What Anti-Racism Books Were Americans Requesting At Their Libraries?

Books

During the pandemic lockdown, the American public may not have had physical access to their local libraries. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t utilizing the digital resources provided by their library — even before the murder of George Floyd sparked a groundswell of protests nationwide, anti-racism books drew wide requests across the country. In conjunction with The Washington Post, The Panorama Project, which provides local booksellers with lists of fiction and nonfiction that are seeing demand regionally, dove into the data to explore what anti-racism books were seeing demand at US libraries.

The quarterly Panorama Picks lists dig into anonymized data of digital library holds and breaks that data up by the nine American Booksellers Association regions. What makes Panorama Picks fascinating is the methodology: rather than sticking to the top, most popular titles, the lists look at the books that are also in high demand but not as popular. This gives a great idea of books with regional interest, as well as books that may be worth highlighting and recommending in a broader way. They’re in demand and have the potential for becoming even more desired. For libraries and bookstores, this means ordering additional copies and while many of the books are on backorder, digital editions will likely remain in high demand given the pandemic.

All of the books were categorized as adult titles and, as always, are based on digital requests.

“This is the first time we’ve looked at a period of time based on specific events, and at a specific set of categories related to the publishing industry’s response to those events. It’s also the first time we haven’t limited books’ publication dates to a specific period of time. As a result, the 42 titles we’ve surfaced represent a much deeper collection than we’ve seen in most anti-racist reading lists, many of which you probably wouldn’t have found on a bookstores’ physical shelves back on March 1st. It really demonstrates libraries’ strength when it comes to discovery—whether serendipitous or curated—especially on a regional level,” said Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Project Lead for the Panorama Project.

In exploring the current popularity of anti-racism books in libraries across America, Panorama Picks did not set a limit on publication dates. Any anti-racism book, published at any time, was considered. The holds at libraries were measured from March 1 to April 21, 2020, which captures the immediate weeks following the murder of Ahmed Arbery.

The national list of most requested anti-racism books were sorted and the top 10 titles were identified. From there, each of the nine regional lists were sorted, removing the top 10 national titles. The regional lists were then sorted by holds per unit, then winnowed down to 15 titles per region.

“Some of the unique titles in each region may seem obvious, but given the mainstream awareness HBO’s Watchmen series brought to the destruction of Black Wall Street, I wonder why Tim Madigan’s The Burning only appeared on the one list represented by Oklahoma libraries. Why was Daniel Hill’s White Awake—a three-year-old title that doesn’t appear to have garnered a single mainstream review—so popular in the Great Lakes, Mountains & Plains, and Pacific Northwest regions?” Gonzalez said.

Eligible books in the sorting were determined by BISAC codes that included Discrimination, Civil Rights, Race and Ethnic Relations, African American Studies, and African American and Black Biographies and Autobiographies.

First, a look at the top 10 anti-racism books in US libraries. None of these will be a surprise, given they are the same titles that have appeared on bestseller lists. Note that it is once again the book by a white female writer topping the list.

  1. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  2. How To Be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  3. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  4. So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  5. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  6. Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
  7. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  8. Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
  9. I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
  10. The New Jim Crow (10th Anniversary Edition) by Michelle Alexander

Six titles were deemed the most in-demand titles across the nine regions:

  1. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edition) by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  2. The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  3. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  4. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
  5. The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  6. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

One of the most interesting data points is that of unique demand. These are titles which have unique hold patterns by region and don’t necessarily see the same interest nation-wide. These are the titles worth exploring if you’re a reader looking to add more anti-racism books to your TBR. Beside each title is the region to which it is in unique demand.

As tends to be the case with all Panorama Picks compilation, Hawaii leads the nation in unique demand.

  1. The Compton Cowboys by Walter Thompson-Hernandez (California)
  2. America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis (Hawaii)
  3. Heavy by Kiese Laymon (Hawaii)
  4. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Hawaii)
  5. The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton (Hawaii)
  6. Backlash by George Yancy (Hawaii)
  7. The Book of Delights by Ross Gay (Hawaii)
  8. Stony The Road by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Hawaii)
  9. The Burning by Tim Madigan (Mountain Plains)
  10. Chocolate City by Chris Myers Asch (New Atlantic)

So what are the most popular and in unique demand anti-racism titles by region for spring 2020? Panorama Picks offers fifteen in each.

