Long-form storytelling is a powerful and transformative education tool.

Books ask something from readers—they can’t be consumed effortlessly. We have to show up with earnest attention and a commitment to learning (and un-learning). Only then can the real, internal work happen.

These anti-racism books educate us about everything from white privilege and fragility to systemic racism. We’ve purposefully included educational materials found in classrooms, historical nonfiction, as well as memoirs and essay collections. Read them all. These personal narratives are just as important as action-oriented books. 

We want to encourage you to continue ordering these books for yourself and your loved ones, even if they aren’t immediately available. Your order (or library loan) signals publishers to keep printing and to continue engaging authors, and it also supports booksellers. Speaking of, be sure to shop small and independent bookstores instead of Amazon or larger chains. (Use this list to find Black-owned bookstores in your state.)

Finally, support these authors outside of reading their books. This list includes activists, educators, and storytellers, and the work they’re doing requires incredible emotional labor. Subscribe to their newsletters, follow them on social media, share their materials in your circle (consider starting a book club), and, if means allow, donate to their Patreon accounts. 

These anti-racism books educate readers about everything from white privilege and fragility to systemic racism.

For ways to directly take action in support of the Black Lives Matter movement today, go here. To learn more about the organization Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate and how to demand ordinances and civil rights laws, go here. And to understand the importance of naming and honoring Native land, go here.

As this list is ever-evolving, we encourage you to check back often and share additional titles in the comments below. It’s essential to listen to the voices speaking up and sharing experiences, just as it’s essential to speak out against racism. May we all do our part to build a better future.

1. Assata

Author | Assata Shakur

A political autobiography about the justice system and Black activism in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Shakur was a civil rights activist and member of the Black Liberation Army and Black Panther Party; she was (without sufficient evidence) convicted of murder and later escaped prison to flee the country.

Review | A sober, restrained, but forceful recollection… A must book for those interested in the ‘revolutionaries’ of the 1960s.” —Choice

Price | $18.95 (paperback), or find secondhand

2. Between The World And Me

Author | Ta-Nehisi Coates

In this #1 New York Times bestseller, Coates weaves personal narrative with reportage to explain racism in America—in history and as it exists today.

Review | “I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates. The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates’s journey, is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory. This is required reading.” —Toni Morrison

Price | $26 (hardcover), or find secondhand

3. Minor Feelings

Author | Cathy Park Hong

This memoir-in-essays examines racial consciousness. Linking her experience to historical events, Park Hong explores what it means to be an Asian American woman today and how we can acknowledge emotions beyond one generalized experience.

Review | “In this blistering essay collection… [Cathy Park Hong] is both angry and wryly funny… Her confrontational prose maintains a poet’s lyricism… Combining cultural criticism and personal exploration, Hong constructs a trenchant examination of race in America.” —Publishers Weekly

Price | $18 (paperback), or find secondhand

4. Breathe: A Letter to My Sons

Author | Imani Perry

Perry is a professor, writer, and mother to two sons. This autobiography explores coming of age as a Black person in current-day America and speaks to the challenges of parenting Black children in an unjust world.

Review | “A masterfully poetic and intimate work that anchors mothering within the long-standing tradition of black resistance and resourcefulness.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Price | $18 (hardcover), or find secondhand

5. Heavy

Author | Kiese Laymon

In his defiant and compelling memoir, Laymon reflects on his experience growing up as a Black man in the American South and realities faced by communities of color in this country.

Review | “How do you carry the weight of being a black man in America? In electrifying, deliberate prose, Kiese Laymon tries to answer that question…He writes about what it means to live in a heavy body, in all senses of that word… To call the way Laymon lays himself bare an act of courageous grace is beside the point but what and how he writes in this exceptional book are, indeed, acts of courageous grace.” —Roxane Gay

Price | $16 (paperback), or find secondhand

6. The Woman Warrior

Author | Maxine Hong Kingston

Originally published in 1976, this classic and award-winning memoir combines personal narrative and mythology. As Kingston turns to the wily women warriors of her mother’s tales, she seeks to understand her confounding worlds and intersecting identities—immigrant, woman, Chinese, American.

Review | “A classic, for a reason.” —Celeste Ng via Twitter

Price | $16 (paperback), or find secondhand

7. Hood Feminism

Author | Mikki Kendall

A collection of critical essays that explores the modern-day feminist movement, its blind spots, and its failure to secure equality for all women.

Review | “Elicits action by effectively calling out privilege… This can be a tough read, even for the most woke and intersectional feminist, and that’s exactly how it should be.” —Bust

Price | $26 (hardcover), or find secondhand

8. How to Be an Antiracist

Author | Ibram X. Kendi

Kendi is the founder of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center. His New York Times bestselling book explains why neutrality is not an option. In order to stand against racism, we have to be actively antiracist—and this book is the instruction manual.

