The best Malcolm X books

6 authors have picked their favorite books about Malcolm X and why they recommend each book. Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

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Book cover of The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

By Peniel E. Joseph,

Why this book?

Martin or Malcolm? Civil Rights or Black Power? Integration or Separation? In this book, equal parts wise and smart, Joseph shows the limits of such questions. With their different styles and ways, both Martin and Malcolm fought for the common cause of equality and full citizenship. This book gets to the heart of why this cause was the defining struggle for equality of the post-World War Two decades.

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Book cover of The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

By Malcolm X,

Why this book?

This was the first book that I ever read that wasn’t assigned to me. I read it when I was 13 years old because the movie was about to come out that year and my cousin made me read it. At its core, it’s a story of self-discovery, race, and evolution. It’s filled with lessons that fathers, especially those with children of color, should definitely be teaching to their kids.

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Book cover of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable,

Why this book?

This was political scientist Marable's life work, finished right before his death --  and what an accomplishment! Marable dives so deeply into and verifies previously unknown territory. Though supportive of his subject, Marable offers complex and sometimes embarrassing information with no apologies. As a result, he produces the fullest portrait of Malcolm X to date, and the best case about why both the man and his ideas matter.

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Book cover of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

Why this book?

A fascinating exploration into the lives of three women ignored by history, the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X. By tracing the intellectual, political, and emotional strands of each woman’s life, Anna Malaika Tubbs uncovers hidden complexities within black motherhood that illuminate our understanding of the past while also shedding light on the overlooked contributions of black women today.

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Book cover of Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film

Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film

By Ed Guerrero,

Why this book?

I am recommending this book because it is a foundational text in Black film studies. Guerrero focuses primarily on the 1970s-1990s, but he also articulates how early U.S. films like Birth of a Nation set the stage for how African Americans would be portrayed on screen from that point forward. I love this book, because it is one of the earliest studies that charted the emerging tropes, conventions, and challenges of representation as African Americans gained more opportunities on the screen and behind it.

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Book cover of James Baldwin, No Name in the Street

James Baldwin, No Name in the Street

By James Baldwin,

Why this book?

Unlike the well-known The Fire Next Time, this fourth essay collection published in 1972 received relatively little attention, despite being a turning point in Baldwin’s career. I love it because it is nakedly personal and shows Baldwin’s vulnerability as he traveled in the American South in the 1950s and as he grappled with being perceived as a “freak” by the heterosexist members of the Black Power movement while working on that book. Its homage to the power of memory and truth entwines with the homage to the writer's mother, Berdis, and highlights Baldwin’s deepening, and still underappreciated, commitment to…

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Book cover of The Tender Hour of Twilight: Paris in the '50s, New York in the '60s: A Memoir of Publishing's Golden Age

The Tender Hour of Twilight: Paris in the '50s, New York in the '60s: A Memoir of Publishing's Golden Age

By Richard Seaver,

Why this book?

Despite the cheesy title, this is a revealing window on the world of postwar publishing. Seaver “discovered” Samuel Beckett as a graduate student in Paris after the war, and he eventually became an editor at Beckett’s American publisher, Grove, during its heyday under Barney Rosset.

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