A customer browses at the Amazon Books store in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015.
Photograph by David Ryder—Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Ellen McGirt
June 30, 2017

Summertime is the perfect time to kick back and expand your mind – or your corporate library — with some good reads. So, I asked some raceAhead experts to help.

The question was simple: What book would you recommend to someone seeking to better understand the diverse world around them? For this column, I asked corporate librarians, academic experts, and D&I practitioners for their best advice. They did not disappoint. It’s been a true delight to collect these heartfelt recommendations and share them with you.

Due to overwhelming demand (thanks!) we’ll be making this a regular feature.

But for now, free your mind, and the rest will follow.

“Between the World and Me” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Orvil Savery, HR Generalist at Veterans United Home Loans, recommends Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, written as a letter to his fifteen-year-old son.“The Black experience in American society is fundamentally different and exponentially more complex than any one book can describe, but Coates does a great job of describing the symbolic relationship the human body holds as it relates to the freedom, opportunity, and equality these communities are often not provided access to.”

“Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People” (Mahzarin R. Banaji)

Dania Matos, Deputy Chief Diversity Officer at William & Mary, recommends Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji. “Just in the name, this book helps us uncover that we don’t know what we don’t know and the blind spots that influence our interactions,” she says.

“Brothers and Sisters” (Bebe Moore Campbell)

Adia Harvey Winfield, a professor of sociology at Washington University says of Brothers and Sisters, “It’s an exceptional portrayal of how industry (and society) struggle with diversity and inclusion and the racial implications that incurs. It addresses these issues from multiple perspectives and skillfully manages to consider a variety of issues that can contribute to the difficulties of creating a more diverse society. It does this better than any other fiction book I’ve read.”

“Change the Way You See Everything” (Kathryn D. Cramer and Hank Wasiak)

Katy Jo Wright, Director Gaming for Everyone at Microsoft recommends Change the Way You See Everything, by Kathryn D. Cramer, Ph.D & Hank Wasiak. “So much of our world right now is focused on what’s wrong and how we fix our problems. This book flips that approach around and teaches us to instead to focus on our strengths and build on what’s working to create the world we want, through the philosophy of Asset-Based Thinking.” Though not a traditional D&I book, “I have found the approach of deliberately building on existing strengths as a starting point, to be one that naturally empowers and inspires people to effectively drive change, together.”

“El Deafo” (Cece Bell)

Sarah Rose, an Associate Professor of History and the director of University of Texas at Austin’s Minor in Disability Studies, recommends Cece Bell’s, El Deafo, “a fantastic graphic novel that explores the author’s experience of what it was like to suddenly become deaf and how she turned her awkward body hearing aid into a superpower that helped her integrate into the school community.”

“Esperanza Rising” (Pam Munoz Ryan)

Esperanza Rising first of three fiction recommendations from Kellie Raffaelli, director of Michigan Technological University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “All of [them] give the reader an opportunity to view the world from a different perspective. Once we see the world from someone else’s viewpoint, we begin to include them in the decisions we make, especially decisions that affect everyone,” she says.

“Fading Scars: My Queer Disability History” (Corbett Joan O’Toole)

University of Texas at Austin history professor Rose also recommends Corbett Joan OToole’s Fading Scars: My Queer Disability History, calling it a jargon-free book of lyrical essays exploring life as a queer disabled person and parent. “Corbett OToole has played a key role over the disability rights movement over the past 40 years,” she says.

“From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation 1st Edition” (Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor)

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation gives insights into historical and current challenges of racism and structural inequalities that continue to fester,” says Rochelle Ford, a professor at Communications@Syracuse.

“Just Mercy” (Brian Stevenson)

Tara de Souza, from Goucher College, offered a selection from their summer reading list. “Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is an incisive and thorough look at the prison industrial complex and the way it targets the most vulnerable members of society,” she says. Goucher is currently only one of a few colleges in the US that offers Bachelor’s degrees to currently incarcerated students. Learn more here.

