This month we bring you two recommendations. The first is essential as we grapple all too clumsily with race in America, the second is essential for understanding the deepest ideas that drive us all. As always, just click the links to go to the Powells.com website for the book.
By Ibram X. Kendi FINALIST for the National Book Award 2016
Americans like to insist that we are living in a post-racial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.
In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. “Stamped from the Beginning” uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil-rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.
As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation’s racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them and in the process, gives us reason to hope.
“Both a penetrating treatise and a wonderfully accessible work of intellectual history, Stamped from the Beginning reveals the heritage of ideas behind the modern dialectic of race-denial and race-obsession. By historicizing our entrenched logic of racial difference, Kendi shows why “I don’t see color” and other professions of post-racialism remain inexorable alibis for white supremacy. Stamped from the Beginning has done the cause of anti-racism a great service.” Russell Rickford,
The passing of Robert Pirsig in April brought an ideal opportunity to re-read his masterpiece, and to recommend it to our Book Spotlight audience
By Robert Pirsig
“One of the most important and influential books written in the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live . . . and a breathtaking meditation on how to live better. Here is the book that transformed a generation: an unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest, undertaken by a father and his young son. A story of love and fear — of growth, discovery, and acceptance — that becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life’s fundamental questions, this uniquely exhilarating modern classic is both touching and transcendent, resonant with the myriad confusions of existence . . . and the small, essential triumphs that propel us forward.”