Don’t Whitewash Your Bookshelf: our top 10 books for anti-racist work

Written by Kirsty Griffiths

Illustrated by Shazmeen Khalid

All of the links to purchase books are from Black-owned businesses except for, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People.

Following the murder of George Floyd, one of the biggest civil rights movement of our time was sparked. Black Lives Matter is a movement we must keep pushing for and this involves being actively anti-racist. As non-Black people we must continue to learn and share resources that we have found helpful, as well as keeping up monthly donations if possible.

Much needed conversations on white privilege, police brutality and institutionalised racism must continue. We must educate ourselves further on the injustices and systems we were not taught about in school.

Books on racism have been soaring up major bestseller lists as fellow white people have slowly come to the realisation that maybe posting that black square to Instagram wasn’t enough.

Learning about: (not just white) history, slavery, poverty, privilege and the rigged system of racism we help perpetuate is a great place to begin anti-racist work. Not only does it make you more aware of the invisible (and not so invisible) barriers minorities face, so you can work to tear them down, it provides you with knowledge and understanding you can pass on to others. Ignorance is not bliss.

Below is a list of books I would like to share as I have found them to be the most helpful. They vary from fictional novels to personal stories to interactive books. They will all further your understanding on subjects such as; systemic racism, social mobility, intersectionality, real history, class, motherhood, feminism, genealogy, unconscious bias, white privilege, and how all of these intertwine with race.

Personal stories:

The Good Immigrant – Multiple authors – edited by Nikesh Shukla

The Good Immigrant by  Shukla (ed.)
Source: Sevenoaks Bookshop

An insight from a collection of authors, actors and journalists from a variety of backgrounds into what it means to them to be ‘a good immigrant’, a role they have been instructed to play in order to be accepted in Britain. This book is a much-needed way for white people to see the UK through eyes other than our own.

Airports, workplaces, classrooms, auditions, job interviews. White people very rarely notice how stark the contrast of experience within these seemingly mundane places can be, and that is demonstrated so clearly by the diverse collection of essays featured in The Good Immigrant.

I suggest once you’ve finished reading that you pass the book on to your closest racist relative. It perfectly covers every protest, insult and argument frequently used against minorities and swiftly confirms why they are, of course, utter bullsh*t.

You can purchase it here.

People Like us – Hashi Mohamed

Source: Sevenoaks Bookshop

Part analysis, part polemic and part how-to-guide, People Like Us asks the question: “what does it take to make it?”. It is an incredible book which discusses social mobility/immobility, inequality and the author’s real-life experiences on how he broke the mould against all odds to become a barrister, whilst acknowledging his success story unlike any other.

Mohamed mentions how his own tale shouldn’t be unusual but examines why it is viewed as such. He factors in poverty, crime, location, luck, peer pressure, the myth of meritocracy, tokenism, and a lack of options and choices.

You can purchase it here.

I Am Not Your Baby Mother – Candice Brathwaite

Source: Sevenoaks Bookshop

Yet another example of often not noticing a lack of representation until you are on the receiving end of said lack of; when Candice Brathwaite became pregnant, she realised she couldn’t see herself reflected in the motherhood portrayed in books and onscreen unless it was the vicious ‘baby mother’ stereotype.

I am Not Your Baby Mother is the story of what led her to fixing that and the injustices she faced as a Black mother along the way. From not being listened to in hospital to having to trade money for the façade of having it all together for fear of judgement, Brathwaite incites tears and laughter as she skilfully highlights how her race directly impacted how she had to navigate motherhood in ways white parents would never even think about.

You can purchase it here.

I Will Not Be Erased – Multiple Authors, Gal-dem

I Will Not Be Erased": Our stories about growing up as people of colour by  gal-dem"
Source: Sevenoaks Bookshop

A beautiful, sometimes heart-breaking, compilation of women responding to their younger selves and the diary entries they wrote. Ranging from overcoming racism, sexism and homophobia, to learning to love and accept yourself despite the odds. The present-day entries are moving love letters to children that unjustly suffered from societal setbacks that still plague many today.

You can purchase it here.

Natives – Akala

Source: Afrobiz

Similar to People Like Us (Hashi Mohamed), Natives is a skilful mix of memoir, history and social/cultural analysis about how class intersects with race. Akala discusses his own past, what problems are still prominent in the present and poses questions for the future, initiating a difficult but necessary conversation.

He communicates an array of complex issues in a manner that’s convincing, informative and often surprisingly entertaining, drawing on an impressive range of research material.

You can purchase it here.


Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

Source: Sevenoaks Bookshop

“Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent. This book is an attempt to speak.”

I learnt more about Black history in one chapter than I did in 14 years of schooling. I was educated on racism within feminism and the privilege my skin affords me in ways that would never have crossed my mind without this masterpiece. I found myself bookmarking every other page in an attempt to make it easier to touch upon the most useful sections when I read it a second time, ending with practically the entire book highlighted.

My full review on this book can be found here:

You can purchase it here.

How to Argue with a Racist – Adam Rutherford

Source: Sevenoaks Bookshop

An invaluable book with the sole purpose of dismantling common arguments spread by racists, using the weapon of science. Rutherford elegantly examines and pulls apart age-old debates – quickly debunking each of them – such as the ridiculous stereotype of Black people being superior athletes due to slavery, and the impossible myth of being 100% white.

As he quotes in the book, “reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired”, but if the facts and science that Rutherford provides don’t work for this reason, at least you’ll have gained some useful knowledge along the way.

You can purchase it here.


Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People – Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji

9780553804645: Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
Source: AbeBooks

It’s all in the title. If, like me, you thought you knew your own mind or are somehow exempt from being racist because you’re a ‘good person’, think again. These self-perceptions we have of ourselves that we can fairly judge others or ‘don’t see colour’ are challenged by psychologists Greenwald and Banaji. They explain how a lifetime of societal and cultural attitudes can burden us with hidden biases and demonstrate this by featuring their creation: The IAT (Implicit-association test).

Whilst the results may be alarming, the tests are quick, easy to take and are designed to reveal to you the unconscious bias you may hold against certain races, sexualities, genders and even presidents. You can take them in the book or online here.

You can purchase it here.

Me and White Supremacy – Layla Saad

Source: Sevenoaks Bookshop

A ground-breaking daily workbook that aims to break down the white supremacist that lies within all white people (whether you like it or not, it’s there), by giving you the information and journaling prompts you need to question and unpack, well, everything about yourself.

Covering all traits of white supremacy and not leaving a stone unturned, Layla Saad poured her extensive knowledge into this book and white people should be forever grateful.

You can purchase it here.


Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo

Source: New Beacon Books

Girl, Woman, Other will quickly pull you in. It features the remarkable stories of varied and well-built characters and touches on the issues of race, sexuality and gender affecting them. Throughout the book the stories twist together and characters’ lives are woven into one another, all satisfyingly culminating to right where you were at the beginning.

You can purchase it here.

Don’t just stop at 10!

Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams (can be purchased here)

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (can be purchased here)

Black, Listed – Jeffrey Boakye (can be purchased here)

White Privilege – Kalwant Bhopal (can be purchased here)

Black and British: A Forgotten History – David Olusoga (can be purchased here)

The Author

Kirsty is a freelance writer currently studying journalism in her hometown, Birmingham. She mostly writes articles on social and cultural issues, but also enjoys book reviews and personal essays.

Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous

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