Great Reads

Black books and authors continue to break new ground. Here's a selection from among the best this season.

Warmed by the millions that African Americans are spending, mainstream publishers are producing more black-interest books and expanding the range of offerings.

Whatever your interests or preferred genre, there’s something for most everyone. Here’s a small sampling of what’s currently available.

The first all-inclusive book of its kind, The African American Yellow Pages by Stanton F. Biddle (Henry Holt, $19.95) is an annotated directory of more than 2,000 publications, institutions and services, including a range of government agencies and arts organizations.

Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times by Karen Grigsby Bates and Karen Elyse Hudson (Doubleday, $24.95) imparts guidance on just about everything, from handling embarrassing situations to entertaining and gift-giving.

Muhammad Ali: In Perspective by Thomas Hauser (CollinsPublishers, $50 hardcover; $25 paperback) captures, through color and black-and-white photos, “The Greatest” from childhood through today. Captions feature reminiscences of admirers, friends, former ring foes and Ali himself, tied together by an unassuming narrative.

Through Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait by Rachel Robinson with Lee Daniels (Harry N. Abrams, $29.95) celebrates the life of the legendary baseball great. It unfolds through warm prose and some 300 photographs. Chronicling Robinson’s duties and dilemmas, victories and sweat, the book traverses the mountains that faced the man who broke baseball’s color barrier some 50 years ago this April.

The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954-68 by Steven Kasher (Abbeville, $35) is an engrossing gathering of 150 frozen moments of bravery and brutality, hope and hatred, captured by more than 50 photographers, both black and white, pro- and anti-civil rights. Kasher’s steady text makes the retrospective all the more memorable.

Living Apart: South Africa Under Apartheid by Ian Berry (Phaidon Press, distributed by Chronicle Books, $69.95) is a poignant look in black and white at the images of oppression, resistance and everyday life in South Africa during the late ’50s into the ’90s.
When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson (Knopf, $26) is a disturbing exploration and exposition of the appalling joblessness in a growing number of inner-city neighborhoods. The book is based on data from three research projects conducted in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Equally disturbing and hardly preposterous is The Coming Race War in America: A Wake-Up Call by Carl T. Rowan (Little, Brown and Co., $22.95) in which the well-known newspaper columnist projects dire outcomes for the turn-of-the-century if action isn’t taken now.

The Norton Anthology of African American Literature edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay (Norton, $39.95 until 3/1/97; $49.95 thereafter) is a colossal, almost 2,700-page collection 10 years in the making. A diverse and rich mix of all genres, the book spans 250 years of black writings. It is destined to become required reading in literature and African American studies courses. It also comes with a companion course guide and CD.

The Wisdom of the Word: Faith compiled by Rhinold Ponder and Michele Tuck-Ponder (Crown Publishers, $17) is a notable collection of sermons by nine highly regarded ministers, including Rev. Benjamin E. Mays, former president

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