34 books like James Baldwin

By David Leeming,

Here are 34 books that James Baldwin fans have personally recommended if you like James Baldwin. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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No Name in the Street

By James Baldwin,

Book cover of No Name in the Street

Dean A. Strang Author Of Keep the Wretches in Order: America's Biggest Mass Trial, the Rise of the Justice Department, and the Fall of the IWW

From the list on offering ideas to explore.

Who am I?

I am a lawyer, law professor, and author of legal history books. Mostly, though, I have much to learn. Importantly, then, I believe in the possibilities of learning. But how? Teaching, in the transitive sense of cramming something into another person's head, is impossible; yet learning is infinitely possible. Ideas are what excite us to learn. In widely varied ways, I have found engaging ideas in—and have learned importantly from—each of these books.

Dean's book list on offering ideas to explore

Why did Dean love this book?

A key work in the last part of Baldwin's life, as he was reassessing everything after the murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and others in 1965-68. The reader can sense the aching effort Baldwin makes to retain hope and his sense of the worth of engagement with a world that so often rejected the essential him. Letting us, as his readers, into that doubt and pain and torment was an act of great honesty and, at bottom, love. Very few people could use the English language as powerfully as Baldwin (and he could do it in both spoken and written word, which puts him in a smaller group still). This book is a reminder of that power, too.

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked No Name in the Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An extraordinary history of the turbulent sixties and early seventies that displays James Baldwin's fury and despair more deeply than any of his other works, and powerfully speaks to contemporary conversations around racism.

"It contains truth that cannot be denied.” — The Atlantic Monthly

In this stunningly personal document, James Baldwin remembers in vivid details the Harlem childhood that shaped his early conciousness and the later events that scored his heart with pain—the murders of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, his sojourns in Europe and in Hollywood, and his retum to the American South to confront a violent America…


Nothing Personal

By Richard Avedon, James Baldwin,

Book cover of Nothing Personal

Magdalena J. Zaborowska Author Of James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile

From the list on James Baldwin as a Black queer exile.

Who am I?

Born and raised in Poland during the Cold War, I learned that writers and intellectuals could be jailed, exiled, or even killed for their ideas. I came to James Baldwin over two decades ago in search of literature that told of freedom and humanism beyond national borders and simplistic binaries. As a Black queer man driven away from his homeland, Baldwin linked his personal pain, heartbreak, and torment to his public life, authorship, and activism. His art and life story have both inspired my labors as a bilingual and bicultural literary critic and biographer and provided a template for my own journey as an immigrant, mother of a Black child, teacher, writer, and scholar.

Magdalena's book list on James Baldwin as a Black queer exile

Why did Magdalena love this book?

This book should be much better known outside of academic circles! It grows out of a friendship between the famous photographer, Richard Avedon, and James Baldwin, who both attended the famous DeWitt Clinton high school in the Bronx. Avedon’s gorgeous photographs are accompanied by Baldwin's experimental, impressionistic prose, combining into what some scholars have characterized as a “photo - text.” Decades before we began drowning in the onslaught of Internet-provided visual media, it bound the pleasures of reading and seeing great art in one elegantly edited volume; I recommend reading it out loud. For those of us endowed with sight it is a veritable feast!

By Richard Avedon, James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nothing Personal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Avedon and Baldwin's American Journey

Richard Avedon and James Baldwin's landmark 1964 book finally back in print

This meticulous reprint of Richard Avedon and James Baldwin's Nothing Personal explores the complexities and contradictions still at the center of the American experience - especially timely in the age of Donald Trump. Deploying both image and text, Avedon and Baldwin examine the formation of identity, and the bonds that both underlie and undermine human connection. An accompanying 72-page booklet features a fresh essay by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Hilton Als, and many of Avedon's unpublished outtakes, correspondence, preliminary layouts and ephemera.

In 1963-64,…


Book cover of The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin

Magdalena J. Zaborowska Author Of James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile

From the list on James Baldwin as a Black queer exile.

Who am I?

Born and raised in Poland during the Cold War, I learned that writers and intellectuals could be jailed, exiled, or even killed for their ideas. I came to James Baldwin over two decades ago in search of literature that told of freedom and humanism beyond national borders and simplistic binaries. As a Black queer man driven away from his homeland, Baldwin linked his personal pain, heartbreak, and torment to his public life, authorship, and activism. His art and life story have both inspired my labors as a bilingual and bicultural literary critic and biographer and provided a template for my own journey as an immigrant, mother of a Black child, teacher, writer, and scholar.

