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Publisher's Summary

Number-one New York Times best seller
National Book Award winner
Named one of Time’s Ten Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade
Pulitzer Prize finalist
National Book Critics Circle Award finalist 

Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading”, a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race” (Rolling Stone).

Named one of the Most Influential Books of the Decade by CNN

Named one of Paste’s Best Memoirs of the Decade

Named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book ReviewO: The Oprah MagazineThe Washington PostPeople • Entertainment Weekly • Vogue • Los Angeles TimesSan Francisco ChronicleChicago TribuneNew YorkNewsday • Library JournalPublishers Weekly 

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race”, a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of Black women and men - bodies exploited through slavery and segregation and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a Black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son - and listeners - the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. 

Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward. 

©2015 Ta-Nehisi Coates (P)2015 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Ta-Nehisi Coates's delivery of his own book is so memorable because the material is charged with emotion and a tone of self-disclosure. There's also a highly personal sense of connection between himself and his audience because of his frequent use of 'you.'" (AudioFile)

"The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates's journey, is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive.... This is required reading." (Toni Morrison) 

Featured Article: 150+ of the Best Quotes from Black Authors, Activists, Entrepreneurs, and Artists to Celebrate Black History Month


Black History is American History. Whether writers, poets, activists, entertainers, scientists, entrepreneurs, or some combination thereof, Black people have frequently offered exactly the right words when they were needed most. This sweeping collection of wise, stirring, and thought-provoking words from Black Americans offers much to inspire all Americans.

What listeners say about Between the World and Me

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A Heartfelt Self-aware Literary Masterpiece

This book manages to do something that is rarely accomplished with such a serious subject. It's well thought out and methodical but simultaneous emotional and sincerely heartfelt. Written as a letter to his son Coates explains how to exist in modern day America as a black man. He gets very introspective and deeply personal when sharing annidotes about his life and each story lead to a deeper understanding for him. If I were to write a handbook on how to raise a black male who's conscious of his circumstances but not resigned to other people's ideas of who he is, and taking those lessons to transcend what America thinks he's capable of, this would be that handbook.

After listening to this book, I ordered 10 hardback copies and gave one to each of my nephews and my uncles. I find myself quoting Ta-Nehisi now like some pretentious fanboy posting Bieber lyrics on twitter. But that's how much this literary masterpiece touched me and continues to resonate after reading it 3 times (with more to come).

Suffice to say, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys discovering new literary geniuses in the making. He's an enjoyable narrator with a soothing baritone voice. I love when authors narrate their own books. The pacing and his vocal inflection was pitch perfect throughout. 5 stars all around.

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Beautifully expressed

As the mother of a white son, I know that I can never understand the fear of any person of any color trying to raise a son into adulthood. This book comes very close to helping me see through this fathers eyes. Thank you.

127 people found this helpful

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Absolutely. Everything.

I felt like a fly on the wall as I listened to Coates counsel his son. The words are so powerful on their own and become electrified by the author's voice - a deep, Baltimore, accent that paints a vivid picture. I'd recommend this book for every American who gives a damn about the nation's future and knows an ounce about its past. Great read.

78 people found this helpful

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A definite must.

This is the first bit literature that I've come across that gives my and my friends experiences a voice. I could never put into words what I and my family went through in the Cabrini Green projects of chicago, but this book does just that and with reflection of how people like myself view America in its current state.
I wish I could thank the author in person.

74 people found this helpful

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Wake up!

I used to think these kind of books were justifications. But now I see that this is an explanation by an individual to an individual. I cannot apply this perspective to all; I can only mourn the fact the perspective is a reality in someone's life; therefore, it is a reality.

There is work to be done. On myself. On my mind. But first, I must wake up from this dream.

Thank you, Mr. Coates.

65 people found this helpful

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Really really good read

As a black woman born and raised in Jamaica and that did not know I was black and overweight until I moved here in 1991, this book gives context, not necessarily answers but context to so many questions I've had over the years regarding my experiences living here.

Thank you so much.

55 people found this helpful

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Awaken Fellow Dreamers

Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a book that runs the distance from the black body (with all its wounds and fears) and the stars (with its ability to be a conscious citizen of the world). It travels from the mountain peaks of the dreamers, whose mountain is built on the sacred, black bodies, and their dark, spilt blood. Those dreamers who plunder hope, rob time, contort the lives of those it this horrible, terrible, fantastic nation has historically bent, beat, twisted.

I read this for a glimpse of the other. I read this to become conscious of my own heritage and responsibilities. I read this because I am taught more by the letter of a peer, a brother, a fellow citizen to his son than I can be without transforming myself or recasting my lot. I need to understand my place so I can understand all places and people.

