Books White People Need To Read

Based on an article from The Good Men Project called "Why I Don't Want to Talk About Race" by Steve Locke, this list is a way for white people to learn more about race, whiteness & oppression. It is focused on non-fiction & memoir and comes from an American viewpoint - more are welcome! Please add your ideas in a respectful, open-hearted manner & tell us why you picked the books you added.

"There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them."

This list is for non-fiction & memoir written from a progressive, anti-racist point of view.
1

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4.21 avg rating — 42,746 ratings
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4.29 avg rating — 126,121 ratings
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4.03 avg rating — 388,489 ratings
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5

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4.36 avg rating — 5,258 ratings
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6

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4.44 avg rating — 19,877 ratings
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7

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4.23 avg rating — 23,138 ratings
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8

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4.31 avg rating — 33,315 ratings
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9

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3.96 avg rating — 63,224 ratings
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10

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4.40 avg rating — 95,019 ratings
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11

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4.12 avg rating — 48,789 ratings
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12

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4.10 avg rating — 7,467 ratings
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13

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4.23 avg rating — 13,834 ratings
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14

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4.08 avg rating — 7,660 ratings
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15

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4.45 avg rating — 8,736 ratings
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16

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4.23 avg rating — 6,762 ratings
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17

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3.95 avg rating — 41,123 ratings
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18

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4.06 avg rating — 82,506 ratings
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19

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4.11 avg rating — 165,786 ratings
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20

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4.28 avg rating — 3,743 ratings
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21

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4.35 avg rating — 6,478 ratings
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22

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4.14 avg rating — 48,520 ratings
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23

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4.23 avg rating — 1,555 ratings
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24

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4.01 avg rating — 42,399 ratings
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25

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3.80 avg rating — 132,015 ratings
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26

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4.28 avg rating — 1,511 ratings
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27

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4.58 avg rating — 28,320 ratings
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28

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4.15 avg rating — 62,752 ratings
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29

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4.16 avg rating — 11,827 ratings
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30

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4.43 avg rating — 5,950 ratings
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31

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4.07 avg rating — 137,069 ratings
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32

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4.09 avg rating — 2,212 ratings
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33

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4.16 avg rating — 395,252 ratings
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34

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4.12 avg rating — 3,309 ratings
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35

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3.52 avg rating — 8,734 ratings
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36

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4.26 avg rating — 1,627 ratings
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37

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4.15 avg rating — 11,835 ratings
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38

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4.21 avg rating — 2,915 ratings
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39

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4.42 avg rating — 120,603 ratings
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40

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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 181,153 ratings
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41

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4.32 avg rating — 1,622 ratings
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42

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3.72 avg rating — 19,025 ratings
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43

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4.49 avg rating — 61 ratings
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44

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3.73 avg rating — 895 ratings
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45

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3.94 avg rating — 4,333 ratings
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46

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4.07 avg rating — 11,445 ratings
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47

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4.08 avg rating — 17,515 ratings
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48

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4.09 avg rating — 4,600 ratings
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49

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4.35 avg rating — 1,911 ratings
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50

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4.34 avg rating — 6,199 ratings
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51

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4.20 avg rating — 1,392 ratings
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52

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4.08 avg rating — 2,031 ratings
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53

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4.33 avg rating — 257 ratings
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54

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4.04 avg rating — 23,541 ratings
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55

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3.60 avg rating — 208,151 ratings
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56

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4.21 avg rating — 390 ratings
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57

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4.63 avg rating — 395 ratings
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58

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4.04 avg rating — 6,521 ratings
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59

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4.23 avg rating — 625 ratings
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59

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4.40 avg rating — 1,647 ratings
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61

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4.47 avg rating — 10,190 ratings
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62

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3.78 avg rating — 102 ratings
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63

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4.38 avg rating — 1,111 ratings
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64

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3.91 avg rating — 790 ratings
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65

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4.32 avg rating — 17,916 ratings
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66

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3.91 avg rating — 6,312 ratings
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67

