Workers and the Struggle for Power, 1945-1947. University of Wisconsin Press: Madison. 1983
Norman, E.H.
Soldier and Peasant in Japan: The Origins of Conscription. Institute of Pacific Relations: New York. 1943
Norman, E.H.
“Feudal Background of Japanese Politics.” In Dower, John W., ed. Origins of the Modern Japanese State: Selected Writings of E.H. Norman. Pantheon Books: New York. 1975
Payer, Cheryl.
The Debt Trap: The IMF and the Third World. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1974
Payer, Cheryl.
The World Bank: A Critical Analysis. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1982
Reiter, Rayna R.
Toward an Anthropology of Women. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1975
Sachs, Wolfgang, ed.
The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge and Power. Zed Books: London. 1992
Said, Edward.
Orientalism. Vintage: New York. 1979
Said, Edward W.
Representations of the Intellectual. Vintage: New York. 1994
Sen, Gita and Caren Grown.
Development, Crises, and Alternative Visions: Third World Women’s Perspectives. New Feminist Library of Monthly Review Press: New York. 1987
Steven, Rob.
Classes in Contemporary Japan. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. 1983
Tanzer, Michael. T
The Race for Resources: Continuing Struggles Over Minerals and Fuels. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1980
Thompson, Edward P.
The Making of the English Working Class. Vintage Books: New York. 1966
Thompson, Edward P.
“Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism.” Past and Present:38. December 1967
Thompson, Edward P.
The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1978
Tsurumi, Patricia, ed.
The Other Japan: Postwar Realities. M.E. Sharpe: Armonk, New York. 1988
Williams, Raymond.
The Country and the City. Oxford University Press: Oxford. 1973
Williams, Raymond.
Marxism and Literature. Oxford University Press: Oxford. 1977
Williams, Raymond.
Problems in Materialism and Culture: Selected Essays. Verso Editions and NLB: London. 1980
Wolf, Eric R.
Europe and the People Without History. University of California Press: Berkeley. 1982
Wood, Ellen Meikins and John Bellamy Foster.
In Defense of History: Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda. Monthly Review Press: New York. 1997
Zinn, Howard.
The Politics of History. University of Illinois Press: Urbana. 1970
Zinn, Howard.
A People’s History of the United States. Harper and Row: New York. 1980
Zinn, Howard.
Failure to Quit: Reflections of an Optimistic Historian. Common Courage Press: Monroe, Maine. 1993


For American Studies (based on suggestions from Howard Zinn)

Here’s an informal list I made up for someone who asked about history books. My brief descriptions may help with picking and choosing what might interest you most.

Gary Nash
Red, White and Black: The Peoples of Early America (Prentice-Hall 1970).
A pioneering work of “multi-culturalism” dealing with racial inter- action in the colonial period.
Dee Brown, ed.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971).
A moving collection of statements and recollections by American Indians which gives you their point of view in a vivid, passionate way.
John Hope Franklin
From Slavery to Freedom (Knopf, 1974).
The classic overview of Afro-American history by one of the nation’s leading historians.
Vincent Harding
Excellent start on African-American history
Herbert Aptheker, ed.
A Documentary History of the Negro People of the United States (Citadel Press, 1990, four volumes).
An extremely valuable, I am tempted to say indispensable, collection, not at all dry, as are some documentaries.
Eric Foner
Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution (Harper & Row, 1988).
A rich, vivid, epic-like narrative of those extraordinary years 1863 to 1877, by one of the leading “new historians.”
Richard Drinnon
Facing West (Schocken, 1990).
A brilliantly written account of imperial expansion by the United States, not just on the American continent against the Indians, but overseas in the Philippines and in Vietnam.
Samuel Yellen
American Labor Struggles (Pathfinder, 1974).
This brings to life the great labor conflicts of American history, from the railroad strikes of 1877 to the San Francisco general strike of 1934.
Gerda Lerner, ed.
The Female Experience: An American Documentary (Bobbs- Merrill, 1977).
A marvelous collection of the writings of women throughout U.S. history, dealing with childhood, marriage, housework, old age, education, industrial work, politics and sexual freedom.
Gerda Lerner, ed.
Black Women in White America: A Documentary History (Random House, 1977).
A rare glimpse into the lives, the minds, the spirits of that doubly oppressed group, ranging from slavery to our time, a wonderful sourcebook.
Staughton Lynd, and Alice Lynd, ed.
Nonviolence in America (Bobbs-Merrill, new edition 1997).
A valuable examination of the ideas, in their own words, of early Quaker dissidents, abolitionists, anarchists, progressives, conscientious objectors, trade unionists,civil rights workers and pacifists, from the colonial period to the 1960s.
Richard Hofstadter
The American Political Tradition (Vintage,1974).
A classic of American history, beautifully written, an iconoclastic view of American political leaders, including Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, and the two Roosevelts, suggesting more consensus than difference at the top of the political hierarchy.
Noam Chomsky
Year 501 (South End Press, 1992).
Here, the nation’s most distinguished intellectual rebel gives us huge amounts of information about recent American foreign policy, and puts it into historical perspective, going back to the Columbus era.
Henry Hampton, Steve Fayer, with Sarah Flynn, ed.
Voices of Freedom (Bantam, 1990).
An oral history of the black movement for civil rights, from the 1950s to the 1980s, much of its material coming out of the research done for the TV documentary, Eyes on the Prize.
Ronald Takaki
Strangers From a Distant Shore (Penguin, 1989).
Gives us what has been glaringly missing from our traditional histories, the story of Asian-Americans, from the early years of the republic through the dramatic and tragic experiences of Chinese and Japanese immigrants, to the recent arrival of refugees from Southeast Asia.
Elizabeth Martinez, ed.
500 Anos del Pueblo Chicano: 500 Years of Chicano History. (Southwest Organizing Project, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1991).
Full of marvelous photos but also an exciting, bilingual text loaded with valuable history.

