Thursday, May 15, 2014

[OM] Top Eleven Rebel Books

Update  22 Feb, 2016: Let me just say that the latest novel, available here, is a book that addresses a more modern aspect of rebellion. So check it out and enjoy it!

Also known as rebellion books. Of course there are many great non-fiction books looking into this aspect of all people's history, but I'm most interested in novels that cover this subject matter (and hopefully ones that do it well). The first step is providing a definition of rebellion. It could, after all, mean a child rebelling against his parents, or perhaps adulthood with all its travails. That is indeed one of the definitions:

"the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention."

But I'm more interested in the larger rebellion. The one with life and death consequences:

"an act of violent or open resistance to an established government or ruler."

Fighting against a larger power. Does the fight have to be just? Perhaps not. It can just be a fight, even if it's misled (though some of you further on the left might not agree, the Bolshevik revolution could be viewed as one such rebellion). Does it have to be a fight between groups? A coup, after all, is another form of rebellion (or a significant change in power), though it might merely end up being a single person's power struggle against another's. 

It's not entirely clear (and for those who would think it clear, I shall adjust my definition if you can provide a good enough alternative/clarification), but I will put my explanations for each book and why is best represents rebellion. 

Not the best definition, but here goes:

Half of a Yellow Sun
People who frequent this blog will no doubt not be surprised that this book is on another list. Easily of Classic status, this novel about the Biafra region's rebellion is done in the Adichie's masterful and subtle manner. Not an easy read, given the tough material, Adichie manages to weave a story with multiple viewpoints that combine to show how this tragedy started, and finished.

Under Western Eyes
Here is Conrad's take on the messy period in Russia that occurred before the Communists took over. Note the man caught in a tight spot, and not really willing to give it up for a movement he cares nothing for, and that may well change the trajectory of his comfortable life. Note the idealistic revolutionary not taken entirely to the life he's leading, and yet all the more willing to throw bombs for his cause. Note his family left in the wake. Note the hypocrisies in the powers that be, but also in the rebels. And all of this done in Conrad's beautiful prose and sharp wit.

The War of the End of the World
Brilliant. This book might be my favorite one on this list. Perhaps because it's still relevant to some parts of the world, where nations are trying to be formed, or the idea of a nation is still being tested. Even for those of us who live in regions of relative stability, this book has something to say about competing forms of power (religion, nationalists, idealists) and how they interact with people and gain their power from those people and the willingness of those people to do what must be done.

Animal Farm
A story of a revolution betrayed. This book best shows how even the best of intentions can lead a rebel astray and come full circle. In other words, to become that which created the rebels to begin with.

Weep Not, Child
This book is short, but sweet. Following a handful of people in Kenya during tumultuous times, this novel is a great testament to the forces that helped create, then usurp colonialism in that part of the world. Everything has consequences, and this tight novel helps to highlight how those consequences changed lives and history in Kenya.


One of the best scifi books is also a book about rebels. Against the machine, or the State, that would easily crush all of humanity. A classic in all rights, this book merely looks at how society can, even for a greater good, appear to take away the small things that make life worth living.

 Game of Thrones

Fancy seeing fantasy here on this list. But make no mistake, this is a serious book with a deep look into the acts that go into rebellion. Sure it takes a more entertaining route than most of the other books on this list, but it still manages to convey the acts and motivations that create usurpers.

The Master and Margarita

While on the surface this book might not seem a proper candidate for this list, it does have the elements of a book about rebels (though perhaps not the common ones). With two stories, one about Roman times, and one about Moscow during the Great Purge, this novel might be more about the crushing of rebels, but it still manages to contribute something to the list (especially when one knows something about the author).

Cloud Atlas

Another novel that would seem to be on the penumbra of a rebellion's definition. More about the cycle of subjugation and consequent reactions to, I contend that this novel does show (through multiple genres and over hundreds, if not thousands of years) what sort of spirits can help stir a rebellion.

Things Fall Apart

Perhaps not about outright rebellion, this novel shows what happens to a culture as an outside, insidious force creeps in, slowly changing the chemistry of the people and finally... Well, one doesn't need much imagination to think it through. Nevertheless, there is at least one man's attempted rebellion, and for that this book is a great addition to this list.

Fahrenheit 451

Another scifi book for this list. Bradbury's book is short but concise. About a future where reading is highly frowned upon, and people are addicted to other forms of communication, Bradbury's protagonist comes to the realization that he must rebel if not to save a group, at least himself. In many ways this book is about the rebellion of the spirit.

So there's the list. Why eleven? Why these? If you have some that should be added, please make a note or email me.

Update 03June2015: Well, it appears that rebellion is in the air. Though I'm not sure what form it will take, or if it will take that form at all: it might focus on shifts in climate and a possible undermining of all traditions. But how does that affect this list? One thing this list, or the books in it, don't quite address is the fight of the dispossessed. Even if that fight is nihilistic. I will either write such a book or keep an eye out for it.

Update 07AUG2016:  It has been quite some time since I've looked at this list, but here I am looking at it and thinking that perhaps something needs to be changed; with both the list and my reading pile. Nevertheless, I'll post something new to help see my thoughts through. But for now, let me point out that there are so many aspects to rebellion that this list certainly does not cover it. In fact, I'm thinking that it's a little weak. What else to add, then? What would you add?
Some other articles that might pique your interest (ostensibly on all matters global or books):
#This one is a top five list of global novels.
#This one is on the global conflict of the West and Islam as seen through the lens of the Rushdie affair.
#This one is a list of the five best science fiction novels out there.
#This one is an article about drone warfare and its effects on the world.
# This one is about reading news in today's world. The solution is that global is better.
# This one is a list of the best books of the 21st century
# This one is a list of the best books of the 20th century
#This on is an article with links to matters of the Iraq war and players not commonly known.

Thanks for reading. As always, you can contact me at if you have any questions or wish to discuss something. Look forward to hearing from you.

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All the best, and thanks again:
Perhaps one day one of my books will make this list. I am proud to say that Ministry of Bombs & The Struggle Trilogy meet the specifications for this list, but isn't quite there yet. 


  1. These books are fine (definition for which books make the count needs more, though). Things Fall Apart does not count as a rebel book. Not to mention that this list is incomplete without a Civil War (USA) book.

    1. Definition's fine. Issue is with the books, or that fiction books can even make this category. I'd like to see the non-fiction book myself.

    2. I'm a little late in the game here, but I'm not sure I agree with any of this. Why should a specific civil war book be included. In fact, if any war should be included here it's the Balkan civil war which seems to tell us more and more about today's war than ever.


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