The most recommended books about racism

Who picked these books? Meet our 217 experts.

217 authors created a book list connected to racism, and here are their favorite racism books.
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Book cover of Super-Cannes

Carol Drinkwater Author Of The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France

From my list on fiction and non-fiction about the South of France.

Who am I?

Thirty-five years ago, I bought a dilapidated olive farm overlooking the Bay of Cannes. I was well-known as an actress for such roles as Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small. Moving to Provence, living on the Mediterranean, transformed my life. I became passionate about the landscape, history, art, languages, literature of the region. I spent 17 months travelling solo round the Mediterranean basin, searching out the history and cultures of the olive tree, a mythical plant. I was invited to work with UNESCO to create a Mediterranean Olive Route. I make films, TV programmes, and write books. Almost all my work is set in the south of France.

Carol's book list on fiction and non-fiction about the South of France

Carol Drinkwater Why did Carol love this book?

This novel couldn’t be more different from my other choices. It is set on a high-tech park called Eden-Olympia nestling (malevolently!) in the hills behind Cannes. The story is fantastic in a way that is born of Ballard’s brilliant mind. It is a twenty-first century, stylised thriller, and way ahead of its time. Ballard takes the edgy, seamier side of life on this French Riviera coast with its racism and elitism several imaginative steps too far and delivers a shocking tale. I read this novel when it was first published and it haunted me for years. After two more readngs, it remains as powerful as my first introduction to it. Definitely a novel I wish I had written.

By J.G. Ballard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A high-tech business park on the Mediterranean is the setting for a most disturbing crime in this reissue featuring a new introduction by Ali Smith.

A disturbing mystery awaits Paul and Jane Sinclair when they arrive in Eden-Olympia, a high-tech business park in the hills above Cannes. Jane is to work as a doctor for those who live in this ultra-modern workers' paradise. But what caused her predecessor to go on a shooting spree that made headlines around the world? As Paul investigates, he begins to uncover a thriving subculture of crime that is spiralling out of control.

Both novel…

Book cover of Small Great Things

Marcia Strykowski Author Of Call Me Amy

From Marcia's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Children’s author Former librarian Wannabe musician Sporadic artist

Marcia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Marcia Strykowski Why did Marcia love this book?

This is an amazing, important book that must have taken Jodi a lot of time to research. It touches on many of today’s problems—racism, prejudice, poverty, justice, privilege, etc.

It’s a fast-paced read and, at times, had me on the edge of my seat. In the audio version, several narrators read the chapters of the well-fleshed-out, believable characters.

Because I was leading the book club meeting, I listened to the audio concurrently with the book—both highly recommended!

By Jodi Picoult,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Small Great Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Small Great Things is the most important novel Jodi Picoult has ever written ... It will challenge her readers ... [and] expand our cultural conversation about race and prejudice.' - The Washington Post

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is…

Book cover of War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War

Who am I?

I started my career teaching high school. I attended amazing professional development institutes, where scholars showed me how the stories I’d learned and then taught to my own students were so oversimplified that they had become factually incorrect. I was hooked. I kept wondering what else I’d gotten wrong. I earned a Ph.D. in modern US History with specialties in women’s and gender history and war and society, and now I’m an Associate Professor of History at Iowa State University and the Coordinator of ISU’s Social Studies Education Program. I focus on historical complexity and human motivations because they are the key to understanding change.

Amy's book list on books about twenteith-century U.S. History that make you rethink something you thought you already knew

Amy J. Rutenberg Why did Amy love this book?

This book is probably the first scholarly book that blew my mind and pushed me to want to know what else I had always gotten wrong.

Where, like most people I know, I had always thought that the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor was just a thing that happened because of “war,” this book made it clear why it happened.

The US and Japan, both diplomats and everyday people, did not choose to understand each other. Different world views, different assumptions, and plain old racism led the US and Japan into a horrific, bloody conflict with long-lasting consequences.

By John W. Dower,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked War Without Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD • AN AMERICAN BOOK AWARD FINALIST • A monumental history that has been hailed by The New York Times as “one of the most original and important books to be written about the war between Japan and the United States.”

