100 books like The Outsider

By Richard Wright,

Here are 100 books that The Outsider fans have personally recommended if you like The Outsider. 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 Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

Years ago, I was a janitor. When I would take a shower, it was like I could never get the stench off my body. I like Susan Strasser’s book because it reminds me of the waste I use to clean up daily. She examines the most unprecedented commonplace act of throwing things out and how it has transformed American society.

Her classic book about trash world culture is fascinating to me because, in the last hundred years, the way of life has been replaced by mass consumption, disposable goods, and waste on an unimaginable scale. Her book could easily be used as a metaphor for the ‘homeless,’ whom some view as “disposable’ goods. Her book illustrates that what counts as trash depends on who counts it, and what we throw away defines us as much as we keep it.

Strasser argues that in Western society, popular understanding of cleanliness, gender,…

By Susan Strasser, Alice Austen (photographer),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Waste and Want as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unprecedented look at that most commonplace act of everyday life-throwing things out-and how it has transformed American society.

Susan Strasser's pathbreaking histories of housework and the rise of the mass market have become classics in the literature of consumer culture. Here she turns to an essential but neglected part of that culture-the trash it produces-and finds in it an unexpected wealth of meaning.

Before the twentieth century, streets and bodies stank, but trash was nearly nonexistent. With goods and money scarce, almost everything was reused. Strasser paints a vivid picture of an America where scavenger pigs roamed the streets,…


Book cover of The Culture of Make Believe

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

I liked the book because it is not just about racism, but it grapples with how hate manifests itself in our Western world.

Jensen paints on a huge canvas detailing American racism from the genocidal slave trade through lynchings to the 2000 murder of Amadou Diallo by NYC police and covers a wide range of other cultural horrors as well: the massacres of Native Americans, the Holocaust, the 8,000 deaths from the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in India and the deaths of 500,000 children in Iraj. 

By Derrick Jensen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Derrick Jensen takes no prisoners in The Culture of Make Believe, his brilliant and eagerly awaited follow-up to his powerful and lyrical A Language Older Than Words. What begins as an exploration of the lines of thought and experience that run between the massive lynchings in early twentieth-century America to today's death squads in South America soon explodes into an examination of the very heart of our civilization. The Culture of Make Believe is a book that is as impeccably researched as it is moving, with conclusions as far-reaching as they are shocking.


Book cover of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

When I was a homeless artist, I stumbled across this brilliant book, and it validated my belief that contrary to what global capitalists believe, free markets outside the West do not spread wealth in the hands of an ‘outsider’ minority but instead generate ethnic envy and hatred among the frustrated, impoverished majorities.

Amy Chua states that billions of poor, exploited, and powerful people around the world (homeless and displaced) watch as the wealthy minority in the United States continues to amass more control, prestige, and tax breaks.

Ironically, Chua points out, although America is viewed “as arrogant, hegemonic and vapidly materialistic, most of the downtrodden would rather be in the U. S. than anywhere else. In 2023, close to 10 million illegal migrants have entered the U.S. via the porous Texas border.

By Amy Chua,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked World on Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The reigning consensus holds that the combination of free markets and democracy would transform the third world and sweep away the ethnic hatred and religious zealotry associated with underdevelopment. In this revelatory investigation of the true impact of globalization, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua explains why many developing countries are in fact consumed by ethnic violence after adopting free market democracy.

Chua shows how in non-Western countries around the globe, free markets have concentrated starkly disproportionate wealth in the hands of a resented ethnic minority. These “market-dominant minorities” – Chinese in Southeast Asia, Croatians in the former Yugoslavia, whites…


Book cover of Being and Nothingness

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

When I was a homeless artist living on Chicago’s cold streets for six months, it was hard for me to believe in a compassionate Judeo-Christian God. It was difficult for me to reconcile how a just and benevolent God would let African pregnant women be thrown into the Atlantic Ocean and perish with thousands of other slaves.

That is why I became agnostic and was attracted to Sartre’s belief in the essential freedom of individuals, and he also believed that as free beings, people are responsible for all elements of themselves, their consciousness, and their actions. It made me question why I was homeless. Was it because of bad choices in life? Or was it just the experience of being a black male in a racist capitalist society?

Sartre became an existentialist because of the war and an encounter with Merleav Ponty, who taught him the political dimension of human…

By Jean-Paul Sartre, Sarah Richmond (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Revisit one of the most important pillars in modern philosophy with this new English translation—the first in more than 60 years—of Jean-Paul Sartre’s seminal treatise on existentialism. “This is a philosophy to be reckoned with, both for its own intrinsic power and as a profound symptom of our time” (The New York Times).

In 1943, Jean-Paul Sartre published his masterpiece, Being and Nothingness, and laid the foundation of his legacy as one of the greatest twentieth century philosophers. A brilliant and radical account of the human condition, Being and Nothingness explores what gives our lives significance.