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4.17 avg rating — 1,200 ratings
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68

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4.31 avg rating — 1,328 ratings
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69

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4.32 avg rating — 1,566 ratings
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70

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4.07 avg rating — 848 ratings
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71

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4.40 avg rating — 2,976 ratings
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72

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4.32 avg rating — 1,952 ratings
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73

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4.22 avg rating — 530 ratings
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74

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4.04 avg rating — 376 ratings
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75

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4.29 avg rating — 788 ratings
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76

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4.19 avg rating — 275,678 ratings
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77

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3.83 avg rating — 152,144 ratings
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78

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4.48 avg rating — 60 ratings
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79

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4.24 avg rating — 2,494 ratings
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80

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3.97 avg rating — 36 ratings
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81

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4.15 avg rating — 25,542 ratings
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82

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4.34 avg rating — 241 ratings
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82

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4.31 avg rating — 734 ratings
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84

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4.30 avg rating — 1,104 ratings
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85

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4.30 avg rating — 8,184 ratings
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86

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4.12 avg rating — 3,010 ratings
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87

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4.22 avg rating — 772 ratings
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88

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3.99 avg rating — 239 ratings
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89

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3.94 avg rating — 1,648 ratings
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90

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4.56 avg rating — 8,304 ratings
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91

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4.12 avg rating — 4,088 ratings
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92

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3.81 avg rating — 80 ratings
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93

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4.10 avg rating — 238 ratings
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93

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4.34 avg rating — 6,394 ratings
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95

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4.11 avg rating — 648 ratings
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96

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4.03 avg rating — 360 ratings
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97

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3.32 avg rating — 57 ratings
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98

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4.38 avg rating — 26 ratings
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99

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4.25 avg rating — 628 ratings
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100

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4.08 avg rating — 772 ratings
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Holly 2153 books
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Comments (showing 155-204)





message 204: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I added The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston because it's a great text on Chinese culture and how first-generation Chinese-Americans deal with the tensions between their cultures. I also added Sherman Alexie's book because it's a collection of short stories dealing with issues affecting Native American culture. Alexie's an amazing writer and his work is very easy to relate to.


message 203: by Lynnhb (new)

Lynnhb How about 'White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son' - Tim Wise?


message 202: by Holly (new)

Holly Thanks for adding new books to the list! Please note that the focus is on non-fiction & memoir (arbitrary, for sure). Would someone like to make a fiction list?


message 201: by Grant (new)

Grant Why title this "Books White People Need To Read?" I find this slightly ignorant. These are books that ALL people should read. I hardly condone all of the actions and attitudes of my ancestors. A list of this nature won't be very helpful in promoting respect and understanding between diverse cultural groups.


message 200: by Holly (new)

Holly Good point, all people do need to read these books and to engage in dialogue with people who are different from them. However, this list was sparked by an article listed in the intro up top which specifically addressed the need for white people to educate themselves about race and not exclusively rely on people of color to educate them. That's why the list is titled the way it is, check out the article cited for more! And thanks for participating in the conversation.


message 199: by Michael (new)

Michael Spisak an excerpt from Full Circle, Chapter 24:

"...The Ancestors waited patiently, watching as their descendants are forced to live that hell. They wait, until Hell becomes accepted as normal and evil becomes accepted as common place. They watch, their grand children so completely lost to them. These same children given explicit instructions for return but the instructions ignored. No one capable of interpreting the instructions any longer.
The Ancients wait and watch as foreign invaders reign down devastation in less than 300 years. Wait and watch as the invaders turn a pristine utopia into a fetid pool of decay and the Ancients descendants become replica’s of the invaders. As these descendants wreak the same havoc and destruction upon each other. For millennia the Ancients exist watching as what was given so freely becomes a commodity where the greedy demand payment for what has never been theirs to sell..."

http://www.amazon.com/Full-Circle-Mic...


message 197: by J (new)

J For those who are really interested in Black History, please check out my non-profit educational organization. It's called the Black-a-Day Project.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bl...


message 196: by Reader (new)

Reader i'm wondering about 2 of these books:
after the arab spring
looming tower

so, no racism against arabs but prejudice against muslims is still ok? why are those books on this list?


