The best 31 Human Rights books

Human rights are at the core of our shared values as a global community. In this book list, we delve into the history, philosophy, and contemporary challenges of human rights. Gain a deeper understanding of this crucial field and explore the stories of those who have fought for justice and equality.
Whether you're an activist, a student, or simply interested in learning more about human rights, this collection offers a comprehensive exploration of the issues that shape our world.

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Human Rights Books: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Fire Next Time

James Baldwin
4.8 (4 ratings)
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What's The Fire Next Time about?

The Fire Next Time (1963) explores the roots of racism and the possibility of change through two passionately argued essays on religion, justice, and the Black experience in America.

Who should read The Fire Next Time?

  • Students curious about the signature voices of the American civil rights movement 
  • Those seeking insight into the interplay of racism and religion in society
  • Anyone craving clarity and wisdom on issues of justice, faith, and reconciliation that still resonate today

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What's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas about?

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006) is a best-selling historical novel. It’s the tale of the secret friendship between two nine-year-old boys, Bruno and Shmuel, who both live at Auschwitz, only on opposite sides of the fence.

Who should read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

  • Young people
  • Fans of historical fiction
  • Anyone who enjoys moving stories about friendship

What's Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice about?

'Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice' by Jack Donnelly explores the philosophical and practical aspects of human rights. It discusses the origins and evolution of human rights, debates surrounding cultural relativism, and the challenges in implementing and protecting these rights globally. The book provides a comprehensive analysis of the principles and complexities of human rights, inviting readers to critically examine their own beliefs and understand the broader implications of human rights in today's world.

Who should read Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice?

  • Policy makers and government officials seeking to understand and implement human rights laws
  • Human rights activists and advocates looking to deepen their knowledge and strategies
  • Students and academics studying political science, international relations, or human rights

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Human Rights Books: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi

What's Persepolis about?

Persepolis is a graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi that offers a unique glimpse into life in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. Through beautiful black-and-white illustrations, Satrapi shares her coming-of-age story, highlighting the challenges, humor, and resilience she and her family displayed in the face of political and social upheaval.

Who should read Persepolis?

  • Readers who are interested in personal narratives and coming-of-age stories
  • Individuals who want to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and political history of Iran
  • People who appreciate graphic novels and unique storytelling formats

5
Human Rights Books: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

What's Infidel about?

Infidel is a memoir by Ayaan Hirsi Ali that recounts her journey from a strict Muslim upbringing in Somalia to her eventual rejection of the faith and her fight for women's rights. It offers a powerful critique of Islam and sheds light on the challenges faced by those who dare to question their religious beliefs.

Who should read Infidel?


6

What's Maus II: A Survivor's Tale about?

Maus II: A Survivor's Tale is a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman that continues the story of his father's experiences during the Holocaust. Through the use of anthropomorphic animals, Spiegelman delves into the complexities of survival, guilt, and the intergenerational impact of trauma. It is a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of history and memory.

Who should read Maus II: A Survivor's Tale?

  • Readers who are interested in graphic novel memoirs
  • Those looking to gain a deeper understanding of the Holocaust
  • Individuals who appreciate unconventional storytelling and unique artistic styles

What's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families about?

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch is a powerful and harrowing account of the Rwandan genocide. Through interviews and extensive research, the book sheds light on the events leading up to the genocide, the atrocities committed, and the aftermath. It offers a deeply moving and thought-provoking exploration of the human capacity for both evil and resilience.

Who should read We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families?

  • Readers who are interested in understanding the complexities of the Rwandan genocide
  • Individuals who want to learn about the consequences of political and ethnic conflict
  • Those who are seeking a thought-provoking and emotionally engaging narrative

What's Killers of the Flower Moon about?

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann is a gripping non-fiction book that delves into the shocking true story of a series of murders of wealthy Osage Native Americans in the 1920s. It uncovers a sinister conspiracy and the birth of the FBI as it investigates the killings. A compelling blend of history, true crime, and investigative journalism.

Who should read Killers of the Flower Moon?

  • Readers interested in shocking true crime stories
  • History enthusiasts curious about little-known events
  • Those who enjoy narratives that delve into complex investigations

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Human Rights Books: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, Amy Erlich

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Dee Brown, Amy Erlich

What's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee about?

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is a historical non-fiction book that chronicles the profound impact of American expansion on Native American tribes in the late 19th century. Through detailed research and gripping storytelling, Dee Brown sheds light on the injustices and tragedies endured by the indigenous people, giving voice to their untold stories.

