68 books like Life on the Color Line

By Gregory Howard Williams,

Here are 68 books that Life on the Color Line fans have personally recommended if you like Life on the Color Line. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Between the World and Me

David Hanna Author Of History Nation: A Citizen's Guide to the History of the United States

From my list on read if you love Howard Zinn's A People's History Of the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

As both an author and a teacher, I’ve been using Howard Zinn’s iconic book for over 20 years. I have found it to be an effective counterweight to more orthodox texts, as well as a credible platform for stimulating discussion. In writing my own “guide” to U.S. history, I always kept Zinn in mind. While we may not always agree, the dissonance is something I’m certain Howard Zinn would appreciate. He was unafraid to "engage" with his subject matter and his readers. This is an inspiration.

David's book list on read if you love Howard Zinn's A People's History Of the United States

David Hanna Why did David love this book?

Coates’s semi-autobiographical examination of life for black men in American society, and more broadly in American history, is an education. Like Zinn, Coates calls America on the hypocrisy inherent in its highest ideals and its most cherished conceits.

As Coates himself later said about Zinn, "He knocked me on my ass." The two - while not always on the same page in their critical examinations of the American experiment, are clearly kindred spirits. They both want America to do better and clearly believe it can do better if it is honest about itself - but will it be? This is the question left ominously dangling by both Zinn and Coates.

By Ta-Nehisi Coates,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Between the World and Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race” (Rolling Stone)

Book cover of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Melinda Lewis Author Of Social Policy for Effective Practice: A Strengths Approach

From my list on igniting students’ passions about policy change.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a policy advocate, grassroots activist, university professor, and author committed to social change—at scale—to advance social work values of racial, economic, environmental, and social justice. Recognizing that most social workers are drawn to our profession because they want to make a difference in the lives of their clients, one by one, I invest my energies and skills to making policy study and practice accessible, relevant, and urgent. My students quickly get used to noting the book recommendations I sprinkle throughout class discussions and in assignment feedback, because when you see the world through a social policy frame, everything has a policy implication! 

Melinda's book list on igniting students’ passions about policy change

Melinda Lewis Why did Melinda love this book?

Wilkerson’s scholarship on race and injustice is certainly not a secret, but I still find some colleagues who have not yet read this book.

To convince people to pick it up, I promise that its language is poetic and imminently accessible, and I share the two pieces that have remained top of mind for years: first, Wilkerson’s research about the lessons Nazi Germany took from the racial caste system of Jim Crow United States, and second, the way she crafts an analogy of a crumbling house to make the case for reparations for racist harm, which—like cracks in the foundation of a house you just bought—may not be your fault but are still your problem.

I am forever grateful to Wilkerson for gifting us her insights and rhetorical tools, conveyed so skillfully in this tremendous contribution.

By Isabel Wilkerson,

Why should I read it?

15 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…

Book cover of Invisible Man

Chris Harding Thornton Author Of Little Underworld

From my list on hilarious books that rip your heart from your chest.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of my favorite writers, Ralph Ellison, said art could "transform dismal sociological facts" through "tragi-comic transcendence." For me, finding humor in the horrific is a means of survival. It's a way of embracing life's tragedy and finding beauty. My two novels, Pickard County Atlas and Little Underworld, try to do that.

Chris' book list on hilarious books that rip your heart from your chest

Chris Harding Thornton Why did Chris love this book?

I’m pretty certain Invisible Man is The Great American Novel. Some lines make me laugh aloud: “I would remain and become a well-disciplined optimist and help them to go merrily to hell.” But the moments that really sing for me are those that ring with humor, horror, tragedy, and beauty all at once.

Near the end, during a moment when the nameless narrator hides and listens to some men telling a story, he aches with the urge to laugh while realizing what’s been said isn’t only funny: “It was funny and dangerous and sad.” The book reminds me that all of those things can be held in my head at once. 

By Ralph Ellison,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Invisible Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • In this deeply compelling novel and epic milestone of American literature, a nameless narrator tells his story from the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. 

He describes growing up in a Black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood," before retreating amid violence and confusion.

Originally published in 1952 as the first novel by a then unknown author, it remained on the bestseller list for…

Book cover of Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Sylvia Vetta Author Of Not so Black and White

From my list on insights into Kenya.

Why am I passionate about this?

EM Forster said, "Only Connect." That has inspired my life and work. The Oxford Times published my Oxtopian castaway series, and those life stories were turned into three books. The castaways, with links to Oxford, were from five continents. One of those castaways was Kenyan-born Nancy Mudenyo Hunt. Nancy founded the Nasio Trust, which has transformed the lives of hundreds of disadvantaged young people in West Kenya and Oxfordshire. With friends, I’m currently fundraising to build the first community library in West Kenya. Nancy asked if we could write a book together, and we did. We wrote a novel inspired by her life.

Sylvia's book list on insights into Kenya

Sylvia Vetta Why did Sylvia love this book?

