The most recommended books about slavery

Who picked these books? Meet our 328 experts.

328 authors created a book list connected to Slavery, and here are their favorite Slavery books.
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Book cover of The Embarrassment of Slavery: Controversies Over Bondage and Nationalism in the American Colonial Philippines

Ulbe Bosma Author Of The Making of a Periphery: How Island Southeast Asia Became a Mass Exporter of Labor

From my list on slavery in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find it crucially important that we acknowledge that slavery is a global phenomenon that still exists this very day. Dutch historians like me have an obligation to show that the Dutch East India Company, called the world’s first multinational, was a major slave trader and employer of slavery. I am also personally involved in this endeavour as I am one of the leaders of the “Exploring the Slave Trade in Asia” project, an international consortium that brings together knowledge on this subject, and is currently a slave trade in Asia database.

Ulbe's book list on slavery in Asia

Ulbe Bosma Why did Ulbe love this book?

Salman shows how the anti-slavery discourse became part of American imperialism and how contentious this issue became during US colonial administration over the Philippines. While the American administration acted with growing determination and harshness against slave-holding societies particularly in the Muslim southern part of the Philippines, it also adopted abolitionism as a legitimation for colonial rule over the entire Philippines. Salman exposes the paradoxes of imperialist rhetoric in which people were subjugated to free them from slavery. 

By Michael Salman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A series of controversies over the existence and meaning of slavery shaped American colonialism and nationalist resistance in the Philippines. While American officials claimed colonialism would free Filipinos from various forms of slavery and American anti-imperialists countered that colonialism itself would constitute new kinds of bondage, the first generation of Filipino nationalists had already appropriated anti-slavery rhetoric in their struggles with Spanish colonialism in the late nineteenth century. From these contentions about slavery as a political metaphor, new disputes erupted when American officials 'discovered' the practice of slavery among minority groups, such as the Moro (Muslim) societies of the southern…


Book cover of In the Wake: On Blackness and Being

Timothy Recuber Author Of The Digital Departed: How We Face Death, Commemorate Life, and Chase Virtual Immortality

From my list on changing your thinking about death and dying.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a sociologist who has just written a book about the ways that we engage with death and dying online, and before that I wrote a book about media coverage of disasters. Macabre subjects have always fascinated me, I guess, not because they are macabre but because they reveal a great deal about the ways we live and our sense of the value of life itself.

Timothy's book list on changing your thinking about death and dying

Timothy Recuber Why did Timothy love this book?

This is the most moving “academic” book I’ve ever read, and really that’s because it blends academic subjects like cultural studies with more personal, memoir-type writing about being a Black woman in the 21st century.

In the Wake is concerned with more than just death, of course, but death looms large throughout the book, as it has in all of Black life throughout American history. Indeed, the first sentence is “I wasn’t there when my sister died,” and over the course of the book we bear witness to many other deaths that have affected the author as well.

Over time, readers come to understand the various meanings of “wake” operating as overlapping metaphors through which the author understands her own experience. There is “wake” as coming into consciousness/waking up to a world full of injustice, there is “the wake” like the path behind a ship, in this case a slave…

By Christina Sharpe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this original and trenchant work, Christina Sharpe interrogates literary, visual, cinematic, and quotidian representations of Black life that comprise what she calls the "orthography of the wake." Activating multiple registers of "wake"-the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, coming to consciousness-Sharpe illustrates how Black lives are swept up and animated by the afterlives of slavery, and she delineates what survives despite such insistent violence and negation. Initiating and describing a theory and method of reading the metaphors and materiality of "the wake," "the ship," "the hold," and "the weather," Sharpe shows how the sign of the…


Book cover of The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America

Caroline Dodds Pennock Author Of On Savage Shores: How Indigenous Americans Discovered Europe

From my list on the Indigenous histories of North America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a historian of the Indigenous world for more than two decades, but I have learned so much since I expanded my perspective from Mesoamerica and the Aztec-Mexica into the wider history of Native peoples. There are literally hundreds of Indigenous communities across the world and so there is always more to learn. I have been incredibly privileged to learn by listening to Indigenous people – in person, in print, and on digital and social media. I hope these books can offer some starting points to set you on a similar journey of discovery, opening up some new ways of thinking and of seeing both the past and the present.

Caroline's book list on the Indigenous histories of North America

Caroline Dodds Pennock Why did Caroline love this book?