Who should read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee?

  • Readers interested in Native American history and the impact of colonization
  • Those who want to gain a deeper understanding of the injustices faced by indigenous peoples
  • Individuals who appreciate well-researched and thought-provoking non-fiction books

10
Human Rights Books: I Am Troy Davis by Troy Davis, Jen Marlowe

I Am Troy Davis

Troy Davis, Jen Marlowe

What's I Am Troy Davis about?

I Am Troy Davis is a gripping memoir by Troy Davis and Jen Marlowe that tells the story of Davis's wrongful conviction and eventual execution. Through powerful firsthand accounts and compelling evidence, the book sheds light on the flaws in the criminal justice system and the fight for justice in the face of overwhelming odds.

Who should read I Am Troy Davis?

  • Individuals who are interested in social justice issues, specifically the death penalty
  • Readers who enjoy personal narratives and memoirs
  • Those who want to gain a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system and its flaws

11
Human Rights Books: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

What's Americanah about?

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a powerful novel that explores race, identity, and the immigrant experience. It tells the story of Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman who moves to the United States for college, and her journey to navigate the complexities of American society while trying to hold on to her own cultural identity. Through Ifemelu's personal narrative, Adichie offers poignant insights into the challenges and realities of being black in America.

Who should read Americanah?

  • Individuals interested in exploring themes of race, identity, and immigration
  • Readers who enjoy multi-continental narratives that span Nigeria and the United States
  • Those who appreciate insightful and thought-provoking social commentary within a compelling story

12
Human Rights Books: What is the What by Dave Eggers

What is the What

Dave Eggers

What's What is the What about?

What is the What is a novel by Dave Eggers that tells the story of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. It is a powerful account of Deng's journey from his war-torn homeland to the United States, depicting the harsh realities of war, displacement, and the search for a better life. Through Deng's voice, the book brings attention to the plight of refugees and the resilience of the human spirit.

Who should read What is the What?

  • Individuals interested in refugee experiences and human displacement
  • Readers who enjoy personal narratives and social justice issues
  • Those looking to gain perspective on the complexities of war and its impact on innocent civilians

13
Human Rights Books: Maus I: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman

What's Maus I: A Survivor's Tale about?

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman is a powerful graphic novel that tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of the author’s father. Using the metaphor of Jews as mice and Nazis as cats, this deeply moving book delves into the horrors of the past while also exploring the complex relationship between the author and his father.

Who should read Maus I: A Survivor's Tale?

  • Readers who are interested in World War II history and the Holocaust
  • Those who enjoy thought-provoking and emotionally impactful graphic novels
  • Individuals who appreciate unique storytelling methods, such as using anthropomorphic animals to depict real-life events

14
Human Rights Books: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini

What's A Thousand Splendid Suns about?

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini tells the story of two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila, whose lives become intertwined in unexpected ways. Set against the backdrop of a war-torn Afghanistan, the novel explores themes of friendship, resilience, and the enduring power of love. It is a compelling and heartbreaking tale that sheds light on the lives of women in a patriarchal society.

Who should read A Thousand Splendid Suns?

  • Readers who enjoy emotionally powerful storytelling
  • Individuals interested in the lives and experiences of women in Afghanistan
  • Those who want to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of war and conflict on personal lives

15
Human Rights Books: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun

Dave Eggers

What's Zeitoun about?

Zeitoun (2009) is a non-fiction book by Dave Eggers that tells the true story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American man who stays in New Orleans to protect his home and help others in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The book chronicles Zeitoun's experiences during the disaster, his unjust imprisonment, and the challenges he faces in the broken criminal justice system.

Who should read Zeitoun?

  • Readers interested in social justice and human rights
  • Individuals curious about the experiences of immigrants and minorities in America
  • Those who want to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of natural disasters on communities

16
Human Rights Books: The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Christopher A. Hubert

The Color Purple

Alice Walker, Christopher A. Hubert

What's The Color Purple about?

The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a powerful novel that explores the lives of African American women in the early 20th century. Through the eyes of the protagonist, Celie, the book delves into themes of racism, sexism, and the power of female relationships. It is a poignant and thought-provoking read that has left a lasting impact on its readers.

Who should read The Color Purple?

  • Readers who enjoy thought-provoking and emotionally impactful stories
  • Individuals interested in exploring themes of race, gender, and resilience
  • Those looking to expand their understanding of the African American experience

What's Mountains Beyond Mountains about?