California

  1. The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  2. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edition) by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  3. Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
  4. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  5. The Compton Cowboys by Walter Thompson-Hernandez
  6. An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
  7. Be The Bridge by LaTasha Morrison
  8. All About Love by bell hooks
  9. For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too by Christopher Emdin
  10. Tell Me Who You Are by Winona Guo & Priya Vulchi
  11. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
  12. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
  13. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  14. The Racial Healing Handbook by Anneliese A. Singh
  15. Mindful of Race by Ruth King

Great Lakes (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan)

  1. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
  2. Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
  3. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edn) by Beverly Tatum
  4. White Awake by Daniel Hill
  5. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  6. Killing the Black Body by Dorothy Roberts
  7. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  8. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
  9. Be The Bridge by LaTasha Morrison
  10. White Guilt by Shelby Steele
  11. The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  12. The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  13. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
  14. How To Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Marie Fleming
  15. An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz

Hawaii

  1. The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  2. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edn) by Beverly Tatum
  3. America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis
  4. Biased by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD
  5. Heavy by Kiese Laymon
  6. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  7. The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton
  8. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  9. White Guilt by Shelby Steele
  10. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
  11. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  12. Backlash by George Yancy
  13. All About Love by bell hooks
  14. The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
  15. Stony the Road by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin)

  1. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
  2. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edn) by Beverly Tatum
  3. The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  4. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  5. The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  6. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
  7. Freedom Is A Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
  8. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  9. How To Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Marie Fleming
  10. White Kids by Margaret A. Hagerman
  11. I Am Not Your Negro by Velvet Films, Inc.
  12. Biased by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD
  13. All About Love by bell hooks
  14. Be The Bridge by LaTasha Morrison
  15. Tell Me Who You Are by Winona Guo & Priya Vulchi

Mountain and Plains (Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming)

  1. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
  2. The Burning by Tim Madigan
  3. White Awake by Daniel Hill
  4. Be The Bridge by LaTasha Morrison
  5. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edn) by Beverly Tatum
  6. The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  7. The Racial Healing Handbook by Anneliese A. Singh
  8. For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too by Christopher Emdin
  9. White Guilt by Shelby Steele
  10. I Am Not Your Negro by Velvet Films, Inc.
  11. Tell Me Who You Are by Winona Guo & Priya Vulchi
  12. The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  13. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  14. How To Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Marie Fleming
  15. An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Oritz

New Atlantic (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia)

  1. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
  2. Chocolate City by Chris Myers Asch
  3. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  4. The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  5. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edn) by Beverly Tatum
  6. All About Love by bell hooks
  7. The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  8. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  9. Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
  10. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman
  11. For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too by Christopher Emdin
  12. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
  13. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
  14. I Am Not Your Negro by Velvet Films, Inc.
  15. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont)

  1. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
  2. Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko
  3. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edn) by Beverly Tatum
  4. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  5. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
  6. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  7. The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  8. For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too by Christopher Emdin
  9. The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  10. Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
  11. An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
  12. White Kids by Margaret A. Hagerman
  13. Biased by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD
  14. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
  15. I Am Not Your Negro by Velvet Films, Inc.

Pacific Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington)

  1. Fearing The Black Body by Sabrina Strings
  2. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
  3. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
  4. White Awake by Daniel Hill
  5. Radical Dharma by Rev. angel Kyodo williams
  6. Killing the Black Body by Dorothy Roberts
  7. White Kids by Margaret A. Hagerman
  8. Mindful of Race by Ruth King
  9. The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  10. Tell Me Who You Are by Winona Guo & Priya Vulchi
  11. White Guilt by Shelby Steele
  12. Be The Bridge by LaTasha Morrison
  13. Uprooting Racism by Paul Kivel
  14. The Inner Work of Racial Justice by Rhonda V. Magee
  15. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edn) by Beverly Tatum

Southeast (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia)

  1. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum
  2. Shame by Shelby Steele
  3. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (20th Anniversary Edn) by Beverly Tatum
  4. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
  5. White Guilt by Shelby Steele
  6. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem
  7. Be The Bridge by LaTasha Morrison
  8. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  9. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
  10. The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
  11. The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  12. How To Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Marie Fleming
  13. Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
  14. Biased by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD
  15. The Racial Healing Handbook by Anneliese A. Singh

Gonzalez points to the need for continued promotion and discussion of these titles, both regionally and nationally.

“Hopefully, publishers and booksellers will look at these lists and see opportunities to make the current surge of interest in racial and social justice topics more than just a one-off marketing initiative,” he said. “There’s clearly an audience to nurture, not to mention the opportunity to be the cultural influencers so many publishers believe themselves to be.”

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