I live with the hope than just a few of those who cry because a fictional Atticus idol was brought down will realize he was always dirty. I live with the hope they will pay attention more to the young black bodies in Chicago, Baltimore, New York, D.C., whose eyes are blindfolded with fear of living among the dreamers. That those few will understand that there exists millions who fight everyday with the wind at their face and hounds always at their heels.

I'm glad I read it. I wish there was no need to, but there is no velocity to escape our history and our present.

52 people found this helpful

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A 1%-er Who People Like to Think is "White" Agrees

Great book telling us not just the truth about "white" vs "black" in America but about how the powerful take advantage of the powerless. Like how he describes those who are not considered black as well as those that like to see themselves as white. As a Cuban I pass as white because I'm light skinned (also having money helps) but there have been times my heritage and my slightly darker skin kept me from getting a job or a girlfriend etc... It is sad to see Marco Rubio or Colin Powell be loved when they act like the Latin or Blacks "whites" love until they mention immigration reform or vote for Obama thus reveal themselves to be "one of them".

Great book and well read. The book is a call to reality. It tells us things about ourselves (black and white) we don't like to hear, and it makes us examine who we are and where we want to be. It is the difference between a atheist and a believer. One believes the only way to become better is to see the world the way it is so we can make it better versus "believing" it is a certain way because "faith" can somehow magically change reality.

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Required reading

As an parent, educator and citizen, I believe is one of the most important books of our time. It is time for those of us who have called ourselves white to listen with an open heart and believe with an open mind. This is the book that will change us into loving activists with no fear of reality. It never rains in Northern California in July, but as I listened to the last line, the sky opened up to wash away all of my old ideas of history. Fitting.

39 people found this helpful

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A Sad, Angry Rant, Teaching Fear and Hopelessness

What disappointed you about Between the World and Me?

I wanted to learn about his encounters with injustice and racism, but what I got was a (self-professed) wounded, paranoid person blame-shifting all his problems onto society. In love, this author needs serious therapy to overcome his inner demons. It is so clear his abusive and unloving childhood has shaped him into a depressed and dour soul.

Would you ever listen to anything by Ta-Nehisi Coates again?

No I would not. It is not wise to listen to people so twisted by fear and malice. He's a broken soul who needs help. He recounts his hyper-vigilance and unease, which is absolutely classic PTSD, but he doesn't seem to realize his need for help. An author like this cannot be trusted to present reality in an honest manner, even with the best of intentions.

What aspect of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s performance would you have changed?

His reading is dull and monotone, mostly. He rarely shows much expression. As a result of him being a depressed person who, in his own words, views the universe as struggle, not hope, his depressed tenor is very tedious to listen to.

What character would you cut from Between the World and Me?

I wish he wouldn't constantly lump all white people together as "plunderers" and "owners of the black man's body" and "dreamers" who only know "expansion and plunder" and "steal your smile". Stop name calling and be an adult. Explain what you mean with proper communication. MLK Jr.'s dream was for a unified coalition of all races to come together to fight injustice. Telling your teenage son that white people, without qualification, are out to plunder and rape you...is horrible parenting.

Any additional comments?

The major flaw of this book is the author taking his seriously broken personal life and blame-shifting it on to society. He believes whites “own his body” when it is hate that grips him tightly, allowing his inner demons to distort his view of reality.

He spends much time recounting his abusive upbringing, and I can relate. As someone who also had an abusive childhood, it is so clear to me that he has severe unresolved psychological damage from his abusive father, unloving relatives, and murderous surroundings. It isn’t until the very end that he admits he’s wounded and paranoid, yet he doesn’t realize his profound need for therapy.

Let me give one example of his unbalanced mind. On 9/11 he admitted he felt nothing for the dead firefighters, even the black firefighters. I don’t think the author realizes how truly sociopathic this makes him look.

As a psychological study, this book is fascinating. The author is so inward focused, unable to escape the chaotic dissonance of his own mind. He “loves his people” but is unmoved by their deaths in 9/11. He says he’s not a cynic but says the law of the universe is struggle, not hope.

Overall, all we can truly learn from this book is that the author has serious inner demons and needs to find a compassionate therapist to allow him to release the hate and truly love his son by BEING a loving example! If only he understood that his lack of wisdom and perspective coupled with his unstable and extremist views serve to divide and alienate.

A far superior work would be “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. Her book presents a holistic approach based around the need for serious change built on understanding and true concern for all people. She has devoted herself to actual study and progress, knowing we must all be the change we desire to see. Please read her work and skip this miserable screed.

PS: if anyone else out there identified with the author, I sincerely and humbly ask you to consider professional therapy because I know personally that you don’t have to carry around your hurt and rage! You can have a smile that cannot be stolen. Thank God, Almighty, you can be free at last!

