Two years ago, we compiled a list of the influential books we were reading back then. Each of those books is still relevant and worth a read today. Now we’re adding to that list with a fresh batch, some new and some classics, to further diversify your social justice library.
Following a year that exposed so much racial inequity ingrained in the bedrock of our society, we are focused on understanding and finding ways to dismantle structural racism. There are lots of other reading lists you can explore to find additional thought-provoking books, but here are our team’s top suggestions.
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racismby Robin DiAngelo, 2018. The subject of many Zoom book club discussions recently, this relatively short but powerful book offers tools white people can use to enter truly meaningful discussions of racial inequality.
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, 2020. This #1 New York Times bestseller, written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, reveals the rigid caste system that lies largely unacknowledged but deeply influential within our country’s culture and politics.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015. Another #1 New York Times bestseller on our list, this short memoir written in the form of letters to the author’s teenaged son, explores the big issues of racism with a deeply personal lens.
- Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, 2020. A starkly honest examination of rural America, rooted in one of the authors’ real-life childhood experiences, that exposes the devastating effects of American policy and apathy on people living in poverty.
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, 2019. In a follow-up to his award-winning book Stamped from the Beginning, the author argues that we must move away from the emotions surrounding racism and towards the action of being antiracist in order to undo our society’s underlying unjust policies.
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, 2018. This hauntingly beautiful memoir of the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement reads like a novel but is painfully real.
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2015. A personal essay by an award-winning Nigerian author, this little book proves that good things often come in small packages. It grew from a popular TEDx talk and is appropriate for teens as well as adults.
- The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson, 2017. Written by a historian, this book thoroughly examines an infamous tragedy that occurred in 1955 and connects that lynching with the racial justice struggles of today.
- Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon, 2019. This brave memoir chronicles the author’s experience of growing up black and obese in Mississippi, surrounded by poverty, violence, and racism. The book transcends one man’s story and applies it to the weight we all bear.
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, 2015. Written by the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and now a major motion picture, this memoir is deeply moving and painfully honest in exposing deep flaws in our criminal justice system.
Speaking of EJI, a diverse group of community members joined us on a bus trip to Alabama to experience their Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in April of 2019. Two of the ninety participants shared their insights on that impactful journey.