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Caste (Oprah's Book Club) - Isabel Wilkerson

Caste (Oprah's Book Club)

By Isabel Wilkerson

  • Release Date: 2020-08-04
  • Genre: Social Science
Score: 4
From 1,910 Ratings


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST • “An instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.

NAMED THE #1 NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR BY TIME, ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People The Washington Post Publishers Weekly AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review O: The Oprah Magazine • NPR • BloombergChristian Science MonitorNew York Post • The New York Public Library • FortuneSmithsonian MagazineMarie Claire Town & Country SlateLibrary Journal Kirkus Reviews LibraryReads PopMatters

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize • National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist • Dayton Literary Peace Prize Finalist • PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction Finalist • PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Longlist

“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.”
In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.


  • Articulate

    The author articulates a racist system in a way that makes it easier to dismantle.
  • Accurate and superficial.

    By luiggispodMD
    This book just adds to the list of those that corrupt Hegelian master slave dialectics and take it to an extreme. Accurately describes the caste systems and but Author’s diagnosis is incomplete and at best, superficial.
  • Read, Read, Read

    By pkmetz
    Wonderful, sad, surprising, important, educational, historical. Everyone should read this book.
  • A Thorough and Shocking Study of the Origins and Effects of Caste

    By Becca L. Rockwood
    This book is incredibly well researched and written. Wilkerson introduces us to the pervasiveness of caste systems in the United States, India, and Nazi Germany. This book is filled with fascinating historical facts and stories, of which most of us are probably unaware. Overall, this eye-opening book provides numerous fresh ideas and perspectives to bring to the discussion of caste, or race relations.
  • The book reshapes my view of my country

    By App-preciation
    The Caste opened my eyes to the flimsy and faulty justice in the documents of the very selective U.S. founding fathers. To read about the government-sanctioned atrocities of Africans in this country and to see plainly how the world has supported the hierarchy of white wins over all melanated makes me want to further expose the country and its flaws. As an African American, it also lifts in me a spirit to bond with others oppressed around the world - recognizing that caste is not only a real part of our history, but it is alive and thriving today. This book makes it easy to see how it works, why it exists and how it impacts our world.
  • Wow, So that’s what I felt my whole life

    By K071785
    Wow, so that’s what I’ve felt my whole life and didn’t understand why or how “it” got like it is today in the world, especially here - in the “good ol’ US of A.” I believe is has chaged my action towards and with others of my species - human-beings.
  • In awe...

    By cat in vienna
    There are no words... I am in awe of this insightful and beautifully written book. What an honor to exist in the same time and space as the author. Now let us all practice radical empathy and change the world, one person at a time.
  • If only we could

    By al rucks
    If only somehow, this book be made required reading for this country. Ignorance is the parent of bigotry. And I mean intentional, enforced ignorance.
  • Caste

    By supersupersuper fan
    Every white American should read this book, no matter how uncomfortable we may become. The author’s analogies and metaphors are right on target giving me many “aha” moments. I feel inspired to step up my anti-racist game, beyond ineffectual Facebook posts.
  • A Triumph.

    By BlueJayC
    I feel like all the bits of understanding I was grasping at before have been sewn into a quilt. It’s global, it’s personal, it’s wrenching, it’s analytic. I’m a white male, and I’m baffled that the experience of reading such heavy subject matter can feel uplifting. If this isn’t the best thing I read in 2021, then I’m in for an amazing year.