Review | “Kendi has gifted us with a book that is not only an essential instruction manual but also a memoir of the author’s own path from anti-black racism to anti-white racism and, finally, to antiracism…” —NPR

Price | $27 (hardcover), or find secondhand

9. The Good Immigrant

Author | Nikesh Shukla & Chimene Suleyman (editors)

Two versions of The Good Immigrant exist, one reflecting on American culture and the other focused on British contexts. What they have in common is a slew of talented writers from Riz Ahmed to Jenny Zhang looking at what it means to feel constantly “othered” by society.

Review | “This volume brings together an amazing group of writers […] The pieces connect first-person stories with broader cultural and political issues to paint an important picture of the U.S. today.” ―BookRiot

Price | $17.99 (paperback), or find secondhand

10. I’m Still Here

Author | Austin Channing Brown

This book is a powerful account of what it’s like growing up as a Black Christian woman in America. Channing Brown addresses some of today’s most pertinent topics—including the intersections of racial justice and religion.

Review | “A deeply personal celebration of blackness that simultaneously sheds new light on racial injustice and inequality while offering hope for a better future.” —Shondaland

Price | $25 (hardcover), or find secondhand

11. Me and White Supremacy

Author | Layla F. Saad

Saad has gifted the world an unparalleled resource for digging up the deepest and most disguised layers of white supremacy. This book is best experienced as a journey, and the chapters are presented in bite-size lessons so readers can sit with the content, allow for introspection, and engage in essential conversations with friends and family members.

Review | “Layla not only engages readers effectively — she hands them the tools they need to change themselves so that they can better the lives of millions of people worldwide.” —Rachel Cargle

Price | $25.99 (hardcover), or find secondhand

12. My Vanishing Country

Author | Bakari Sellers

Part memoir, part historical and cultural analysis, this book illuminates the continued systemic oppression and broken systems experienced by Black Americans, specifically in the South.

Review | “In his captivating memoir, Sellers not only brings a personal touch to the resilient people in places like his hometown Denmark, South Carolina, but he also rings the alarm about dangerous policies being enacted across the state and the devastating impact that they are having on people’s everyday lives.” —Hillary Clinton

Price | $26.99 (hardcover), or find secondhand

13. One Person, No Vote

Author | Carol Anderson

From the New York Times bestselling author of ”White Rage” (another one for your list) comes a harrowing read about voter suppression, gerrymandering, and racial discrimination during elections. Anderson also speaks to the resistance and the organizations fighting for equal and fair votes.

Review | “A ripped-from-the-headlines book… Anderson is a highly praised academic who has mastered the art of gathering information and writing for a general readership, and her latest book could not be more timely.” —Kirkus

Price | $18 (paperback), or find secondhand

14. Tears We Cannot Stop

Author | Michael Eric Dyson

This New York Times bestseller is an urgent, necessary read for white Americans. We must face difficult truths about Black grievances, Dyson explains, and this book is an apt starting point.

Review | “One of the most frank and searing discussions on race… a deeply serious, urgent book, which should take its place in the tradition of Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and King’s Why We Can’t Wait.” —The New York Times Book Review

Price | $16.99 (paperback), or find secondhand

15. We Too Sing America

Author | Deepa Iyer

In a post-9/11 America, South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh communities have continued to be a target of hate. Iyer explores hate crimes, anti-Muslim hysteria, and new movements from “undocumented and unafraid” youth, as we look to a more multiracial, inclusive future.

Review | “This fills an unfortunate gap in knowledge of the effects of post-9/11 bigotry and violence on South Asian, Arab, and Muslim communities… personal, political, and powerful.” —Hari Kondabolu

Price | $17.95 (paperback), or find secondhand

16. The Fire Next Time

Author | James Baldwin

First published in 1963, Baldwin’s two-essay collection is an iconic and classic piece of literature that belongs on every bookshelf. At 128 pages, you can read it in one sitting (and then read it again, and again).

Review | “Basically the finest essay I’ve ever read… Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He was both direct and beautiful all at once. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates

Price | $13.95 (paperback), or find secondhand

17. The Fire This Time

Author | Jesmyn Ward

Following in the footsteps of the late James Baldwin (and created in response to “The Fire Next Time”), Ward offers words for a new generation about the past, present, and future of race in America. Compiled as an anthology, it includes some of today’s most necessary writers and poets.

Review | ”With this gorgeous chorus — Ward has done the same [as her ancestors]: she has created a world, a space, the one she, herself, was seeking. A new type of belonging, a new place to belong, is exactly what she has given us.” —L.A. Review of Books

Price | $16 (paperback), or find secondhand

18. The New Jim Crow

Author | Michelle Alexander 

It’s hailed one of the most important nonfiction books of the 21st century; judges have cited the text and it’s been assigned as required reading on campuses across the country. Above all, this New York Times bestseller has served as a catalyst for change in the American justice system.