In this monumental history, Professor John Dower reveals a hidden, explosive dimension of the Pacific War—race—while writing what John Toland has called “a landmark book ... a powerful, moving, and evenhanded history that is sorely needed in both America and Japan.”
Drawing on American and Japanese songs, slogans, cartoons, propaganda films, secret…

Trouble in Queenstown

By Delia Pitts,

Book cover of Trouble in Queenstown

Delia Pitts

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Vandy Myrick became a cop to fulfill her father’s expectations. After her world cratered, she became a private investigator to satisfy her own desires. Now she’s back in Queenstown, New Jersey, her childhood home, in search of solace and recovery.

Soon after her return, Vandy takes on a divorce case for the mayor’s nephew, Leo Hannah. At first the surveillance job seems routine, but Vandy soon realizes there’s trouble beneath the surface when a racially-charged murder with connections to the Hannah family rocks Q-town. She’s a minor league PI with few friends and no resources. But Vandy has a determination few possess — she’ll stop at nothing to solve this case.

Trouble in Queenstown

By Delia Pitts,

What is this book about?

With Trouble in Queenstown, Delia Pitts introduces private investigator Vandy Myrick in a powerful mystery that blends grief, class, race, and family with thrilling results.

Evander “Vandy” Myrick became a cop to fulfill her father’s expectations. After her world cratered, she became a private eye to satisfy her own. Now she's back in Queenstown, New Jersey, her childhood home, in search of solace and recovery. It's a small community of nine thousand souls crammed into twelve square miles, fenced by cornfields, warehouses, pharma labs, and tract housing. As a Black woman, privacy is hard to come by in "Q-Town," and…

Book cover of The Vain Conversation

James E. Cherry Author Of Edge of the Wind

From my list on contemporary African American authors.

Who am I?

I'm a contemporary African American writer born and raised in the South. It was this sense of place that has shaped my artistic sensibilities. I was in my mid-twenties, searching, seeking for answers and direction on my own, when other Black southern writers were instrumental in pointing me in the right direction: Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Margaret Walker, Ernest J Gaines, Alice Walker, Arna Bontemps, Albert Murray, just to name a handful. Their writings were revelatory. The same issues that they were dealing with a generation earlier were the same ones I was struggling with every day. It opened my eyes, mind, heart and creativity to put into perspective what I was feeling. 

James' book list on contemporary African American authors

James E. Cherry Why did James love this book?

In 1946, two African American couples were lynched in rural Georgia by a white mob. Grooms fictionalized that account from the perspective of one of the victims, perpetrators, and a pre-teen eyewitness and in the process comes to terms with redemption, race, and violence not only in the South but in the nation as well. Grooms has the ability to juxtapose the beauty of the Southern landscape with the horrors that have occurred there with breathtaking imagery and conciseness. This book not just deals with the victims of such horrific acts, but the often untold damage done to the progeny of those who perpetrated the act. This is a fiction that will always be relevant as long as a nation struggles with injustice, oppression, and white supremacy.  

By Anthony Grooms,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An engrossing novel based on the true story of the 1946 lynching of two black couples in Georgia

Inspired by true events, The Vain Conversation reflects on the 1946 lynching of two black couples in Georgia from the perspectives of three characters-Bertrand Johnson, one of the victims; Noland Jacks, a presumed perpetrator; and Lonnie Henson, a witness to the murders as a ten-year-old boy. Lonnie's inexplicable feelings of culpability drive him in a search for meaning that takes him around the world and ultimately back to Georgia, where he must confront Jacks and his own demons, with the hopes that…

Book cover of The Good Turn

Sarah Hagger-Holt Author Of Just Like Everyone Else

From Sarah's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Children’s fiction fan Queer Reader Funeral director Quaker

Sarah's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Sarah Hagger-Holt Why did Sarah love this book?

Most of the books I read are aimed at 10-13-year-olds, and I have devoured so many fantastic middle-grade books in the last year. The Good Turn is one of the best.

It’s a proper gripping mystery, with tense moments, that keeps you guessing for a long time. The main characters, a trio of 10-year-old adventurers, are so real and each so well-drawn, that you can almost hear them speak. And the final reveal is all the more powerful for exposing the real-life injustice of the Windrush Scandal.

At a time when politicians stir of hatred against migrants and anyone who is ‘different’, we all need stories like this, which remind us that we should be outraged and we can act to support and stand up for each other.