Andrés Reséndez estimates that between 2.4 and 4.9 million Indigenous Americans were enslaved between 1492 and 1900, a statistic that will shock many people, as the history of Native enslavement in the Americas barely seems to have touched the popular imagination.

This book, accessibly written but based on meticulous research, is absolutely essential reading, as it returns this ‘other slavery’ to its rightful place in our understandings of Indigenous, American, and global history.

By Andres Resendez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since the time of Columbus, Indian slavery was illegal in much of the American continent. Yet, as historian Andres Resendez illuminates in The Other Slavery, it was practiced for centuries as an open secret. There was no abolitionist movement to protect the tens of thousands of natives who were kidnapped and enslaved by the conquistadors and later forced to serve as domestics for Mormons and rich Anglos, or to descend into the "mouth of hell" of eighteenth-century silver mines, where, if they didn't die quickly from cave-ins, they would die slowly from silica in their lungs. Resendez builds the incisive,…


The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

By Katherine Grant,

Book cover of The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

Katherine Grant Author Of The Viscount Without Virtue

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist History nerd Amateur dancer Reader New Yorker

Katherine's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Enjoy this Persuasion-inspired historical romance!

Six years ago, Amy decided *not* to elope with Captain Nate Preston. Now, he is back in the neighborhood, and he is shocked to discover that Amy is unmarried. Even more surprising, she is clearly battling some unnamed illness. Thrown together by circumstances outside their control, Nate and Amy try to be friends. Soon, it becomes clear that their feelings for each other never died. Has anything changed, or are they destined for heartbreak once more?

The Sailor Without a Sweetheart

By Katherine Grant,

What is this book about?

Is love worth giving a second chance?

Six years ago, Amy Lamplugh decided not to elope with Nate Preston. Ever since, she has been working hard to convince herself she was right to choose her family over Nate.

Now, Nate is back. After an illustrious career as a naval captain, he faces a court martial for disobeying orders while fighting the slave trade. He accepts an invitation to await the trial at a country estate outside of Portsmouth - and discovers he is suddenly neighbors with Amy.

Nate is shocked to find that Amy didn’t end up marrying someone rich…


Book cover of Memed, My Hawk

Christiane Bird Author Of A Thousand Sighs, a Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan

From my list on classics about the world of the Kurds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became interested in the Kurds during a 1998 journey I took to Iran to work on my first book about the Middle East, Neither East nor West. While there, I traveled to Sanandaj, Iran’s unofficial Kurdish capital, where I was immediately struck by how different the area seemed from the rest of the Islamic Republic—heartbreaking in its lonesome beauty, and defiant. Despite a large number of Revolutionary Guards on the streets, the men swaggered and women strode. These people are not cowed, I thought—no wonder they make the Islamic government nervous. I had to find out more.

Christiane's book list on classics about the world of the Kurds

Christiane Bird Why did Christiane love this book?

A Kurd born in Turkey in 1923, Kemal was a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature for years, and this book is the real deal, a classic novel of adventure and heroism that has been compared to works by Faulkner. It’s not overtly about the Kurds—the ethnicity of its main character, Memed, is not mentioned—and yet it is, as Memed is a rebel who refuses to submit to authoritarian rule and risks everything for freedom. Fast-paced and gripping, yet also lyrical and meditative, the book is set in southeastern Turkey—i.e., Kurdistan—and its descriptions of the land are unforgettable. 

By Yashar Kemal, Edouard Roditi (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memed, My Hawk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Memed grows up a serf to a vicious overlord on the thistle-clad plains of Turkey's Taurus region. When his plan to escape is dashed, and the young woman he loves murdered, Memed makes for the mountains to become an outlaw. Before long he has transformed from a young rebel to an infamous bandit, the scourge of corrupt oppressors and hero to the poor. With vividness and simplicity, Kemal's classic novel evokes the fierce beauty of his country and the struggles of its oppressed people.


Book cover of Machines Like Me

Peter McAllister Author Of The Code: If Your AI Loses Its Mind, Can It Take Meds?

From my list on where we expect AI to behave as our tool, but.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an engineer, scientist, turned technology manager who works in the field of Artificial Intelligence, and have gotten lost in Sci-Fi since I could first read. Now I want to share the stories that keep me awake at night.

Peter's book list on where we expect AI to behave as our tool, but

Peter McAllister Why did Peter love this book?

Adam is a limited edition robot who can pass for human (something I can’t do on a bad day). It takes a while for Adam to learn to be part of that world, but as time passes, he moves from being the slave of his owner Charlie to being better than him in every way (just ask his girlfriend!). I kept thinking of what would it be like to have a better version of me hanging around the house. It took slaves a long time to be recognized as people, how long for the robots?

By Ian McEwan,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Machines Like Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Booker Prize winner and bestselling author of Atonement—”a sharply intelligent novel of ideas” (The New York Times) that asks whether a machine can understand the human heart, or whether we are the ones who lack understanding.

Set in an uncanny alternative 1982 London—where Britain has lost the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power, and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence—Machines Like Me powerfully portrays two lovers who will be tested beyond their understanding. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a…


Book cover of A Song of War

Judith Starkston Author Of Hand of Fire

From my list on set in the Trojan War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write fiction set in the Bronze Age world of the Trojan War and the Hittite Empire. I love to combine history and archaeology with magic and fantasy arising from the ancient beliefs of this period. My novels bring women to the fore—whether the captive Briseis or a remarkable Hittite queen lost to human memory until recently. Armed with degrees in Classics, I have spent too much time exploring the remains of the ancient Greeks and Hittites through travel and research. From the beginning, the Trojan War tradition has left room for many variations. Here are five entirely different “takes” on this iconic war—all masterfully written.

Judith's book list on set in the Trojan War

Judith Starkston Why did Judith love this book?

If a racially diverse, gender-bending, often raunchy, always nuanced, new take on an old tale sounds like a good read to you, then pick up this “novel-in-parts.” Both the racial and sexual fullness reflect historical reality, although they’ve ordinarily been left out. Retelling the Trojan War from its early causes to its tragic but still hope-infused end, the authors gave this rendition a compelling depth that will make you savor the old tradition with some new spice on your tongue.

By Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Vicky Alvear Shecter

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Song of War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy's gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A…


Book cover of Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

John Wood Sweet Author Of The Sewing Girl's Tale: A Story of Crime and Consequences in Revolutionary America

From my list on Revolutionary America focus on the lives of women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an American historian and former director of UNC-Chapel Hill's Program in Sexuality Studies—and former pizza maker, gas pumper, park ranger, and tour guide at the house in which Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. As a historian, I've spent my career trying to understand the lives of people in early American history who weren't well known at the time. In writing the Sewing Girl's Tale, which focuses on a survivor of a sexual assault, it was especially important to keep her at the center of the story. Ultimately, I wanted to know: What was life in the aftermath of the American Revolution like—not for some Founding Father—but for an ordinary young woman.

John's book list on Revolutionary America focus on the lives of women

John Wood Sweet Why did John love this book?

This best-selling book tells an important story about Black women's struggles for freedom and autonomy at the founding of the American nation. And tells it so well! One of my favorite things about this book is that the title is a bit misleading: this is not actually (another) book about the Washingtons.The book centers on Ona Judge, a woman who freed herself after the Revolution and forged a new life in the tumultuous world of the newly independent United States. Dramatic and suspenseful as her personal story is, this book also tells a bigger story about how it was enslaved people themselves who made the North free. Heartbreaking, heroic, dramatic, suspenseful, inspiring.

By Erica Strong Dunbar,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Never Caught as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A startling and eye-opening look into America's First Family, Never Caught is the powerful story about a daring woman of "extraordinary grit" (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation's capital. In setting up his household he brought along nine slaves, including Ona Judge. As the President grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn't abide: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to…


Book cover of The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below

Christian Høgsbjerg Author Of Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions

From my list on Toussaint Louverture and his impact on the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

When we are thinking of the origins or roots of contemporary movements like #BlackLivesMatter, the Haitian Revolution represents a foundational, inspirational moment but one of also wider world-historical impact and importance – ‘the only successful slave revolt in history’ – and so as the most outstanding leader to emerge during that revolutionary upheaval Toussaint Louverture will always retain relevance and iconic significance. I've had an interest in Toussaint and the Haitian Revolution ever since undertaking my doctorate on how the black Trinidadian revolutionary historian C.L.R. James came to write his classic history of the Haitian Revolution. I currently teach history, including the history of Atlantic slavery and abolition, in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Brighton. 