Magdalena's book list on James Baldwin as a Black queer exile

Why did Magdalena love this book?

This book grew out of the labor of love both scholarly and personal. It brings together three generations of scholars and diverse, interdisciplinary approaches to this complex and still largely misunderstood and underappreciated Black queer writer and theorist of 20th-century US identity. Michele Elam’s introduction deftly reevaluates and situates Baldwin as a 20th-century master for contemporary readers here and now, while the essays collected here provide cutting-edge scholarship and much nuance and fresh insight. Theoretically rich and with several exquisitely written essays, it touches upon all of the major aspects of the writer’s fascinating life and works.

By Michele Elam (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Companion offers fresh insight into the art and politics of James Baldwin, one of the most important writers and provocative cultural critics of the twentieth century. Black, gay, and gifted, he was hailed as a 'spokesman for the race', although he personally, and controversially, eschewed titles and classifications of all kinds. Individual essays examine his classic novels and nonfiction as well as his work across lesser-examined domains: poetry, music, theatre, sermon, photo-text, children's literature, public media, comedy, and artistic collaboration. In doing so, The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin captures the power and influence of his work during the…


Book cover of Conversations with James Baldwin

Magdalena J. Zaborowska Author Of James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile

From the list on James Baldwin as a Black queer exile.

Who am I?

Born and raised in Poland during the Cold War, I learned that writers and intellectuals could be jailed, exiled, or even killed for their ideas. I came to James Baldwin over two decades ago in search of literature that told of freedom and humanism beyond national borders and simplistic binaries. As a Black queer man driven away from his homeland, Baldwin linked his personal pain, heartbreak, and torment to his public life, authorship, and activism. His art and life story have both inspired my labors as a bilingual and bicultural literary critic and biographer and provided a template for my own journey as an immigrant, mother of a Black child, teacher, writer, and scholar.

Magdalena's book list on James Baldwin as a Black queer exile

Why did Magdalena love this book?

I discovered this compilation of many well- and lesser-known interviews when I began working on Baldwin in the year 2000. I love it as it gives us the writer in his own words, tracing his artistic development and views on his craft, exile, race, gender, and sexuality, as well as US politics, culture, and national identity. We follow Baldwin’s journey from 1961, with the famous Studs Terkel interview introducing “the young Negro writer,” to the “Last Interview” with Quincy Troupe, conducted in 1987, just days before Baldwin’s death in his beloved house in southern France. In between, we get a kaleidoscope of moments from his life and career and fascinating insights into his literary imaginary and humanistic philosophy. 

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Conversations with James Baldwin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection of interviews with James Baldwin covers the period 1961-1987, from the year of the publication of Nobody Knows My Names, his fourth book, to just a few weeks before his death. It includes the last formal conversation with him.

Twenty-seven interviews reprinted here come from a variety of sources--newspapers, radio, journals, and review--and show this celebrated author in all his eloquence, anger, and perception of racial, social, and literary situations in America.

Over the years Baldwin proved to be an easily accessible and cooperative subject for interviews, both in the United States and abroad. He frequently referred to…


James Baldwin

By Toni Morrison, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin

Book cover of James Baldwin: Collected Essays

Kara Cooney Author Of When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt

From the list on power and the powerless.

Who am I?

I'm a specialist of ancient Egyptian social history, who against the better judgment of (practically all) her colleagues uses the ancient past to make the present understandable. If we don’t fetishize the ancient Egyptians as separate and magical, they have something to teach us, whispering to us from the past through papyri, temples, and archaeological sites. After all, Egyptian history is 3000 years plus in its time span, an astounding data set of a people using same approximate language, government system, religion, and culture. Some of us look hungrily to replicate that kind of lasting and divine power. I am obsessed with power—how it works, why we are helpless to it, and who gets exploited by it. The ancient Egyptian kings effectively packaged their power not only as necessary, but as moral and good, ancient marketing that continues to work on our minds.

Kara's book list on power and the powerless

Why did Kara love this book?