27 people found this helpful

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  • Martin Robson
  • 08-19-15

Everyone should read this book

Listened to this on audiobook and heard the voice of true understanding. I have little in common with Ta-Nehisi Coates in background. Everything in common in humanity.

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  • Darren Wallace
  • 11-05-17

Insightful reflection

As a father I found this Ta-Nehisi's writing an insightful reflection of similar issues that I am considering as a "black" father in the UK. Make no mistake this book is refreshing text for everyone interested in welfare of society.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jim
  • 10-11-17

The Core Darkness of an Era

I'm amazed this story got told and thankful to the author for having gone through with the herculean task of writing this.

This book takes a deep hard look into the abyss of our perception of ourselves, our worth and our capacity to empathize.

I'm now scared to imagine a world where this book never got published. Luckily we are not in that world.

Go read it. Go listen to it. Survive, and if you can, love.

2 people found this helpful

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  • NNNNana
  • 08-17-15

Poignant, Arresting, Tour de Force

i could go on and on about this. But I will not. it's a must-read. Period. Everyone should read and argue about this.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Paul
  • 06-14-20

Required reading

Intensely sad and moving - what else could it possibly be? Read with the same power and sincerity with which he wrote it.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ej N.
  • 12-28-17

Great read and highly recommended.

It was fantastic, a great read and highly recommended in my opinion. He is a great writer.

1 person found this helpful

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  • kamara b barnett
  • 09-20-17

Real!

Ta-nehisi Coates provides a raw vision of America that will leave the uninformed mind shell shocked, taking you on a roller-coaster of emotions, rage, pity, hope and sadness all while being performed and read in such a way it immerses you in this story summing up the epitome of American history, past, present and sadly if it keeps going this way future. Beautiful and raw.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Bhulesh Singh
  • 07-21-17

Jarring but important

This book is jarring and disturbing but necessarily so. It's too easy to walk the earth without really understanding the perspective of others and the privilege one has. This book exposes the contrast.

1 person found this helpful

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  • S McMullen
  • 06-28-17

Perfect

Incredibly moving to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates read out his own letter to his son. One of the few audiobooks that surpasses the read by a mile.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jack
  • 01-04-17

is very good.

Smart author, well read. Easy to listen to. Good for expanding perspectives. Definitely recommend reading.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rodney Wetherell
  • 05-13-20

The pain of oppression, expressed superbly

I found this book hard to listen to, in places, because Coates' pain is so raw, his anger so deep - and yet he has put his message forward with a degree of cool detachment. He knows loud protests etc. have only a temporary effect, and wants to reach people on many levels - the political, social, personal et al. His reading is very engaging too.

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  • Andrew Hardie
  • 06-05-19

Ensightful read as a white woman

A deep and personal account of life without illusions. Engaging - written for his son but given to the world. What a gift. Thank you.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-30-22

Stunning perspective and prose

I loved this “pamphlet/ letter” with a deep respect and compassion that I know was drawn directly by the author with the same hand that wrote the words - a true experience

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  • CTPONDERINGS
  • 05-27-22

Opportunity lost

A poetic bit of literature, sometimes a bit obscure leaving you understanding his meaning without actually comprehending the words spoken. Unfortunately if this is a fathers message to an openminded and receptive son then I doubt he has done his son any favours. Establishment of a narrative of the good people of all colours (except white) who are so at the mercy of their systematic oppressors (always white) that their communities need take no responsibility for the significant failings within those communities. Even if you are a person of colour elevated to a position of power (possibly through hard work, diligence, responsible personal decisionmaking and intellect) you are now just pretending to be white and as such a traitor to your oppressed people. A glib dismissal of a persons lifetime achievement and a conflicting message to his son indicating that to be successful in American society you need to sell your soul to the oppressor. So where does that leave his son and what future is the author proposing for him?

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  • Ben Webb
  • 08-31-20

Spectacular

Prose, poetry, autobiography and narrative it has it all. Everything we own is won through the destruction of the body.

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  • Avid reader
  • 07-29-20

5stars all around

Read this book so you will know the story of Dr. Mabel and Prince Jones, if for no other reason. The phrase “one racist act” will stay with me for a very long time

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  • Maria S.
  • 06-19-20

Amazing piece of writing

This book moved me to tears and to new understandings multiple times. Highly recommend it.

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  • Almah Tararia
  • 03-01-20

A master piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

My intro to this and Ioved it. Between the World and Me is a must read.

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  • Currybreath
  • 11-21-19

A must

Gripping. Poignant. Poetic.
The bittersweet painful truth and the complexities of being a human in a body.

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  • Keiran Shanahan
  • 10-10-16

I'll listen again, and probably need too.

I really enjoyed bearing it in the author's voice. A real thought provoking listen. Recommended .