Mountains Beyond Mountains (2003) by Tracy Kidder is a compelling biography that follows the extraordinary life and work of Dr. Paul Farmer. Through his dedication to providing healthcare to the poorest communities around the world, Farmer challenges the status quo and inspires us to rethink our approach to global health and social justice.

Who should read Mountains Beyond Mountains?

  • Individuals interested in global health and social justice
  • People who want to learn about the life and work of Dr. Paul Farmer
  • Readers who enjoy captivating non-fiction narratives

18
Human Rights Books: Sold by Patricia McCormick

Sold

Patricia McCormick

What's Sold about?

Sold by Patricia McCormick is a compelling novel that tells the story of Lakshmi, a young girl from Nepal who is sold into prostitution in India. Through beautiful and haunting prose, the book sheds light on the harsh realities faced by many young girls and women around the world. It is a powerful and important read that raises awareness about human trafficking and the strength of the human spirit.

Who should read Sold?

  • Individuals seeking to understand the reality of human trafficking
  • Activists and advocates working to combat modern slavery
  • Readers who appreciate realistic and eye-opening storytelling

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Human Rights Books: Disposable People by Kevin Bales

Disposable People

Kevin Bales

What's Disposable People about?

Disposable People by Kevin Bales sheds light on the modern-day tragedy of human trafficking and slavery. Through in-depth research and personal accounts, the book exposes the harsh realities faced by millions of individuals who are treated as disposable commodities. It challenges us to confront this global issue and take action to end the exploitation of vulnerable people.

Who should read Disposable People?

  • Folks who want to learn about the realities of modern-day slavery
  • Individuals looking to understand the root causes and consequences of human trafficking
  • Activists and advocates who want to take action against forced labor and exploitation

20
Human Rights Books: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead

What's The Underground Railroad about?

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead follows the story of a young woman named Cora who escapes from a Georgia plantation and sets out on a journey through the underground railroad. This novel reimagines the historical network of secret routes and safe houses used by African-American slaves to escape to free states, exploring themes of freedom, race, and the power of the human spirit.

Who should read The Underground Railroad?

  • Readers who are interested in exploring the history of slavery in America
  • Those who enjoy thought-provoking and emotionally impactful stories
  • Individuals who appreciate beautiful and evocative writing

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Human Rights Books: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings

Sue Monk Kidd

What's The Invention of Wings about?

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is a historical novel inspired by the life of Sarah Grimké, a real-life abolitionist and women's rights activist. Set in the early 19th century, the book tells the story of Sarah and Handful, a slave gifted to Sarah on her 11th birthday. The novel explores themes of freedom, empowerment, and the enduring bond between the two women as they strive for independence in a society that seeks to confine them.

Who should read The Invention of Wings?

  • Readers who enjoy historical fiction and stories of women's empowerment
  • Those interested in exploring the complexities of slavery and its impact on individuals
  • People who appreciate beautifully crafted prose and compelling characters

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Human Rights Books: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Complete Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi

What's The Complete Persepolis about?

The Complete Persepolis is a graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi that tells the story of her childhood and early adulthood in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. Through beautiful black-and-white illustrations, Satrapi shares her experiences of war, oppression, and finding her own identity. It offers a unique and personal perspective on a significant period in history.

Who should read The Complete Persepolis?

  • Individuals interested in understanding the personal impact of geopolitical events
  • Readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories with a unique perspective
  • Those looking to explore complex themes such as identity, human rights, and cultural assimilation

What's The Underground Girls of Kabul about?

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg explores the practice of bacha posh in Afghanistan, where families without sons dress their daughters as boys in order to gain freedoms and opportunities otherwise denied to them. Through interviews and personal stories, Nordberg sheds light on the complex gender dynamics and societal expectations in Afghanistan.

Who should read The Underground Girls of Kabul?

  • Readers who are interested in gender equality and women's rights
  • Individuals who want to gain a deeper understanding of cultural and social norms in Afghanistan
  • Those who enjoy thought-provoking and eye-opening non-fiction accounts

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Human Rights Books: Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen, Amartya Kumar Sen

Development as Freedom

Amartya Sen, Amartya Kumar Sen

What's Development as Freedom about?

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen explores the relationship between economic development and individual freedom. Sen argues that development should be seen as a process of expanding the capabilities and freedoms of people, rather than simply focusing on economic growth. He discusses how factors such as political freedoms, social opportunities, and economic provisions are essential for human development and well-being.

