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Between the World and Me

Written by: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Narrated by: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Length: 3 hrs and 35 mins
5 out of 5 stars (196 ratings)

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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

What the critics say

"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) 

What members say
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what a book that was

a gripping account from beginning to end of a life and struggle of being black. no one should have to endure injustice like this sadly so very many people do. I'm not black myself amd cant comprehend how it is to live life that way but I could connect on a few issues raised later in the book. this book is poetic and honest and so well written. I'm sad it wasn't longer. this book was recommend to me by a friend who was studying it in school and I absolutely recommend it to everyone else

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Heartwrenchingly beautiful!

Gorgeous writing. Thank you for this gift. I'm grateful that this story exists! Accessible and challenging at the same time.

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So far away yet so close. A beautiful book.

In this yellow body I wondered my role in this moment on Earth. Empathy seems hollow ,and I do not know how to be closer and do more. This book and his own reading breaks my heart and raise me up again and again. The experiences seem so foreign yet so deeply close. A beautiful book that I recommend for everyone.

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Must read

Sad and disturbing,
full of love and passion. Mr. Coates writes beautifully. Will read again!

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Brilliant, poetic, high impact

A deep and moving, clear-eyed, unsparing but always emotional breakdown of what's going on beneath the pleasant surfaces of social norms. The analysis is brilliant and compelling. The language poetic. The effect is pure high impact. The fact that it's the author himself reading, makes it all the more compelling.

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Highly Recommend

Absolutely loved this book!! So many powerful moments. Ta-Nehisi Coates does a spectacular job capturing the black experience and raises many thought provoking questions relating to race relations.

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Between the world and us

This resonates so much because it was and is my story growing up in Cleveland, OH, living in northern and southern California through my 20's to mid 40's. And now living in Canada. It's the same old White supremacy, different places though. Mr. Coates's story is my story, thus, it's us and not just me.

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great story

great narration and a story that has a lot of lessons to me as a father and to my children

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  • Oko
  • 2019-04-06

Amazing and powerful!

As always, Tanehisi Coates is a talented writer and an eloquent orator. This is by far my most memorable book and I look forward to revisiting it again in future.

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True literature

This is one of the most beautifully written books that I have read in my entire life. While listening to it I realized that I was not hearing just a story but was experiencing real literature. Emotionally powerful, lyrically written. It is one of the most accessible and perhaps important books on race, fatherhood and relationships. And like all great art provocative and occasionally difficult to hear. A masterpiece.

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  • T Spencer
  • 2015-07-30

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.

249 people found this helpful

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  • Shana
  • 2015-08-11

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.

114 people found this helpful

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  • Kezia
  • 2015-07-30

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.

66 people found this helpful

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  • George Dorsey
  • 2015-08-08

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.

64 people found this helpful

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  • Altruistic One
  • 2016-07-01

Shocking. Illuminating. Deep. Depressing.

if and when you read this, be prepared for an Illuminating story. And though much of my own life can be measured in many of the same challenges, it is the shockingly depressing manner in which the story is told that I take issue. in my opinion, this chapter could have been read in a far better delivery, notwithstanding the author's own voice.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Scott Andrew Williams
  • 2015-12-07

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.

54 people found this helpful

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  • GMLAW
  • 2015-07-15

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.

46 people found this helpful

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  • audrey
  • 2019-06-09

Not at all what I had hoped to read

I could not finish this book. I purchased it b/c my son had read it for a class. I was not at all intrigued and it became laborious to continue to listen to it.

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  • Carl
  • 2015-08-15

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.

43 people found this helpful

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  • lvbxoxox
  • 2015-08-04

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.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Bea
  • 2020-06-26

Un tremblement de terre

Sans doute l’un des livres les plus remarquables que j’ai lu ces dernières années dont la portée, bien au-delà du seul contexte américain, est universelle. Comment chaque rêve de société se construit aux dépens d’une partie de la population, en l’isolant et la désignant comme autre. Et tout ça pour échapper à la peur, pour se donner l’illusion d’être invincible. En plus du fond, le style de l’auteur est magnifique. Important. Essentiel même. Je le recommande à tout être qui se veut humain.