I am recommending this book because one can’t understand power without being beholden to it systemically and repeatedly, all the while dissecting power’s discontents. Baldwin’s words may seem to strike only to America’s core, but every marginalized person will find truth in them. As an Egyptologist, I rely on Baldwin to tell me what oppressed people in an authoritarian regime thought but could not commit to paper.

By Toni Morrison, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

James Baldwin was a uniquely prophetic voice in American letters. His brilliant and provocative essays made him the literary voice of the Civil Rights Era, and they continue to speak with powerful urgency to us today, whether in the swirling debate over the Black Lives Matter movement or in the words of Raoul Peck's documentary "I Am Not Your Negro." Edited by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, the Library of America's Collected Essays is the most comprehensive gathering of Baldwin's nonfiction ever published.

With burning passion and jabbing, epigrammatic wit, Baldwin fearlessly articulated issues of race and democracy and American identity…


The Three Mothers

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

Book cover of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

Brit Bennett Author Of The Vanishing Half

From the list on being Black in America.

Who am I?

Brit Bennett was born and raised in Southern California and graduated from Stanford University along with an MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan. Her debut novel The Mothers was a New York Times bestseller, and her second novel The Vanishing Half was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. She is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and in 2021, she was chosen as one of Time’s Next 100 Influential People. Her essays have been featured in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel.

Brit's book list on being Black in America

Why did Brit love this book?

A fascinating exploration into the lives of three women ignored by history, the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X. By tracing the intellectual, political, and emotional strands of each woman’s life, Anna Malaika Tubbs uncovers hidden complexities within black motherhood that illuminate our understanding of the past while also shedding light on the overlooked contributions of black women today.

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

'A fascinating exploration into the lives of three women ignored by history ... Eye-opening, engrossing'
Brit Bennett, bestselling author of The Vanishing Half

In her groundbreaking debut, Anna Malaika Tubbs tells the incredible storIES of three women who raised three world-changing men.

Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther and Louise Little's son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them, each fighting their own battles, born into the beginning of the twentieth century and a deadly landscape of racial prejudice,…


A Stranger's Journey

By David Mura,

Book cover of A Stranger's Journey: Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing

Dinty W. Moore Author Of Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction

From the list on for essayists and memoirists.

Who am I?

Dinty W. Moore is the author of the writing guides The Story Cure, Crafting the Personal Essay, and The Mindful Writer, among many other books. He has published essays and stories in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Southern Review, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere, and has taught master classes and workshops on memoir and essay writing across the United States as well as in Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, and Mexico.

Dinty's book list on for essayists and memoirists

Why did Dinty love this book?

Master teacher David Mura’s A Stranger's Journey addresses long-overlooked issues of race and identity in publishing and in the standard teaching of creative writing and he brilliantly advocates for a more inclusive and expansive definition of writing craft. Though this book is partly aimed at educators, he offers incredibly useful craft lessons as well, primarily through his deft analysis of work done by writers ranging from James Baldwin to Mary Karr to ZZ Packer. In a world that no longer accepts the notion that our greatest authors have to be “dead white men,” Mura offers a necessary window into the intersection of race, literature, and culture.

By David Mura,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Stranger's Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Long recognized as a master teacher at writing programs like VONA, the Loft, and the Stonecoast MFA, with A Stranger's Journey, David Mura has written a book on creative writing that addresses our increasingly diverse American literature. Mura argues for a more inclusive and expansive definition of craft, particularly in relationship to race, even as he elucidates timeless rules of narrative construction in fiction and memoir. His essays offer technique-focused readings of writers such as Junot Diaz, ZZ Packer, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mary Karr, and Sherman Alexie, while making compelling connections to Mura's own life and work as a Japanese…


Notes of a Native Son

By James Baldwin,

Book cover of Notes of a Native Son

Duncan Jepson Author Of All the Flowers in Shanghai

From the list on about protest.

Who am I?

I have been an activist working on issues relating to human rights and youth protection for over fifteen years and during that time I worked as a lawyer and was lucky enough to make films and write two novels. Eventually, I would concentrate solely on activism and my reading would become very specific and as the focus of my activism changed and I directed my energies to corporate accountability my reading changed course again. The list I offer is from talented writers on important subjects, all write extremely well about things that matter to a human rights activist.  

Duncan's book list on about protest

Why did Duncan love this book?

