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Caste - Isabel Wilkerson


By Isabel Wilkerson

  • Release Date: 2020-08-04
  • Genre: Social Science
Score: 4
From 2,317 Ratings


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • “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.

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, O: The Oprah Magazine, NPR, Bloomberg, The Christian Science Monitor, New York Post, The New York Public Library, Fortune, Smithsonian Magazine, Marie Claire, Slate, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews

Winner of the Carl Sandberg Literary Award • Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize • National Book Award Longlist • 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 • Kirkus Prize Finalist

“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, and beautifully written 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 outcasting 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.

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.


  • Had me until ……

    By Mbensal
    The content turned into a platform for the authors rant on red vs blue, global warming , abortion , etc.
  • Important work

    By carocross
    The people who need to read this will not. It’s sobered and frightening.
  • Incredible indictment of white “privilege “

    By yearwoodj
    Wow. Beautifully written, compelling, supported by evidence, and clear-headed.
  • Absolute Must Read

    By ComeInNumber9
    An incredible book that should be required reading for everyone. “Caste” is not an easy read as the historical truths that are laid bare are as painful as they are inspiring; however, it is a book of hope and love that reminds us of our shared humanity. I was deeply moved and affected by this book and am grateful to the author for opening my eyes to social realities that I had never fully considered. I am a 60 year old white male born in the UK so my life experiences and subsequent viewpoints are massively influenced by the random reality of my birth; I honestly believe reading this book has raised my consciousness such that I am hopefully a slightly better person than I was beforehand.
  • Well written and eye opening

    By Pikey808
    Just read it!!!
  • Amazing

    By LocaMaddy1
    Outstanding. An awakening. Opened my eyes to reality. A must read foe EVERYONE. Excellent.
  • ClaudiaM Medrano

    By CentenoClaudia
  • A Book That Should Be Read By All

    By JustMyOp18
    As heartbreaking and beautifully told story of the world many of us live in without knowing it. That none of us are immune from what tears us rather than binds us. That with confidence, courage and compassion we can see that we are all that is. And we belong together.
  • Much food for thought and seeds of discussion

    By Queueman
    I read this book because I had previously read “The Warmth of Other Suns”, which gave me much to think about. “Caste” provides much food for thought, as well as seeds of discussion. I am a member of what Ms Wilkerson calls the dominant class, but I can relate to much of what is in this book. Having grown up in Chicago, and read both “Warmth of Others Suns” and Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”, I realized how much we had in common but, because of caste, we’re prevented from learning from each other. I’m aware, too, that caste is still a big factor in American society. As I finish this book Governor Ron DeSantis is attempting to ban African American History in Florida high schools. That he would do that is a demonstration of the arrogance of the upper caste. I thank Isabel Wilkerson for writing this book and wish that every American would read it and ponder our common humanity.
  • Powerful book!

    By persona de la mundo
    Everyone should read this book.