The best books about police brutality

1 authors have picked their favorite books about police brutality and why they recommend each book.

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Chokehold

By Paul Butler,

Book cover of Chokehold: Policing Black Men

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

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

By Clarence Taylor,

Book cover of Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City

What is my book about?

I maintain that those in power have not taken the initiative to stop police brutality. Instead, the victims of police brutality have embarked on a crusade to stop police domination of black people. Groups that have not received enough attention have led the campaign to end police abuse.

Fight the Power looks at the efforts of the black press, especially the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr.’s the People’s Voice, in the struggle to end police brutality. I argue that at the heart of police brutality is the amount of power police have over citizens, thus, reform measures, such as racial sensitivity training, diversity training, body cameras, and community policing will not work. A sure way of eliminating police brutality is to reduce the power of the police and to find ways to allow citizens to determine how police operate in their communities

All American Boys

By Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely,

Book cover of All American Boys

This novel is extra special because it’s written by two author friends, one Black, one white, and shows the complexity of racial inequality and police violence firsthand with basketball as the backdrop. This moving story encourages discussion and will make you reflect. It’s also a great introduction to the two authors’ work, and especially interesting to see how Jason Reynolds has since grown into his role as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. 


Who am I?

I wasn’t a sporty teen, but I discovered rock climbing in my twenties and that later inspired my first novel, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go. I’m also a social worker, and even though my main character Cara is a competitive climber and the book features gripping (ha!) rock climbing scenes, the story is about much more – love and loss, finding home, the transformative power of nature. Sports and athleticism (or lack thereof) are something we can all relate to. What a great starting point for exploring our multi-faceted lives.


I wrote...

The Art of Holding on and Letting Go

By Kristin Bartley Lenz,

Book cover of The Art of Holding on and Letting Go

What is my book about?

Competitive climber Cara Jenkins feels most at home high off the ground, clinging to a rock wall by the tips of her fingers. She’s enjoyed a roaming life with her mountaineering parents, making the natural world her jungle gym, the writings of Annie Dillard and Henry David Thoreau her textbooks. But when tragedy strikes on an Ecuadorian mountaintop, Cara’s nomadic lifestyle comes to an abrupt halt.

Starting over at her grandparents’ home in suburban Detroit, Cara embarks on a year of discovery, uncovering unknown strengths, friendships, and first love. Cara’s journey illustrates the transformative power of nature, love and loss, and discovering that home can be far from where you started. 

Dear Martin

By Nic Stone,

Book cover of Dear Martin

This racial identity awakening book reminds me of The Hate U Give.

Justyce McAllister is going places as a rare student who is Black in a very white thinking and acting milieu. He is victimized by police brutality and racism and slowly roused to the wider, more complex world around him. He tries to channel Dr. Martin Luther King by writing to him.

The book’s strength is in how Nic Stone captures the voice of Justyce and his cohort. Stone nails teen angst, confusion, and anger while simultaneously stirring readers, especially those on the pathway to ‘wokeness’.


Who am I?

As long as I can remember, I wrote letters. I still have an ongoing stamp to envelope relationship with a bud I met in Australia in the 80s. Sending postcards also became a thing for me, too. As a reader and writer, I love tight, intimate, highly personal narratives where the characters aren’t on paper but in your head. I’ve been a social worker for more than thirty years, so emotional vulnerability is my jam. I gravitate towards quick, easily digestible lengths of many epistolary forms, whether written in a diary, letter, journal, email, text, video, or combinations. The protagonist in my latest novel, Letters From Johnny, writes to legendary Toronto Maple Leafs Captain - Dave Keon - to work out his feelings.


I wrote...

Letters from Johnny

By Wayne Ng,

Book cover of Letters from Johnny

What is my book about?

Eleven-year-old Johnny tries to make sense of a murder, an absent father, and the FLQ Crisis through heart and humor-filled letters to hockey legend Dave Keon.

Dripping with nostalgia and awash with humor, Letters From Johnny is set in 1970’s Toronto through the eyes of mischievous Johnny Wong, a lonely boy who tries to stickhandle a neighborhood of immigrants and draft dodgers. Johnny’s world unravels after a murder, a betrayal, and the unexpected emergence of a family member, all this as he tries to make sense of the FLQ crisis. His only solaces are letters to a pen pal, then to Dave Keon, captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

To Stand and Fight

By Martha Biondi,

Book cover of To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City

Biondi does not just examine the little-known history of police brutality against black New Yorkers. It is a history of how black New Yorkers, over decades, challenged abuse at the hands of “New York’s finest.” The black challenge to police brutality has been fierce, especially as New York City’s black communities grew. But the anti-police brutality campaign has also been extremely difficult.

Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

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

By Clarence Taylor,

Book cover of Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City

What is my book about?

I maintain that those in power have not taken the initiative to stop police brutality. Instead, the victims of police brutality have embarked on a crusade to stop police domination of black people. Groups that have not received enough attention have led the campaign to end police abuse.

Fight the Power looks at the efforts of the black press, especially the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr.’s the People’s Voice, in the struggle to end police brutality. I argue that at the heart of police brutality is the amount of power police have over citizens, thus, reform measures, such as racial sensitivity training, diversity training, body cameras, and community policing will not work. A sure way of eliminating police brutality is to reduce the power of the police and to find ways to allow citizens to determine how police operate in their communities

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