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie I don't think The Help should be on this list. (And it definitely shouldn't be near the top!) Every review I've read of that book that was written by a black person says that that book is really heavy on the white saviour crap. Only white people seem to think it's good.


message 194: by Athens (last edited Dec 01, 2012 04:08PM) (new)

Athens Does the name of this list strike anybody as racist?

To be more direct, the name of this list is racist.

How can this list exist without a presupposed and prejudiced stereotype of what white people think and are?


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie Paul wrote: "Does the name of this list strike anybody as racist?

To be more direct, the name of this list is racist.

How can this list exist without a presupposed and prejudiced stereotype of what white peop..."


No, it's not racist. White people have a racist history and still tend to be racist, even if unintentionally. That is a fact, and it's not racist to point that out.


message 192: by Athens (last edited Dec 01, 2012 11:59PM) (new)

Athens No person should accept stereotyping based on their genetics or cultural background.

Is that something that we all agree upon?

Thank you for your consideration.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie Paul wrote: "No person should accept stereotyping based on their genetics or cultural background.

Is that something that we all agree upon?

Thank you for your consideration."


Sure, but this isn't stereotyping. How is it stereotyping to say that white people need to learn about racism?

Also, you have to keep in mind that there's a difference between stereotyping white people and actual racism. White people are not in any way disadvantaged because of our race. The system is completely in our favour.


message 190: by Athens (last edited Dec 06, 2012 11:48PM) (new)

Athens Let us please see people as the individuals we are.

If the list were about tolerance for all people, that would be excellent and not offensive; or as Grant indicated, books that all people need to read.

The world will be a more peaceful place when we stop seeing people as "the other" based on genetic heritage.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie Well sure, but in the meantime racism still exists and is a big problem, and pretending that race doesn't exist will not solve that problem.


message 188: by Athens (last edited Dec 07, 2012 03:17PM) (new)

Athens "There is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America. There's the United States of America."

- Barack Obama in a public speech.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie Yeah, that quote has nothing to do with this...

Here's my point: Racism exists. White people are the ones in power and therefore the ones responsible for ending racism. The only way to end racism is to make white people stop being racist. This is our responsibility. That's why white people need to read these books.


message 186: by Athens (last edited Dec 07, 2012 10:02PM) (new)

Athens Please, everybody show respect for all persons?


message 185: by Reader (new)

Reader well, i guess there are least two responses that a white person could have, reading this list title. 'ok, lets find out which books should i read?' or 'how dare they call me a white person and i won't read anything they think i should'.
a person with the second reaction probably wouldn't benefit much from these books anyway, regardless of what the list is titled.
we need to be moving away from the construct of so-called 'race' anyway. but again, that depends on white people, those who constructed, benefited, and continue to benefit from 'race', letting it go. or mixing beyond identification. at which point humans will find some other characteristic to divide us.


message 184: by Cassandra (new)

Cassandra hmm, I wonder how people would react to a list entitled "books black/chinese/latin people need to read"? I get the point, and I would like to read MANY of the books on this list, but I still find the title to be a racist generalization which promotes the exact ideas you seem to want to undo. I am 1/8 black, but I have pale skin and blue eyes which makes me white to everyone else. The reality is that everyone should read a number of these books regardless of their race.

Oh, and you know what else is a fact? Racism is NOT an exclusively white problem. Many people of ALL races are racist. In fact, there are many white people in the world who are better educated on historical racism than many black people.

Bottom line, the title is ignorant, racist, and detracts from the whole point of the list.


message 183: by Kim (new)

Kim DeCina Okay, some Racism 101 for the ignorant people populating the comments:
1. White people learning about racism is different from many other races learning about racism, because white people have the majority of the power in the West. So we're the ones making the law, the culture, and the majority decisions. We have the power to hurt other races way, way more than other races have the power to hurt us, because it's backed up by society and the law. Check any prison statistic if you don't believe that matters. Check how many white people have the money and the social clout as vs. people of color. It is disproportionately white, it has always been disproportionately white. You need to take that into account.

