clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Martha C. Nussbaum recommends 3 books about her political heroes

The philosopher talks fear and politics on the Ezra Klein Show.

If you buy something from a Vox link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Martha C. Nussbaum
Robin Holland

At the end of each episode of The Ezra Klein Show, guests are asked to name three books they think the audience should read. Recommendations from past guests can be found at

The philosopher and author Martha C. Nussbaum is working to recenter emotion in conversations about politics, philosophy, and humanity. Her latest book, The Monarchy of Fear, argues that politics are always emotional and the dominant emotion in this political moment is fear. On The Ezra Klein Show, Nussbaum explains why there’s no hope without fear, the power of “disgust rhetoric” and Donald Trump’s phobic misogyny.

Nussbaum’s book recommendations all “connect to [her] heroes,” from civil rights crusaders to her surprising pick for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

1) The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela by Sahm Venter

A collection of letters Nelson Mandela wrote to his family, fellow activists, and government officials while imprisoned was recently published in celebration of the South African revolutionary’s 100th birthday. Nussbaum is currently “reading it hungrily,” finding that “the courage, the generosity [and] the decency of that man as he endured 27 years of imprisonment is surely a lesson of hope.”

2) To Shape a New World: Essays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Tommie Shelby and Brandon M. Terry

Nussbaum has an essay in this new collection that looks at the work of Dr. King as a philosopher, rather than a political figure. By examining some lesser-known writings, the authors draw the conclusion that Dr. King was a much more radical thinker than his watered-down legacy would suggest.

3) The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics by John Hickenlooper

The Colorado governor’s autobiography was given to Nussbaum by her son-in-law (a resident of Colorado). She was so impressed by his journey from laid-off geologist to craft beer entrepreneur to popular politician that he’s now “her favorite presidential candidate” for 2020. She points specifically to his “self-knowledge and humor and the ability to work on himself,” along with his economic policies and willingness to work across the aisle, as factors of her support.

You can listen to the full conversation with Martha Nussbaum on The Ezra Klein Show by subscribing on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, or by streaming the episode here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.