Top 10 DEI Books USA
Hannah West
Research lead

Whether it’s an inspiring biography of someone who beat the odds, or a book on organizational behavior stuffed with techniques to help you reach your DEI goals — there’s never been more literature available to help give your DEI strategy the boost it needs.

But how do you cut through the noise? Well each week one of our amazing guests on our aptly named series, The Interview, shares their ‘most important book they’ve ever read’ with our followers — amongst other insights into the amazing work they do.

If you missed any of them don’t worry, we’ve rounded up our 10 favorites, so check it out below👇

Our Top 10 DEI Books 📕

#1: Leading Change by John P. Kotter

Being adaptable to change is an important life skill for anybody managing a hectic personal and professional life — which is most of us, right? As the saying goes, “the only constant in life is change”. Jason Pina, VP for University Life and Global Engagement at NYU, selected a book that incorporates this idea with the tenets of good leadership:

“I read it every year. I seem to always take jobs that incorporate major changes, and it helps me think clearly through the components necessary to suceed. Revisiting this book is a great refresher for me when managing change.”
Jason Pina
New York University

#2: The Healers by Ayi Kwei Armah

Adanna Johnson’s selected a novel by Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, which tells the story of the conflict and regeneration in a West African community and the power of healing and community to provide hope. For Adanna, this story has enabled her to infuse care into all of the work she does as VP for Student Equity and Inclusion at Georgetown University:

“He writes such beautiful passages about the work of healers being deep, arduous work that requires you to see yourself as the foundation for being able to heal others. I’ve used this a lot in my work, and I think it’s full of such powerful knowledge for those trying to affect change in the world.”
Adanna Johnson
Georgetown University

#3: Trust and Inspire by Stephen M.R. Covey

Chon Glover, Chief Diversity Officer at William & Mary has found valuable life lessons in Covey’s Trust and Inspire — a breakthrough book which highlights how the leadership styles in many businesses and institutions today, have failed to keep pace with the world changing around us. Covey’s vision suggests updating leadership for the modern age, away from methods of domination and control. Chon said:

“It's phenomenal in the sense that it talks about leadership in a different way from the norm – we should trust and inspire people, rather than command and control them.”
Chon Glover
William & Mary

#4: How To Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi

The wake of the Black Lives Matter movement led to a national and global reckoning. It also encouraged many people inside and outside of the higher education sector to self-educate on issues around politics, racism and the legacies of colonialism and slavery. Erica Cooper, Assistant Provost for Faculty Diversity at Virginia Tech, selected a book that is seen by many as a cornerstone of anti-racist principles and has many valuable lessons for DEI practitioners:

“It’s a fantastic read that provides you with foundational work on how to challenge and dismantle racism within different structures, and crucially presents ideas in ways that are non-threatening.”
Erica Cooper
Virginia Tech

#5: Humans by Brandon Stanton

Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke, Vice President of Strategic Affairs and Diversity at Virginia Tech recommends something a bit out of the ordinary. Those of you that know Brandon Stanton’s Human of New York series, which sees him interviewing strangers he finds on the city streets, will be pleased to know he has collated these interviews into a book:

“It’s a book of photographs and narratives about people from across the globe about their lives. You never know what anybody is dealing with at any moment. We need more compassion and appreciation for everybody’s personal journeys so we can better support each other.”
Menah Pratt-Clarke
Virginia Tech

#6: Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? by Beverley Ann Tatum

Arguably the most highly recommended book here on the GoodCourse Interview series. Beverley Ann Tatum’s classic looks into racism and the education system in the USA, and at how differential outcomes for students are informed by things like socio-political factors and identity markers. Danushi Fernando, Director of LGBTQ and Gender resources at Vassar College, said:

“This book really spoke to me because I saw this exact thing happen at college myself, and wanted to know why. When I was assigned this book for one of my classes, it explained to me how segregation can happen even in diverse spaces. It just blew my mind, and was one of the resources that influenced my journey towards a career in DEI the most.”
Danushi Fernando
Vassar College

#7: Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson

Raquel McDowell, Assistant Dean and Title IX investigator in the Dean of Students Office at the University of Miami, recommends a book that speaks to the importance of being resilient to change and uncertainty:

“An oldie but goodie – it’s about two mice and two people who go on a search for cheese every day, but one day find it has been moved. It’s about them attempting to find the cheese – but at its core, it’s about being able to recognize and adapt to change. My mother is a retired High School principal. She always spoke about this book. It spoke to me because I’m the type of person who prides myself on adaptability.”
Raquel McDowell
University of Miami

#8: The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer

Vanice Antrum, Associate Director at the Center for Student Engagement at Georgetown University chose a popular self-help book that has helped her on a journey to realize her potential. For many across the world, Singer’s seminal work has been an inspiring and motivating read. Vanice says:

“It’s an opportunity to look at how you engage with yourself, and the world, and how to become mindful of that which influences your thought process. It really helped me conceptualize how I show up for other people and internalize the interactions I have with others.”
Vanice Antrum
Georgetown University

#9: The Bridge by Edwin Friedman

Similarly to Raquel, Walter Snipes, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life at Davidson University, North Carolina, selects a short story that has a key message at the heart of it:

“It’s about the power of help. I feel I’m a helper at my core and the story is about giving people the power to help themselves.”
Walter Snipes
Davidson University

#10: In A Different Voice by Carol Gilligan

To round our list off, Alicia LaPolla, Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Brown University recommends a book highly relevant to the DEI and student life sector. A Different Voice by Carol Gilligan discusses how centuries-old educational traditions — shaped around those with privilege — have affected learning opportunities for everybody in the classroom in the present day:

“I read it in graduate school, and it helped me understand the impact of educational systems that have been designed around White men. Her book focuses on gender, but generally discusses how institutional biases shape policy, and in turn, what we can do to acknowledge those things and change them.”
Alicia LaPolla
Brown University

There we have it, we hope this has inspired you to pick up a book, or at least add to your to-be-read list!

And finally, a huge thank you to all our amazing guests on The Interview, for all of your amazing recommendations.

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