Barack Obama’s father was part of the story of Kenya’s road to freedom, and yet his son, Barrack, hardly knew him. His father met Barack’s mother while on a scholarship to the USA but abandoned her and his son when he returned to Kenya in 1964 and became a senior economist in the Kenyan Ministry of Finance.

We researched his life when writing our book. My co-author, Nancy Mudenyo Hunt, is also of Luo ancestry. Her father attended Obama’s funeral. This memoir is a testimony to the struggle of children of mixed heritage to decide on their identity. I find it sad that the young Obama is identified by the father who left him and not by his mother who cherished him.

By Barack Obama,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Dreams from My Father as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


In this iconic memoir of his early days, Barack Obama “guides us straight to the intersection of the most serious questions of identity, class, and race” (The Washington Post Book World).
“Quite extraordinary.”—Toni Morrison 
In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father—a figure he knows more…

Book cover of The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown

Seth Mallios Author Of The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange and Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, and Jamestown

From my list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was Site Supervisor at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project in the late 1990s and early 2000s. My fondness for the people involved with the archaeological excavations is only rivaled by my love for the subject matter that involves the collision of cultures as Chesapeake Algonquians, Spanish Jesuits, and English colonists first encountered one another during the 16th and 17th centuries. Though I have been fortunate to write many books, my first book was on Jamestown, and this topic will always hold a special place in my scholarly heart (there is such a thing, I swear!).

Seth's book list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

Few individuals, even students of history, are aware of the significance of Jamestown in the legacy of American slavery. Tim Hashaw’s The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown provides an important alternative narrative for the birth of English America, focusing on the sixty Africans that arrived in the Chesapeake in 1619, instead of traditional exaltation of the original colonists at 1607 James Fort.

By Tim Hashaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The voyage that shaped early America was neither that of the Susan Constant in 1607 nor the Mayflower in 1620. Absolutely vital to the formation of English-speaking America was the voyage made by some sixty Africans stolen from a Spanish slave ship and brought to the young struggling colony of Jamestown in 1619. It was an act of colonial piracy that angered King James I of England, causing him to carve up the Virginia Company's monopoly for virtually all of North America. It was an infusion of brave and competent souls who were essential to Jamestown's survival and success. And…

Book cover of The Dogs of Babel

Neal W. Fandek Author Of Peter Pike and the Silver Shepherd

From my list on wild and weird books on dogs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of the Peter Pike private eye series. Pike is a beat-up Middle Eastern veteran-turned private eye who finds himself embroiled in mysteries, usually with lost treasure involved: in the huge, sophisticated Indian civilizations that were here before us; in Lincoln’s murky sexuality; in a lost Faberge egg and the downfall of the Romanovs; and with Peter Pike and the Silver Shepherd, some rather nasty (and one nice) Nazi war dogs. 

Neal's book list on wild and weird books on dogs

Neal W. Fandek Why did Neal love this book?

You want heartwarming books about man’s best friend? You’ve come to the wrong place. Novels with dogs don’t have to be heart-warming. They can be quite strange, sinister or both.

Here’s a prime example: The Dogs of Babel, which starts as the heartbroken narrator discovers his artsy, Goth wife has fallen from a tree and died. There are plenty of clues that this was not an accident. But there are no witnesses, except for poor Lorelei the dog. What starts out as a heartbreaking account of grief then takes a sharp turn into the bizarre as the narrator tries to teach Lorelei to speak so he can reconstruct his wife’s last hours. It descends into a seething underground, complete with people operating on dogs’ vocal chords to make them speak. Have I mentioned my list isn’t heartwarming? Did I swipe elements of this novel for my book? You bet…

By Carolyn Parkhurst,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discovering clues that indicate his beloved wife may not have died accidentally, Paul Iverson begins a perilous search for the truth while attempting to teach his dog, who witnessed the crime, to communicate.

Book cover of Wish You Were Here

Gwen Cooper Author Of Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

From my list on with cats as characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

Gwen Cooper is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoirs Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat, as well as the novel Love Saves the Day (narrated from a rescue cat's perspective) and The Book of PAWSOME: Head Bonks, Raspy Tongues, and 101 Reasons Why Cats Make Us So, So Happy--among numerous other titles. The first book in her forthcoming "Homer Whodunit" Cozy Mystery Series, You Only Live Nine Times, will be released in Summer 2022. Gwen's work has been published in more than two-dozen languages, and she is a frequent speaker at shelter fundraisers across the U.S. and Europe.

Gwen's book list on with cats as characters

Gwen Cooper Why did Gwen love this book?

Not only is the Mrs. Murphy cozy mystery series written from the point of view of a sleuthing cat, it’s actually (allegedly!) written by a cat—the feline in question being Sneaky Pie Brown, author Rita Mae Brown’s real-life tabby companion, who supposedly makes use of Ms. Brown’s typewriter on the sly. Wish You Were Here is the first in a delightfully long series of cozy mysteries set in the fictional small town of Crozet, Virginia—where murders seem to happen with startling regularity, and where postmistress Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen’s beloved cat, Mrs. Murphy, always seems to be one step ahead of the official investigators. I fell hard for the acerbic, no-nonsense Mrs. Murphy and for this series, which was a direct inspiration for my own “Homer Whodunit” mystery series. 