Baldwin writes both fiction and non-fiction beautifully and intimately and if you don’t know his non-fiction work then this is a very good place to start. Across a number of essays, he elegantly sets out the deep struggle faced by Black Americans and articulates how a different humanity, in America and beyond, and a different future can be realized. 

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Notes of a Native Son as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#26 on The Guardian's list of 100 best nonfiction books of all time, the essays explore what it means to be Black in America

In an age of Black Lives Matter, James Baldwin's essays on life in Harlem, the protest novel, movies, and African Americans abroad are as powerful today as when they were first written. With films like I Am Not Your Negro and the forthcoming If Beale Street Could Talk bringing renewed interest to Baldwin's life and work, Notes of a Native Son serves as a valuable introduction.

Written during the 1940s and early 1950s, when Baldwin was…


Left Bank

By Agnes Poirier,

Book cover of Left Bank: Art, Passion, and the Rebirth of Paris, 1940-50

Katrina Lawrence Author Of Paris Dreaming: What the City of Light Taught Me About Life, Love & Lipstick

From the list on the history of Paris (and Parisians).

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with Paris since the age of five. For most of my life I’ve travelled there regularly and read every book on the subject I could find. After working as a beauty editor, I decided to try to make my passion my day job. That inspired me to write Paris Dreaming: What the City of Light Taught Me About Life, Love & Lipstick, and launch a travel consultancy business, Paris for Dreamers. I work with like-minded lovers of Paris, who constantly yearn for the city’s beguiling beauty and fascinating history, and who are always planning their next trip—or visiting Paris virtually, through the pages of a book!

Katrina's book list on the history of Paris (and Parisians)

Why did Katrina love this book?

While Poirier’s book covers the same period as Sebba’s, the mood is completely different. Her focus is on artists, with a cast that reads as your ultimate dinner-party guest wishlist: Juliette Gréco, Simone de Beauvoir, James Baldwin, Miles Davis... Such creators couldn’t help but salvage something from their war experiences, create a new world on their own terms. Poirier knows that history is made of people. And Paris is a rich source, for it’s a city that has attracted a multitude of movers and shakers for centuries. Poirier shows how such creators can produce much more than art, or a movement—they can mould an entire period. Poirier also knows that this personal telling of history makes reading it more enjoyable; her plotting is on point, her sprinkle of gossipy anecdotes just-so.

By Agnes Poirier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An incandescent group portrait of the midcentury artists and thinkers whose lives, loves, collaborations, and passions were forged against the wartime destruction and postwar rebirth of Paris.

In this fascinating tour of a celebrated city during one of its most trying, significant, and ultimately triumphant eras, Agnès Poirier unspools the stories of the poets, writers, painters, and philosophers whose lives collided to extraordinary effect between 1940 and 1950. She gives us the human drama behind some of the most celebrated works of the 20th century, from Richard Wright’s Native Son, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, and James Baldwin's Giovanni's…


Book cover of The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative

Kendra Allen Author Of The Collection Plate: Poems

From the list on finding inspiration and motivation.

Who am I?

As a person who reads solely for pleasure regardless of research, I make it a mission while writing to read books I actually enjoy on topics I wanna learn more about. I chose the books on this list because I’m also a person who reads multiple books at once in various genres, it keeps me honest; aware of holes and discrepancies in my own work and pushes me towards some semblance of completion. All the writers on this list do multiple things at once and I admire their skill and risk in coupling creativity with clarity.

Kendra's book list on finding inspiration and motivation

Why did Kendra love this book?

Sometimes I need a book that will inspire me not to continue writing, but to start; kinda like when I binge watch YouTube book talks—that’s the feeling this book brings over me—inspired. It’s a book that helps me write anything because I’m a person who struggles with—yet craves the ability to— strip a piece as bare as possible. Strip a story of its fluff and dissect its roots. I need to know what to save for later, and Gornick expressing the difference between situation and story is something I always go back to in order to help declutter my work. 

By Vivian Gornick,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Situation and the Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A guide to the art of personal writing, by the author of Fierce Attachments and The End of the Novel of Love

All narrative writing must pull from the raw material of life a tale that will shape experience, transform event, deliver a bit of wisdom. In a story or a novel the "I" who tells this tale can be, and often is, an unreliable narrator but in nonfiction the reader must always be persuaded that the narrator is speaking truth.

How does one pull from one's own boring, agitated self the truth-speaker who will tell the story a personal…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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