The best books to read for a clearer understanding of many facets of the human condition

Who am I?

I am a great African-American writer because I have not spent eons in jail (taught writing classes there), never been shot by the police (yet), and I have a number of interesting books for sale ranging from Urban, Erotic, Science-Fiction, Fiction and Pan-African Occult. My books have been used in writing classes in colleges, universities, and prisons. I was one of the panelists for Professor Justin Gifford's presentation at the Modern Language Association Conference at the Hilton, LA Live. Also, I participated in a California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) event, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the “Watts Rebellion”. I have agreed to let this university archive my works.

I wrote...

Shackles Across Time

By Odie Hawkins,

Book cover of Shackles Across Time

What is my book about?

Shackles asks African-Americans to take a look at the role their African ancestors played in the West African Slave business. It explores how researching your DNA may affect you and your family. Do you have a recurring issue with every third child born into your family? Maybe it isn’t anything you have done, maybe it is a curse handed down through the ages. Your family would not be the first to have something hidden in the “Family Closet”. Some have said the “Kennedy” family lived under a curse. Shackles provides a “What if?”. It also provides a possible solution if you can find someone willing to return to the place of the curse and make amends to the Ancestors.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Report to Greco

By Nikos Kazantzakis,

Book cover of Report to Greco

Why did I love this book?

This Cretan writer, who is most often identified as a Greek, asks us to probe our deepest identity, to be honest with ourselves. I think that that should be the first premise of an honest writer…an honest person. When you are born you are told early what to believe. Why you should believe. Who you and what you should believe or not believe in. At some point in your own life, you must resolve what you yourself accept for your own belief system. You should determine what is or is not important to you. Only then can you live YOUR LIFE.

By Nikos Kazantzakis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Report to Greco as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kazantzakis's autobiographical novel Report to Greco was one of the last things he wrote before he died. It paints a vivid picture of his childhood in Crete, still occupied by the Turks, and then steadily grows into a spiritual quest that takes him to Italy, Jerusalem, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Russia and the Caucasus, and finally back to Crete again. At different times Nietzshe, Bergson, Buddha, Homer and Christ dominate as his spiritual masters.


By Isabel Wilkerson,

Book cover of Caste

Why did I love this book?

Isabel Wilkerson explains why the Nazis picked on the American system of “raciality” as a model for their most serious work. I think it would enable most non-Fascist-minded Americans an opportunity to understand where their friends, relatives, neighbors, sons and daughters, are coming from. And square them away.

She brings clarity to why some people say and believe there never has been institutional racism in Amerikkka. Reading her book shows you how insidious societal norms are. She takes away the blinders and we get to see another big lie that we have sought to embrace -- if – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. In 2021 we still have not made this a reality in the “United States of America”.

By Isabel Wilkerson,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Caste as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"Powerful and timely ... I cannot recommend it strongly enough" - Barack Obama

From one of America's most celebrated and insightful writers, the moving, eye-opening bestseller about what lies hidden under the surface of ordinary lives

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human…


By George Orwell,

Book cover of 1984

Why did I love this book?

We can run, but we can’t hide. George Orwell, certainly a Prophet of some sort, figured it all out ahead of our time. “Big Brother” is watching. If you go into the corner to hide…can you hide? “Big Brother” is watching you. Your neighbor is watching you. Your family members are watching you. They may put you on Social Media and then the Whole World is watching you. You too are in the look, listen and report game, except it is not a game. If a word or deed is done “incorrectly” you may be reported. You may go to jail and there won’t be any insignia of identification on the law enforcer who arrested you. Your fears are shared with the world. You must not believe your “lying eyes or ears”. This is not 2021, this is “1984”. Read the book and you’ll know I speak the truth.

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

34 authors picked 1984 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


1984 is the year in which it happens. The world is divided into three superstates. In Oceania, the Party's power is absolute. Every action, word, gesture and thought is monitored under the watchful eye of Big Brother and the Thought Police. In the Ministry of Truth, the Party's department for propaganda, Winston Smith's job is to edit the past. Over time, the impulse to escape the machine and live independently takes hold of him and he embarks on a secret and forbidden love affair. As he writes the words 'DOWN WITH BIG…

Book cover of The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People

Why did I love this book?

I think that we should all make an effort to understand people who are not from our cultural stew; people who seem different, but wind up being like us; once we get to know them.

Patrick Oster is not a sociologist, a psychologist, or an ugly American. He could be Joe Blow from down the block who decides to go to Mexico, to get to know the Mexican people. He does not make an effort to know all the people, he simply makes friends with those who are friendly, and leaves the others alone; just the way he would do in America.

I feel that this book is a wonderful example of what can come from an honest exploration and a warm writing style.

By Patrick Oster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mexicans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Mexicans is a multifaceted portrait of the complex, increasingly turbulent neighbor to our south. It is the story of a country in crisis -- poverty, class tensions, political corruption -- as told through stories of individuals.
From Augustín, an honest cop, we learn that many in the Mexican police force use torture as their number-one-crime-solving technique; from Julio Scherer Garcia, a leading newspaper editor, we learn how kidnapping and intimidating phone calls stifle a free press; we hear from a homosexual teacher wary of bigotry in a land of machismo; and many others.
Moving from Mexico City discos to…

Book cover of Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

Why did I love this book?

As an African-American, raised in the Bantustans of America (Chicago – Southside/Westside/Northside) and called the N-word (cutified to “N-word”) and subjected to ALL of the shit Amerikkka has plastered in my face; I feel that some sensitive White folks might understand what a “Bantustan” feels like. For those who believe that these “Bantustans” are only in places like Africa or India. I suggest you reexamine our country. You should take a look into the Bantustans along the freeways, roadways in America today. This book should open your eyes to the fact that MOST PEOPLE do not want to live below the poverty line. MOST PEOPLE don’t want to live in homes that can be blown down by the wind or torn down in a political storm.

By Mark Mathabane,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Kaffir Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic story of life in Apartheid South Africa.

Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa's most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the apartheid, totalitarianism, and social class?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the apartheid, totalitarianism, and social class.

The Apartheid Explore 37 books about the apartheid
Totalitarianism Explore 45 books about totalitarianism
Social Class Explore 71 books about social class

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Braiding Sweetgrass, World War Z, and Conversations with Gorbachev if you like this list.