2. White people learning about racism have different things to consider than black people learning about racism. Or Chinese people learning about racism. Because all races experience the discussion on race differently based on their own personal experiences or lack thereof. These books focus on what WHITE people need to learn. Why would a black person have to read about how black youth is struggling, for instance, if there's a good chance they or someone else they know is living it, and if they are incapable of performing the suggestions the author has for specifically white people?

3. Suggesting all people need to be respected, then getting angry when people of color talk about how they'd like to be respected and have that respect taught to others? Is, dare I say, prety damn racist.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie Kim wrote: "Okay, some Racism 101 for the ignorant people populating the comments:
1. White people learning about racism is different from many other races learning about racism, because white people have the ..."


+1 million! Thank you, Kim.


message 181: by Ðɑηηɑ (new)

Ðɑηηɑ Hitler's book?! What is that doing here! That racist nazi!


message 180: by Athens (last edited May 03, 2013 05:55PM) (new)

Athens Cassandra wrote: "hmm, I wonder how people would react to a list entitled "books black/chinese/latin people need to read"? I get the point, and I would like to read MANY of the books on this list, but I still find ..."

Totally agree with your post.

The title of this list is racist and deeply offensive.

Calling people "ignorant" and other personal insults only adds to the problem, is hurtful and callous, and helps nobody but those who want to think they are superior.

Anybody who categorizes all "white people" is practicing flat-out racism and should take a moment to reflect on how better to reduce hatred in the world, rather than add to it through racism and name-calling.


message 179: by Athens (new)

Athens “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
― Mother Teresa


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie Athens, please go look up white privilege. It's tiresome to explain it to every new white person who comes along and thinks they're the victim of racism.


message 177: by Athens (last edited May 03, 2013 06:12PM) (new)

Athens Hi Lianne and thank you for your thoughtful reply. I honestly request no explanation from you, especially one that could be tiresome, as you say.

I do ask that you please stop the hurtful racism of categorizing an entire ethnicity. It starts to look like hate speech, though I am sure you do not mean it that way.

Thank you for your kind consideration and peace to you.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
― Mother Teresa


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie lol hate speech, that's hilarious. A) I'm white. B) I don't hate white people, including myself. C) It's not hateful to acknowledge that white people have an automatic privilege in life. That is simply an obvious fact.

I highly recommend reading White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack to gain an understanding of this concept.


message 175: by Athens (new)

Athens Please find a peaceful approach to the topic and please stop categorizing an entire ethnicity. This behavior exhibited here is judging an entire group on the basis of race, which is racism. Thank you for your consideration.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie I'm sorry, I don't mean to be "un-peaceful", but when you spend a lot of time on this topic, it becomes very frustrating to see other white people not understanding it (though perhaps I should be more understanding, as I was once the same way, before I put the effort into learning more).

I'm not "categorizing an entire ethnicity". As a white person, I am just acknowledging that I have benefits in life. I will not be discriminated against because of my race, the way all other races are. As surely as men have privilege over me, I have privilege over people of colour.

Also: how can I be racist against myself? And why would I be? I beg of you, put some thought and research into this instead of just reacting blindly with anger (however much you speak of peace).


message 173: by Kim (last edited May 03, 2013 07:22PM) (new)

Kim DeCina Athens wrote: "Please find a peaceful approach to the topic and please stop categorizing an entire ethnicity. This behavior exhibited here is judging an entire group on the basis of race, which is racism. Thank..."

As another fellow white person, I'm very curious. What are we unfairly generalizing? That white people in the Western world live in a society that shows a bias towards them - in the amount of money we have, the jobs we get, the amount of status we have? In how the media portrays us and how much we're featured in fiction as the heroes of the story? In how the legal system judges us vs. nonwhite people?

