Four Famous Writers Choose Their Favorite James Baldwin Books

James Baldwin

Courtesy of Bob Adelman/Magnolian Pictures.

In the new documentary I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck examines one of James Baldwin’s unfinished works — a book that would have chronicled the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. — to present a moving, all-too-timely analysis of race in America. But before you see it, brush up on these classics that the trailblazer did finish, chosen by four famous writers and Baldwin fans.

01

Giovanni’s Room (1956)
“I was still too young to drive a car when I read it. I thought nothing would ever compare to Romeo and Juliet, but Baldwin’s story of ‘the night that is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life’ became the saddest love story I know.”  — John Irving

02

The Fire Next Time (1963)
“Basically the finest two essays I’ve ever read. Baldwin refused to hold anyone’s hand. He did not seem to write to convince you. He wrote beyond you.”  — Ta-Nehisi Coates

03

The Devil Finds Work (1976)
“This book-long essay is part memoir, part homage to cinema, and also an exploration of the ways corrosive ideas seep into the collective imagination.”  — Carrie Brownstein

04

James Baldwin: The Last Interview (2014)
“This powerful and prophetic black gay writer should be an essential presence in our lives. These last words of his are heartbreaking.”  — Larry Kramer

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