If a book fundamentally changed how I think about a person, place or thing, it’s on this list. I rarely have time to read for fun, especially during the school year, so I focus on the books I think will be the most influential.
I’ll update this page every time I read something new that I love, and I’ll let y’all know via social media when that happens!
Lies My Teacher Told Me — James Loewen
Narrative-style, easy to read nonfiction about the problems with American history textbooks. Get ready to mess with Texas (Board of Education) as Loewen destroys your elementary school education and smashes the rose colored glasses with which you’ve been viewing America.
The New Jim Crow — Michelle Alexander
Alexander manages to make the legal system understandable to us non-lawyers in this book, where she walks the reader through the process of creating a new racial undercaste — prisoners and ex-cons.
White Rage — Carol Anderson
In this relatively easy read, Anderson builds a framework she calls white rage, in which white people respond negatively to any progress people of color make. This explains phenomena such as lynching, Jim Crow laws and the War on Drugs. I’ve met Dr. Anderson and she makes looking through NAACP records for 20 hours sound fun.
King Leopold’s Ghost — Adam Hochschild
This book contains 100% of the context necessary to understand Heart of Darkness, and Hochschild presents it in a narrative that’s attention holding and interesting. This book is very long, but worth the read. Shoutout to my main man Dom for the rec back in high school.
We Were Eight Years in Power — Ta-Nehisi Coates
This one is more of a collection of essays than a book, but it’s the most efficient way to read the best of Ta Nehisi Coates, an author whose work in The Atlantic made him famous enough to be recognized on the subway and in bars and coffee shops. I saw him speak in Fall 2017 and it was worth the two hour wait (not only because they gave me the book for free, though).
Racecraft — Barbara & Karen Fields
This book is not an easy read, and I think it’s because the Fields’s are too smart for me. But if you’re willing to get in deep, it’s so worth it. Aforementioned fav Ta-Nehisi Coates called it not only a challenge to racists, but a challenge to people like him “who have accepted the fact of race and define themselves by the concept of race.” Major takeaways: they teach you race is real but it doesn’t matter. The truth is that race isn’t real, but it does matter.
One Person, No Vote — Carol Anderson
In yet another ingenious installment, Dr. Anderson explains just how the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was undermined in the past, and how it’s gotten way worse since the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder scrubbed the preclearance list as stated in the VRA. This is also a quick and easy read, and Anderson’s dry humor makes it about 1000 times better.