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Check out these books to learn more about Black history, racism and social justice
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Check out these books to learn more about Black history, racism and social justice

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George Floyd protest

People hold signs as they listen to a speaker in front of city hall in downtown Kansas City, Mo., during a June 5 rally to protest the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The killing of George Floyd by police sparked nationwide protests against state violence toward Black people. With demonstrations on countless streets and the conversations taking place in countless homes, bookstores are now experiencing a surge of interest in books about Black history, racism and social justice.

Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility,” Ibram X. Kendi’s “How To Be an Antiracist” and Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” all turned up on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. It’s cause for hope, among those who believe that reading can make us better and stronger.

Here’s a shortlist of titles — nonfiction and fiction — for those who want to learn more about how we got to where we are, and how we can do better.


There is no list of nonfiction books that could ever encompass the breadth and complexity of African American history and the underpinnings of systemic racial injustice. But in an effort to ground this moment in history, humanity and connection to place, here are a few books for deeper exploration.


Reading fiction won’t give us a specific list of steps to take to fight social injustice, but it places us inside someone’s head and someone’s imagination, letting us begin the work of understanding. Here are four books by Black American authors, new and old, that immerse us in Black lives.



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CHICAGO - As Natasha Trethewey began to garner acclaim for her poetry - notably winning the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for her collection "Native Guard" - news reports often mentioned the murder of her mother, Gwendolyn Ann Turnbough. Trethewey, who was 19 when her former step-father shot her mother to death after years of abuse, never intended to write about this devastating event. But she has ...

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So the hype got to you, you finally checked out "Hamilton" on Disney Plus and now you want to learn everything you can about the influential figures in American history. (You also have all of King George's songs stuck in your head for which there is no cure.) The Tony-award winning musical was inspired by the 2004 biography "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow and tells the story of one of ...

In "The Living Dead," a new novel, the late George A. Romero explores the bigger world of the mayhem he begat in his 1969 film, "Night of the Living Dead." But Romero - who died of cancer in 2017 - did not finish the book. Chicago author Daniel Kraus picked up the threads of his partial manuscript and, using the horror auteur's notes and an unearthed short story, finished "The Living Dead." "I ...

"The Safe Place" by Anna Downes; Minotaur (352 pages, $26.99) ___ The beautiful, imposing mansion that is a bit creepy, isolated from the nearest town and neighbor is a familiar setting that has been vital to plots such as Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca" and Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw." Add to that setting a young, impressionable woman who is emotionally isolated. With the right ...

"Owls of the Eastern Ice" by Jonathan C. Slaght; Farrar, Straus & Giroux (368 pages, $28) ___ Jonathan C. Slaght had seen just one rare Blakiston's fish owl in his life - and that one completely by chance - before rashly deciding that he would spend five years studying the elusive bird. In 2005, Slaght had earned a master's degree from the University of Minnesota, tracking the effect of ...

"Rules of the Road" by Ciara Geraghty; Park Row Books (384 pages, $17.99) ___ In a classic road novel, the protagonist sets out on a journey and at the end becomes a changed and perhaps better person. The fun - or the drama, or the tragedy - is all in the getting there. Ciara Geraghty's "Rules of the Road" follows this structure. Terry lives in Ireland with her husband, whom she likes well ...

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