Review | “Devastating… Alexander does a fine job of truth-telling, pointing a finger where it rightly should be pointed: at all of us, liberal and conservative, white and black.” —Forbes

Price | $18.99 (paperback), or find secondhand

19. They Can’t Kill Us All

Author | Wesley Lowery

A timely book about police violence against Black communities in the United States. From Ferguson to Charleston to Baltimore, Lowery interviews victims’ families and reports from the most heavily policed cities in the nation.

Review | “Lowery takes us inside the pain and courage of those who have cared to challenge the police and this nation. He details their stories and, along the way, provides a powerful and all-too-human account of what it means to be a reporter in a time of profound crisis. His example gives me renewed hope in those who report the news.” —Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

Price | $17.99 (paperback), or find secondhand

20. Sister Outsider

Author | Audre Lorde

A collection of 15 essential essays from Audre Lorde, the late feminist and Black lesbian poet. Praised as “landmark writings,” Lorde speaks to racism, sexism, LGBTQIA+ issues, and more.

Review | “[Sister Outsider is] another indication of the depth of analysis that Black women writers are contributing to feminist thought.” —Barbara Christian

Price | $16.99 (paperback), or find secondhand

21. Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land

Author | Toni Jensen

Toni Jensen, a Métis woman, shares her personal experience of assaults against Indigenous women and land, from a culture founded in violence. She covers a variety of relevant topics, from mass shootings to sexual assault on college campuses.

Review | “A gorgeous and brutal memoir about navigating the violent, white-supremacist American capitalism run amok on stolen land. Toni Jensen’s vision is a gift.”—Claire Vaye Watkins

Price | $27 (hardcover) or find secondhand

22. When They Call You A Terrorist

Authors | Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele

A poetic and powerful memoir about the founding of Black Lives Matter—a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free.

Review | “This powerful book by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors reminds us American racism is pervasive… the mission of Khan-Cullors and her fellow activists has never been more important—or more urgent.” —The Guardian

Price | $16.99 (paperback), or find secondhand

23. White Tears/Brown Scars

Author | Ruby Hamad

An impactful book of history and cultural criticism that argues white feminism—from Australia to Zimbabwe—has been a weapon of white supremacy and patriarchy deployed against women of color.

Review | …An essential guide for those who want to be truly intersectional in their feminism. Ruby Hamad skillfully distills history, academic research, and lived experiences of women of color to create an engaging inquiry into white supremacy and the role of white women within it.” —Zeba Talkhani

Price | $16.95 (paperback), or find secondhand

24. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Author | Reni Eddo-Lodge

What started as a blog in 2017 is now a Sunday Times bestseller in which Eddo-Lodge educates white people about the historical and present-day racism in the UK—and how to combat it.

Review | “You don’t have to live in the U.K. to recognize the issues of white privilege, class, feminism and structural racism that [Eddo-Lodge] explores in this essential book.” —Silvia Viñas, NPR

Price | $18 (paperback), or find secondhand

25. Words of Fire

Editor | Beverly Guy-Sheftall

This is the first major anthology to trace the development (from the early 1800s to the present) of Black feminist thought in the United States. It features a comprehensive collection of writings from more than sixty African American women.

Review | “The indefatigable Beverly Guy-Sheftall has put together a breathtaking sweep of African American feminist thought in one indispensable volume.” —Elizabeth Spelman

Price | $29.99 (paperback), or find secondhand

26. Caste

Author | Isabel Wilkerson

In her #1 New York Times bestselling book, Wilkerson examines how America today is shaped by a hidden caste system, not unlike hierarchy and human rankings seen throughout history in India and Nazi Germany.

Review | “Wilkerson’s book is a powerful, illuminating and heartfelt account of how hierarchy reproduces itself, as well as a call to action for the difficult work of undoing it.” —The Washington Post

Price | $32 (hardcover), or find secondhand

27. Do Better

Author | Rachel Ricketts

In her latest book, Ricketts explores the connection between antiracism work and spiritual activism, urging readers to fight white supremacy from the inside out. Part handbook, it includes secular spiritual exercises and activities for fighting injustices.

Review | “Through love, rage, and humor, Rachel Ricketts both challenges and inspires us all (but especially us white cis women) to turn anti-racist work into a daily practice; to sit in the discomfort of the violence we have perpetrated, and turn that discomfort into action.” —Zoe Lister-Jones

Price | $27 (hardcover), or find secondhand

Kayti Christian (she/her) is an Editor at The Good Trade. She has a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from the University of London and is the creator of Feelings Not Aside, a newsletter for enneagram 4s and other sensitive-identifying people. Outside of writing, she loves hiking, reading memoir, and the Oxford comma.