Top Picks: James Baldwin

We celebrate the 95th birth anniversary of one of America’s most prolific and gifted souls, James Baldwin, on August 2. The novelist, playwright and activist's profound works still resonate today. I was introduced to Baldwin back in Mrs. Harrison’s seventh-grade class when we were assigned Black Voices to read as a yearlong black literature project. Here are my top picks for James Baldwin, thanks to Mrs. Harrison, wherever you are!


Go Tell It on the Mountain: Baldwin's very best, this is a semiautobiographical tale of his troubled upbringing, and perhaps a window into his soul. (We explored this book as our spring 2007 One Book, One Chicago selection.)

If Beale Street Could Talk: Baldwin gives us a love story of tragic proportions with all the plot twists and turns that one could expect from the oft-mercurial Baldwin.

The Devil Finds Work: This one is probably my favorite Baldwin piece, a seemingly scathing expose and critical examination of modern film.

The Amen Corner: Baldwin turns playwright in this brilliant play about faith, family and the black church.


I Am Not Your Negro: This film is a must-see for Baldwin bibliophiles. It's the culmination of many of his works and his unfinished manuscript Remember This House. You can see at our Film Screening: I Am Not Your Negro on August 2 Harold Washington Library Center—a timely birthday celebration of this literary gem!