The best books on how those who differ from the norm are treated by society

Why am I passionate about this?

I read voraciously and have been fortunate to interact with people and situations such as those on my list. I also grew up in New York City, the melting pot displayed in Humans of New York. There I lived, jumped double-dutch, studied, and worked in a multicultural community. After moving to St Louis, I discovered it was a place that did not always embrace “others.” That inspired me to write my first book, Sugar Hill. Living in St Louis also strengthened my appreciation for diversity in race, religion, and to appreciate people whose sexual identity, or mental and physical ability might differ from mine. 

I wrote...

These Boys Are Killing Me: Travels and Travails With Sons Who Take Risks

By Terry Baker Mulligan,

Book cover of These Boys Are Killing Me: Travels and Travails With Sons Who Take Risks

What is my book about?

In 2001, my son Brennan decided to backpack around the world and flew to Egypt. He partied with Christians and Bedouins, and played dominos with street kids. He was welcomed into mosques, climbed Mt Sinai, and enjoyed home-cooked meals in Jordan. Then 9/11 short-circuited his trip. I panicked until he called and I learned that strangers were blessing him with kindness.

The world was more dangerous in 2003 when Colin, my youngest, followed his brother’s footsteps. We briefly rendezvoused in South Africa. It was not reassuring. Crime and corruption were rampant. Fearing I might never see him again, I kept his often unnerving emails. But after hitchhiking, hunger, a motorcycle accident, freezing on Mt Everest, and seventeen countries, my boys returned as better men.  

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Terry Baker Mulligan Why did I love this book?

Until I read the heart-breaking Just Mercy, I felt knowledgeable about corruption in some parts of our justice system. The treatment of people of color in the South can be especially egregious. But in many locales, juveniles, the mentally challenged, and poor citizens are often brutalized and inhumanely treated by corrupt officials. 

Author Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard Law School graduate, founded the Equal Justice Initiative, his non-profit that seeks “just mercy” for defendants like Charlie. At thirteen, Charlie was sent to an adult prison for killing his mother’s abusive boyfriend. He was repeatedly raped. There was Walter; a black man on death row, falsely accused of raping a white woman. Read it and weep for these cases and many others, but also thank God for angels on earth like Bryan Stevenson.

By Bryan Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Just Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



A #1 New York Times bestseller, this is a powerful, true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix America's broken justice system, as seen in the HBO documentary True Justice.

The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. One in every 15 people born there today is expected to go to prison. For black men this figure rises to one…

Book cover of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Terry Baker Mulligan Why did I love this book?

This was a fascinating detailed history on the mistreatment of Osage Indians and confiscation of their lands. By the 1920s, the tribe was squeezed into a parcel of rocky Oklahoma territory where oil was later discovered. Seeing wealthy Indians enjoy their privileges didn’t sit well with federal officials who appointed guardians to help the Osage. Many were corrupt local residents. 

Monitoring the Osage’s spending and running their lives wasn’t enough for some Oklahomans, who began killing off tribal members. J Edgar Hoover and the newly established FBI struggled with the case. When Hoover then passed the case to agent Tom White, White created a team that eventually solved the murders. He also exposed residents who were complicit in the killings and in efforts to strip the Osage of their wealth.

By David Grann,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked Killers of the Flower Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. As the death toll climbed, the FBI took up the case. But the bureau badly bungled the investigation. In desperation, its young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. Together with the Osage he and his undercover…

Book cover of One Thousand White Women

Terry Baker Mulligan Why did I love this book?

I’ve always been fascinated by American Indian culture. Girls wore intricately beaded dresses and headbands with feathers. Moms carried elaborately decorated baby backpacks. Also, I didn’t understand why the cowboys couldn’t get along with the Indians. In this novel, based on a historical event, the government strikes a deal with the Cheyenne, trading 1000 white women for 1000 horses. 

The women are culled from poorhouses, prisons, and asylums, like May whose father committed her for living in sin. May jumps at the opportunity to escape the asylum. Once on the reservation, the newcomers bond and slowly adapt to their new lives and families. Readers too get an intimate portrait of Indian life, and compared to actions of the US Army, it begs the question, who should be labeled savages?