In a new and…


Book cover of Imperial Liquor: Poems

Olatunde Osinaike Author Of Tender Headed

From my list on contemporary poetry books revisiting music.

Why am I passionate about this?

I listen to about eight albums of music per week. At least one per day and another of that bunch gathers a re-listen, though more warrant the same! Listening is my favorite hobby. I name it like one would rock climbing or gardening, and though we are here connecting through words and swapping ideas, it all starts with my ear. I most want to feel what I’d like to know, and it is possible that music sometimes held the work of thinking on my behalf. In writing my book, I was most interested in what it meant to be offered the world in such a personal yet composed way each day. 

Olatunde's book list on contemporary poetry books revisiting music

Olatunde Osinaike Why did Olatunde love this book?

Both keen and forgiving, this book traces the amorous and lofty histories of Black masculinity in America while also delighting in the surprises surrounding its speaker(s).

No song is without a community to which it belongs. We sing our songs together. This realization is especially stark and exacting in this book as it chronicles the bounty of lyrics from Marvin Gaye to the Delfonics.

By Amaud Jamaul Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Imperial Liquor is a chronicle of melancholy, a reaction to the monotony of racism. These poems concern loneliness, fear, fatigue, rage, and love; they hold fatherhood held against the vulnerability of the black male body, aging, and urban decay. Part remembrance, part swan song for the Compton, California of the 1980s, Johnson examines the limitations of romance to heal broken relationships or rebuild a broken city. Slow Jams, red-lit rooms, cheap liquor, like seduction and betrayal - what's more American? This book tracks echoes, rides the residue of music "after the love is gone."


Book cover of Chokehold: Policing Black Men

Clarence Taylor Author Of Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City

From my list on race and policing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Professor Emeritus of History at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  I grew up in Brooklyn, New York during the turbulent decades of the 1950s and 1960s where there were numerous social protest movements against the War in Vietnam, school segregation, and police brutality.  My books explore the men and women who battled institutional racism.

Clarence's book list on race and policing

Clarence Taylor Why did Clarence love this book?

Butler argues that the large increase of police assaults and killings of black men is not a breakdown in law enforcement or the activities of a few rogue cops. The system is doing what it has been designed to do. Police hurt black men, according to the author because “that is what they are paid to do.” Butler maintains that the Chokehold “is a way of understanding how American inequality is imposed.” It is a tool of oppression. One outcome of the Chokehold is mass incarceration. The construction of the thug is a means of justifying the Chokehold. Butler traces the “Ape” or “dehumanization” thesis.

The book contains loads of data showing how in city after city black people are disproportionately targeted by police officers. Programs such as Obama’s My Brothers’ Keeper ignores women and plays into perpetuating stereotypes of black men as the primary victims of racism.

By Paul Butler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Finalist for the 2018 National Council on Crime & Delinquency's Media for a Just Society Awards

Nominated for the 49th NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Nonfiction)

A 2017 Washington Post Notable Book

A Kirkus Best Book of 2017

"Butler has hit his stride. This is a meditation, a sonnet, a legal brief, a poetry slam and a dissertation that represents the full bloom of his early thesis: The justice system does not work for blacks, particularly black men."
-The Washington Post

"The most readable and provocative account of the consequences of the war on drugs since Michelle Alexander's…


Book cover of Go Tell It on the Mountain

Elisabeth Åsbrink Author Of 1947: Where Now Begins

From my list on memory and oblivion.

Why am I passionate about this?

My Hungarian father was 7 years old when he almost got deported to Polen by the Nazis, but was miraculously saved by his mother. He came to Sweden, where I´m born, and never looked back, completely focused on the future. So I, his only child, focus on memory and oblivion. It´s like we stand back to back—or like I´m a seamstress, trying to stitch the past with the present. In my British mother´s family history is Salonica, the magical Jewish city in the Ottoman Empire. My Spanish-Jewish grandfather spoke the same Castillian dialect that Cervantes used to write Don Quijote. And I´m born in Sweden. These are my universes and where my writing is born.  

Elisabeth's book list on memory and oblivion

Elisabeth Åsbrink Why did Elisabeth love this book?

I only recently started to read James Baldwin and am blown away by his intensity and poetic language. In this first novel he describes the world of his childhood in Harlem, NY. It is American identity, history, and passion, it´s a portrait of a young man as well of the wounds of slavery hurting in every individual born into the American system. And it’s a beautiful story.

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Go Tell It on the Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Go back to where you started, or as far back as you can, examine all of it, travel your road again and tell the truth about it. Sing or shout or testify or keep it to yourself: but know whence you came.'

Originally published in 1953, Go Tell it on the Mountain was James Baldwin's first major work, based in part on his own childhood in Harlem. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy's discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson…


Book cover of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Robert L. Tsai Author Of Demand the Impossible: One Lawyer's Pursuit of Equal Justice for All

From my list on the role of race and poverty in the criminal justice system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a law professor at Boston University who has studied and written about constitutional law, democracy, and inequality for over 20 years. I’m troubled by America’s rise to become the world’s leader in imprisoning its own citizens and the continued use of inhumane policing and punishment practices. These trends must be better understood before we can come up with a form of politics that can overcome our slide into a darker version of ourselves. 

Robert's book list on the role of race and poverty in the criminal justice system

Robert L. Tsai Why did Robert love this book?

I found Michelle Alexander’s book a potent reminder that the past is never really past, and that older practices of racial subjugation and use of the criminal law against minorities can be repurposed in later eras to serve the same or related ends.

The book raises the question of whether Jim Crow has really ended in all institutions in American society.

By Michelle Alexander,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists motivated by Michelle Alexander's unforgettable argument that 'we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.'


Book cover of All the Sinners Bleed

David Miller Author Of Solved: How the World's Great Cities Are Fixing the Climate Crisis

From my list on books that evoke a place and take you there.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love cities, and as a former Mayor, I understand their vibrant complexity. Like all of us, I am deeply worried about planetary breakdown, but unlike most, I’ve had the privilege of seeing firsthand the great work that leading mayors are undertaking globally to address the climate crisis. It's my belief that if more of us knew what is happening in some cities, and therefore what is possible in all, we would not only see that it is possible to avoid climate breakdown but fuelled by that hope, we would demand change from those we elect. You can hear more in the podcast I lead, Cities 1.5, or read more in my occasional newsletter on substack.

David's book list on books that evoke a place and take you there

David Miller Why did David love this book?

A novel about a black Sheriff’s efforts to catch a serial killer in the fictional small town and surrounding area of Charon County, Virginia, where racism is real and visceral, and the Confederates are considered heroes by many.

The book brilliantly transports you inside the complex racial and religious realities of everyday life in a small Virginia town. Crosby’s ear for language and understanding of daily life in such a place take you there. You can picture not just the characters but also very much the place—from the town to the farms to the buildings to the rooms in them—and to the food and alcohol people drink. Small-town America is brought to vivid life.

By S. A. Cosby,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked All the Sinners Bleed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*** THE TIMES - THRILLER OF THE MONTH***
*** MAIL ON SUNDAY - BEST NEW FICTION***
*** FINANCIAL TIMES - BEST NEW CRIME BOOKS***

'A crackling good police procedural....fresh and exhilarating' STEPHEN KING

'S. A. Cosby's novels always hit the grand slam of crime fiction; unstoppable momentum, gripping intrigue and deep character with a hard and telling look at culture and society' MICHAEL CONNELLY

'Titus Crown is one of the most compelling characters I've read in a long time.' STEVE CAVANAGH

A BLACK SHERIFF. A SERIAL KILLER.
AND A SMALL TOWN READY TO COMBUST.

Titus Crown is the first Black…


Book cover of A Little Yellow Dog

Dianne Pearce Author Of Simona's Son

From my list on making you want to write your own damn book.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started reading voraciously at age 4, and read Camus by 6th grade, which is why it made sense that I was so into Pink Floyd, my favorite album of theirs being Animals, which is super depressing. I then studied writing extensively with some great writers, getting my MA and MFA, and teaching writing at colleges from 1991-2021. Along the way I became an editor, a writing coach, ran a writing workshop for 7 years, and started a publishing company. I know good writing when I see it versus crap, and I can tell for sure in about 300 words. I also fall hard for books, and do want to marry them

Dianne's book list on making you want to write your own damn book

Dianne Pearce Why did Dianne love this book?

I've met Mr. Mosely a few times, and he's a helluva guy.

This is my favorite of the Easy Rawlins series. Mosley writes in my favorite genre, hardboiled, and he's perfect Chandler, but with two important distinctions: his books teach us about being in a Black man's shoes in a white man's world, and we can never learn that well enough, and Easy is a genuinely good person, and there are not nearly enough of him.

He is good to his bones, to his soul, and we all want him to succeed: we're with him from the first line, and we all get religion praying for him to make it all the way, not to solving the crime, but to solving the mystery of living life well, and on his own terms.

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little Yellow Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With each succeeding mystery featuring his reluctant detective (and natural-born existentialist) Easy Rawlins, Walter Mosley gains new fans and builds on what is now recognized as a permanent addition to American crime writing. His current book is A Little Yellow Dog--another instant classic of suspense, style, and shrewd social observation.

It's 1964. Easy Rawlins has given up the street life that has brought him so much trouble and grief. He's taken on a job as supervising custodian of Sojourner Truth Junior High School in Watts. For two years he's been getting up early and going off to work. He wears…


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