That's not a judgement against white people because it's not saying anything about what any white person is actually like as a human being. Those are just subjective facts. They are statistics decided by numbers. You can find them out by reading any book. Like the ones listed above.

Are some white people poor, are some white people in the prison system, are some movies and books not about white people? Also yes. But disproportionately, if you compare all the white people and all the non-white people in the Western world, the white people come out massively ahead in terms of quality of life - partly because less than 100 years ago we were given a massive head start. If we lived in a world where things were actually equal, instead of a work in progress towards equality, everything would look more or less 50-50, but that's not the case.

No one here is calling all white people evil or manipulative or selfish, no one is even calling all white people ignorant or even racist in the first place. We are saying that there are still some racist systems in society that are preventing true equality from happening, and since white people have more power to create change we should learn about that. We are saying white people, as a group of people with separate cultures that might not automatically give them the knowledge in these books, should hence read these books in order to learn the things they don't know. That's not anybody's fault. It's just how things are, and what needs to be fixed.

If they know this stuff, then great. But clearly you don't or you wouldn't be repeating yourself by shouting racism at the suggestion that you learn something new.

By the way, calling someone ignorant is not name-calling. Ignorance means you simply don't have knowledge that someone else has. Anyone can acquire knowledge and no one should judge a person for not knowing better.

Calling someone stupid is name calling, because it means they're having things very patiently explained to them and they still don't get it. Or they refuse to.


message 172: by Athens (new)

Athens I am mixed race. This is not about protecting "my" race. Racism is harmful to all parties. Please rename this group to something more positive and less hateful.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie Yes, racism is harmful to all parties who are victims of racism, ie. not white people. That is why this list exists in the first place, and there's nothing wrong with its name.


message 170: by Athens (last edited May 21, 2013 08:09AM) (new)

Athens Stereotyping all "white people" as needing to do something such as read certain books because of their racial deficiency is simply racist.

I encourage all people to free themselves of stereotyping of a racial nature.

It is not OK to characterize all "white people" as deficient in some regard.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie It's not "because of their racial deficiency". It's because white people have white privilege, and are therefore not the victims of racism. As such, we can't understand what it feels like to experience racism, so we need to read these books.

Athens, if you aren't going to listen to anything we say, and you're just going to blindly scream "that's racist!" rather than taking the time to learn something, this discussion is utterly pointless.


message 168: by Athens (new)

Athens Not screaming. I am politely pointing out the truth that racism goes all directions. Please do not be racist towards any group of people, including the whites.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie And I'm politely pointing out that there is no such thing as racism towards white people. If you disagree, and aren't willing to read the books on this list to learn, your continued arguments here are serving no purpose beyond trolling.


message 166: by Athens (last edited May 21, 2013 08:27AM) (new)

Athens Please can you refrain from personal attacks Lianne? I politely disagree that it is somehow OK to make stereotyping statements towards any group, even if you are a member of that group. If you feel that you as an individual need to broaden horizons, that is great, but please do not presume to be the conscience of an entire ethnic group. Again, I am mixed race and have definitely seen racism towards whites from other ethnic groups. I have no idea why you do not see that, but it is your road to travel, not mine. I have high regard for you and all here on goodreads, so please do not personalize to descend into name-calling. I would add that I have read several books on this list, long before finding it here. Best regards.


message 165: by Athens (new)

Athens My mom was white before she passed away. She grew up so poor that the family had to skip meals on many occasions. She was open to all people and never spoke a racist word. There may be plenty of individuals who enjoy privilege, but this white woman certainly did not. She did find time to read at the library, including bringing me to some of the books on this list before she died. My mom was an individual and the opposite of racist.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie 1) I didn't say each individual white person is a racist. I said that we have white privilege, and are therefore not the victims of racism.

2) All white people have white privilege. Being poor does not take away your white privilege. Just like being a woman, being gay, etc., do not cancel out white privilege. Please look up intersectionality.

