Buzzfeed did an amazing list recently of the 65 books you should read in your 20s that I’m trying to work through in the three months before my life officially ends when I go to grad school. Check out the original list here. All of the books on Buzzfeeds list are amazing, but they tend to favor the lighter hued segment of America. The following books are books that have for me defined the man I am becoming. Every Black Man should read these books to help with that fabled limbo that is your 20s.
1. This is how you Lose Her: Most know Junot Diaz from his beautiful novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. That book is amazing and should be read, but I’ve included his new book on this list. This is How You Lose Her is a heart breaking, hilarious and thoughtful portrayal of what black and Latino men do to their women. Staring the narrator from Wao, who if you read the book, is the dopiest narrator in the history of American Literature. Diaz grabs you by the balls and never lets go. Its hard not to look out male culture the same after this book.
2. The Autobiography of Malcolm X: This should be required reading for any American man, black white or purple. Moving past his political and religious stands, Malcolm’s steadfast pursuit for justice should be an inspiration for any 20 something looking to make a change in the world.
3. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention: Ideally read after The Autobiography, Manning Marbles sweeping look into Malcolm’s life ends up being one of the most accessible studies of Black Nationalism in the civil rights era to date. You know what to know about Malcolm the man, the life, and the controversy, read this book.
4. Ender’s Game: The Sci Fi book for people who hate Sci Fi, Ender’s Game is an Epic coming to age story about a genius boy training to become the ultimate weapon. Harry Potter but with more action, less emo brooding, and heavy political under tones.
5. On the Road: The Bible of the Beat Generation, On the Road is a romanticized portrayal of a person gripped with wanderlust. Though rooted in 1950s Beat Culture, it still is powerful today for 20 somethings running away from adulthood and searching for that Horizon.
6. The Motorcycle Diaries: Similar to on the Road, Motorcycle Diaries traces Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s years wandering up the South American countryside on the back of his motorcycle. This is the trip that transforms the young awkward med student into the controversial revolutionary know simply as “Che”. Watching his transformation through his own words humanizes the legend beautifully.
7. Into the Wild: This book will make anyone who feels disenfranchised with the state of society want to pack a backpack and start walking. Following Chris McCandless as he gives up everything in search of enlightenment in the American Wilderness, it is both a Romantic and cautionary tale of the spiritual
8. If Beale Street Could Talk: Essential book list should always include a Baldwin. Most pick Giovanni’s Room. Beale Street examines masculinity through the eyes of a woman. The heart-wrenching story of young lovers living in 1960s New York City will make your soul yearn for your significant other.
9. The Souls of Black Folks: Dubois’ Opus which became of manifesto for Black intellectuals should be a required reading for all young black men. Very dense, it is however a stunning portrait of southern Black life post-civil war. It is also the spiritual precursor for later philosophies from Garvey to X.
10. Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness: Toure, Toure, Toure. I have a love, hate relationship with this man. On one hand he has the courage to stay true to himself in a post Brian Gumble media. On the other hand, he’s an asshole. But his book changed the way I look at art, especially the art that I do. Post-black and how we define black has been the major spiritual discussion for black people living in Obama's America. Like him or hate him, Toure is a major force in that discussion.
11. Sister Citizen: The book that pissed off Cornell West. Sister Citizen is an examination of the stereotypes Black Women face, often times at the hands of black man. It's a game changer for black men in our 20s as we try to understand the fairer sex.
12. The New Jim-Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness. The book description on Amazon: Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as "brave and bold," this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a "call to action." Yeah you should read it.
13. The Lord of the Rings: The backbone of Western Fantasy from Salvatore to Skyrim, to Martin. The Lord of the Rings is dense, and yeah it was fun as a kid, but to really get Tolkien's poetry, you have to read it post college.
14. A Song of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones, Clash of Kings, and Strom of Swords. Yes theirs an HBO special that follows pretty closely, but this is the fantasy novel for those who hate fantasy. Dark, graphic, sexy, and disturbing it will capture a 20 something’s imagination. And honestly, you should read it in high school.
15. Jesus Hopped The A Train: Gurigis sought to recreate the poetry you hear walking down the street of New York City in the late 80s and 90s spoken by minority and lower income people. If you trying to appericate contemporary theater, these are the plays to start with.
16. 7 Guitars: Black Men should read August Wilson, because there is no one who wrote for Black Men like he did. 7 Guitars is one of his strongest, with characters searching for the illusive American Dream and finding themselves just short.
17. Macbeth: Rereading Macbeth as a 20 year old is like having sex with the lights on. You see all the beautiful imperfections that become lost when trying to read Shakespeare in a High School English class. Plus Macbeth is one of the biggest badasses in Shakespeare’s works, figuring he rip a man in half.
18. The Brother Sister Plays: Devling deep into what it means to be both black and male, these three plays pull heavily from Nigerian folk lore to craft pieces that are lyrical, provocative, and contemporary.
19. Watchmen: The graphic novel designed to end graphic novels, Watchmen is a biting satire of Comic books as an art form.
20. Sandman: Neil Giaman’s epic that change the way people view graphic novels forever. Following the story of Dream, an omnipresent force of nature that controls our imaginations, Giaman creates a universe that is gorgeous, tragic, and heart warming. Different comic artists painted each issue, making Sandman’s story tripper then an Acid Trip in San Francisco.
21. The Rose that grew from Concrete: A collection of Poems written by Tupac when he was in a High School writing class. Not all the poems are good (they are written by a depressed teenager) but it humanizes a legend.
22. In Black & White: Amazon's Review: "Based on painstaking research and more than 250 interviews, Wil Haygood brings us a sweeping and vivid cultural history of the twentieth century, chronicling black entertainment from its beginnings and the birth of popular culture as we know it. In Black and White transcends simple biography to become an important record, both celebratory and elegiacal, of a vanished America and its greatest entertainer." Yep read it.
23. The Essential Pablo Neruda: No one describes being in love quite the same say that Neruda does. Read it now before you become the jaded 40 year old uncle drunk at the family cook out.