02 February 2015

The most asked-about book on my bookcase

I have a lot of books, as you can imagine. I even have a lot of books that I intentionally leave out on display as coffee-table discussion books. You know the kind. Books by my favorite webcomic artists, books full of funny things customers say in bookshops. But since I added it to my collection, there is one book on my regular bookshelf that draws curiosity like none other.

"Why do you have a book called How To Be Black?"

I've never answered this question in a way that seems right to me. I'm always slightly flummoxed. I have a lot of books, most of which I've no ready answer to justify their presence in my home, besides "I like it," which seems, at any rate, obvious. But nobody questions the inclusion of any other book in my collection, some of which I consider stranger.

But okay. Sure. From the title, it looks like a self-help book, and the fact that it's in the collection of a young white woman must be somewhat baffling, even if you do happen to know that I read practically everything.

So I've been thinking about this question a lot. Why do I have a book called How To Be Black? I'll tell you.

The literal answer: I was searching the internet for new comedic books in search for a gift for my brother a few years back. I ended up reading about a book by a comedian that was described as a collection of satiric essays such as How to Be The Black Friend, How to Speak for All Black People, How to Be The Black Employee, and How to Be The Angry Negro.

That's a link, by the way. That way How to Be The Black Friend is in different color? That means it's all clickable, and it'll take you a place where you can read that essay, hint hint. So, that's what I did. I listened to an NPR interview with the book's author, Baratunde Thurston. Then I bought the book.

The real answer: It's a really good book. Thurston is an excellent writer. His material is complicated and interesting. This book makes me think. It's worth revisiting.

Most books that I keep a physical copy of have some real value to me. (Not always, but usually.)

Thurston had me at the introduction: Thanks for Celebrating Black History Month by Acquiring This Book. Feel free at this point to pop over to Amazon and preview the book. You can read a pretty sizeable chunk of the introduction.

You've probably figured out by now that I think you should seriously consider reading this book. Look, it's February now, so Black History Month is on. You'll probably enjoy this book, especially if you like nonfiction collections, since this is a lot like a collection of related essays.


Oh, and you should be prepared for people to ask you why you're reading a book called How To Be Black. Because that will likely happen. I'm still working on a truly good answer.

Now you!

What other books are Black History Month must reads?