My Summer Reading List!

Last week, August 9th was Book Lovers Day, which I missed because I wanted to write about the loss of my friend Doug. This week, I wanted to share some books I have read that have impacted me this year both non-fiction and fiction. 

I read about 30 new books a year (for real!) and a couple of years ago I made a commitment to read more books by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & People of Color) authors. I mean, the way to really understand any subject is to become educated. I think we can also learn not only from non-fiction factual books, but also books that teach us about other people through fictional stories that can capture the emotions and experiences of people specifically from marginalized and oppressed communities. Stories can help create greater empathy, care, and understanding and I know we need more of that especially during these difficult days that are so painfully strife with division and hatred. Reading also requires discernment, which is why I read a lot from different perspectives. 

So, I know you may think my bedside table is piled high with paranormal romances (which I love) and books on quantum physics (guilty pleasure—yep I am weird) BUT there’s more to my summer reading than lovestruck vampires (though I do make time for those. Hey, it’s summer!). I am constantly looking for ways to increase my understanding of how I can help heal the injustice that some of our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis. 

Here are my top ten books I’ve been reading to gain a better understanding of the issues and what I can do to help create a more equitable world for all of us. Oh, and by the way, I’m sharing this with you from my heart. Nothing is perfect—this is a process. I’m learning more every day, because for me, this is a lifetime commitment. Not just a trending topic. 

I am starting with five non-fiction books then five fiction books. Some will be surprising! 

  1. How to Be an Anit-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
    This man’s work is so important. I have both the book on my kindle and the audible version. He dives eloquently into how racism is structural and systemic, not an insulting name implying you’re part of the KKK. His underlying point is how it is not enough to be “not a racist.” Those who want to see an end to racism must be actively anti-racist. Kendi shares specific ideas on how individuals can go beyond awareness of racism, to actually changing the structures that keep racism in place. We are on our second listen in the family car to this one. It’s deep and compelling, and Marc and I literally stop the audio every 10 minutes to talk about it.
  2. Mindful of Race by Ruth King
    One of the most powerful things I’ve learned from Ruth King is to LISTEN. I try to do my work with eyes and ears open, but my mouth closed for repairs (a challenge for a chatterbox like me!). She dives into the spiritual and emotional effects of racism, and how mindfulness, empathy, and compassion can heal us all. Her statement that “racism is a heart disease that is curable” launched the deepest conversations between me and the people close to me both white and BIPOC about how to make real change. Hers was the first book I read on this subject and will always be included in a list like this. She is also a wonderful insightful coach and I have had the immense privilege to work with her personally. 
  3. I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyonce By Michael Arcenaux This memoir really touched me as the author unravels a whole other side to the identity and “othering” conversation of being “Queer, Black, and Southern in America.” It’s a series of essays—decidedly unapologetic and some laugh out loud hilarious as he chronicles his experiences and reveals them to us.  He’s really thoughtful, too. In a podcast interview I heard him on, he talked about how we consume media about racism and being “other” that is mostly, “seen through the lens of pathology that triggers white guilt”. He didn’t want to be seen as the “sad gay”. You’ll get that in his writing. He is sharing a story of a multidimensional human being’s life – all of it- the beauty and the beast of it all. This extraordinary man is a wonderful storyteller. I love this book.
  4. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
    Ok, now for something heavier. I have not finished this book yet (but almost) and I had to include it. This book should upset you for real. Well, I can’t tell you how to feel, but wow I personally am so enraged reading it. Michelle Alexander has written a very readable textbook on criminal justice reform in America. It’s a factual dense read that page by page breaks down how the criminal justice/prison system has undeniable and horrific consequences on the Black community. 
  5. An African American and LatinX History of America by Paul Ortiz
    History was my favorite subject in school! I loved every word of it even when told it was unquestionable. Now, here I am at 62 really pissed off at everything that was left out in my early education and consequent conditioned worldview. Why do we know what we know about history? Well, we have to be taught it! But history is often written and rewritten by the oppressors and victors of war and viewed through a lens layered with hidden and overt agendas. This book takes us on a journey through 200 years of US history as seen through the eyes, blood, sweat, and tears of Black, Indigenous, and LatinX people. A really intense history book that is making my head spin as I am ½ way through it now. Personally, this should be taught in schools. We need more books like this! 

Ok now for a shortlist of fiction books by BIPOC authors. 

Some of these are books I have read this year, some I have read last year, but all of them are relevant to the topic of understanding the nature of oppressed communities even if indirectly. Fiction is an interesting thing to talk about because it’s really so subjective. I love certain books and then I am shocked to see a shitty review about it. I think “ Are they reading the same book I am?” So this is really now an opinion piece. But here goes anyway!

