Recommended Reading on Racial Justice
—27 Books to Learn More, Do More

“Some people say there is too much talk about race and racism in the United States.
I say that there is not enough.”

― Beverly Daniel Tatum

I keep learning I need to learn more.

Racial tensions are bubbling to the surface instead of staying buried in the deep. We need to see them. And ask about them.

  • Will this season of heightened interest be longer-lasting this time?
  • Will we believe that injustice really exists?
  • Will we change more as we learn more?

One way to learn more is to read more.

Here is an updated list of the best books books I’ve read on racial equity. A few also contain links to short books reviews I’ve written.

All of the books except four are written by Black authors (the exceptions are: White FragilitySlavery by Another Name; Small Great Things; and Underground Airlines).

These aren’t feel-good books. If you’re white like me, they might make you uncomfortable. That’s good. This isn’t about making us comfortable. It’s about the danger facing our Black sisters and brothers. And about the danger to our white souls.

Use your discomfort to push you to action. When you learn more, do more.

“Justice only happens when good people take a stand against injustice.”
Anthony Ray Hinton

15 Nonfiction Books on Racial Inequity

1. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
(Book review here)

2. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
(Book review here)

3. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
by Ibram X. Kendi

4. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
by Robin DiAngelo

5. Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation
by LaTasha Morrison
( Book review here)

6. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II
by Douglas A. Blackmon
(Book review here)

7. How to Be an Antiracist
by Ibram X. Kendi

8. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
by Reni Eddo-Lodge

9. The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
by Jemar Tisby

10. Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World
by Layla Saad

11. So You Want to Talk About Race
by Ijeoma Oluo

12. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race
by Beverly Daniel Tatum

13. Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul
by Eddie S. Glaude
(Book review here)

14. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America
by Michael Eric Dyson
(Book review here)

15. What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America
by Michael Eric Dyson
(Book review here)

6 Memoirs by Black Authors

1. Becoming
by Michelle Obama
(Book review here)

2. The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row
by Anthony Ray Hinton
(Book review here)

3. Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High
by Melba Pattillo Beals
(Book review here)

4. Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
(Book review here)

5. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
by Austin Channing Brown
(Book review here)

6. How Not to Get Shot: And Other Advice From White People
by D. L. Hughley
(Book review here)

6 Fiction Books About Racial Inequity

1. The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead
(Book review here)

2. Small Great Things
by Jodi Picoult
(Book review here)

3. Washington Black
by Esi Edugyna

4. The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

5. The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
(Book review here)

6. Underground Airlines
by Ben H. Winters

What book on race do you recommend? Please share in the comments.

56 thoughts on “Recommended Reading on Racial Justice
—27 Books to Learn More, Do More

  1. Yvonne Chase

    I love this quote, “Justice only happens when good people take a stand against injustice.” We have to take a stand because as you say, This is about the danger facing our Black friends. And our White souls. God sees our silence in the face of injustice. Thank you for putting together such a comprehensive list. I feel bad that you’ve read more about my struggle than me. ?

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      But you’ve been busy LIVING it, fighting the battles, while I was only reading about it. 🙁

      “God sees our silence in the face of injustice.” Truth.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I was glad to finally pull the list together. There were a few others I wanted to add as well (such as the memoirs by Trevor Noah and W. Kamau Bell), but the list was getting too long. 😉

  2. Sharon Hazel

    God has a heart for justice and so should we – thank you for this list, and the challenge to be more informed about those issues surrounding us. I’ve added a book to my next reading list!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s awesome, Sharon. I hope you get a lot out of the book you picked. Each author has something valuable to share, and shows us a different and beautiful side of God’s heart!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Anne. I’m reading one now about Black British history: “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I was clueless about much of Britain’s history with racism so it’s been eye-opening so far.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m about halfway finished with Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. She goes into a lot of British history with slavery but also includes a lot of current examples of racism as well.

  3. Liz Dexter

    This is a great post, I haven’t got that much overlap on my shelf at the moment but I’ve been looking for specifically UK-centric stuff – not that we don’t have problems with slavery issues, etc. but we have different problems. I have Why I’m No Longer … and have had it recommended, and got hold of White Fragility the other day. I’m going to read those two followed by Me and White Supremacy so I can understand any problems I have with working through the questions in the latter. I also have Akala’s book on the intersection of race and class, post-Empire, and David Olusoga’s book on Black British history to read.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, what a full list you have, Liz! I’m really being convicted by Me and White Supremacy, not for big things (none of us think we’re racist, of course) but by the small biases that we don’t even realize are construed as racism. 🙁 But until we see it, we can’t change it.

  4. Kym

    Love the quotes you included along with such an extensive suggested reading list. I recently read Warriors Don’t Cry and it was very moving; I’m waiting now to read Just Mercy.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you were also moved by Warriors Don’t Cry, Kym. Isn’t it horrible to hear the details in these stories? It makes me so angry and a plethora of other emotions all at the same time at how cruelly they were treated. 🙁

  5. Elena Wiggins

    What a great post!! I read and was challenged by Small Great Things, Just Mercy, The Color Compromise, I’m Still Here, Becoming and have many of the others on my list of To-Read! I would also recommend The Myth of Inequality, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Homegoing!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for adding more book titles, Elena! I think I read the Maya Angelou book years ago, but it’s been so long ago that I don’t remember it, so I need to re-read it, and add the others to my list.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for adding to the list! I especially love hearing personal recommendations so I’ll look up these two books. (Just got the samples sent to my Kindle!)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m on the wait list for White Fragility–it may be awhile though! The list is so long. But that’s an encouraging thing. I’m glad so many people are wanting to read it. I’m currently in the middle of Me and White Supremacy; it’s really making me think, digging into nooks and crannies to examine any hidden biases I may have.

