Anti-Racism Reading List

A mixture of fiction and non-fiction titles recommended by: Cleveland Public Library & New York Magazine

(not an exhaustive list)

Beloved (1987)
by Tony Morrison
Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this novel is a profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath. Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Between the World and Me (2015)
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?  Ta-Nehisi Coates attempts to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son.

Biased (2019)
by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Ph.D.
From one of the world’s leading experts on unconscious racial bias come stories, science, and strategies to address one of the central controversies of our time

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2018)
by Brittany Cooper
Author and professor of Gender and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, Brittney Cooper uses her own experience to talk about the power of black female rage and how it can drive revolution and change the world.

How to Be Anti-Racist (2019)
by Ibram X. Kendi
Historian and NY Times best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi uses a mix of personal experiences, history, and science to show how a person can go from being racist to anti-racist, and how we can all build a new anti-racist society.

Invisible Man (1952)
by Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature. The nameless narrator describes growing up in a black community in the South, being expelled from a Negro college, moving to New York and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. A milestone in American literature, this passionate and witty novel established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.

Me and White Supremacy (2020)
by Layla F. Saad
What started as an Instagram challenge and a downloadable anti-racist workbook encouraging people to examine their own privilege and racist behaviors now comes in book form with historical context, expanded definitions, and more resources.

Men We Reaped: A Memoir (2013)
by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn’s memoir shines a light on the small town of DeLisle, Mississippi, a place of quiet beauty and fierce attachment. Here, she lost five young men dear to her, to drugs, accidents, murder, and suicide. Their deaths were seemingly unconnected, yet Jesmyn chronicles their true stories and a staggering truth: these young men died because of who they were and the place they were from, because certain disadvantages breed a certain kind of bad luck, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle.

The New Jim Crow (2010)
by Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander’s award winning book delves into mass incarceration and the truth about the thriving racial caste system in the U.S.

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope (2018)
by DeRay McKesson
In August of 2014, 29-year-old activist DeRay Mckesson stood with hundreds of others on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to push a message of justice and accountability. These protests, and others like them in cities across the country, resulted in the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now an internationally recognized civil rights activist & organizer and host of the podcast Pod Save the People, McKesson continues a conversation that embraces our nation’s complex history and offers an intimate portrait of a movement from the front lines.

Reproductive Injustice: Racism, Pregnancy, and Premature Birth (2019)
by Dána-Ain Davis
Why do black women have higher rates of premature birth and higher maternal death rates than other women in America? Davis places racial differences in birth outcomes into a historical context, revealing that ideas about reproduction and race today have been influenced by the legacy of ideas dating back to slavery.

So You Want to Talk About Race (2018)
by Ijeoma Oluo
This NY Times best seller shows people of all races how to have constructive and useful conversations about race in America. It answers questions about confronting friends and family members while providing a comprehensive education on this country’s racist heritage.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016)
by Ibram X. Kendi
Racist thought is alive and well in America–more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. If we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society. Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Using the life stories of five major American intellectuals, Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi offers a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists.

White Fragility (2018)
by Robin DiAngelo
The NY Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged. Anti-racism educator Robin Diangelo examines how white defensive responses to conversations about race and racism reinforce inequality and prevent meaningful dialogue. She then offers ways white people can work against white fragility to engage in more constructive ways.

ALSO: Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards
The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recognize books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures.