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Between the World and Me  By  cover art

Between the World and Me

By: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Narrated by: Ta-Nehisi Coates
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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
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"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) 

Featured Article: The 20 Best Audiobooks Read by the Author


There’s an undeniable authenticity in a listen that’s told by the very person who penned it. From iconic memoirs to far-out fantasies, these immersive audio performances are uniquely genuine, all performed in the author’s own voice. If you want to experience how special it can be to listen to a narrative exactly the way it was intended, check out our list of the 20 best audiobooks read by their authors.

What listeners say about Between the World and Me

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Awaken Fellow Dreamers

Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a book that runs the distance from the black body (with all its wounds and fears) and the stars (with its ability to be a conscious citizen of the world). It travels from the mountain peaks of the dreamers, whose mountain is built on the sacred, black bodies, and their dark, spilt blood. Those dreamers who plunder hope, rob time, contort the lives of those it this horrible, terrible, fantastic nation has historically bent, beat, twisted.

I read this for a glimpse of the other. I read this to become conscious of my own heritage and responsibilities. I read this because I am taught more by the letter of a peer, a brother, a fellow citizen to his son than I can be without transforming myself or recasting my lot. I need to understand my place so I can understand all places and people.

I live with the hope than just a few of those who cry because a fictional Atticus idol was brought down will realize he was always dirty. I live with the hope they will pay attention more to the young black bodies in Chicago, Baltimore, New York, D.C., whose eyes are blindfolded with fear of living among the dreamers. That those few will understand that there exists millions who fight everyday with the wind at their face and hounds always at their heels.

I'm glad I read it. I wish there was no need to, but there is no velocity to escape our history and our present.

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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.

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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.

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A Sad, Angry Rant, Teaching Fear and Hopelessness

What disappointed you about Between the World and Me?

I wanted to learn about his encounters with injustice and racism, but what I got was a (self-professed) wounded, paranoid person blame-shifting all his problems onto society. In love, this author needs serious therapy to overcome his inner demons. It is so clear his abusive and unloving childhood has shaped him into a depressed and dour soul.

Would you ever listen to anything by Ta-Nehisi Coates again?

No I would not. It is not wise to listen to people so twisted by fear and malice. He's a broken soul who needs help. He recounts his hyper-vigilance and unease, which is absolutely classic PTSD, but he doesn't seem to realize his need for help. An author like this cannot be trusted to present reality in an honest manner, even with the best of intentions.

What aspect of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s performance would you have changed?

His reading is dull and monotone, mostly. He rarely shows much expression. As a result of him being a depressed person who, in his own words, views the universe as struggle, not hope, his depressed tenor is very tedious to listen to.

What character would you cut from Between the World and Me?

I wish he wouldn't constantly lump all white people together as "plunderers" and "owners of the black man's body" and "dreamers" who only know "expansion and plunder" and "steal your smile". Stop name calling and be an adult. Explain what you mean with proper communication. MLK Jr.'s dream was for a unified coalition of all races to come together to fight injustice. Telling your teenage son that white people, without qualification, are out to plunder and rape you...is horrible parenting.

Any additional comments?

The major flaw of this book is the author taking his seriously broken personal life and blame-shifting it on to society. He believes whites “own his body” when it is hate that grips him tightly, allowing his inner demons to distort his view of reality.

He spends much time recounting his abusive upbringing, and I can relate. As someone who also had an abusive childhood, it is so clear to me that he has severe unresolved psychological damage from his abusive father, unloving relatives, and murderous surroundings. It isn’t until the very end that he admits he’s wounded and paranoid, yet he doesn’t realize his profound need for therapy.

Let me give one example of his unbalanced mind. On 9/11 he admitted he felt nothing for the dead firefighters, even the black firefighters. I don’t think the author realizes how truly sociopathic this makes him look.

As a psychological study, this book is fascinating. The author is so inward focused, unable to escape the chaotic dissonance of his own mind. He “loves his people” but is unmoved by their deaths in 9/11. He says he’s not a cynic but says the law of the universe is struggle, not hope.

Overall, all we can truly learn from this book is that the author has serious inner demons and needs to find a compassionate therapist to allow him to release the hate and truly love his son by BEING a loving example! If only he understood that his lack of wisdom and perspective coupled with his unstable and extremist views serve to divide and alienate.

A far superior work would be “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. Her book presents a holistic approach based around the need for serious change built on understanding and true concern for all people. She has devoted herself to actual study and progress, knowing we must all be the change we desire to see. Please read her work and skip this miserable screed.

PS: if anyone else out there identified with the author, I sincerely and humbly ask you to consider professional therapy because I know personally that you don’t have to carry around your hurt and rage! You can have a smile that cannot be stolen. Thank God, Almighty, you can be free at last!

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