Hot Human Rights Reads To Round Off A Sizzling Summer

By Natasha Holcroft-Emmess, Associate Editor 26 Aug 2016

Draw out the last long days of summer by getting into a good book, and what better way to broaden your horizons than with some fascinating human rights stories.

We have gathered together some of the great human rights reads recommended to us by our followers on Twitter. Thank you for your suggestions – please feel free to add more in the comments!

1. Here I Stand: Stories That Speak For Freedom – an anthology by Amnesty International UK

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Amnesty International UK is an organisation which campaigns for people across the world to stand up for humanity and human rights. It has brought together contributions from 25 leading authors and illustrators to create this anthology aimed at young adult readers (aged 12+).

Here I Stand includes short stories and poems which explore some of the most important human rights issues facing young people today, such as government surveillance through mobile phones and the continued persecution of gay and lesbian people around the world. It is available on Amazon.

2. Violence All Around by John Sifton

John Sifton is a Policy Director at Human Rights Watch. He has travelled through war-torn countries around the world, before and after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, to record the human rights abuses committed by warlords, terrorists and government counter-terrorism forces.

As Violence All Around notes, the ‘War on Terror’ brought “unprecedented challenges” for human rights, with secret prisons, violence and other harsh treatment of detainees becoming increasingly common. It explores how we understand, think and speak about grave use of force. Violence All Around is available on Amazon.

3. Five Ideas To Fight For by Anthony Lester

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Earlier this year, distinguished British barrister and member of the House of Lords, Lord Anthony Lester QC, published Five Ideas To Fight For, in which he argues that human rights, equality, free speech, privacy and the rule of law are being attacked and we need to take a stand to defend them.

The book explores each of these five values, explaining how they are protected in the UK and pointing out the interesting areas in which these values clash. The book is passionate, informative, entertaining and highly accessible. We have previously reviewed it here. It is available on Amazon.

4. East West Street by Philippe Sands

Philippe Sands QC is Professor of Laws at University College London and a barrister at Matrix Chambers. His new book, East West Street, draws upon his expertise in international law (that is, the laws which regulate relationships between States) to paint a vivid narrative of secret family histories and the great changes in international law brought about by the unprecedented atrocities of Nazi Germany.

The book traces the development of the legal concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity. It searches the histories of two men influential in developing modern international human rights laws: Rafael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht, who each played a significant role in the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals. It is available on Amazon.

5. Capital by John Lanchester

John Lanchester is a British journalist and novelist. His book, Capital, tells the stories of the inhabitants of a fictional street in London. It documents the interactions between settled citizens and several immigrants to the UK as they try to establish their place in society following the global financial crisis in 2008.

The story of one family in particular, the Kamals, is thrown into turmoil when Shahid Kamal is arrested as a terrorist suspect. He is locked up, unable to communicate with anyone and persistently accused. This story raises interesting questions about how to preserve national security while also ensuring that suspect detainees’ rights are not violated.

6. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The first of two recommendations by our Director Adam Wagner. This is a fantastic beach book, a real page-turner. Based in 1970s Vietnam, United States and then Vietnam again, the narrator is a sometime secret policeman, a Communist spy, half-Vietnese and half-French but generally great company. The book is funny and well-written, occasionally too clever for its own good but always interesting on cultural identity, war and peace and the ethical worth of big ideological systems.  And it recently won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Highly recommended. Available on Amazon.

7. Purity by Jonathan Franzen


Also recommended by Adam, another great Summer read which zips along. The human rights interest is that the book plugs into one of our key modern rights debates: privacy versus freedom of information. One of the protagonists, Andreas Wolf, is a thinly veiled version of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. He attains worldwide fame with his ‘Sunlight Project’, exposing the bad behaviour of company and governments through large data leaks. Like critics say of Assange, he is charismatic, highly egotistical and sexually promiscuous. The book explores a number of interesting ethical themes through its memorable characters. On Amazon here.

8. One to look forward to… On Fantasy Island by Conor Gearty

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Conor Gearty is Professor of human rights at the London School of Economics and a barrister at Matrix Chambers. His latest book, On Fantasy Island, is due on the 8th of September 2016. It investigates the myths which have shrouded the UK’s relationship with Europe and shaped the case for repealing the Human Rights Act.

Gearty explains the many misunderstandings which have fuelled the debate over the future of human rights in the UK. He offers a passionate case for keeping the UK’s existing human rights framework and maintaining our relationship with the European Convention on Human Rights. Several chapters are available to preview on the Web here. The book is available to pre-order on Amazon.

Other suggestions

We received several other fascinating suggestions which we are not able to feature in this post – take a look at others’ recommendations here and here. Thanks to everyone who contributed a suggestion and please feel free to recommend other great human rights reads in the comments.

Image Credits: Featured image: all book covers as depicted on Amazon. Here I Stand cover image credit: book cover as depicted on Amazon; Five Ideas To Fight For cover image credit: book cover as depicted on Amazon; On Fantasy Island cover image credit: book cover as depicted on Amazon.

About The Author

Natasha Holcroft-Emmess Associate Editor

Natasha studied BA Jurisprudence and the BCL at Oxford University. She qualified as a solicitor at a London law firm before returning to Oxford to undertake an MPhil, researching international human rights law.

Natasha studied BA Jurisprudence and the BCL at Oxford University. She qualified as a solicitor at a London law firm before returning to Oxford to undertake an MPhil, researching international human rights law.