  1. Indigo by Beverly Jenkins
    This beautiful story is woven into the history of Michigan’s Underground Railroad where fictional characters intersect with real historical figures. I inhaled this one. Yes, I am a romance novel lover. I also like a well-researched historical one. This one is both educational and passionate.
  2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    This is a love story and a story of what it means to confront racism as two young lovers must separate as they leave from Nigeria to find a better life in America, and when one is refused entry, the UK. I don’t want to give too much of the story away but I could not put this down. You understand the “othering” of people through the characters’ eyes. You also learn that love is the thread that holds humanity together.
  3. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehishi Coates
    Set in the later years of slavery in the southern USA this story follows our main character Hiram, a young slave who discovers he is blessed with the magical powers of Conduction, the ability to transport people from one place to another, across a raging river from slavery to freedom. Magical realism at its best it weaves together a complex and compelling story about race, memory, family, love, liberation, and the haunting disturbing legacy of slavery in the USA. This was my first introduction to the incredible abolitionist Harriet Tubman, a real historical figure who was ( who in this book shares the magical power with Hiram, the main character) one of the most important activists in the Underground Railroad. She is referred to here as Moses. I could not put this book down.
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    I bought this book after I saw the film. Although it’s written for a YA audience, I am a big fan of the genre and read a lot of those. When I first began unpacking the elements of white privilege, the opening scene in the movie (which happens later in the book)  brought it all home to me, when I really got what it meant.  The scene shows a black family sitting at their dining table listening while the father gives them “the serious talk” about how to behave if they are stopped by the police. This is a life or death talk for many young black men and women, something I had never known as a white person. If I had a 16-year-old daughter or son I would not have to have that conversation. The book follows the coming of age of the main character Starr, a Black girl who attends a fancy prep school, after she witnesses the unprovoked shooting death of her friend Khalid by police. It’s riveting and important.
  5. Pride – (A Pride and Prejudice Remix) by Ibi Zoboi
    Ok so I am coming out of the closet for reading every reboot of this famous Jane Austen book by BIPOC authors. I have read a couple Indian ones, a Muslim one and now this one—my absolute favorite. What stands out is the author left out the word Prejudice in her title for good reason. It’s a book about being proud of your roots, your identity. We follow the classic story only with a different non-white cast of characters. This time it’s about an Afro LatinX young woman named Zuri Benitez and her experience with the gentrification of her neighborhood in Brooklyn NY and the Darcy family who moves in. Without giving too much away (it’s soooo good!!) It’s about family, love, and pride in who you are. I read it in two days.

I added this sixth book because it really was that good although it is not written about the BIPOC experience it still depicts the horrors of racism during WW2 and the hope for humanity when people act in accordance with their conscience to stand up for others that are oppressed.

Not a BIPOC author- but it’s about Nazis and antisemitism. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. 
I honestly have not cried this much reading a book of historical fiction. But since my Sephardic Jewish maternal grandfather was part of the French resistance movement, captured then killed in the horrors of the concentration camp in Dachau, I was personally touched by this story. Although most of the characters are fictional the history of WW2 and anti-semitism was thoroughly and accurately depicted. You really wonder in shock about what makes human beings turn against each other so viciously and effortlessly. You also know that human beings can do good and can be better when they listen to their conscience—not from guilt but to do what is right. 

If you have other resources you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. I’m committed to continuing to learn, continuing to listen, and continuing to hold space for my BIPOC friends. Would love to hear what books you’ve found valuable. 

Showing 45 comments
  • Anonymous
    Reply

    So glad you included Michelle Alexander in this list, as she is a friend of mine. I am a criminal justice reform activist and lived in NYC for 3 years after my release from prison in 2014

    • Valerie Strom
      Reply

      Ishmael by Daniel Quinn changed the way I look at everything!

  • Connie Haworth
    Reply

    Thank you😇🤗

    • Marilyn vincenti
      Reply

      What a great list of books to explore!! Thank you so much, Colette😘

  • Colby Thompson
    Reply

    I am so glad you have included Michelle Alexander in this list as she is an acquaintance of mine from NYC. I am a criminal justice reform activist after spending 10 years in a NYS prison for the death of a family abuser. We are in a few organizations together and I’m trying to ask her to write a forward in my own book. I am going to tackle your list. If you have that one on here, the rest should be good. Thanks for all you are doing to keep us focused on what is important in our world and community. I believe that this community can be very powerful in making changes needed in this world. So glad to be a part of it

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      your book will be so impactful .. keep writing and keep doing what you do

      • JulieBell
        Reply

        Thank you for including some fiction – sometimes I just want to “take a breather” but I don’t feel.lije there’s enough time because there’s so much to learn. This provides a way to do both at the same time, in a way. Thank you!

  • Poobeh
    Reply

    Thank yoi! This is lovely!

  • Diana Davis
    Reply

    Thank you for this list. I am reading Viktor Frankle books you recommended. Very enlightening.

  • Jennifer
    Reply

    Great list, I will check those out. I’ve also made a conscious effort to look at my reading & viewing from a racial lens.

    I am really diving into Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands. It is a thorough, deeply compassionate, and embodied look at “white body supremacy” (I.e., the concept of being “white” as the standard to which all colours are held & judged– this concept is so much more than my oversimplfication, I know) and the history & impact of trauma of Black bodies, white bodies, and law enforcement bodies. Great somatic exercises & questions for reflection in there too.

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      I love that book too, its one for a bigger list for sure.

      • Barbara McCleery
        Reply

        I’m actually reading ,The Nightingale ,right now😍 absolutely love it and I just got my copy of My Grandmother’s Hands… I’m always looking out for books your recommend. Much love 🙏💕

  • Annie Abbott
    Reply

    Thank you so much Colette!
    You are such an inspiration, I love that you share so openly.
    You have helped me tremendously over the last few months.
    You are a shining star, and I really appreciate all that you do.
    Peace and Love.

    • Patty
      Reply

      Thank you Collette,
      I am sorry for your loss of your dear friend.
      Thank you for a beautiful list of books that are important for all of us to read and feel and understand. Another book that I reccomend is “The Warmth of Other Suns.” The story of America’s great migration.

      • Colette Baron-Reid
        Reply

        I have that one and have not started it yet thank you for the suggestion!

  • Veroshka
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing Colette 💞 Can’t promise that I will get to reading much soon, but at least one will go on my December holiday’s reading list. So many to choose from 😮😁💞 Any suggestions of the top one that can take me from 0 to 100 in no time? 😁💗

  • Deborah Abram
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing this list!! I am going to save it and read them. I am currently reading How to be an an Anti-racist.love you

  • Joy McGregor
    Reply

    Not a BIPOC author, but I’m finding White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People toTalk About Racism, by Robin Dangelo adds a crucial piece to the puzzle. It explores the emotions we (white people) feel and behaviours we exhibit when challenged about our racism. These emotions and behaviours allow us to “reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue.”

    • Teresa
      Reply

      Joy, glad you brought this one up. A very uncomfortable, but thought-provoking, necessary read for us Euro-descended folks. 🙂

  • Christy
    Reply

    I am saddened at the passing of Doug. I attended Oracle School in 2018 and I can still hear his wisdom, feel his strength of heart, and I am grateful. Transitions are meaning, personal experiences so please know that I hold Doug and you in the Light of peace, beatuty and love. Rest is beauty and love Doug.

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Thank you very much for these titles. I immediately ordered An African American and LatinX History of America by Paul Ortiz. It has always bothered me how people can discriminate or even hate eachother without knowing the person only because he or she looks different from the self. Hopefully these books are becoming more known en will be read by many white people. Thank you again for bringing up this subject. Love and regards, Paula van der Voort (originally from Holland living on the island of Bonaire with a lot of colored people and married to a man from Jamaica)

  • Alisa Walker
    Reply

    Colette, Beverly Jenkins is one of my absolute favorite authors! As an African American Romance author (still unpublished) that belongs to Romance Writers of America, I can tell you that our organization has gone through some serious restructuring to open all doors previously closed to BIPOC authors like myself. Having said that, I’d like to add authors to your TBR pile:

    1. Alyssa Cole – A Hope Divided (A freedwoman scientist spy during the civil war harbors a seemly innocent philosopher soldier who is on the run) Doesn’t that sound exciting?!
    2. Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PHD – Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What we See, Think and Do. It’s important to note that EVERYONE should be reading this book as well all have prejudice or microagressions which we may not be aware of based on our own perceptions and bubble.
    3. N. Scott Momaday – House Made of Dawn – (really if I am honest, any book or poem by Momaday) It is a captivating story of a soul stuck between the old ways and customs as a Native and forced to be in the modern world of man. Scott wrote this over 50 years ago, but the narrative is most relevant for these controversial times where so many BIPOC are marginalized.
    4. Harriet A. Washington – Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Experimentation on Black Americans From Colonial Times to Present – I warn you this book is hard to digest when you read of the injustices suffered at the hands of those who deem you to be simply an animal that does not feel pain or has emotions. I cried through the first three chapters. I confess I had to put the book down to take a break, but it is absolutely worth reading.

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      Thank you so much for these recommendations, Alisa! Be sure to let me know once you are published too! 😉

      • Alisa Walker
        Reply

        Absolutely, Colette! ❤️

  • Victoria Woodward
    Reply

    Thank you dear shining Colette! I have See no strangers by Valerie Kaur to add to the list – which is the book currently being discussed and shared and loved and digested in its fullness in the Life Force Academy Kundalini Yoga haven, with Jai Dev and Simrit. Your sharing of your book list is wonderful thank you.. thats a whole lot of reading!!! . … and thank you for all that you give to us as a community. – I took your course a few years ago now and use the decks in my work consistently due to that fantastic training you gave us all. THANK YOU!! Xxx

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Thank you so much, Colette. So glad you got so much out of these disparate authors. Peace, Love, Nick from Omega by the coffee urn in the cafeteria

  • Trece Spalten
    Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this list, and for sharing your journey through each! It’s more important than maybe ever for our spiritual teachers and thought leaders to be speaking about these subjects in ways that truly help us heal from the horrors of racism and oppression. Deep appreciation, Colette!!

  • Izabel Grey
    Reply

    Thank you for your list. I am a voracious reader and have the same crazy types of books on my side table too (love me some physics of all kind). This is a great list of early African American women writers. I actually got to meet a great-grandson of one of the writers and he had her original first copy. He shared his stories while standing next to a copy of the slave shipping manifest with her name on it. Keep sharing, we all appreciate your high vibe!

    https://www.literaryladiesguide.com/literary-musings/6-fascinating-african-american-women-writers-of-the-19th-century/#comment-4472

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Love these suggestions. I have read a number of those books above and would also like to add a few 🙂
    Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women
    Book by Cari Lynn and Susan Burton (excellent read!), Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, another excellent read, Bryan Stevenson is the real deal! I also just found out that it is also a movie and have requested it from my local library. A couple of excellent reads of fiction, Long Bright River by Liz Moore, regarding addiction and finally, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Wow, Thanks Colette. I’ll surely tackle your list. Would be interesting, educative and soul searching for sure. Keep doing what you are doing. Thanks again.

  • Irmgard Gonzalez
    Reply

    Thank you for your recommendations. I actually bought „The hate U give“ for my 14 year old son, after I had read about it in an article in a German newspaper (I try to get him to read more, and to get him off his cell phone and computer, not always successfully, though…). He has only started and is still more interested in American Rap music – but the book will definitely get read – if only by me (and after I have worked my way through all your book recommendations from last Spirit Jam). Am also just about to finish Viktor Frankl‘s book you recommended – Thank you so much – very important read!

  • Michelle
    Reply

    I am so happy to see your “evolved” reading list. IF we don’t read and share these books, who will? I would love add an author who wrote an amazing series, but passed away before we reached the digital age. Her name is L. A. Banks and the series is called A Vampire Huntress Legend – steamy with lots of metaphysical and spiritual insights. I think it’s 12 or 13 books total. And, as plug for my own book I wrote a book regarding a lifetime as a mermaid – My Life As a Mermaid – A Tale to be Shared.
    Thanks Colette! Blessings and Peace!

    • Colette Baron-Reid
      Reply

      I read all of those when I was in my vampire romance phase I didn’t know she died!. Congrats on your book.. I love mermaid stories will def look this up xoxox

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Thank you Collette for recommending these insightful books , I would like to recommend a book by my Uncle Max Dulumunun Harrison

    An Aboriginal Elder Speaks on Life, Land, Spirit and Forgiveness
    https://www.booktopia.com.au/my-people-s-dreaming-max-dulumunmun-harrison/book/9780732298173.html

    Hugs Nad xx

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Hi Colette – I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. What a beautifully written and thoughtful article. Thank you so much for your critiques and recommendations. I will definitely be adding some of these to my reading list! As a teacher, I thought I would share a few of my favorite books to build children’s awareness of racism/anti-racism and accepting diversity in general.
    Picture books: The Proudest Blue, by Ibtihaj Muhammed
    The Day You Begin, by Jaqueline Woodson;
    Age 10 and up: Harbor Me, by Jaqueline Woodson
    For teens: This Book is Anti Racist, by Tiffany Jewell. There are many more!

  • Leslie W.
    Reply

    Hi Colette – I found out about Doug the first time you mentioned it on the 7 Energy Challenge – I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. What a beautifully written and thoughtful article! Thank you so much for your insightful critiques and recommendations – I will definitely be adding some of these to my reading list! As a teacher, I thought I would share just a few of my favorite books to increase children’s awareness of racism/anti-racism and diversity. The earlier we start, the better!
    Picture Books: The Proudest Blue, by Ibtihaj Muhammed and The Day You Begin, by Jaqueline Woodson
    Age 9 and up: Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson
    Teens: This Book is Anti Racist, by Tiffany Jewell
    There are many more

  • Jill R.
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing your summer reading list. It is a great idea to offer your ideas for fiction and non fiction of BIPOC authors.

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    Thanks 🙏

  • Carmen
    Reply

    Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. It’s about two Cree soldiers serving in World War I. How they experienced prejudice, loss of their cultural identity. But also, how they were uniquely engineered to survive and help others survive. A BEAUTIFUL book!!!

  • Suzie Mapp
    Reply

    Thankyou for your book list Colette ❤

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