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  • Writer's pictureThe Dayton Weekly News

The DWN Reading List

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Remember that reading list your English teacher would give you before you left for summer break every year? We're curating the adult version!


In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers"--the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996. He is the author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw. Prior to joining The New Yorker, he was a reporter at the Washington Post. Gladwell was born in England and grew up in rural Ontario. He now lives in New York.


After a traffic stop turns violent at the hands of the police, a young Black teen grapples with racism—and what it means for his future. Critically acclaimed author Nic Stone boldly tackles America’s troubled history with race relations in her gripping debut novel.

Justyce is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs without cause.

When faced with injustice, Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce and a friend spark the fury of an off-duty cop. Words fly, shots are fired, and the boys get caught in the crosshairs. But in the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

"A must-read!” –ANGIE THOMAS, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give


Brittany K. Barnett was only a law student when she came across the case that would change her life forever—that of Sharanda Jones, single mother, business owner, and, like Brittany, Black daughter of the rural South. A victim of America’s devastating war on drugs, Sharanda had been torn away from her young daughter and was serving a life sentence without parole—for a first-time drug offense. In Sharanda, Brittany saw haunting echoes of her own life, as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother. As she studied this case, a system came into focus in which widespread racial injustice forms the core of America’s addiction to incarceration. Moved by Sharanda’s plight, Brittany set to work to gain her freedom.

This had never been the plan. Bright and ambitious, Brittany was a successful accountant on her way to a high-powered future in corporate law. But Sharanda’s case opened the door to a harrowing journey through the criminal justice system. By day she moved billion-dollar deals, and by night she worked pro bono to free clients in near hopeless legal battles. Ultimately, her path transformed her understanding of injustice in the courts, of genius languishing behind bars, and the very definition of freedom itself.

Brittany’s riveting memoir is at once a coming-of-age story and a powerful evocation of what it takes to bring hope and justice to a system built to resist them both.


Innocent young Black men jailed by a racist judge. Jim Crow trauma that still haunts. Can two women on opposite sides of the color divide unite to seek justice?

Pop singer Regina Day, exiled at sixteen from her hometown in Arkansas, has learned to fit in with the white celebrity world of Los Angeles. But memories of her Jim Crow childhood still plague her. Does she dare go back for her mother’s funeral?

Karen Whittier has worked for her father, the town’s racist judge, for twenty-five years. She longs for a true father-daughter bond, but in his eyes, she can do no right. She fills her barren life with chocolate and English romance novels. Can she muster the courage to defy him?

In 1963, when the girls were teenagers, Jim Crow laws prevailed in Jefferson Springs, Arkansas. Whites and Blacks were kept apart, and intimate relationships between them were illegal. Young Black men could be jailed for merely looking at a white girl, and lynching happened far too often. Then, on the night of President Kennedy's assassination, all hell broke loose in the town, and Regina and Karen were embroiled in a tragedy that changed the course of their lives. Thirty years later, can they overcome the trauma of that night and unite to seek justice, and find answers to long-hidden family secrets?

The Snake in the Garden is a collaboration between two women – one Black, one white -- that delves into the minds of both Black and white characters. The result is an explosive depiction of racism in twentieth-century America through the lens of four generations of interracial relationships. Set in different decades throughout the last century, it's a story that still resonates in our time. Filled with historical detail, it’s a powerful tale of transcendence over the scars of the past and offers hope that the “snake” of racism can one day be cast out of the garden.

Reading The Snake in the Garden will leave you with a better understanding of how the poison of racism affects us all. But be warned! This book will cause you to look deep into your own heart to examine your feelings about race and justice in our society today.


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