8 Explosive Books About Whistleblowers

Inspirational—and timely—stories about people exposing corruption and crime

It’s not always easy to tell the truth, and it’s especially difficult when telling the truth means exposing major corruption and abuse from important political figures. In these books, we see the ways that misused power affects everyone, but we also see that everyone has the ability to expose corruption. They say the truth will set you free, and it might even ruin some exploitative bastards in the process. 

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The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Balram Halwai grew up in a small village in India, without much to guide him besides his own wits. But when the richest man in the village hires Balram as his driver, Balram’s life is suddenly overhauled. Working among India’s elite changes how Balram sees the world—corruption, greed, and bribery are integral to his employers’ dealings. Over the course of seven days, we see Balram morph from a young entrepreneur to a murderer against the backdrop of India’s Rooster Coop in this vibrant satire. 

The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin

The Boat Rocker by Ha Jin

Chinese expat Feng Danlin enjoys his job as an investigative journalist at a Chinese news agency in New York. Until, that is, he gets an assignment to investigate his ex-wife, the renowned novelist Yan Haili. But the deeper Danlin digs, and the more he writes about Haili, the more enemies he uncovers. Surrounded by uncertainty and lies, Danlin can use nothing but his pen to save himself. 

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Waterloo by Karen Olsson

In Austin, Texas, Nick Lasseter is struggling to stay interested in his job as a reporter for the newly-corporate Waterloo Weekly. However, when he’s assigned to write a piece about an up-and-coming female Republican candidate, Lasseter falls headlong into an uncertain world of politics, where legacy overshadows reality and party lines are blurred. 

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An Obedient Father by Akhil Sharma

Ram Karan works as a bribe-collector and extortionist for a low-level government employee in Delhi. When his boss’s political career begins to take off, Karan’s past shame is laid bare after a drunken mistake that threatens both his life and his already-tumultuous relationship with his children. The further Karan gets into the world of political blackmail, the more we learn about his complicated and tragic life. 

Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif

When Ellie, an American fighter pilot, crash-lands somewhere in the Middle East while trying to bomb an enemy compound, he isn’t expecting that compound to be a refugee camp for victims of war. He’s also not expecting to get swept up in a rescue mission to find one refugee’s brother, a boy who used to work as an informant for the US military and has now mysteriously disappeared. Told from the alternating perspectives of Ellie, the refugee Momo, and Momo’s dog, this sharp satire of American militarism is both funny and biting.

The Year of the Gadfly

The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller

Although Mariana Academy is hailed as an outstanding school with strict morals, budding reporter Iris Dupont knows better. So does her best friend, the ghost of Edward R. Murrow. An underground society at Mariana has begun attacking students and teachers alike with blackmail and rumors, and Iris is determined to unravel Mariana’s dark history—even if it means getting swept up in the darkness herself.

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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

At the fall of Saigon in 1975, a South-Vietnamese general is airlifted to Los Angeles with a few of his most trusted men. What the general doesn’t know is that his captain is a spy tasked with observing the general’s movements and reporting them back to the Viet Cong. When the general and his men land in LA to begin their new, American life among other Vietnamese exiles, the captain is unaware that even as he watches others, he is being watched himself.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Michelle McNamara, a true-crime journalist, was the first to use the term “Golden State Killer” to refer to a serial killer who had been known by many other names—although none of them as memorable as GSK. In her book, McNamara describes her obsessive hunt for the identity of the Golden State Killer, sifting through the internet for police reports, victim’s statements, and communities of amateur forensic detectives. Although McNamara died before the killer could be unmasked, her book portrays a woman with unflinching devotion to unearthing the truth about a dangerous murderer.

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