By Rita Mae Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wish You Were Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Curiosity just might be the death of Mrs. Murphy--and her human companion, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen.  Small towns are like families:  Everyone lives very close together. . .and everyone keeps secrets.  Crozet, Virginia, is a typical small town-until its secrets explode into murder.  Crozet's thirty-something post-mistress, Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen, has a tiger cat (Mrs. Murphy) and a Welsh Corgi (Tucker), a pending divorce, and a bad habit of reading postcards not addressed to her.  When Crozet's citizens start turning up murdered, Harry remembers that each received a card with a tombstone on the front and the message "Wish you…

Book cover of Dead Men Don't Decorate: An Old Town Antique Mystery #1

Trish Esden Author Of The Art Of The Decoy

From my list on mysteries featuring antique dealers, plus a bonus.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve dealt in antiques my entire life to one degree or another. I'm currently a full time antique dealer, after retiring from owning a florist shop that also sold antiques, books, plants, and giftware. My love for dealing antiques is only matched by my passion for writing, museums, and country living. 

Trish's book list on mysteries featuring antique dealers, plus a bonus

Trish Esden Why did Trish love this book?

The first novel in the Old Town Antiques Mystery series is a cozy mystery with a delightful setting, a bit of romance, and a fifty-something main character who dives in to find a killer after making a late life career change.

When Camille Benson hears an antique shop that previously belonged to her parents is being sold by its unlikable current owner, Roberto, she decides buy the store. But Camille doesn’t even have time to revitalize the business before she discovers Roberto’s dead body, laying in the closed shop.

From there, the mystery takes off with loads of fun characters and enough trouble to make Camille fear she may not be able to untangle it all in time to save the business. 

By Cordy Abbott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dead Men Don't Decorate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Art, murder, and a secret dating back centuries collide in Cordy Abbott’s delightful cozy mystery series debut, perfect for fans of Jane K. Cleland.

Roberto Fratelli, proprietor of the antiques store Waited4You, is the meanest man in Marthasville, Virginia. So when he puts the business up for sale, the other merchants in town are overjoyed. And now the business has a prospective buyer: local resident and the newly elected mayor's mom, Camille Benson, who’s thrilled at the prospect of getting into the antiques business. During a celebration in honor of Camille’s new venture, her best friend, Opal, tells her about…

Book cover of Isle of Dogs

Mary Maurice Author Of Burtrum Lee

From my list on exciting your imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always enjoyed the intrigue of the mystery and the constant back and forth of the twists and turns offer in a well-written novel. The tremor of my nerves at the base of my neck as I try to figure out the culprit and their intentions, has always enticed my imagination. To, me, those sensations are mind stimulating, and are only born through reading.

Mary's book list on exciting your imagination

Mary Maurice Why did Mary love this book?

If you like reading fast action and involved mysteries, you’ll enjoy Patricia Cromwell’s novel, Isle of Dogs. This action-packed story delves into the historical plots surrounding a small island off the coast of Virginia, where it is said ancestors of long-ago pirates reside, and to this day a sunken treasure remains at the bottom of the sea off their shores. The Governor of Virginia decides to build speed bumps on the small island where the preferred mode of transportation is golf carts. Disarrays begin, so State Trooper Andy Brazel is assigned to investigate and discovers a gang’s intentions to raid the island in search of the treasure.

By Patricia Cornwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Isle of Dogs is the final book in the Andy Brazil series, following the success of Hornet's Nest and Southern Cross, from bestselling author Patricia Cornwell.

Chaos breaks loose when the Governor of Virginia orders that speed traps be installed on all streets and highways, and warns that motorists will be caught by monitoring aircraft flying overhead. But the eccentric inhabitants of Tangier, fourteen miles off the coast of Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay, respond by threatening to secede and set up an independent state, claiming that their independence lies in the history of America's first settlers, those who set…

Book cover of Murder with Peacocks

Kirsten Weiss Author Of Big Shot

From my list on funny cozy mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been addicted to reading and writing mystery novels since I picked up my first Nancy Drew. But in addition to a good puzzle, I also love a good laugh and grew up watching classic screwball comedies. I’ve written a dozen funny cozy mysteries now with more in the works. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!

Kirsten's book list on funny cozy mysteries

Kirsten Weiss Why did Kirsten love this book?

Zany family members and weddings gone wrong provide page-turning laughs in the first book in the Meg Lanslow series. The heroine is smart, funny, and… a blacksmith. The small-town shenanigans just keep coming in this laugh-out-loud mystery, but the heart comes from the familial relationships. (No peacocks are harmed in the making of this mystery, but they do provide plenty of laughs.)

By Donna Andrews,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Murder with Peacocks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hectic plans for three family weddings in one summer are made even more hectic by murder.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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