Gastil Homepage

Hope for Democracy * Gray Matters * Dungeon Party

About the Author

John Gastil has been writing nonfiction books since 1993, but this year marks a first with two debut novels alongside a general audience book about democracy.

Gray Matters is political science fiction about AI and Alzheimer’s- Cosmic Egg, July 2020. Learn more about the ideas and places featured in this story.

Dungeon Party is a literary-fantasy crossover about the power of role-playing games – Cosmic Egg, Oct. 2020. Discover the book’s origins or share your own gaming experiences.

Hope for Democracy shows a way forward from politics as usual- Oxford U. Press, 2020. Meet the people who give us hope for democracy’s future.

For a wide-ranging interview touching on all these books, check out this episode of When Humanists Attack.

John Gastil grew up in San Diego, California, which is the setting of Dungeon Party. He lived for twelve years in Seattle, Washington, the main location of Gray Matters.

John is a Distinguished Professor at Penn State, where he is Senior Scholar at the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. He teaches courses on political communication, group behavior, and research methods. Having grown up in the Religious Society of Friends, he’s delighted to be back in the Quaker state after attending Swarthmore College in his misspent youth.

Learn more about the author

Other Writings

Last year, John co-authored a book on a more radical democratic reform with the late Erik Olin Wright. Legislature by Lot argues for the replacement of an elected legislature by a stratified random sample. The book also includes critical essays both for and against the idea. It’s the latest volume in a series Erik edited on Real Utopias. Each of the books in the series presents a bold vision of social change that is grounded in existing social scientific knowledge about social systems and the forces that cause them to change.

A complete list of John’s books appears below. To learn more about John’s nonfiction articles and essays, visit his faculty page or read his vitae, which features hyperlinks to most of his publications.


Gastil, J. (Forthcoming July, 2020). Gray matters. Alresford, UK: Cosmic Egg Books.

Gastil, J. (Forthcoming October, 2020). Dungeon party. Alresford, UK: Cosmic Egg Books.


Gastil, J., & Knobloch, K. R. (2020). Hope for democracy: How citizens can bring reason back into politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gastil, J., & Wright, E. O. (2019). Legislature by lot: Transformative designs for deliberative governance. London: Verso. (Includes fourteen commentaries by various authors.)

Gastil, J. (2014). Democracy in small groups: Participation, decision making, and communication, 2nd edition. State College, PA: Efficacy Press.

Carson, L., Gastil, J., Hartz-Karp, J., & Lubensky, R. (Eds.) (2013). The Australian Citizens’ Parliament and the future of deliberative democracy. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Nabatchi, T., Gastil, J., Weiksner, M., & Leighninger, M. (Eds.) (2012). Democracy in motion: Evaluating the practice and impact of deliberative civic engagement. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gastil, J., Deess, E. P., Weiser, P., & Simmons, C. (2010). The jury and democracy: How jury deliberation promotes civic engagement and political participation. New York: Oxford University Press. Translated into Japanese and Spanish.

Gastil, J. (2010). The group in society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Gastil, J. (2008). Political communication and deliberation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Gastil, J., & Levine, P. (Eds.) (2005). The deliberative democracy handbook: Strategies for effective civic engagement in the twenty-first century. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass. Has been translated into Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.

Gastil, J. (2000). By popular demand: Revitalizing representative democracy through deliberative elections. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Gastil, J. (1993). Democracy in small groups: Participation, decision making, and communication. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers.

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