I'm done here, as this conversation is not making any progress.


message 163: by Cassandra (new)

Cassandra Lianne, I think it's halarious that you seem to think that you are the only one here that's heard of white privilege or intersectionality, or any other term you'd like to throw out from feminism 101. We all have an individual set of privileges, not just white people, so stop.

The whole point of this conversation is that the title is offensive to some of us as it is stated. Period. If you can't wrap your mind around that, or accept that you may not have the only enlightened opinion in the world (or on this board), then this conversation has sincerely been moot. I'm am grateful that I've missed it up until now.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie Cassandra, I don't think I'm the only person who's heard of these terms (and there are others on this thread who obviously have), nor did I ever say that only white people have privilege. This list is specifically about racism and white privilege, so that's what I was talking about.

As for the title being offensive to some of you, I don't see how it can be unless you deny the existence of your white privilege, which is what everyone who's criticised the title so far has been doing. So I'm sorry, but you can't deny your white privilege and have an enlightened opinion on this topic at the same time. And again, I don't think I'm the only one with an enlightened opinion. There have been plenty of others on this thread who understand the purpose of this list and are not offended by the title.


message 161: by Cassandra (new)

Cassandra Plenty of others not being offended does not make it inoffensive. I have white privilege and that's a fact, but what does that have to do with what I should read? I am not ignorant to my white privilege any more than I am am ignorant to my female disprivege, but I find that the title assumes I am ignorant to racial issues just because I am white. Which is quite frankly a load of B.S. so like I said, I find it offensive that the title implies that just because I am "white" I am ignorant. You have nothing to say that doesn't make me feel that way, and you should respect that. Equal... Means my rights, and humanity are just as important as the next guy's... You want to talk about equality? Then respect equality.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie I don't think the title is saying that you're totally ignorant of racial issues. I think it's just acknowledging that, since you don't actually experience racism, you need to learn about it from other sources, and here's a bunch of books that can help with that. I think this is something you can always keep learning more about. While I'm aware of my white privilege, my understanding of racial issues is still tiny compared to that of people who actually experience it. I don't think it's possible for a white person to reach the point where we can say "I now know everything about racism, so I don't need to educate myself about it anymore".


message 159: by Cassandra (new)

Cassandra ^ I'm bored of hearing all about what you think and know. I'm happy for you that you've never experienced racism personally, but you are wrong about it not existing against white people. Tell me, have you ever even been outside our lovely little province?

Anyways, you clearly already know everything about everything already so like I said, I'm bored. Ciao.


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie Yes, well I'm bored of hearing about how you supposedly understand white privilege, yet think that white people can be the victims of racism. *yawn*


message 157: by Athens (last edited Jun 29, 2013 05:08PM) (new)

Athens It would be wonderful to see a world free of racism, including hate statements against whites.

To be direct and polite, the assumption that all white people are racist, is simply racism.

It might ease some guilt to dissociate from other whites, but it is not based in fact.

Restated, saying that any individual "needs" to read this or that book BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN very clearly fits under the definition of flat-out racist speech, if not hate speech.

Please, notice I have indicated that I am not white. I have stated that several times and also said I am mixed race. Please can you take a moment to let that sink in before replying on the basis of thinking I'm white?

... and here I am after experiencing racism all my life and trying to get a white person not to be racist against whites!


message 156: by Athens (last edited Jun 29, 2013 05:07PM) (new)

Athens It is a real disappointment that Goodreads does allow racist statements to be made, in this case against people who are "white".


Lianne (The Towering Pile) Lavoie There is no assumption being made here that all white people are racist. There's a difference between having white privilege (which all white people have, regardless of anything else), and being racist, which white people often are, but can certainly learn not to be.

The fact is, we live in a society (I'm speaking from my experience in North America specifically) that is racist against people of colour, so white people often have racist attitudes they aren't even aware of. That is why we need to read these books. There's nothing racist about admitting that.

And to say that this is anything remotely like hate speech is very offensive. Actual hate speech is a serious issue and it's ridiculous to waste your time defending white people when we aren't even the victims of racism or race-based hate speech.


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