“Kindred” (Octavia E. Butler)

Kindred is another fiction recommendation from Kellie Raffaelli, director of Michigan Technological University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

“Make Your Home Among Strangers” (Jennine Capo Crucet)

Francisco Gago-Jover, Spanish professor and dean of the class of 2021 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., recommends Make Your Home Among Strangers, by Jennine Capo Crucet. “I found the story of Lizet (a first generation Cuban-American college student), the main character, very compelling, as she struggles to balance her new life in college, with the expectations her parents have, and her own expectations,” he says.

“Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World” (James Emery White)

Rochelle Ford, a professor at Communications@Syracuse recommends Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World by James Emery White. “He looks at Gen Z through a faith-based perspective, calling this the first “post-Christian” generation,” she says. “He provides a unique framework to understanding diversity and inclusion.”

“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” (Adam Grant)

Maria Hughes, EVP, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Humana, recommends Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. “At Humana, one of our core values is Cultivating Uniqueness. It’s critical that we value different characteristics, experiences, and backgrounds to drive the innovative and strategic thinking to create our competitive edge in a diverse marketplace.” Kate Barton, Americas Vice Chair of Tax Services at EY leads a Book Club for their tax team and recommended the same book. “Diversity of thought is so essential in the workplace. It’s always been my aim to encourage creative and original thinking in our Tax practice and to help make EY a place of diversity where people are comfortable not only being themselves but expressing ideas that might stray from the norm.”

“The Faithful Scribe” (Shahan Mufti)

Patrice Rankine, University of Richmond School of Arts and Sciences Dean recommends his fellow journalism professor colleague’s book The Faithful Scribe. Mufti draws on his personal experiences to capture the story of Pakistan, the world’s first Islamic democracy, and its relationship with America. “The issues of Muslims in America and immigration are themes in the book that were not as prevalent a few years ago when the book was published, but they have become much more important to talk about and discuss now,” he says.

“The Man in the High Castle” (Philip K. Dick)

One of three fiction recommendations from Kellie Raffaelli, director of Michigan Technological University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Find it here.

“The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” (Arundhati Roy)

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is the tale of a transgender woman building a life in Old Delhi. It’s an inspiring read about the timelessness of love, regardless of who you love,” says Alicia “AJ” Petross, Vice President, Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement at The Hershey Company.

“The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” (Naoki Higashida)

“Not only does it provide incredible insight into how a person with autism experiences the world, it was a great reminder for me that everyone has their own unique set of emotional needs that may present very differently in behavior from how I might behave, and empathy for that difference is important,” says Mary Beth Wynn, head of HR at Jellyvision, an employee benefits technology company. Find the book here.

“Waking Up White” (Debbie Irving)

Waking Up White was the one non-fiction selection from Kellie Raffaelli, director of Michigan Technological University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion, yet another title that gives the reader an opportunity to see the world from someone else’s viewpoint.

“We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Re-Segregation” (Jeff Chang)

We Gon’ Be Alright addresses the problem with diversity and issues of campus climate. It also focuses on how those two things fit in with Black Lives Matter, addressing some frameworks for hope for how we move forward,” says Patrice Rankine, the University of Richmond School of Arts and Sciences Dean.

“Whistling Vivaldi: How Sterotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Issues of Our Time)” (Claude Steele)

Matos, Deputy Chief Diversity Officer at William & Mary says Whistling Vivaldi is, “a must read, especially given the national climate for understanding why race is still such an important factor.” (Uber’s Coleman recommends this one, too.)

“White Rage: The Unspoke Truth of Our Racial Divide” (Carol Anderson)

Bernard Coleman, the Global Head of D&I for Diversity at Uber also recommends Anderson’s White Rage. “[She] talks to our nation’s racial divide and illustrates how deep those vestiges run. I read this book right before the 2016 presidential election and tied together one of the many reasons why our candidate lost,” he says.

“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting together in the Cafeteria” (Beverly Daniel Tatum)

This book opened my eyes on racism and racial identity. It’s a good primer for folks who are starting their D&I journey,” says Uber’s Coleman.

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