All academics share a passion for books, but their reading for pleasure doesn’t necessarily connect to their scholarly disciplines.

Jeffrey Stewart, professor of Black Studies and author of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, shares some of the titles on his booklist.

Jeffrey Stewart in his office

Jeffrey Stewart

Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby

Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby. Rather than being the typical hagiographic or take down sports biography, Lazenby’s book is a revealing study of the Jim Crow conditions of life in North Carolina that produced Michael Jordan.

Skye Papers by Jamika Ajalon

Skye Papers by Jamika Ajalon. With addictive, mesmerizing prose, Ajalon provides a unique coming-of-age story of a queer Black artist obsessed with the pervasiveness of state surveillance, a metaphor of the death of privacy in post-modern London — and the West.

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstader

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstader. Hofstader’s 1962 classic critique of the American Mind reads to me as more relevant today than when it was written in the wake of McCarthyism.

All That Beauty by Fred Moten

All That Beauty by Fred Moten. Moten’s haunting tribute in poetry to Black beauty is so refreshing, as when he writes, “Blackness is the ceaselessly miraculous demonstration that there is no black and white, just sun and shade.”

The Idea of the Holy by German theologian and philosopher Rudolf Otto

The Idea of the Holy by German theologian and philosopher Rudolf Otto. As one becomes older, one’s thoughts almost always turn toward questions of whether a God or an afterlife exists. Otto brilliantly showed that those are the wrong questions. More important is whether we have an encounter with Spirit in this world.

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