100 books like The Color of Water

By James McBride,

Here are 100 books that The Color of Water fans have personally recommended if you like The Color of Water. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Unbroken

David Kerr Author Of Out of Latvia: The Son of a Latvian Immigrant Searches for his Roots

From my list on how people triumphed over trauma and tragedy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been curious and passionate about how people overcame significant suffering in their lives. True stories of how people emerged stronger from traumatic events not only became an inspiration in my personal life but also my professional life as a therapist, where I became an agent of change. The ‘secret’ of these storytellers and their transformation became my focus. I only hope you find these stories as enjoyable as I did and also a challenge and an inspiration that makes a difference in your own life.

David's book list on how people triumphed over trauma and tragedy

David Kerr Why did David love this book?

The author held me spellbound as she skilfully unpacked the remarkable story of Louis Zamperini, who survived a plane crash at sea only to be taken prisoner by the Japanese.

Zamperini’s life leapt from the page and swept me along a chilling pathway that bore witness to his physical and inner strength. Hillenbrand held me riveted to the last page of this remarkable true story.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling and much-loved Seabiscuit, an unforgettable story of one man's journey into extremity. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood,…

Book cover of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Susan E. Lindsey Author Of Liberty Brought Us Here: The True Story of American Slaves Who Migrated to Liberia

From my list on explore history you didn’t know.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical nonfiction, I’m an avid reader, and I’ve long been fascinated by the past. But I’m far less interested in the stories of powerful people, political intrigues, and significant battles. I would rather read (and write) hidden history: the stories that have not yet been discovered or fully explored and stories that are left out of history books—accidentally or deliberately. I find these far more compelling. They often provide a deeper look at how history affects those who lack power, influence, and money but who nevertheless do remarkable and often heroic things. I live in Portugal and have started working on a new historical nonfiction book.   

Susan's book list on explore history you didn’t know

Susan E. Lindsey Why did Susan love this book?

I couldn’t put down this book that traces dual stories of the architect who designed the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer who chose his victims from among those who flocked to the city.

One of my great-aunts served as a nurse at the World’s Fair infirmary, and I remember hearing about the fair and her experiences there—how wondrous and magical it had all seemed to a young woman from a small town.

I couldn’t help but think of her when I read about the very dark side of the fair, too. Erik Larson is one of my favorite authors, and this is my favorite of his books.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The Devil in the White City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Chicago World Fair was the greatest fair in American history. This is the story of the men and women whose lives it irrevocably changed and of two men in particular- an architect and a serial killer. The architect is Daniel Burnham, a man of great integrity and depth. It was his vision of the fair that attracted the best minds and talents of the day. The killer is Henry H. Holmes. Intelligent as well as handsome and charming, Holmes opened a boarding house which he advertised as 'The World's Fair Hotel' Here in the neighbourhood where he was once…

Book cover of The Vanishing Half

Faith Knight Author Of As Grey As Black and White

From my list on exploring biracial identity in the 20th century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the product of biracial parents, and the idea of passing or not has always fascinated me as well as disgusted me. The reasons one would want to pass in this era are much different than the survival aspect my ancestors who passed had to consider in the 19th century. In writing my YA historical novels, being biracial always enters in, no matter the topic, because it is who I am and, in the end, always rears its head for consideration.

Faith's book list on exploring biracial identity in the 20th century

Faith Knight Why did Faith love this book?

The biracial Vigne twins in this book struggle with the choices before them as to which race they will embrace. I loved the book for its poignancy and honest exploration of the sensitivity involved in having a choice to make, no matter the generation.

This book is similar to the movie Imitation of Life but on a grander scale. The stories moved me and hurt me at the same time. 

By Brit Bennett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?



'An utterly mesmerising novel..I absolutely loved this book' Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the Booker Prize 2019

'Epic' Kiley Reid, O, The Oprah Magazine

'Favourite book [of the] year' Issa Rae

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years…

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 Fire Shut Up in My Bones

Vivian Gibson Author Of The Last Children of Mill Creek

From my list on Black family life in America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised with my seven siblings on Bernard Street in Mill Creek Valley—454 acres in downtown St. Louis, which comprised the nation's largest urban-renewal project beginning in 1959. I started writing short stories about my childhood memories of the dying African-American community after retiring at age 66. The Last Children of Mill Creek was published when I was 70 years old. This memoir is about survival, as told from the viewpoint of a watchful young girl -- a collection of decidedly universal stories that chronicle the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.