Christian's book list on Toussaint Louverture and his impact on the world

Christian Høgsbjerg Why did Christian love this book?

Carolyn Fick was a doctoral student of C.L.R. James and George Rudé during the 1970s in Montreal, Canada, and in keeping with the turn of social history towards ‘history from below’ in that decade, produced a pioneering study in 1990 of the wider contested forms of revolutionary leadership beyond Toussaint Louverture during the Haitian Revolution, particularly in the South of what was then French colonial Saint Domingue. Carolyn remains a leading historian of the Haitian Revolution, and her work helps us better understand the class dynamics of the revolutionary process as it unfolded, and the tragedy of Toussaint as he developed into a representative of a new land-owning ruling class in Saint Domingue, even as he continued to strike powerful blows at European slave-owning colonial powers.  

By Carolyn E. Fick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1789 the French colony of Saint Domingue was the wealthiest and most flourishing of the Caribbean slave colonies, its economy based on the forced labor of more than half a million black slaves raided from their African homelands. The revolt of this underclass in 1791-the only successful slave rebellion in history-gained the slaves their freedom and set in motion the colony's struggle for independence as the black republic of Haiti.

In this pioneering study, Carolyn E. Fick argues that the repressed and uneducated slaves were the principal architects both of their own freedom and of the successful movement toward…


Book cover of Slaves for Peanuts: A Story of Conquest, Liberation, and a Crop That Changed History

Luke Jerod Kummer Author Of The Blue Period

From Luke's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Traveler Story collector Archivist Scriptwriter

Luke's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Luke Jerod Kummer Why did Luke love this book?

Before, when I saw a peanut, I’d think of the circus or a baseball game. But this book taught me how such an unassuming legume became central to Senegal’s experiences of colonialism, forced labor, and war.

For me, this was particularly eye-opening reading—I visited Dakar some years ago, quickly becoming enamored with the place. Yet the connections in this title were still mostly unknown to me.

Balancing an impressive haul of research with her knack for lush, immersive descriptions, Lewis deftly illustrates how slavery and its evils coevolved with peanut production across continents, cultures, and centuries.

By Jori Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slaves for Peanuts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner, James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference, History, and Scholarship

A stunning work of popular history-the story of how a crop transformed the history of slavery

Americans consume over 1.5 billion pounds of peanut products every year. But few of us know the peanut's tumultuous history, or its intimate connection to slavery and freedom.

Lyrical and powerful, Slaves for Peanuts deftly weaves together the natural and human history of a crop that transformed the lives of millions. Author Jori Lewis reveals how demand for peanut oil in Europe ensured that slavery in Africa would persist well into the twentieth…


Book cover of Flesh And Gold (Lyhhrt Trilogy)

Massimo Marino Author Of The Law

From my list on the rise and fall of Galactic Empires.

Why am I passionate about this?

My dad was a subscriber of “Astounding Stories." If you know the magazine, it is famous not only because it featured the giants of science fiction genre, but also for its colorful and imaginative covers. I didn’t have the right to read those stories until later, when dad thought I could understand them, but I loved the covers and imagined myself stories which started from them or used the scenes as inspiration for a short story which I wrote for myself. The science fiction bug wormed into my brain at that time. Then, I just devoured every novel which landed at home and kept writing. 

Massimo's book list on the rise and fall of Galactic Empires

Massimo Marino Why did Massimo love this book?

By now, it should be clear I like trilogies, reading and writing them. The Lyhhrt Trilogy is a perfect example of incredible imagination and wordsmith talent. As in some of my writings, there is palpable lyrical style and a dense compositional approach to a story that explores the awful and worming guts that must be, de facto, the only way any vast empire can form, emboweled and ejected into reality. The Galactic Federation here is a hostage of the nobility or despicable evilness of those carrying authority in the governing organization: game of thrones anyone? The spine of the story, as in The Law, is of a GalFed Judge who realizes cruelty and slavery are the crude reality in an empire focused on satisfying the same base urges that humanity spends so much energy on today. A well envisioned complicated and messy universe, the way it should be.

By Phyllis Gotlieb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flesh And Gold (Lyhhrt Trilogy) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A mature alien woman judge sees an amphibious human female, obviously a slave, displayed in a tank in front of a sex palace. And so a murderous plot of interstellar proportions, involving many races and planets, galactic corporations, explosive sex and horrible slavery is revealed.