100 books like Parting the Waters

By Taylor Branch,

Here are 100 books that Parting the Waters fans have personally recommended if you like Parting the Waters. 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 A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

Daniel P. Aldrich Author Of Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery

From my list on the importance of community during disasters.

Who am I?

We moved to New Orleans in July 2005. We had six weeks in our first home, filling it with furniture, buying a new car, and taking advantage of my first job. When Hurricane Katrina collapsed the levees holding back the nearby lakes, our home – and those of 80% of the city – filled with water. As I waited for FEMA and insurance to help us, I saw instead it was our friends, friends of friends, and faith-based organizations that helped us get back on our feet. Using our own experiences as a start, I traveled to India and Japan to study how communities around the world survived and thrived during shocks. 

Daniel's book list on the importance of community during disasters

Daniel P. Aldrich Why did Daniel love this book?

We have all seen disaster movies and TV shows with people screaming and running around as the earthquake, tsunami, or Godzilla strikes. But Rebecca Solnit argues instead that normal people don’t panic during disasters – it is the elite, the wealthy, and the decision-makers who lose their minds. For normal people, altruism and mutual aid help all of us get through shocks, whether fire, car accident or COVID19. Her writing is excellent and she uses examples across time and space, ranging from the San Francisco earthquake at the start of the 20th century to the Mexico City earthquake at its end.

By Rebecca Solnit,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Paradise Built in Hell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The freshest, deepest, most optimistic account of human nature I've come across in years."
-Bill McKibben

The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of…


Book cover of Japan at War: An Oral History

Stewart Binns Author Of Barbarossa: And The Bloodiest War In History

From my list on 20th century conflict.

Who am I?

Stewart Binns is a former academic, soldier, and documentary filmmaker, who became a writer quite late in life. He has since written a wide range of books in both fiction and non-fiction. His passions are history and sport. He has completed a medieval quartet called the Making of England Series, two books about the Great War and a novel set during Northern Ireland’s Troubles. His latest work of non-fiction, Barbarossa, tells the story of the Eastern Front (1945 to 1944) from the perspective of the peoples of Eastern Europe. He is now working on a history of modern Japan.

Stewart's book list on 20th century conflict

Stewart Binns Why did Stewart love this book?

Oral history sources have always been central to my work, both as an author and a documentary-maker. Cook’s account of the experiences of ordinary Japanese people during the Second World War is one of the best. It is both powerful and a lesson about the utter tragedy of war.

By Haruko Taya Cook, Theodore F. Cook,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Japan at War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A "deeply moving book" (Studs Terkel) and the first ever oral history to document the experience of ordinary Japanese people during World War II

"Hereafter no one will be able to think, write, or teach about the Pacific War without reference to [the Cooks'] work." -Marius B. Jansen, Emeritus Professor of Japanese History, Princeton University

This pathbreaking work of oral history by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook was the first book ever to capture the experience of ordinary Japanese people during the war and remains the classic work on the subject.

In a sweeping panorama, Japan at War…


Book cover of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard D. Kahlenberg Author Of Excluded: How Snob Zoning, NIMBYism, and Class Bias Build the Walls We Don't See

From my list on government housing rules in America.

Who am I?

After decades writing about how to improve the lives of low-income children through education, I concluded that I had to writing about housing policy too. Government housing laws essentially dictate where kids go to school in America. In addition, since writing in college about Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign for president, in which he brought together a multiracial coalition of working people, I’ve been obsessed with finding ways to bring those groups together again.  Reforms of housing policy in a number of states has done just that: united working people across racial lines who were sick of being excluded – by government fiat – from places that provide the best opportunities.

Richard's book list on government housing rules in America

Richard D. Kahlenberg Why did Richard love this book?

The Color of Law does a brilliant job of making clear that racial segregation in America is not merely the result of market forces or individual choices; it was manufactured by government through a series of twentieth-century policies: racial zoning, redlining, and enforcement of racially restrictive covenants.  The effects are still felt today.