Vivian's book list on Black family life in America

Vivian Gibson Why did Vivian love this book?

With polished language and measured pace, Blow tells a fascinating coming-of-age story of growing up in a small Louisiana town. As the youngest in a family of five boys raised by a schoolteacher mother, with the help of her extended family, he unveils his struggles with sexual identity and masculinity.

By Charles M. Blow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fire Shut Up in My Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Charles M. Blow's mother was a fiercely driven woman with five sons, brass knuckles in her glove box, and a job plucking poultry at a factory near their town in segregated Louisiana, where slavery's legacy felt close. When her philandering husband finally pushed her over the edge, she fired a pistol at his fleeing back, missing every shot, thanks to "love that blurred her vision and bent the barrel." Charles was the baby of the family, fiercely attached to his "do-right" mother. Until one day that divided his life into Before and After - the day an older cousin took…

Book cover of Becoming

Cecilia Muñoz Author Of More than Ready: Be Strong and Be You . . . and Other Lessons for Women of Colour on the Rise

From my list on inspirational books for women color.

Why am I passionate about this?

Things may have gotten better for women compared to our mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations, but that is not to say that it’s easy to navigate work and life, the weight of others’ expectations, and the expectations we place on ourselves. Women of color have a particular set of challenges that others often can’t even see. I have been lucky: I have found wonderful guides and sources of inspiration, and I have been able to pass along what I have learned. Nobody should have to navigate these challenging waters on their own. We need buddies, confidantes, truth-tellers, and sources of inspiration.

Cecilia's book list on inspirational books for women color

Cecilia Muñoz Why did Cecilia love this book?

I had the honor of getting to know Michelle Obama when I worked in the White House, and she–along with her book–is every bit as dazzling and inspiring as you’d expect.

In the book, as in life, she insists on being authentically who she is - despite the string of “firsts” in her life, including being the country’s first African American First Lady, there is no pretension to her. Only honesty. This is a rare and wonderful book by a rare and wonderful human and a great source of inspiration.

By Michelle Obama,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir; 17 million copies sold worldwide





Now in paperback featuring a new introduction by Michelle Obama, a letter from the author to her younger self, and a book club guide with 20 discussion questions and a 5-question Q&A, the intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama…

Book cover of Men We Reaped: A Memoir

Joe Wilkins Author Of The Entire Sky

From my list on books about rural America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on the high plains of eastern Montana. Like most rural folks, we lived close to the bone, even in the best of times. Then, when I was nine, my father died—and things got even harder. We finally had to put our acres up for lease, and I made a goal to leave that hard place. Though I worked hard for this new life I find myself leading—I studied, won scholarships, earned an MFA, and became a professor—ever since I left Montana, I’ve been trying to understand the distance between there and where I find myself now. I’ve been trying to understand rural America.

Joe's book list on books about rural America

Joe Wilkins Why did Joe love this book?

I don’t know of another book that so successfully explodes all our usual myths of rural America. Jesmyn Ward tells a story of community and tragedy as she chronicles the deaths of five young men across five years, including her younger brother, in her hometown of DeLisle, Mississippi, a rural, primarily African American community on the Gulf Coast.

This memoir is deeply sad and troubling, but I found the power of Ward’s language, wisdom, and resilience simply stunning. 

By Jesmyn Ward,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Men We Reaped as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ 'A brutal, moving memoir ... Anyone who emerges from America's black working-class youth with words as fine as Ward's deserves a hearing' - Guardian 'Raw, beautiful and dangerous' - New York Times Book Review 'Lavishly endowed with literary craft and hard-earned wisdom' - Time _______________ The beautiful, haunting memoir from Jesmyn Ward, the first woman to win the National Book Award twice 'And then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped' - Harriet Tubman Jesmyn Ward's acclaimed memoir shines…

Book cover of Watership Down

Ken Wells Author Of Swamped!

From my list on coming of age survival and adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, all I wanted to read were books about adventure. I also had an adventurous childhood, growing up in the Louisiana swamps with a father who actually hunted alligators and took me with him. As I came of age, I longed to tell stories, and, as they say, it’s best to write about what you know. To date, I’ve penned six novels, all set in the exotic wetlands of Cajun, Louisiana. I feel missionary about this—that my writing gifts allow me to decode my homeplace in a way that makes it easier for outsiders to see the singular niche it occupies on the American landscape. 

