The most recommended Malcolm X books

Who picked these books? Meet our 15 experts.

15 authors created a book list connected to Malcolm X, and here are their favorite Malcolm X books.
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Malcolm X

By Manning Marable,

Book cover of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Paul Bass Author Of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of a Killer

From the list on Black protest and government resistance.

Who am I?

Paul Bass is the co-author with Douglas W. Rae of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale, and the Redemption of A Killer. Paul has been a reporter and editor in New Haven, Conn., for over 40 years. He is the founder and editor of the online New Haven Independent.

Paul's book list on Black protest and government resistance

Why did Paul love 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.

By Manning Marable,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History and a New York Times bestseller, the definitive biography of Malcolm X

Hailed as "a masterpiece" (San Francisco Chronicle), Manning Marable's acclaimed biography of Malcolm X finally does justice to one of the most influential and controversial figures of twentieth-century American history. Filled with startling new information and shocking revelations, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America. Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism as followers of Marcus Garvey through his own work with the Nation of Islam and rise in the…

Book cover of The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Robert Pinsky Author Of The Sounds of Poetry: a Brief Guide

From the list on that were composed by ear.

Who am I?

As a poet, my main gift is related to my first ambition, to be a musician. I like to talk, I like to listen, I like the sounds of words and I like to hear (for example) what Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats have to say.

Robert's book list on that were composed by ear

Why did Robert love this book?

Bad writing often feels written. This book feels and is spoken. A magnificent speaker finds a good listener in Alex Haley.

Told in the first person by Malcolm Little, who later is called “Detroit Red” and later (in prison) called “Satan” and becomes Malcolm X and, eventually, Malik Shabazz: a great American story. From misery and injustice and mistreatment and crime and leadership to his ultimate interest in history and philology. 

By Malcolm X,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Autobiography of Malcolm X as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time. The Autobiography of Malcolm X stands as the definitive statement of a movement…

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

Louis Menand Author Of The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War

From the list on memoirs from a wide array of people.

Who am I?

I started my career as a graduate student studying the Victorian period, a great age for autobiography. And although autobiography is no longer taught much in English departments, I guess I retain my passion for the genre. The greatest, of course, is Rousseau’s Confessions.

Louis' book list on memoirs from a wide array of people

Why did Louis love 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.

By Richard Seaver,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Richard Seaver came to Paris in 1950 seeking Hemingway's moveable feast. Paris had become a different city, traumatized by World War II, yet the red wine still flowed, the cafes bustled, and the Parisian women found American men exotic and heroic. There was an Irishman in Paris writing plays and novels unlike anything anyone had ever read - but hardly anyone was reading them. There were others, too, doing equivalently groundbreaking work for equivalently small audiences. So when his friends launched a literary magazine, "Merlin", Seaver knew this was his calling: to bring the work of the likes of Samuel…

No Name in the Street

By James Baldwin,

Book cover of No Name in the Street

Dean A. Strang Author Of Keep the Wretches in Order: America's Biggest Mass Trial, the Rise of the Justice Department, and the Fall of the IWW

From the list on offering ideas to explore.

Who am I?

I am a lawyer, law professor, and author of legal history books. Mostly, though, I have much to learn. Importantly, then, I believe in the possibilities of learning. But how? Teaching, in the transitive sense of cramming something into another person's head, is impossible; yet learning is infinitely possible. Ideas are what excite us to learn. In widely varied ways, I have found engaging ideas in—and have learned importantly from—each of these books.

Dean's book list on offering ideas to explore

Why did Dean love this book?

A key work in the last part of Baldwin's life, as he was reassessing everything after the murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and others in 1965-68. The reader can sense the aching effort Baldwin makes to retain hope and his sense of the worth of engagement with a world that so often rejected the essential him. Letting us, as his readers, into that doubt and pain and torment was an act of great honesty and, at bottom, love. Very few people could use the English language as powerfully as Baldwin (and he could do it in both spoken and written word, which puts him in a smaller group still). This book is a reminder of that power, too.

