5 Important Books to Read

Here are a few books I have read or are on my "to be read list." I am trying to branch out and read more books in new genres with diverse authors in order to learn more about others' experiences and see our world from different points of view. It is easy to stick to reads in my comfort zone, like romance novels, which do not challenge the way I think. But, sticking to what is comfortable does not help me grow or learn.

Being uncomfortable is the only way to really grow and change the way you think. While it is important to read books with diverse genres and authors all year, it is especially important to acknowledge Black history and white privilege, and you can start by reading a new book. Hopefully, one or more of these books sound interesting to you, and if not, maybe try one out regardless and be uncomfortable for a short time. Also, I know reading physical books is not for everyone, which is why audiobooks are an easily accessible alternative.

  1. In the nonfiction book “Talking to Strangers,” Malcolm Gladwell provides examples for why understanding other humans is a step in the right direction to peace. Many of us are quick to judge other people without understanding them first. Initiating a simple conversation would help clear the prejudices we hold and help prevent conflict. Gladwell tells the stories of Sandra Bland, Cortez and Montezuma, Anne Sexton, Julia Plath and others with the object of proving how communication and understanding were lacking and was what ultimately caused their tragedies.

    He believes we have more in common with strangers than we think. However, we will not discover how we relate to each other until we talk to one another. “Talking to Strangers” is particularly a good book to listen to as an audiobook because you hear Gladwell interviewing different people, and you get to listen to their voices.  

  2. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is Maya Angelou’s debut memoir. Angelou tells the story of her life and discusses many issues she faced, including rape, abandonment and identity, as well as both racial and gender inequalities.

    Living in a small southern town as a young girl, then with her mother in St. Louis, and finally, in San Francisco, Angelou learns a lot about herself and the world around her. Although first published many years ago, Angelou’s autobiography is still relevant and tells a story many of us should hear in 2021.  

  3. “The Hate U Give” is a young adult novel written by Angie Thomas. It follows Starr Carter, a young Black girl, as she navigates the differences between her high school and her home lives. Her parents enrolled her into a rich prep school where most of her peers are white. She has to deal with the stereotypes her classmates have of Black people and her neighborhood. Starr lives in a poor, mostly black neighborhood and gets negative commentary from her childhood friends about her prep school.

    Balancing both worlds is only part of the struggle Starr goes through in this novel. She has to deal with witnessing police brutality against her friends and neighbors and then go to school and hear white classmates’ excuses and justifications for the police’s actions. Thomas’ storytelling in this novel makes topics like racism, stereotyping, police brutality and discrimination easier to swallow for the average reader or any young adult.  

  4. Robin Diangelo brings to attention the issue of white fragility in this book. Engaging in conversations about race is seen as optional for white people since racism does not negatively impact them in daily life. Diangelo makes it clear that racism is not all or nothing, and white people who are offended or defensive when racially challenged are a part of the problem.

    This book is a jumping-off point for some of us to begin understanding why it is so hard for white people to talk about racism. After reading, white people should feel encouraged to take responsibility for their role in white supremacy and seek out ways to better contribute to the dismantling of white supremacy. 

  5. Ijeoma Oluo’s book “So You Want to Talk About Race” answers common questions many people ask her regarding race. The topic is often hard to approach and can seem intimidating to many who do not know where to start. Oluo intends for this book to initiate necessary conversations about how terrible racism and oppression are in our country.

    She defines concepts such as intersectionality and tone policing and discusses how systemic racism plays the biggest part in preventing Black Americans from living life as they deserve to. The experiences Oluo shares from her own life help make her discussion of race seem more real and comprehensible.