"Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind." - Toni Morrison 


As we head into the summer months, members of our Habitat Chicago team assembled this list of book recommendations as you start to build out your own summer reading list.



How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

Recommended by Don Wedd (CRM and IT Manager)

Due to the strong outcry for racial justice last summer, many more Americans adopted the term “anti-racist” into their vocabulary, and Kendi’s book found its way to the top of the Best Sellers list. While How to Be an Anti-Racist does not provide an easy step-by-step plan to become anti-racist, it challenges readers to think about one’s relationship with race and different policies or structures that enforce racism.


One thing I found valuable was his focus on the equity gap and using that as a criterion for judging whether a policy was anti-racist. For example, if the outcomes of the policy reduce the gap between people of color and the dominant group, the policy is anti-racist. If it does not reduce the gap, either by having no impact or by increasing it, the policy is racist. This helps shift conversation away from interpersonal racism, i.e. asking “is that person racist?” or “is that a racist comment?”, towards systemic racism – the way our society functions that subtly, or not so subtly, discriminates against people of color.


As an organization that aims to close the equity gap through housing, keeping an anti-racist outlook forces us to understand how we got here and ask ourselves where we are going.



The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Recommended by Zandry Bullock (ReStore Processing and Logistics Coordinator)

The Jim Crow laws ended with the civil rights movement. But did they really?


Earning awards and praise since 2010, Alexander's comprehensive look at mass incarceration reveals the many ways it restricts and discriminates against Black Americans. Housing plays a paradoxical role in this context in that people who have been incarcerated have a very difficult time gaining access to housing, yet while they are in the system, prisons serve as our government’s primary means of public housing.


When we think about “a world where everyone deserves a decent place to live,” how often do we consider people who are or have been incarcerated, and what systems have been created to make it difficult to reach that vision?



When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Recommended by Jason Brown (Construction Manager)

Helping those in need typically starts with good intentions, however, how often does it actually address the true needs of a community?


Written from a deeply theological point of view and relying on a model developed by Bryant L. Myers, Corbett and Fikkert describe how poverty alleviation efforts and charity should consider one’s relationship with God, Self, Others, and the Rest of Creation. The authors argue that, “poverty is rooted in broken relationships.” Therefore, failure to consider these relationships as one, while helping others, can reinforce a sense of inferiority and shame among those in need, exacerbating the original problem.


While meeting material needs can help, it is not the only solution to lifting communities out of poverty. Philanthropy strategies should consider social, emotional, and spiritual well-being as well as the physical. One recommendation from the authors is to use an asset-based approach – rather than focusing on the deficits in a community, tune into a community’s strengths and potentials to find solutions. While this is an approach we use in our work, it is important to keep it in mind when viewing other communities that look different from our own.



FINNA by Nate Marshall

Recommended by Jen Parks (Executive Director)

FINNA is a Southern phrase for “fixing to” and is also the namesake for Marshall’s acclaimed poetry collection that celebrates the Black vernacular. There, the West Pullman native clearly shares his lived experience as a Black man, an uncle, a son, a grandson, a Chicagoan, a Nate Marshall, a kid, a professional writer, a Southsider – and the myriad of people we are each day.


His poems are complex and challenge readers to think about Black culture and the Black experience in different avenues, especially language. Poems that were of particular interest: what it is & will be, when America writes, publicist, when I say Chicago, aubade for the whole hood, imagine, and FINNA. Marshall ends his book with the following: “Thank you to the city. Chicago over Everything. South Side over that. Wild Hundreds over all.”


Watch Marshall perform at our Annual Benefit: Under One Roof here.


Find these books at your local bookstore in-person or online. If you have your own recommendations, send them our way!



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