Human Rights Watch
Virtual Book Club

The Human Rights Watch Book Club is a new initiative that consists of a series of virtual discussions that engage with today’s most pressing human rights issues through the power of literature and storytelling. Pairing leading authors with Human Rights Watch researchers, the series provides a space to explore today’s pressing calls for social change around the world, touching on issues of race, identity, democracy and more, and featuring authors including Afua Hirsch, Elif Shafak and Hisham Matar. 
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” — James Baldwin, 1963. 
Having started this summer and running until January, this book club series offers you the chance to explore a range of human rights issues through the lens of award-winning novels and non-fiction, sent right to your door for all members. You will hear from Human Rights Watch along the journey, with our researchers offering comments on the books to help guide you through, and culminating in a virtual panel discussion for all series members and ticket-holders with the author of the book in discussion with a Human Rights Watch researcher whose expertise aligns with the subject matter. These virtual events will leave lots of room for discussion and Q&A, and we hope that you will join us. 
The second event, featuring award-winning Turkish-British writer, political scientist and activist Elif Shafak and Human Rights Watch's Executive Director Kenneth Roth, will take place on 1st October, from 6.30-7.30pm BST. The discussion will centre around Elif’s brand new book, How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division.
About the Book:

It feels like the world is falling apart. So how do we keep hold of our optimism? How do we nurture the parts of ourselves that hope, trust and believe in something better? And how can we stay sane in this world of division? In this beautifully written and illuminating polemic, Booker Prize nominee Elif Shafak reflects on our age of pessimism, when emotions guide and misguide our politics, and misinformation and fear are the norm. A tender, uplifting plea for optimism, Shafak draws on her own memories and delves into the power of stories to reveal how writing can nurture democracy, tolerance and progress. And in the process, she answers one of the most urgent questions of our time.

"Simply magnificent, a truly captivating work of immense power and beauty, on the essence of life and its end" - Philippe Sands  (Source: Waterstones 2020)

About the Author:





Elif Shafak is an award winning British-Turkish author widely known for her prolific writing of both fiction and non-fiction books. As well as being an incredible writer, Elif is an inspiring public speaker, using both mediums to advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech. She is a member of the Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of the ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). Elif has taught at numerous universities in Turkey and the United Kingdom, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow.

In Conversation with:





Kenneth Roth is the executive director of Human Rights Watch. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch in 1987, Roth served as a federal prosecutor in New York and for the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington, DC. A graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University, Roth has conducted numerous human rights investigations and missions around the world. He has written extensively on a wide range of human rights abuses, devoting special attention to issues of international justice, counterterrorism, the foreign policies of the major powers, and the work of the United Nations. 



And coming up next (dates to be announced shortly):

  • Hisham Matar & The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In Between  - Early November
  • A fourth bestselling author to be announced… - Date TBD
Join Us

Each level includes a donation to support the work of Human Rights Watch. Your generosity allows us to send researchers into the field, to shine a light on human rights violations, and to apply pressure on those in power to make the kind of meaningful impact that protects rights and saves lives.

Advocate £25 - Includes a £25 charitable donation to HRW

  • Access this October’s book club event with the author, Elif Shafak, and HRW’s Kenneth Roth
  • Discount code to buy the book online via John Sandoe Books, available for both national, international delivery and at the store
  • Note: This package is available to school and university students at just £3 per event

Partner £135 - Includes a £90 charitable donation to HRW

  • Full membership for the entire Book Club 2020 Series
  • Access all book club virtual events with special guests including the author and HRW researcher (live and recorded)
  • Receive your very own copy of each book at home one month before the briefings
  • Share thoughts on the books via an online discussion platform only accessible to members, and receive weekly comments on the book from HRW
  • This makes a great gift for friends and family – Partner Memberships can be purchased for others and delivered directly to their door

Global Defender £1,000​ - Includes a £940 charitable donation to HRW

  • Full membership for the entire Book Club 2020 Series
  • ​Become a founding member by sponsoring the launch of HRW’s Book Club 2020​
  • Receive a written acknowledgement in recognition of your sponsorship
  • Exclusive access to pre-event intimate briefings with HRW researchers working on issues related to the books
  • Invite a friend to join you on this literary journey, with books and virtual events links delivered to them too
  • Access all book club virtual events with special guests including the author and HRW researcher (live and recorded)
  • Receive your very own copy of each book at home one month before the briefings
  • Share thoughts on the books via an online discussion platform only accessible to members, and receive weekly comments on the book from HRW

At Human Rights Watch, we are dedicated to creating a space that is inclusive to all. If you are keen to join the Book Club series but unable to afford a membership, drop us an email at We especially welcome applications from people who are on low incomes or currently receiving benefits, and/or people working to create change in their communities or around the world. Please let us know a little bit about yourself and why you want to join. Thank you.

If you have any further questions about Human Rights Watch’s Virtual Book Club, don’t hesitate to reach out to Robbie Newton at

Student Advocate
1 ticket
1 ticket
1 ticket
Gift a Partner Membership
1 ticket
Global Defender
1 ticket
Additional Donation