Between the World and Me

Narrated by: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Length: 3 hrs and 35 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.8 out of 5 stars (26,100 ratings)

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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

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: 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 author.

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.

264 people found this helpful

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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.

122 people found this helpful

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Shocking. Illuminating. Deep. Depressing.

if and when you read this, be prepared for an Illuminating story. And though much of my own life can be measured in many of the same challenges, it is the shockingly depressing manner in which the story is told that I take issue. in my opinion, this chapter could have been read in a far better delivery, notwithstanding the author's own voice.

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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.

71 people found this helpful

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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.

67 people found this helpful

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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.

56 people found this helpful

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Not at all what I had hoped to read

I could not finish this book. I purchased it b/c my son had read it for a class. I was not at all intrigued and it became laborious to continue to listen to it.

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An eye opener of a book!

Something I am learning gradually. The murders of Trevon Martin, Michael Brown, especially Eric Garner, the injustice of it was apparent. But I learned a lot about how African Americans feel about this and how fragile they feel their lives are.

It does seem as if the "American Dream" is built on the backs of African Americans and American Indians.

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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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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.

34 people found this helpful

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  • Martin Robson
  • 08-19-15

Everyone should read this book

Listened to this on audiobook and heard the voice of true understanding. I have little in common with Ta-Nehisi Coates in background. Everything in common in humanity.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Jim
  • 10-11-17

The Core Darkness of an Era

I'm amazed this story got told and thankful to the author for having gone through with the herculean task of writing this.

This book takes a deep hard look into the abyss of our perception of ourselves, our worth and our capacity to empathize.

I'm now scared to imagine a world where this book never got published. Luckily we are not in that world.

Go read it. Go listen to it. Survive, and if you can, love.

2 people found this helpful

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  • NNNNana
  • 08-17-15

Poignant, Arresting, Tour de Force

i could go on and on about this. But I will not. it's a must-read. Period. Everyone should read and argue about this.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Paul
  • 06-14-20

Required reading

Intensely sad and moving - what else could it possibly be? Read with the same power and sincerity with which he wrote it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ej N.
  • 12-28-17

Great read and highly recommended.

It was fantastic, a great read and highly recommended in my opinion. He is a great writer.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Darren Wallace
  • 11-05-17

Insightful reflection

As a father I found this Ta-Nehisi's writing an insightful reflection of similar issues that I am considering as a "black" father in the UK. Make no mistake this book is refreshing text for everyone interested in welfare of society.

1 person found this helpful

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  • kamara b barnett
  • 09-20-17

Real!

Ta-nehisi Coates provides a raw vision of America that will leave the uninformed mind shell shocked, taking you on a roller-coaster of emotions, rage, pity, hope and sadness all while being performed and read in such a way it immerses you in this story summing up the epitome of American history, past, present and sadly if it keeps going this way future. Beautiful and raw.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Bhulesh Singh
  • 07-21-17

Jarring but important

This book is jarring and disturbing but necessarily so. It's too easy to walk the earth without really understanding the perspective of others and the privilege one has. This book exposes the contrast.

1 person found this helpful

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  • S McMullen
  • 06-28-17

Perfect

Incredibly moving to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates read out his own letter to his son. One of the few audiobooks that surpasses the read by a mile.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jack
  • 01-04-17

is very good.

Smart author, well read. Easy to listen to. Good for expanding perspectives. Definitely recommend reading.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rodney Wetherell
  • 05-13-20

The pain of oppression, expressed superbly

I found this book hard to listen to, in places, because Coates' pain is so raw, his anger so deep - and yet he has put his message forward with a degree of cool detachment. He knows loud protests etc. have only a temporary effect, and wants to reach people on many levels - the political, social, personal et al. His reading is very engaging too.

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  • Andrew Hardie
  • 06-05-19

Ensightful read as a white woman

A deep and personal account of life without illusions. Engaging - written for his son but given to the world. What a gift. Thank you.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ben Webb
  • 08-31-20

Spectacular

Prose, poetry, autobiography and narrative it has it all. Everything we own is won through the destruction of the body.

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  • Avid reader
  • 07-29-20

5stars all around

Read this book so you will know the story of Dr. Mabel and Prince Jones, if for no other reason. The phrase “one racist act” will stay with me for a very long time

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  • Maria S.
  • 06-19-20

Amazing piece of writing

This book moved me to tears and to new understandings multiple times. Highly recommend it.

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  • Almah Tararia
  • 03-01-20

A master piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

My intro to this and Ioved it. Between the World and Me is a must read.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-21-19

A must

Gripping. Poignant. Poetic. The bittersweet painful truth and the complexities of being a human in a body.

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  • Keiran Shanahan
  • 10-10-16

I'll listen again, and probably need too.

I really enjoyed bearing it in the author's voice. A real thought provoking listen. Recommended .

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  • Stacey
  • 08-08-15

stunning

Moving, hard, beautiful. It is consuming. I often listen to books while doing other things but found myself standing still with this one, listening carefully, feeling any number of emotions. Highly recommend.

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  • ilianna
  • 07-27-15

amazing read. very powerful

a must read for everyone living on the planet earth. is that 20 words yet?