10 books like The Spook Who Sat by the Door

By Sam Greenlee,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Spook Who Sat by the Door. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Ballad of Black Tom

By Victor LaValle,

Book cover of The Ballad of Black Tom

Readers of H.P. Lovecraft, and writers (like me) who have mined the Lovecraftian Mythos for decades, have struggled in recent years to square the inspiration they have derived from the work and the intensely problematic nature of the man’s white supremacy and xenophobia. Several recent books have addressed this ethical conflict head-on, and none so brilliantly and effectively as LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom, which reconstitutes Lovecraft’s “The Horror of Red Hook” from an African American POV. LaValle’s sharpness of prose, keen eye, and feel for environment grounds his tale of a street hustler in 1920s Harlem confronting horrors both cosmic and terrestrial, acting as the perfect answer to the insult of the original tale. This work stands as a landmark of contemporary cosmic horror that needs to be on every bookshelf. 

The Ballad of Black Tom

By Victor LaValle,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Ballad of Black Tom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic…


The Third Man

By Graham Greene,

Book cover of The Third Man

Greene wrote much of his screenplay-turned- iconic Cold War thriller at the Café Mozart overlooking the gorgeous Albertinaplatz in Vienna. Immortalized by the 1949 British film,  the story is a dark look at the craters and restoration of the Post-war years in the Allied-occupied city. When author Rollo Martins is invited to visit his old friend Harry Lime in the war-torn city, he finds himself embroiled in racketeering, the seedy schwartzmarkt, and even murder.  This atmospheric look at a city in tatters where cigarettes were a more secure currency than the defunct reichsmarks littering the bombed street, it is a classic of a Vienna still ghostly beautiful but in a period of shift and change. 

The Third Man

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rollo Martins' usual line is the writing of cheap paperback Westerns under the name of Buck Dexter. But when his old friend Harry Lime invites him to Vienna, he jumps at the chance. With exactly five pounds in his pocket, he arrives only just in time to make it to his friend's funeral. The victim of an apparently banal street accident, the late Mr. Lime, it seems, had been the focus of a criminal investigation, suspected of nothing less than being "the worst racketeer who ever made a dirty living in this city." Martins is determined to clear his friend's…


The Cutting Season

By Attica Locke,

Book cover of The Cutting Season

Caren Gray, the manager of a historic plantation, learns the body of a migrant worker has been discovered on the grounds. Searching for answers, she stumbles upon another crime that occurred over a century ago in the era of slavery and may hold the key to unlocking revelations in the present. Locke does a fantastic job of balancing the two timelines for great effect. History can haunt us, but this book leaves you with the eerie feeling of being surveilled by the past.

The Cutting Season

By Attica Locke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By the prize-winning author of Heaven My Home, a taut crime novel perfect for reading groups.

Bury your bodies deep and your secrets deeper.

Just after dawn, Caren inspects the grounds of Belle Vie, the historic plantation house she manages. Back at her office, the gardener calls to tell her she missed something. Something terrible. At a distance, she didn't see. A young woman lying face down in a shallow grave, her throat cut clean.

So there will be police, asking questions. The family who own Belle Vie will have to be told. There's a school group on the way…


Forty Acres

By Dwayne Alexander Smith,

Book cover of Forty Acres: A Thriller

A Black attorney is forced to participate in a plot to bring back slavery—with a particular variation. What could go wrong? Taut writing and suspenseful storytelling carry the weight of history in Forty Acres. The concept is bold and audacious, and I never questioned a word of it. The execution is that impressive.

Forty Acres

By Dwayne Alexander Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Martin Grey, a smart, talented young lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, is taken under the wing of a secretive group made up of America's most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men. He's dazzled by what they have accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be one of them. They invite him for a weekend away from it all - no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But what he discovers, far from home, is a disturbing organisation which challenges his deepest convictions...A novel of rage and compassion, trust and betrayal, Forty…


Occupied Territory

By Simon Balto,

Book cover of Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power

Balto explores how the Chicago police, from 1910 to the 1970s “built an intricate, powerful carceral machinery whose most constitutive feature was an extreme racial selectivity.” Black people are over-policed and under-protected. Balto focuses on policing and anti-blackness. Black Chicagoans’ complaints of torture and “aggressive prevention patrol” by the police went on for decades and was essentially ignored by those in power. Balto tells the story of a racially repressive police force. In two decades, from 1945 to 1965 the Chicago police grew more punitive as the department doubled in size. Black communities were targeted by the CPD, in large part, because black was equated with criminality.

Occupied Territory

By Simon Balto,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In July 1919, an explosive race riot forever changed Chicago. For years, black southerners had been leaving the South as part of the Great Migration. Their arrival in Chicago drew the ire and scorn of many local whites, including members of the city's political leadership and police department, who generally sympathized with white Chicagoans and viewed black migrants as a problem population. During Chicago's Red Summer riot, patterns of extraordinary brutality, negligence, and discriminatory policing emerged to shocking effect. Those patterns shifted in subsequent decades, but the overall realities of a racially discriminatory police system persisted.