I modeled my own book after Rothstein’s and updated his analysis to show that today, economically discriminatory zoning laws have replaced racially discriminatory practices, which helps explain why racial segregation has declined by 30 percent since 1970, but income segregation has doubled.

By Richard Rothstein,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Color of Law as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Widely heralded as a "masterful" (The Washington Post) and "essential" (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law offers "the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation" (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced…


Book cover of Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer

Elizabeth Buchan Author Of Two Women in Rome

From my list on soothing after a love affair, divorce or Covid.

Who am I?

Elizabeth Buchan began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books. She moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full-time. Her novels include the award-winning Consider the Lily, The Museum of Broken Promises, and the international bestseller, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, which was made into a CBS Primetime Drama. Elizabeth’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She has reviewed for The Times, the Sunday Times, and the Daily Mail, and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes. She has been a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and for the 2014 Costa Novel Award.

Elizabeth's book list on soothing after a love affair, divorce or Covid

Elizabeth Buchan Why did Elizabeth love this book?

I first read this many years ago and it has stayed with me. Every so often, I return to it in order to immerse myself in its wonderful prose and insights. It combines travelogue with biography, detective work with a probing inner exploration and is both an account of a physical journey and a remap of the writer’s imagination. He begins with his homage to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey and describes his own trek over the Cevennes. He starts out with the idea that he will be a poet and finishes his walk having been led "far away into the undiscovered land of other’s men and women’s lives. It led towards biography."

It is the turning point of his life and for the remainder of the book – as he hunts down his subjects which include Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley, Gerard de Nerval, and Gautier – he goes…

By Richard Holmes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Richard Holmes knew he had become a true biographer the day his bank bounced a check that he had inadvertently dated 1772. Because for the acclaimed chronicler of Shelley and Coleridge, biography is a physical pursuit, an ardent and arduous retracing of footsteps that may have vanished centuries before.
 
In this gripping book, Holmes takes us from France’s Massif Central, where he followed the route taken by Robert Louis Stevenson and a sweet-natured donkey, to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Revolutionary Paris, to the Italian villages where Percy Shelley tried to cast off the strictures of English morality and marriage. Footsteps is a…


Book cover of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Author Of Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity

From my list on the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the US.

Who are we?

Paul Spickard wrote the first edition of Almost All Aliens. He invited Francisco Beltrán and Laura Hooton, who worked under Dr. Spickard at UC Santa Barbara, to co-author the second edition after working as research assistants and providing suggestions for the second edition. We are all historians of race, ethnicity, immigration, colonialism, and identity, and in our other works and teaching we each think about these topics in different ways. We did the same for this list—this is a list of five books that talk about topics that are important to Almost All Aliens and approaches that have been influential in how we think about the topic.  

Laura, Paul, and Francisco's book list on the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the US

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Why did Laura, Paul, and Francisco love this book?

Kendi’s book is the most recent in a long line of fantastic scholars who have tackled discussions of racism in America, especially anti-Black racism. Kendi focuses specifically on racist ideas, and how those ideas were created and then used to rationalize policies and inequalities for generations. The book is a New York Times Bestseller for a reason: it is accessible, has important ideas that are well-supported, and the reader doesn’t get lost in a history that covers a wide span of time.

By Ibram X. Kendi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Stamped from the Beginning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stamped from the Beginning is a redefining history of anti-Black racist ideas that dramatically changes our understanding of the causes and extent of racist thinking itself.

** Winner of the US National Book Award**

Its deeply researched and fast-moving narrative chronicles the journey of racist ideas from fifteenth-century Europe to present-day America through the lives of five major intellectuals - Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis - showing how these ideas were developed, disseminated and eventually enshrined in American society.

Contrary to popular…


Book cover of Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II

Steven Rogers Author Of A Letter to My White Friends and Colleagues: What You Can Do Right Now to Help the Black Community

From my list on reasons behind the enormous racial wealth gap.

Who am I?

