Meet Traci Thomas: the host of The Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who read them. The podcast uses books as a framework to discuss our cultural understanding of race, gender, politics, and what it means to be alive, as well as a place to simply gush over books and authors. In the show’s three year history, The Stacks has welcomed a wide range of guests to the podcast, including Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Bakari Sellers, Samantha Irby, Lori Gottlieb and Kiese Laymon.
As a lover of all things literature, we asked Traci to share some of her favorite reads for Black History Month and beyond—naturally, she came through with a solid list of recommendations. Read on to see her picks and learn why she picked each one!
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I’ll be straight with you, I could and would listen to Jason Reynolds read just about anything, so the fact that his latest book for young people is so good, is icing on the cake. I am a huge fan of Ibram X. Kendi’s original Stamped from the Beginning and think that the Stamped remix is the perfect balance of information and humor and perfect for anyone twelve and up. And let me just say again, Jason’s voice is worth the price of admission alone.
If you’re anything like me you struggle with “getting” satire. When I went into Black Buck I was so nervous about understanding the humor and about 3 minutes into my listening experience I knew I was all in on this book. The humor is sharp and the reader nails the jokes and voices and brings this wild story to life.
Hear Mateo Askaripour discuss this book on The Stacks, episode 151
When we talk about a star studded cast, this book is THAT. With close to 90 different readers that include celebrities like Phylicia Rashad and Leslie Odom Jr. and essay contributors like Morgan Parker and Nikole Hannah-Jones this collection comes to life. This book is not to be missed as it chronicles the 400 year history of Black people in America, and that is only heightened in hearing these readers tell the stories of Black resistance, innovation, community, and survival.
Hear Dr. Keisha N. Blain discuss this book on The Stacks, episode 150
Hear Dr. Ibram x. Kendia discuss his previous books on The Short Stacks, episode 22
This book is not to be missed. Oluo is a force and Mediocre is an extension of her brilliance. Throughout the book we are taught about white male mediocrity and the ways that America has built itself up on the myth of exceptionalism. We see what is lost and who is left behind when white men are elevated for work that is mediocre at best.
A memoir in essays by one of my favorite podcasters, comedians, and an all around awesome woman, Akilah Huges. This book has range, and Hughes reads it so she is sure to nail all the jokes. I loved learning more about a woman I greatly admire, and the ways she effortlessly mixes the good and bad parts of her life into a bittersweet collection making this book a lot of fun to listen to, while still providing the depth that all good memoirs (I think) should have.
If there is any book that deserves more attention it is Stakes is High. It is a super short read, only 3.5 hours on audio, but it is a powerful examination of “The American Dream” and how it is failing us all. Smith writes a searing reckoning with America and Americaness. Asking questions about the ideals of this nation and if they were ever worth living up to.