Ken's book list on coming of age survival and adventure

Ken Wells Why did Ken love this book?

I’m an animal lover, and a book about really smart, interesting, brave, adventurous…rabbits!...had me hooked from the start.

What’s also really great is how the authors were able to impart a good deal of real-world knowledge about the habits of rabbits and habitats that rabbits favor while at the same time unspooling a really fine adventure story. 

By Richard Adams,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Watership Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

One of the best-loved children's classics of all time, this is the complete, original story of Watership Down.

Something terrible is about to happen to the warren - Fiver feels sure of it. And Fiver's sixth sense is never wrong, according to his brother Hazel. They had to leave immediately, and they had to persuade the other rabbits to join them.

And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver's vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all .…

Book cover of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

Mark Wish Author Of Necessary Deeds

From my list on gruesome murders and genuine love.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had the passion to write Necessary Deeds because: 1) as someone who'd spent 20+ years writing novels, dealing with untrustworthy literary agents, and book-doctoring other writers’ novels in order to pay rent, I'd come to know betrayal (“best friend” writers who stole drafts of mine and called them their own, novelists who backstabbed me after I helped them land agents and book contracts, and so on); 2) like many people who lived through the drug-and-alcohol-laced Eighties, I had a long relationship with someone that ended because they cheated on me. So I never doubted that, as I wrote Necessary Deeds, my heart knew well what motivated its characters.

Mark's book list on gruesome murders and genuine love

Mark Wish Why did Mark love this book?

Much as I enjoyed the film based on this novella by Stephen King (which I now understand is a standalone book—I read it as part of a story collection long ago), I enjoyed the novella more.

Why? Because of its extraordinarily likeable narrative voice, which has caused people worldwide to find themselves rooting for its narrator. How can you not want to know what’ll happen next to someone so candid and down-to-earth—who has experienced homicide and love so intensely? Especially when he wants intimacy yet also feels threatened by it.

In fact, just after I finished reading the Shawshank novella, I vowed to write a novel about someone in NYC who exuded those same attributes: candor, humility, and understated yet solid wisdom about murder and affairs of the heart. And after several years of writing with this goal, I finally tapped into the voice of Matt Connell, the narrator of…

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The No. 1 bestselling author Stephen King's beloved novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption - the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption - about an unjustly imprisoned convict who seeks a strangely satisfying revenge, is now available as a standalone book.

There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess - I'm the guy who can get it for you.

And new convict Andy Dufresne wants two things from fellow prisoner Red: a small rock-hammer for carving stones and a giant poster of Rita Hayworth.

So begins this mesmerising tale…

Book cover of One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life - A Story of Race and Family Secrets

Joan Steinau Lester Author Of Loving before Loving: A Marriage in Black and White

From my list on biracial marriage/families with fascinating angles.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sixty-one years ago I, a young white woman, married a Black man and together we had two children. Raising them (and then watching my biracial children grow to maturity) started my career, professionally and personally, as an anti-racism activist and scholar. They also caused me to question “race”: how did this myth come to be accepted as reality? How could people who were segregated as Negro, as my children were called in the 1960s, have come out of my body, called “white”? As a writer and avid reader, I am fascinated by every aspect of “racial identity.” 

Joan's book list on biracial marriage/families with fascinating angles

Joan Steinau Lester Why did Joan love this book?

I have bought multiple copies of One Drop as gifts for biracial family members, as well as friends.

Broyard is the daughter of Anatole Broyard, celebrated New York Times book critic in the 1960s and 70s. Only after his death did even his wealthy white wife and mixed children discover his Black heritage. The public—self included—was equally shocked.

Bliss Boyard researches his Louisiana roots, meets her Black cousins, and writes a fascinating, deeply personal story of “race,” showing its often bizarre contours as some family members may be classified as “white,” others “colored” or any number of other categorizations, from “octoroon” on.

A healing narrative, beautifully told.

By Bliss Broyard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Two months before he died of cancer, renowned literary critic Anatole Broyard called his grown son and daughter to his side, intending to reveal a secret he'd kept all their lives and most of his own: he was black. But even as he lay dying, the truth was too diffi cult for him to share, and it was his wife who told Bliss Broyard that her WASPy, privileged Connecticut childhood had come at a price. Ever since his own parents, New Orleans Creoles, had moved to Brooklyn and begun to 'pass' in order to get work, Anatole had learned to…

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