Books against Trump: an anti-Trump reading list


Anti-Trump protesters march through the streets on San Francisco with their arms around each other, one holding a sign reading 'Hate Ain't Great'. Pax Ahimsa Gethen under a Creative Commons Licence

With George Orwell’s 1984 hitting US top seller lists in the wake of Trump’s presidency, we provide an anti-Trump America reading list.

These books might help understand how we got to this point, where we are now, and where we can go from here.

1. The Anti-Inauguration: Building Resistance in the Trump Era

Five speeches taken from ‘The Anti-Inauguration’, which think about resistance and future politics in the age of Trump. Featuring Naomi Klein, Jeremy Scahill, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Anand Gopal, and Owen Jones.

‘It’s not enough to simply say “No” to attacks [from the Trump administration],’ says Naomi Klein. ‘It’s not enough because we know that where we are now, before the attacks come, is entirely unacceptable. The levels of inequality, the levels of racism – and the planet chaos that we have unleashed. We need radical system change.’

The speeches are available in a free ebook.

2. Plato, The Republic

Useful for understanding how different models of political power emerge from one another, and how, seemingly, not much has changed in this regard as Plato remarks that ‘tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy’.

Get the book.

3. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Also climbing the best seller lists, Arendt’s seminal text on totalitarianism traces the origins and development of totalitarianism and its inextricable ties with and differences from fascism. Reading Arendt gives a clear and troubling picture of the totalitarian elements of Trump’s presidency (notably his non-vetted, non-consulted use of executive orders) and the particular reincarnation of Nazi-fascism shown in his method, rhetoric, political strategy and policy.

Arendt’s work on the ‘banality of evil’ in Eichmann in Jerusalem resonates in our present, too.

Read the book.

4. Ernesto Laclau, On Populist Reason

What drives populism? How are collective identities created? Laclau can not only help us comprehend what it is that binds Trump voters and supporters in a deeply divisive form of populism, but also offers a way of developing a critical-left populism built upon the collective anger, outrage and rejection of Trump’s presidency.

Find the book.

5. Carl Schmitt, Legality and Legitimacy

As a political and legal theorist who worked for the Nazi party, Schmitt was well accustomed to the process of monopolizing political power. In this recently translated text, Schmitt rejects the restraints of a liberal constitution, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.

Legality, he argues, is not necessary for political legitimacy: only a regime with minimal constraints can function and ‘ensure domestic security in a highly pluralistic society’. That which Schmitt had proposed to help Adolf Hitler consolidate power may be in the process of being realized by Donald Trump. So far, he has removed many of the existing restraints on authority in a democracy. His sacking of US Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and his recent attacks on individual judges following judgments against his Muslim travel ban provide stark examples of the attempted removal of any constraints and the reincarnation of the battle between legality and legitimacy that Schmitt talked about.

Find the book.

6. Angela Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement

After judicial methods of redress are stifled, the only remaining response is a people’s protest. In a collection of essays, conversation and speeches, renowned activist-scholar Angela Davis writes of the connection between historical struggles for freedom and the struggles and protests in America today.

In her words, ‘oftentimes there are historical conjunctures that one cannot necessarily predict, but they’re moments when things come together in such a way that new possibilities arrive.

‘And I think that when the Ferguson protesters refused to go home after protesting for two or three days, when they insisted on continuing that protest, and when they were – when Palestine activists, Palestinian activists in Palestine, were the first to actually tweet solidarity and support for them, that opened up a whole new realm.’

Davis reminds us of the challenges faced when fighting for freedom and provides hope for a movement of collective liberation needed now more than ever.

Find more information on the book on Goodreads.

7. Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday

Zweig wrote his memoir in 1941, at a time when Europe was being taken over by the Nazis. What is pertinent of today’s politics is Zweig’s reflection of the immediate response to Hitler from the mainstream press.

At first, they didn’t take his movement seriously or literally, then they started believing they would see its inevitable demise soon, turning to wishful thinking, and ultimately ignorance as news spread of concentration camps being built.

Zweig’s disbelief, dismay and feeling of ultimate helplessness when it is too late perhaps illuminates the importance of taking seriously, speaking early, and refusing complicity.

Find more information about the book on Goodreads.

Two fiction choices

8. Don DeLillo, White Noise

In this brilliant satire, DeLillo sets out how fear is manufactured, impacts upon and how it changes a population’s mindset, and shows how populations are complicit in this process.

The protagonist, Jack, is fascinated with Hitler’s personality as a teacher of ‘Hitler studies’. Jack is more interested in his appeal, how he attracted crowds and myths about his personality, rather than the historical facts. A turn away from the actions and practices of Trump to focus upon his character is a danger to mainstream complicity with his presidency to which we must keep vigilant.

Find more information about the book on Goodreads.

Alternatively, for a more explicit confrontation of the rise of Islamophobia in modern America, take a look at: Arun Kundnani’s The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, or for a more historical perspective which traces Islamophobia back to the 11th Century, see Deepa Kumar’s Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.

9. Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here

It’s 1935, and a charismatic presidential candidate is elected on the back of calls for a new era of prosperity for the country. As the protagonist Doremus Jessop begins to realize, the new regime is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

This once cautionary tale could now be is now simply prophetic of Trump’s America and the complicity of those who stand by in the face of fascism. The answer for Lewis, as indeed now, is that yes, it can happen here.

Find more information about the book on Goodreads.

Got any suggestions? Please do add them in the comments box below.

Find the author on Twitter: @Efairhead.