On the Colonial-Revolutionary Period
Alfred Young, ed.
The American Revolution (Northern Illinois University Press (1976).
An excellent set of essays by younger historians on various aspects of the American Revolution.
On the pre-Civil War and Civil War period:
James McPherson
Battle Cry of Freedom (Oxford Univ.Press, 1988).
Along with the traditional military history there is a lot of political and social history and McPherson pays attention to the role of black people in that whole period.

On the Reconstruction Period
W.E.B. DuBois
Black Reconstruction
A classic which is a direct counter to the traditional racist accounts of Reconstruction, presenting the narrative from the black point of view.
For a briefer account of Reconstruction than either DuBois or Foner, see Kenneth Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction (1965).

On the Civil Rights Movement
David Garrow
Bearing the Cross (Morrow, 1986) The best biography of Martin Luther King,Jr., pointing to those elements in his philosophy which have been ignored.
Taylor Branch
Parting the Waters (Simon & Schuster, 1988) Tells the story of the Movement with more attention than is usually given to grass roots activists and to the young people in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
An excellent photographic-essay supplement to these books, with wonderful photos and text
Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement by Danny Lyon (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1992).
Another unusual source book on the Movement
Minds Stayed on Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle in the Rural South (Westview Press, 1991).
What makes this unique is that it consists of interviews conducted by young black students in Mississippi — eighth and ninth graders — with older black people who talk about the Movement.

On the Sixties
Todd Gitlin
The Sixties (Bantam, 1987), a vivid history, well-written, thoughtful, by one of the activists of that era.

On the Christopher Columbus controversy
The Journal of Christopher Columbus (Bonanza Books, 1960)
One of many editions of his account of his voyages.
Bartolme de las Casas
The Devastation of the Indies (Seabury Press, 1974).
The closest we can get to an eyewitness account of the terrorism inflicted on the Indians.
Kirkpatrick Sale
The Conquest of Paradise (Knopf, 1990) A treasury of information about the Columbus experience and about the treatment of that experience through the centuries.
Hans Koning
Columbus: His Enterprise (Monthly Review Press, 1992).
A pioneering, succinct critique of Columbus and his forays.
Eduardo Galeano
Open Veins of Latin America (Monthly Review Press, 1973).
Continues the story of European conquest by tracing the relations between the United States and Latin America from Columbus down to our times. A poetic, powerful account.
Ronald Takaki
A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (Little Brown, 1993).
A sweeping and important survey of the history of ethnic groups (including Indians, blacks, Jews, Irish, Asians, Chicanos and others). Unique.

Two unusual and helpful source books
Larry Gonick
The Cartoon History of the United States (Harper Collins 1991).
Funny and remarkably rich in its content.
Philip Foner and Reinhard Schultz
The Other America (Journeyman Press 1985).
A fascinating art book — paintings and photographs — of the history of working people in the United States.

A few random suggestions for interesting novels, biographies, autobiographies which bring history to life
The various historical novels of Upton Sinclair
(Boston, for instance, which fictionalizes, but with remarkable attention to historical accuracy, the Sacco and Vanzetti case).
The historical novels of Howard Fast
Very readable, with original points of view. Among others, Freedom Road, about Reconstruction. Citizen Tom Paine. The American (about John Peter Altgeld and the Haymarket Affair of 1886).
Dalton Trumbo
Johnny Got His Gun
A powerful anti-war novel written between the two World Wars.
Ron Kovic
Born on the Fourth of July
A moving memoir by a badly wounded Vietnam veteran who turned against the war.
John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath.
A powerful introduction to the Depression years.
Malcom X (with Arthur Haley)
The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Emma Goldman
Living My Life
The fascinating story of this feminist-anarchist who outraged the nation in the early years of this century.
Richard Wright
Black Boy.
About his growing up in the South.

Some useful fiction and non-fiction on women in U.S. history
Eleanor Flexner
A Century of Struggle.
Overview of women’s movements, with much colorful material. (Harvard U., 1975)
Barbara Mayer Wertheimer
We Were There.
A fine history of working women, from colonial times to the first World War (Pantheon,1977)
Susan Cahill, ed.,
Women and Fiction. A rich and wonderful collection of short stories by some of the greatest women writers. (Mentor, 1975)
Watkins and David, ed.
To Be a Black Woman.
Essays and fiction by and about black women, including work by Maya Angelou, Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Lorraine Hansberry, etc. (Morrow,1971)
Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Are Watching God.
A classic of African-American literature, written in the 1930’s, a forerunner in its originality, honesty, and power, of Alice Walker’s novels today.
Alice Walker
In Search Of Our Mothers’ Gardens.
A fascinating set of essays, some autobiographical, some literary criticism, some social commentary. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984).
John Sanford
A More Goodly Country (Crown, 1975).