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Ta-Nehisi Coates's Reading List


Last night Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of the current bestseller Between the World and Me and National Correspondent for The Atlantic, was at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as part of our public program series, Between the Lines. Mr. Coates was brilliantly interviewed by New York Times Magazine and ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. Throughout the conversation, there was talk about books. 

If you want to watch the program, it's available at

The following are all the books recommended by Ta-Nehisi Coates (and one video) during his mesmerising talk at the Schomburg Center (in the order as they were mentioned). As Mr. Coates said, "folks who are not familiar with black literature, read this book and read a ton of other books." 

Collected essays / James Baldwin.

The Fire Next Time in Collected Essays by James Baldwin.

Published in 1963, it contains two essays: "My Dungeon Shook — Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation," and "Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind." 





The night of the gun : a reporter investigates the darkest story of his life, his own / David Carr.

The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life, His Own by David Carr.







The half has never been told : slavery and the making of American capitalism / Edward E. Baptist.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist.







Battle Cry of Freedom : The Era of the Civil War by James McPherson.
​ Damage done by a bomb; This bomb was thrown into a building at 3365 Indiana Avenue, occupied by Negroes.
Image from another book, The Negro in Chicago; a study of race relations and a race riot in 1919.

Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch.







The Dis-United States; Or the Southern Confederacy.
Image to accompany the digitized declaration

Confederate States of America - Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union from Avalon Project, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Showdown : Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court nomination that changed America / Wil Haygood.

Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court nomination That Changed America by Wil Haygood.






American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia by Edmund S. Morgan.

American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia by Edmund S. Morgan. 









Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields. 








When and Where I Enter : The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula Giddings.

When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula Giddings.







Ida : a sword among lions : Ida B. Wells and the campaign against lynching / Paula J. Giddings.

Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign against Lynching by Paula J. Giddings.


Coates said this book is "criminally underrated." 





Out of the house of bondage: the transformation of the plantation household by Thavolia Glymph.

Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household by Thavolia Glymph.


This book is the only footnote in Between the World and Me.

Coates said it is "essential" reading. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates also spent a great deal of time describing and recommending the video of the 1965 historic debate between James Baldwin v. William F. Buckley Jr. at Cambridge University on the question: "Is the American Dream at the expense of the American Negro?" Watch the video from Mr. Coates's blog post.

More from Ta-Nehisi Coates



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There were a few more books

There were a few more books that he mentioned as well. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Karen E. Fields Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir by Tanehisi Coates And he mentioned his article 'The Case for Reparations'

You're right!

Dear Niki, Thank you for adding these additional titles. I had Field's Racecraft in my notes, but I forgot to list it. I also forgot to mention Mr. Coates other works that were also discussed that evening. I'm hoping to update the post. Stay tune but keep corrections coming.... Maira

Mr. Coates Reading List

I'd suggest two more titles: 1--Peter H. Wood, Black Majority: South Carolina from 1670 to the Stono Rebellion (Norton: 1974) 2--Walter Johnson, Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Harvard U Press, 1999)

And read a ton of other books!

Thanks for adding to the list. Both Black Majority: Negroes in colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion by Peter H. Wood. Norton, 1974, AND Soul by Soul: Life inside the Antebellum Slave Market by Walter Johnson. Harvard University Press, 1999 are available at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. -Maira

Expanding the list

Great list! I'd add books by: Gwendolyn Brooks, Cornelius Eady, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Lucille Clifton, Amiri Baraka, Sonya Sanchez, Claudia Rankine, Ishmael Reed, Audre Lorde, Ai, June Jordan, Rita Dove, Michael Harper, Bob Kaufman, Nathaniel Mackey. For a start. There are many writerly ways to spread the news and expand readers' understanding.

Keep expanding the list!

This helps people look up authors they may not have read or be familiar with. Thanks, Maira.

Two essential books

'The Warmth of Other Suns' by Isabel Wilkerson -- about the Great Migration of black people from the South to the North 'The New Jim Crow' by Michelle Alexander -- about mass incarceration of black people in the U.S.

I would add all the books by

I would add all the books by Dr. Cornel West, Stokely Speaks, The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing, My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass, Malcom X Speaks, and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow.

Other Recommended Books

A few excellent and profound books I'd like to add: Race and Economics by Thomas Sowell; Race and Economics by Walter E. Williams; Please Stop Helping Us by Jason Riley; Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell; Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell; Race and Intellectuals by Thomas Sowell; Affirmative Action Around the World by Thomas Sowell; South Africa's War Against Capitalism by Walter E. Williams; White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era by Shelby Steele; Islamic Imperialism by Efraim Karsh; Autobiography of Malcolm X; Race and Slavery in the Middle East by Bernard Lewis;

Thomas Sowell

Really?! I believe this person is trolling...

Two books.

Infidel: My Life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Coates reading list

Conspicuously absent from the list is W.E.B. Du Bois, The Soul of Black Folk, the starting point for any discussion on race in America.

Also conspicuously absent:

Also conspicuously absent: Slavery By Another Name, by Douglass Blackmon (like the Baptist book, another Truth that America can't handle) Fear Itself, by Ira Katznelson

Beloved by Toni Morrison is

Beloved by Toni Morrison is the best book about slavery and its legacy that I have ever read. It may be fiction but it taught me in a most visceral way what slavery did to people and how its trauma survives from generation to generation.

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