  6. Emily

    Thanks for the recommendations! I don’t read much non-fiction but my sister has recommended a lot of these books. I’ve heard great things about Just Mercy. I believe they made a move on it too. So far my favourite fictional book I’ve read from a Black author has been Dear Martin by: Nic Stone.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, Just Mercy is one of my favorites! Bryan Stevenson is an awesome human being (as well as being a great storyteller). I haven’t read anything by Nic Stone but the name keeps popping up so I’ll look up Dear Martin. Thanks for the recommendation, Emily.

  7. Danielle Hammelef

    I bought Just Mercy recently and plan on reading it this summer. I’ve read THUG, American Street, Dear Martin, Ghost Boys, and I’m Not Dying with You Tonight and hope to keep reading more books like the ones you’ve listed to keep learning and opening my eyes and heart to compassion for all.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Some of your books are on my list to-read list as well. So many books, so little time. Sigh. That’s why I like to make sure I read books about things that matter to me because we can only read so many books in our lifetime. I appreciate what you said that you want to read to keep learning and opening up to be more compassionate. Me too. Thanks for sharing your titles here, Danielle!

  8. Lindsay

    I know we need to change and understand our black friends and family. Even though I have a family member that half white and half black, she does not talk to us much at all. The only one she does is her mom.

    We accepted her into the family and try to treat her like any of us. But maybe we just did not understand. I feel bad if she think we do not care when we all do.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hope you’ve been able to connect more to your family member the past few months. Showing acceptance and love is always the best thing to do. With time, hopefully she’ll feel free to talk more as well. Thanks for sharing this, Lindsay. (I just now realized I never responded; sorry for the long delay.)

  9. Nancy Ruegg

    A couple of years ago now I read Black Self-Genocide: What Black Lives Matter Won’t Say by pastor and author, Wellington Boone. Researcher George Barna and Christian statesman Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. have called him one of the Black Christian leaders of the century for his understanding of race and racial reconciliation. I agree with Dr. Ben Carson who described the book as riveting. If we as a nation implemented his strategies, America would be transformed.

  10. Molly

    This is such a wonderful list. I have bookmarked it so I can come back. I have been working my way through a podcast collection that details the long history of the black community in America. Just when you think you might understand you realize you can never even comprehend.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s how I feel exactly, Molly: the more I learn, the more I realize there’s even more to learn. I’m interested in finding out more about the podcast you’re listening to! What’s the name of it?

  11. Anita Ojeda

    What a great list! I’m working my way through as many as I can handle. You’re right, these books aren’t in any way comfortable. The Indigenous People’s History of the United States is a must-read. Along with Devil in the Grove, Flowers of the Killer Moon, and Massacre at Sand Creek.

  12. Marielle

    Thank you for sharing this list Lisa. The Nickel Boys has been at the top of my list, and I’ve added a few more from your other recommendations. I love this…”When you learn more, do more.” It’s so important for our learning to mean something. Thanks again. I’m visiting from the instaencouragments linkup today. Have a great day!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for visiting, Marielle. The Nickel Boys was really moving! And knowing that it was based on true stories made it even more gut-wrenching. I definitely recommend it.

  13. Lex

    I’d recommend Braithwaite’s To Sir with Love. Very powerful and still rings true. There’s also a movie out there on this, which I’ve never seen. And if you’re OK with fiction, try Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Americanah, and Kindred by Butler.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ve heard of To Sir, with Love but never read or watched it. Sounds intriguing. And yes, I do love reading fiction too, so I appreciate you sharing the other titles as well! Thanks, Lex.

  14. David

    Saw this and thought of you:

    The relevant bits are the early paras 4-9 arguing against “racial realism” (the idea that races are biologically real). In particular, some of these might be worth chasing up (quoting from para 9):

    This abundance of evidence [of human genetic diversity] has led to no shortage of quality popular writings on the topic. For instance, Jonathan Marks has recently summarized why racial realism is unscientific in his book, Is Science Racist? Debating Race (Marks, 2017). Similar publications come to mind, including Angela Saini’s Superior (2019), Michael Yudell’s Race Unmasked (2014), Robert Sussman’s The Myth of Race (2014), and Tattersall and DeSalle’s Race? Debunking a Scientific Myth (2011).

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for linking to the article, David. I did a quick read of it, but need to go back more slowly to grasp it all. I do wonder if we’ll come up with better vocabulary one day to rid ourselves of the word (and theory of) “race” altogether since it is a construct that isn’t necessarily a scientific one.

  15. Eva @ The Paperback Princess

    I love everything you’ve said in this post. I’ve been doing this same work, especially this year. Your list is really comprehensive! A couple more to add (that you may have already read):
    Medical Bondage by Deirdre Cooper Owens
    The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
    Evicted by Matthew Desmond
    The Warmth of Other Suns by Isaebel Wilkerson (also Caste)
    Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin

  16. CurlyGeek

    You have a lot of great books on this list – Just Mercy, Becoming, So You Want to Talk About Race, The Hate U Give. I just finished The Vanishing Half and recommend that one too. I’m reading Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race right now. I read Beverly Tatum’s book years ago and found it eye-opening, maybe my first real thinking about race. It’s amazing how much we don’t see, or choose not to see, as white people – and how much we need to learn. I’ve got a few new TBRs from your list, thanks!

  17. booker talk

    Your post has made me realise how limited has been my own reading on this topic. One I can add is Maya Angelou’s I Know How The Caged Bird Sings (and the other books in the series of her memoirs).

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