Steven Rogers is a retired professor from Harvard Business School (HBS) where he created a new course titled, “Black Business Leaders and Entrepreneurship.” He has written more HBS case studies with Black protagonists than anyone in the world. He is an HBS and Williams College alum. He majored in Black history. He has taught at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and West Point U.S. Military Academy. He has published 3 books including Entrepreneurial Finance (4 editions), Successful Black Entrepreneurs, and A Letter to my White Friends and Colleagues: What You Can Do Now to Help the Black Community.

Steven's book list on reasons behind the enormous racial wealth gap

Steven Rogers Why did Steven love this book?

The wealth gap between Blacks and Whites in the U.S. is enormous! Whites have 10 times the wealth as Blacks. The disparity is not because Whites are smarter or have worked harder. This book does a masterful job of clearly explaining one of the reasons behind the wide wealth gap. 

Most people are aware of the fact that 246 years of slavery was a successful government policy that intentionally enriched Whites while simultaneously impoverishing Blacks. But most people are not aware that a new system with the same dual objectives, followed the abolition of slavery in 1865. This book tells the story of Black Codes, Vagrancy Laws, and convict leasing that occurred for 60 years after the passage of the 13th Amendment, emancipating Black enslaved people. These government supported policies replaced slavery as the new program to subsidize White wealth creation at the expense of millions of Blacks. 

Douglas Blackman…

By Douglas A. Blackmon,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Slavery by Another Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This groundbreaking historical expose unearths the lost stories of enslaved persons and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude shortly thereafter in “The Age of Neoslavery.”

By turns moving, sobering, and shocking, this unprecedented Pulitzer Prize-winning account reveals the stories of those who fought unsuccessfully against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking, the companies that profited most from neoslavery, and the insidious legacy of racism that reverberates today.

Following the Emancipation Proclamation, convicts—mostly black men—were “leased” through forced labor camps operated by state and federal governments. Using a…


Book cover of Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

Ian Zack Author Of Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest

From my list on understanding Black history.

Who am I?

Ian Zack is a New York-based journalist who has written two critically acclaimed biographies. The subjects of both his books—Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis and Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest—began their lives in the Jim Crow South before venturing North and making their voices heard.

Ian's book list on understanding Black history

Ian Zack Why did Ian love this book?

Before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, there was Thurgood Marshall. As a young lawyer and head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, Marshall spearheaded the civil rights organization’s slow but steady legal course in challenging and defeating segregation in the courts. Risking his life to represent black plaintiffs in the South and slowly building the legal precedents that led to Brown vs. Board of Education, Marshall had a profound effect on the course of history. This excellent biography takes you there.

By Juan Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • The definitive biography of the great lawyer and Supreme Court justice, from the bestselling author of Eyes on the Prize
 
“Magisterial . . . in Williams’ richly detailed portrait, Marshall emerges as a born rebel.”—Jack E. White, Time
 
Thurgood Marshall was the twentieth century’s great architect of American race relations. His victory in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the landmark Supreme Court case outlawing school segregation in the United States, would have made him a historic figure even if he had never been appointed as the first African-American to serve on…


Book cover of The Fire Next Time

Clarence B. Jones Author Of Last of the Lions: An African American Journey in Memoir

From my list on the realities of being Black in America.

Who am I?

I’m a Black man born in Jim Crow America to domestic servants so challenged by their circumstances that they had to place me in a kind of orphanage because they weren’t given permission to raise me in their employer’s home. I’ve known poverty, violence, racism, and law enforcement changing the rules to single me out. But I have also known the rarified success of Wall Street, my own thriving law practice, entertainment industry deals, and, of course, the privilege of a lifetime working side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Therefore, I understand both the promise of the American Dream and the cruelty with which it’s mostly (and purposely) withheld from her citizens of color.

Clarence's book list on the realities of being Black in America

Clarence B. Jones Why did Clarence love this book?

I was at that famous Jimmy Baldwin-Robert F. Kennedy meeting off Central Park. Jimmy gave the president’s brother both barrels.

See, he always told people the truth, no matter how hard it was to hear. I set up the publication of the first part of The Fire Next Time at The New Yorker – see, it started as a letter from Jimmy to his nephew. But thanks to the power of the published word, every Black boy and girl can – and should – take his familial wisdom about navigating America while Black to heart.

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A seminal meditation on race by one of our greatest writers' Barack Obama

'We, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation'

James Baldwin's impassioned plea to 'end the racial nightmare' in America was a bestseller when it appeared in 1963, galvanising a nation and giving voice to the emerging civil rights movement. Told in the form of two intensely personal 'letters', The Fire Next Time is at once a powerful evocation of Baldwin's early life in Harlem and an excoriating condemnation of the terrible legacy of racial injustice.

'Sermon,…


Book cover of Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost

Peter Guralnick Author Of Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing

From my list on biographical reading from a biographer.

Who am I?

Peter Guralnick has been called "a national resource" by critic Nat Hentoff for work that has argued passionately and persuasively for the vitality of this country’s intertwined black and white musical traditions. His books include the prize-winning two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love; Searching for Robert Johnson; Sweet Soul Music; and Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. His 2015 biography, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, was a finalist for the Plutarch Award for Best Biography of the Year, awarded by the Biographers International Organization. His most recent book is Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing.

Peter's book list on biographical reading from a biographer

Peter Guralnick Why did Peter love this book?

It was Hemingway’s Boat, with its discursive Shandean style, that set the tone for my book. It was the only way I knew to tell a story that was so uniquely decentralized, so rollickingly exploratory, but I couldn’t begin to rival Paul Hendrickson, who remains the master of the tangential truth, digging deeper into the soul of the man than any Hemingway biography I have ever read – by focusing on his boat. At one point in my Phillips biography, after wandering off-course for 60 pages and finally coming back to the narrative moment I had abandoned, I wrote, “For all of my faith in extended digression I hope I haven’t stretched the limits of reader patience too much by now. Let me just pick up the thread.” But this is nothing compared to Paul Hendrickson’s masterful command of seemingly structureless story-telling, the non-fiction equivalent of some of Alice…

By Paul Hendrickson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A man who let who let his own insides get eaten out by the diseases of fame had dreamed new books on this boat. He'd taught his sons to reel in something that feels like Moby Dick on this boat. He'd accidentally shot himself in both legs on this boat. He'd fallen drunk from the flying bridge on this boat. He'd written achy, generous, uplifting, poetic letters on this boat. He'd propositioned women on this boat. He'd hunted German subs on this boat. He'd saved guests and family members from shark attack on this boat. He'd acted like a bully…


Book cover of Chuck Berry: The Autobiography

Peter Guralnick Author Of Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing

From my list on biographical reading from a biographer.

Who am I?

Peter Guralnick has been called "a national resource" by critic Nat Hentoff for work that has argued passionately and persuasively for the vitality of this country’s intertwined black and white musical traditions. His books include the prize-winning two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love; Searching for Robert Johnson; Sweet Soul Music; and Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. His 2015 biography, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, was a finalist for the Plutarch Award for Best Biography of the Year, awarded by the Biographers International Organization. His most recent book is Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing.

Peter's book list on biographical reading from a biographer

Peter Guralnick Why did Peter love this book?

Chuck Berry: The Autobiography is a primary clue to the Inner Chuck, if not the Facts of Chuck, an indisputable masterpiece, witty, elegant, and revealing, and (or perhaps but) ultimately elusive. Unlike so many music (and other) autobiographies, every word of this one was written by its author in a web of elegant, intricate connections that are both coded and transparent. Very much like the songs.

By Chuck Berry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the original rock and rollers tells his own story, discussing his childhood in St. Louis, his first musical efforts and his subsequent stardom, and many of the controversial detours he has taken along the way


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in civil rights, the Civil Rights Movement, and Martin Luther King Jr.?

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