Books I like which deal with the same sort of issues as this blog, listed in order of publication:
Thucydides: “The Peloponnesian War” (395 BC) – A history of the war between Athens and Sparta. It gave me a lens on the nature of power, morals, empire, human behaviour and ideology far better than anything I was taught at school or got from television. Thucydides’s writing and Hobbes’s translation of it into English are both models for me.
Langston Hughes: “The Ways of White Folks” (1934) – Fourteen short stories which taught me that racism comes down to power.
George Orwell: “1984” (1949) – Winston Smith lives in an England where the government controls the news and the history books. How ideas, knowledge and even language serve power, how we live in a world of lies, why truth and history matter.
Frantz Fanon: “Black Skin, White Masks” (1952) – the psychology of racism. One of the hardest books I have ever read but well worth it. Hollywood films now make more sense to me – in a bad way. This blog has a post on each chapter.
Lorraine Hansberry: “A Raisin in the Sun” (1957) – A black family wants to move to a white neighbourhood. Starts out slow but turns to pure gold.
James Baldwin: “The Fire Next Time” (1963) – Two pieces written for the New Yorker, the best thing ever written about White American racism.
Malcolm X & Alex Haley: “Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965) – Should be required reading for every American.
Toni Morrison: “The Bluest Eye” (1970) – A black girl’s wish for blue eyes comes true. Maybe the best single book on internalized racism.
Cheikh Anta Diop: “The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality” (1974) – Mostly about the African roots of Ancient Egypt. Great on how we are taught to see history through the eyes of racist white people. This blog has a post on each chapter.
June Jordan: “Civil Wars” (1981) – Essays. The first book I read written by someone who thinks like me, who says the things inside my head. I did not know that was even possible.
Derrick Bell: “And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest For Racial Justice” (1987) – a law professor on the nature of American racism, law and the limits to what can be done. Excellent but depressing.
Jamaica Kincaid: “A Small Place” (1988) – about the effects of British rule on Antigua. The best book on imperialism after Thucydides but way shorter. Too angry for the New Yorker to print.
Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky: “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” (1988) – Outlines their propaganda model of how news in America is heavily filtered. Fact to Orwell’s fiction.
Nell Irvin Painter: “Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present” (2006) – a good, solid overview of black American history. I have not read it all the way through yet but it seems good. I hope to do a post on each chapter.
- Books banned from Tucson classrooms
- Books on race on my Kindle
- The top ten Desert Island books – as voted on by readers of this blog. Three of them are listed above.
- The best American writers live north of 110th Street