In this history of…


Black Is a Country

By Nikhil Pal Singh,

Book cover of Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy

We often learn about African American history in the 20th Century in terms of a conflict between nonviolent resistance vs. violent radicalism, integrationism vs. separatism, Martin vs. Malcolm. But this is an over-simplification of a complex and dynamic moment in the history of our nation. More than any other work, Black is a Country helped me think differently about the period that I study, and see African American history and culture of the mid-20th Century in a new way.

Black Is a Country

By Nikhil Pal Singh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Is a Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Despite black gains in modern America, the end of racism is not yet in sight. Nikhil Pal Singh asks what happened to the worldly and radical visions of equality that animated black intellectual activists from W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1930s to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. In so doing, he constructs an alternative history of civil rights in the twentieth century, a long civil rights era, in which radical hopes and global dreams are recognized as central to the history of black struggle.

It is through the words and thought of key black intellectuals, like…


Faces at the Bottom of the Well

By Derrick Bell,

Book cover of Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

Faces at the Bottom of the Well is the book that created Critical Race Theory. It lays out the central problem of Critical Race Theory: how does racism consistently defeat law? For example, in 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education held that segregated schools are unlawful. Yet, sixty-nine years later, US schools, housing, and employment all remain segregated. This is the book that inspired every other critical race theory scholar.

Faces at the Bottom of the Well

By Derrick Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Faces at the Bottom of the Well as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The noted civil rights activist uses allegory and historical example to present a radical vision of the persistence of racism in America. These essays shed light on some of the most perplexing and vexing issues of our day: affirmative action, the disparity between civil rights law and reality, the racist outbursts of some black leaders, the temptation toward violent retaliation, and much more.


From Jim Crow to Civil Rights

By Michael J. Klarman,

Book cover of From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality

This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to fully understand the century-long struggle after the Civil War to end legally-sanctioned discrimination against Black Americans. Prof. Klarman provides a richly detailed account of that century-long struggle, an account that describes the legal battles that took place in individual states and puts them in the context of the larger national debate. The book requires some effort on the reader's part, but the story that Klarman tells of the U.S. Supreme Court's gradual turn against segregation and its clashes with Southern state lawmakers and courts is ultimately a deeply moving one. 

From Jim Crow to Civil Rights

By Michael J. Klarman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Jim Crow to Civil Rights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A monumental investigation of the Supreme Court's rulings on race, From Jim Crow To Civil Rights spells out in compelling detail the political and social context within which the Supreme Court Justices operate and the consequences of their decisions for American race relations. In a highly provocative interpretation of the decision's connection to the civil rights movement, Klarman argues that Brown was more important for mobilizing southern white opposition to racial change than for encouraging direct-action protest. Brown unquestioningly had a significant impact-it brought race issues to public attention and it mobilized supporters of the ruling. It also, however, energized…


Colored Travelers

By Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor,

Book cover of Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship Before the Civil War

Rosa Parks is an essential icon of the Civil Rights Movement, but the history of Black women and men turning segregation and discrimination during travel into a platform to negotiate the rights of citizenship has a long arc. Pryor gives us the longer backstory to the 20th-century Civil Rights Movement and 21st-century movement for Black lives when she traces how 19th-century Black men and women traveling in stage coaches, rail cars, and steam ships were often on the front lines of the struggle for Americans’ equal protection under the law.

Colored Travelers

By Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Americans have long regarded the freedom of travel a central tenet of citizenship. Yet, in the United States, freedom of movement has historically been a right reserved for whites. In this book, Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor shows that African Americans fought obstructions to their mobility over 100 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. These were "colored travelers," activists who relied on steamships, stagecoaches, and railroads to expand their networks and to fight slavery and racism. They refused to ride in "Jim Crow" railroad cars, fought for the right to hold a U.S. passport…


When and Where I Enter

By Paula J. Giddings,

Book cover of When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America

The writings in this book illuminate the experience of African American women from the 17th through 20th century. Its pages inform and inspire. I enjoy the narratives and absorb wisdom from the amazing women whose stories are recorded within. A lot has happened since the book was published in 1984. Yet the narratives recorded and explored in Giddings’s book include heroines barely mentioned in present-day: Ida B. Wells and anti-lynching campaigns, the National Colored Women’s Club movement of which my great-grandmother was an enthusiastic participant, feminism, and African American women. Even the chapter and section titles captivate: “To Choose Again, Freely”, “Black Brainmaster: Mary McLeod Bethune”. “Inventing Ourselves” is a caption inspired, I believe, by Toni Morrison in describing African American women: “…she may well have invented herself.”

When and Where I Enter

By Paula J. Giddings,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked When and Where I Enter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“History at its best―clear, intelligent, moving. Paula Giddings has written a book as priceless as its subject”―Toni Morrison

Acclaimed by writers Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, Paula Giddings’s When and Where I Enter is not only an eloquent testament to the unsung contributions of individual women to our nation, but to the collective activism which elevated the race and women’s movements that define our times. From Ida B. Wells to the first black Presidential candidate, Shirley Chisholm; from the anti-lynching movement to the struggle for suffrage and equal protection under the law; Giddings tells the stories of black women who…


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