By Sharna Jackson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Good Turn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

A thrilling, pacy adventure about friendship, bravery and real-life injustice from the award-winning author of High Rise Mystery

'For 9+ readers, this gripping, thoughtful update to the Blytonesque "secret society" genre engages squarely with racism and social injustice.' Guardian

'Brilliant; a joy to the very end' Katherine Rundell

Josephine Williams is definitely a leader - and her teachers know it! What other eleven-year-old is desperate for MORE schoolwork?

Looking for more challenging tasks, Josie enlists her friends Wesley and Margot into her very own Scout troop, the Copseys, named after the street they all live on. Together they start their…

Book cover of The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown

Seth Mallios Author Of The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange and Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, and Jamestown

From my list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown.

Who am I?

I was Site Supervisor at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project in the late 1990s and early 2000s. My fondness for the people involved with the archaeological excavations is only rivaled by my love for the subject matter that involves the collision of cultures as Chesapeake Algonquians, Spanish Jesuits, and English colonists first encountered one another during the 16th and 17th centuries. Though I have been fortunate to write many books, my first book was on Jamestown, and this topic will always hold a special place in my scholarly heart (there is such a thing, I swear!).

Seth's book list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

Few individuals, even students of history, are aware of the significance of Jamestown in the legacy of American slavery. Tim Hashaw’s The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown provides an important alternative narrative for the birth of English America, focusing on the sixty Africans that arrived in the Chesapeake in 1619, instead of traditional exaltation of the original colonists at 1607 James Fort.

By Tim Hashaw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The voyage that shaped early America was neither that of the Susan Constant in 1607 nor the Mayflower in 1620. Absolutely vital to the formation of English-speaking America was the voyage made by some sixty Africans stolen from a Spanish slave ship and brought to the young struggling colony of Jamestown in 1619. It was an act of colonial piracy that angered King James I of England, causing him to carve up the Virginia Company's monopoly for virtually all of North America. It was an infusion of brave and competent souls who were essential to Jamestown's survival and success. And…

Book cover of The Violin Conspiracy

Kate Mueser Author Of The Girl with Twenty Fingers

From my list on proving music is two-faced.

Who am I?

I’m a used-to-be, going-to-be pianist, like Sarah, the protagonist in my book. Even though I didn’t take to the concert stage after studying music, I have integrated music throughout my career as a culture journalist and now as a novelist. I interviewed young bands as a radio host, presented German pop music as a TV host, spoke with A-level conductors as an online journalist, and have written two books about musicians who’ve had to rethink their life paths. Now as mom to three young children, including twins, I am known to sing either Schumann’s Dichterliebe or The Itsy Bitsy Spider too loudly during bathtime. 

Kate's book list on proving music is two-faced

Kate Mueser Why did Kate love this book?

I wish I’d read this book twenty years ago when I was still in music school. Brendan Slocumb’s debut is a fast-paced, entertaining mystery but also a gut-wrenchingly personal commentary on what it’s like to be Black in the white world of classical music. Violinist Ray is even kicked out of a paid wedding gig by the bride’s racist uncle. The painful scenes of prejudice are juxtaposed with Ray’s passion for music and determination to be better than everyone thinks he can be. It’s clear that discrimination is rampant in the classical music scene and this book could be a change bringer. 

By Brendan Slocumb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK! • Ray McMillian is a Black classical musician on the rise—undeterred by the pressure and prejudice of the classical music world—when a shocking theft sends him on a desperate quest to recover his great-great-grandfather’s heirloom violin on the eve of the most prestigious musical competition in the world.

“I loved The Violin Conspiracy for exactly the same reasons I loved The Queen’s Gambit: a surprising, beautifully rendered underdog hero I cared about deeply and a fascinating, cutthroat world I knew nothing about—in this case, classical music.” —Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times bestselling author…

Book cover of New Boy

Chika Unigwe Author Of The Middle Daughter

From my list on re-imaginings of history, classics and myths.

Who am I?

I love reading adaptations of classics which complicate the original texts in interesting ways, I have just written one myself, The Middle Daughter. Transcultural adaptations, particularly remind us that we are all members of one human family, dealing with the same kind of problems across time and space and cultures. In these times of deepening polarization, it's important to see that there's more that unites us than not.

Chika's book list on re-imaginings of history, classics and myths

Chika Unigwe Why did Chika love this book?