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked No Name in the Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An extraordinary history of the turbulent sixties and early seventies that displays James Baldwin's fury and despair more deeply than any of his other works, and powerfully speaks to contemporary conversations around racism.

"It contains truth that cannot be denied.” — The Atlantic Monthly

In this stunningly personal document, James Baldwin remembers in vivid details the Harlem childhood that shaped his early conciousness and the later events that scored his heart with pain—the murders of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, his sojourns in Europe and in Hollywood, and his retum to the American South to confront a violent America…

Framing Blackness

By Ed Guerrero,

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

Mark Harris Author Of The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar

From the list on Black film history.

Who am I?

I’m Black, and I’m a horror movie fan, two things that, per the well-worn trope that “the Black guy dies first,” don’t seem to go together. However, I’ve been able to use the treatment that Black characters have received in horror to explore the ways in which Black people have been marginalized in Hollywood, placed into specific roles in which they served as expendable, ancillary characters rather than stars. While things have improved dramatically in recent years, that makes it all the more important to not forget how much Black progress there has been in film, because those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

Mark's book list on Black film history

Why did Mark love this book?

While the Bogle and Cripps books were written during the 1970s Blaxploitation era, this one emerged during the next great Black film movement, the “urban cinema” era of the 1990s, triggered by movies like Do the Right Thing and Boyz n the Hood.

Particularly influential for my book is the chapter “Slaves, Monsters, and Others,” which touches upon the racialized metaphors and allegories in horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

Even if you don’t agree with its assertions, the book provides fascinating food for thought.

By Ed Guerrero,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation to Spike Lee's Malcolm X, Ed Guerrero argues, the commercial film industry reflects white domination of American society. Written with the energy and conviction generated by the new black film wave, Framing Blackness traces an ongoing epic-African Americans protesting screen images of blacks as criminals, servants, comics, athletes, and sidekicks.

These images persist despite blacks' irrepressible demands for emancipated images and a role in the industry. Although starkly racist portrayals of blacks in early films have gradually been replaced by more appealing characterizations, the legacy of the plantation genre lives on in…

The Sword and the Shield

By Peniel E. Joseph, Peniel E. Joseph,

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

Charles Postel Author Of Equality: An American Dilemma, 1866-1896

From the list on the struggle for equality in the USA.

Who am I?

These days I am a history professor and prize-winning author. But before I started my education at my local community college, I dropped out of high school to work odd jobs on farms and in factories, and spent two decades pondering the hows and whys of the gaping inequalities in our society. My books are part of that ongoing quest. They have won a number of awards, including the Bancroft Prize and the Frederick Jackson Turner Award.

Charles' book list on the struggle for equality in the USA

Why did Charles love 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.

By Peniel E. Joseph, Peniel E. Joseph,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are the two most iconic figures of the Civil Rights movement. To most Americans, Malcolm and Martin represent contrasting political ideals -- self-defense vs. non-violence, anger vs. pacifism, separatism vs. integration, the sword vs. the shield. The Civil Rights movement itself has suffered the same fate: while non-violent direct action is remembered today as an unalloyed good and an unassailable part of our democracy, the movement's combative militancy has been either vilified or erased outright. In The Sword and the Shield, acclaimed historian Peniel Joseph offers a dual biography of Malcolm and Martin…

The Three Mothers

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

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

Brit Bennett Author Of The Vanishing Half

From the list on being Black in America.

Who am I?

Brit Bennett was born and raised in Southern California and graduated from Stanford University along with an MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan. Her debut novel The Mothers was a New York Times bestseller, and her second novel The Vanishing Half was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. She is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and in 2021, she was chosen as one of Time’s Next 100 Influential People. Her essays have been featured in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel.

Brit's book list on being Black in America

Why did Brit love 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.

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'A fascinating exploration into the lives of three women ignored by history ... Eye-opening, engrossing'
Brit Bennett, bestselling author of The Vanishing Half

In her groundbreaking debut, Anna Malaika Tubbs tells the incredible storIES of three women who raised three world-changing men.

Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther and Louise Little's son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them, each fighting their own battles, born into the beginning of the twentieth century and a deadly landscape of racial prejudice,…