By Jim Fergus,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked One Thousand White Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on an actual historical event but told through fictional diaries, this is the story of May Dodd―a remarkable woman who, in 1875, travels through the American West to marry the chief of the Cheyenne Nation.

One Thousand White Women begins with May Dodd’s journey into an unknown world. Having been committed to an insane asylum by her blue-blood family for the crime of loving a man beneath her station, May finds that her only hope for freedom and redemption is to participate in a secret government program whereby women from “civilized” society become the brides of Cheyenne warriors. What…

Book cover of The Guncle

Terry Baker Mulligan Why did I love this book?

With so much bad news in the world, Guncle, an upbeat, fun novel, was my favorite read of 2022. Gunkle is Gay Uncle Patrick, who is designated by his recently deceased sister-in-law to take in her kids, Maisie and Grant, while her husband checks into rehab. Patrick dutifully brings the children to live with him in Palm Springs. 

Previously, Patrick never dealt with children’s meltdowns, homesickness, or grief. But rocky days and nights are offset by moments of joy. Patrick sparks their happiness and as they mourn together, it allows Patrick to overcome grief for his deceased lover. Set in progressive Palm Springs, it was refreshing that this community displayed no censorship or suspicion about a single gay man caring for young children and doing it very well. 

By Steven Rowley,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Guncle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

National Bestseller • Wall Street Journal Bestseller • USA Today Bestseller
An NPR Book of the Year
Semi-finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor
Finalist for the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards

From the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor comes a warm and deeply funny novel about a once-famous gay sitcom star whose unexpected family tragedy leaves him with his niece and nephew for the summer.

Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out…

Book cover of Humans of New York

Terry Baker Mulligan Why did I love this book?

I love photography books but, my hands-down favorite is Humans of New York. New York City is truly America’s melting pot, a gourmet stew of nationalities, personalities, fragile seniors, young billionaires, paupers, and everything in between. The city has much of what’s right with the world and its burst of humanity can all be seen in this book.

Unlike many photo books, this one has no excess verbiage. Stanton lets the pictures or their subjects tell the stories. There are hairstylists, hipsters, mommies, cute kids, teens with tattoos and purple hair, and a guy busking in the park with his viola while wearing a pink gorilla suit. The caption reads: “Damn liberal arts degree.” The author created this as a summer project and ended with 300 pages of delight. 

By Brandon Stanton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Humans of New York as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instant Number One New York Times bestseller, Humans of New York began in the summer of 2010, when photographer Brandon Stanton set out on an ambitious project: to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. Armed with his camera, he began crisscrossing the city, covering thousands of miles on foot, all in his attempt to capture ordinary New Yorkers in the most extraordinary of moments. The result of these efforts was "Humans of New York," a vibrant blog in which he featured his photos alongside quotes and anecdotes. The blog has steadily grown, now boasting nearly a…

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Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

Book cover of Thorn City

Pamela Statz

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Dressed to kill and ready to make rent, best friends Lisa and Jamie work as “paid to party” girls at the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala, a gathering of Portland's elite.

Their evening is derailed when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician and Lisa’s estranged mother. And to make matters worse, Lisa’s boyfriend, Patrick, crashes the party to meet his new boss, Portland's food cart drug kingpin. Lisa makes a fateful choice that traps her, Jamie, and Patrick in Ellen’s web. In this gripping thriller, Lisa must reconcile a painful past and perilous present.

Thorn City

By Pamela Statz,

What is this book about?

Suspected murder, eclectic food trucks, and artisanal cocaine: just another day in Thorn City.

It’s the night of the Rose City Ripe for Disruption gala—a gathering of Portland’s elite. Dressed to kill in sparkling minidresses, best friends Lisa and Jamie attend as “paid to party” girls. They plan an evening of fake flirtations, karaoke playlists, and of course, grazing the catering.

Past and present collide when Lisa stumbles across Ellen, a ruthless politician who also happens to be Lisa’s estranged mother. Awkward . . . When Lisa was sixteen, Ellen had her kidnapped and taken to the Lost Lake Academy—a…

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