This is a bold exploration of racism, jealousy, revenge, class, and friendship.

Set in an elementary school in the US in the 1970s, this is a bold re-imagination of Shakespeare’s Othello. Although the characters are children, Chevalier doesn’t devolve into simplistic language and emotions.

She handles heavy themes with a deftness of hand that makes this a compulsively readable, if sometimes uncomfortable book. 

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'O felt her presence behind him like a fire at his back.'

Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat's son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day - so he's lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can't stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players - teachers and pupils alike - will never be the same…

Book cover of An Unkindness of Ghosts

Morgan Thomas Author Of Manywhere

From my list on folks seeking genderqueer ancestry.

Who am I?

I came to genderqueer histories searching for a reflection of myself that I couldn’t find in my immediate environment (the rural American South). Early on, I thought I’d found it—historical figures, both real and fictional, who shared my gender identity. But as I’ve continued to research, I’ve realized that the reflections of history are less a mirror image, more a reflection in water—fluid and distorting. Genderqueer people throughout history use different language for their identities, navigate different social and family systems, and express their gender in different ways. In the space created by this difference, I’ve begun to understand my gender as a thing that changes, too, across space and time.

Morgan's book list on folks seeking genderqueer ancestry

Morgan Thomas Why did Morgan love this book?

An Unkindness of Ghosts opens with the dedication, “To my mother and her mother all the way back to Eve.” While the other four books on this list emphasize the queer and genderqueer people we might choose to recognize as ancestors, this book focuses on Aster’s relationship with her mother, revealing the way that biological family can, in certain instances, support and affirm genderqueer identity.

By Rivers Soloman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked An Unkindness of Ghosts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Harrowing and beautiful, this is SF at its best: showing the possible future but warning of the danger of bringing old prejudices and cruelties to that new world. While a story about enslaved people in space could be a one-note polemic, the fully rounded characters bring nuance and genuine pathos to this amazing debut."
--Library Journal, Starred Review

"Solomon debuts with a raw distillation of slavery, feudalism, prison, and religion that kicks like rotgut moonshine...Stunning."
--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Infused with the spirit of Octavia Butler and loaded with meaning for the present day, An Unkindness of Ghosts will appeal…

Book cover of The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron

Andrew Forbes Author Of The Only Way Is the Steady Way: Essays on Baseball, Ichiro, and How We Watch the Game

From my list on baseball in historical context.

Who am I?

I split my writing time between fiction and non-fiction, the latter usually baseball-themed, and I’ve published two books of baseball writing. My reading is similarly bifurcated; there’s always a baseball book on my nightstand. I’ve also got a background in history, and I genuinely enjoy deep research (it’s a great way to put off, you know, writing). Baseball is such fertile ground, so ripe for deep dives—the nexus of sport, culture, entertainment, economics, labour relations, etc. The best baseball books are more than boxscores and transactions, they place the game in its historical context. Books that manage to synthesize all of the above are some of my favourite reads.

Andrew's book list on baseball in historical context

Andrew Forbes Why did Andrew love this book?

Henry Aaron’s career spanned the Negro Leagues, the Civil Rights movement, baseball’s expansion era, the turbulent ’60s, and the freaky ’70s, all while dealing with intractable racism, especially as he neared Babe Ruth’s home run record. Aaron’s autobiography, I Had a Hammer, is certainly worth reading, but author and NPR correspondent Howard Bryant is the right man to put Aaron’s life and career in historical perspective. The Last Hero is an intelligent and incisive social history of the second half of the twentieth century, as well as a stirring account of a heroic baseball life. Incidentally, Bryant’s next book is a biography of Rickey Henderson, which promises more of this goodness. I can’t wait.

By Howard Bryant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This definitive biography of Henry (Hank) Aaron—one of baseball's immortal figures—is a revelatory portrait of a complicated, private man who through sports became an enduring American icon.
“Beautifully written and culturally important.” —The Washington Post
“The epic baseball tale of the second half of the 20th century.” —Atlanta Journal Constitution
After his retirement in 1976, Aaron’s reputation only grew in magnitude. But his influence extended beyond statistics. Based on meticulous research and extensive interviews The Last Hero reveals how Aaron navigated the upheavals of his time—fighting against racism while at the same time benefiting from racial progress—and how he achieved…