Who should read Development as Freedom?

  • Those interested in the intersection of economics and social justice
  • Educators and students studying development economics or human capabilities
  • Policy makers and activists seeking to promote inclusive and sustainable development

25
Human Rights Books: East West Street by Philippe Sands

East West Street

Philippe Sands

What's East West Street about?

East West Street is a gripping book that delves into the intertwined lives of four men who played influential roles in shaping the concept of genocide and crimes against humanity. Against the backdrop of World War II and the Nuremberg trials, Philippe Sands uncovers personal connections and legal innovations that have had a profound impact on our understanding of human rights and international law.

Who should read East West Street?

  • History enthusiasts who are interested in World War II era and the Nuremberg trials
  • Readers with a passion for human rights and international law
  • Those who enjoy personal narratives intertwined with larger historical events

26
Human Rights Books: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, Poetose Press

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, Poetose Press

What's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass about?

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a powerful autobiography that chronicles the life of Frederick Douglass, from his childhood in slavery to his escape to freedom. Douglass vividly depicts the brutal realities of slavery and the strength and resilience it took for him to fight for his freedom. A must-read for anyone interested in American history and the fight for equality.

Who should read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass?

  • Students and educators studying American history and the abolitionist movement
  • Readers interested in first-hand accounts of slavery and the quest for freedom
  • Those who appreciate eloquent and powerful writing that challenges societal norms

27
Human Rights Books: The Moonlit Cage by Linda Holeman

The Moonlit Cage

Linda Holeman

What's The Moonlit Cage about?

The Moonlit Cage by Linda Holeman is a captivating novel set in 19th century India. It tells the story of a young woman named Mariana who is forced into an arranged marriage and struggles to find her own identity and freedom. Filled with rich historical detail and beautiful prose, this book explores themes of love, independence, and the power of the human spirit.

Who should read The Moonlit Cage?

  • Readers who enjoy historical fiction set in exotic locations
  • Those with an interest in the challenges and triumphs of women in traditional societies
  • People who appreciate richly detailed and vividly described storytelling

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Human Rights Books: Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Little Princes

Conor Grennan

What's Little Princes about?

Little Princes is a heartwarming memoir by Conor Grennan that chronicles his journey to reunite trafficked children with their families in war-torn Nepal. Filled with humor, compassion, and a sense of adventure, this book sheds light on the harsh realities of child trafficking while also celebrating the power of love and determination.

Who should read Little Princes?

  • Individuals passionate about making a positive impact in the lives of children
  • People interested in travel and adventure, particularly in the context of volunteer work
  • Readers who enjoy heartwarming and inspiring true stories

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What's The Education of an Idealist about?

The Education of an Idealist is a memoir by Samantha Power that chronicles her journey from a young idealist to a seasoned diplomat. Power shares her experiences as a war correspondent, her work in human rights advocacy, and her time as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Through personal anecdotes and reflections, she offers a unique perspective on the complexities of international relations and the pursuit of global justice.

Who should read The Education of an Idealist?

  • Individuals interested in international relations and diplomacy
  • Readers who want to understand the complexities of foreign policy and humanitarian intervention
  • Those who admire the journey of a passionate and determined woman in the world of politics

30
Human Rights Books: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars

Lois Lowry

What's Number the Stars about?

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is a powerful historical fiction novel set during World War II. It tells the story of a young girl named Annemarie Johansen and her family, who risk their lives to help their Jewish friends escape from the Nazis in Denmark. Through themes of bravery, friendship, and resistance, the book highlights the courage of ordinary people in the face of extraordinary circumstances.

Who should read Number the Stars?

  • Readers interested in historical fiction set during WWII
  • Young adult readers looking for a coming-of-age story
  • Educators and parents seeking a way to introduce children to the Holocaust with sensitivity

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Human Rights Books: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Twelve Years a Slave

Solomon Northup

What's Twelve Years a Slave about?

Twelve Years a Slave is a powerful memoir by Solomon Northup that recounts his harrowing experience as a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the antebellum United States. The book exposes the brutal reality of slavery and serves as an important historical document.

Who should read Twelve Years a Slave?

  • Readers who are interested in the history of slavery in America
  • Individuals who enjoy memoirs and personal narratives
  • Those who want to gain a deeper understanding of human resilience and the strength of the human spirit

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