Caste (Oprah's Book Club) - Isabel Wilkerson

Caste (Oprah's Book Club)

By Isabel Wilkerson

  • Release Date: 2020-08-04
  • Genre: Social Science
4 Score: 4 (From 1,694 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 • Bloomberg • Christian Science MonitorNew York Post • The New York Public Library • Fortune • Smithsonian Magazine • Marie Claire Town & Country Slate • Library Journal Kirkus Reviews LibraryReads PopMatters

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize • National Book Critics Circle Award 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.


  • 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.
  • Harrowing

    By andyt563
    A must-read for America, especially those, like myself, in the dominant caste who have largely skated through life in blissful ignorance of the great sufferings of so many.
  • Required reading

    By Mario Villalobos
    Everyone should read this book. Our world will be that much better if we did.
  • Sad and stunning

    By Chromium54
    Incredibly well written analysis of why humans drift towards tribes. A truly thought provoking book, but be warned. It's not a feel good book.
  • Great !!!

    By Bluesman JP
    I’ve always felt that I was a “woke” individual but I learned so much from this book and the the mindset of those who do not share my belief. Unfortunately those who should read this, will not, but it touched me! Loved it!!
  • Beautifully written

    By 48224
    A compelling argument and fresh look at race in America. The rare work of informative non-fiction that is also beautifully written.
  • ivan j

    By ivanjrodriguez76
    i am shiryu the dragon
  • Garbage Propaganda

    By DocJericles
    This is basically the template for the current neo-“liberal” race-based movement. I should move to China and write this book, replacing “white” with “Chinese.” The superimposition of caste structure atop the ALREADY EXISTING social structure of, and within, the US is as artificial as race itself. To then ascribe success of “racial” groups to race in and of itself, ignoring patterns of immigration, wealth-building and cultural value systems is as stupid as trying to attribute the myth of the “gender” pay gap solely to whether you’re male or female, ignoring behavioral traits that are more commonly found in males (aggressive, argumentative) vs those more commonly found in females (passive, agreeable). While it is true that blacks have been overtly discriminated against in the US and ACROSS THE WORLD, the book fails to explain CURRENT opportunities for social mobility post-anti-discrimination act, fails to acknowledge the existence of successful, wealthy blacks and black families across the US, and fails to draw parallels of cross-racial patterns of INDIVIDUAL behaviors that allow one to become successful in this country. This aggressively-written compilation of shock phrases, memes, and fallacious race-based idealogies follows the typical idealogue paradigm of, “Since the world is a confusing place, first i will lay everything out that confuses you, confusing you even more (making you gullible). Then I will explain to you why you’re confused (the pitch, laid out to convince you that I know what I’m talking about). Then I will explain a set of answers to questions I either led you into, or forced out of you, spoon-feeding you a set of beliefs that will help UNconfuse you, and place you into my system of followers (you wont even realize it).” This is how systemic ideologies, like religious or political movements, are packaged and sold. While many lower and middle-class blacks, and their equally racist simp white counterparts may find an appeal to this type of writing and the mythological version of the US it presents (while all myth is based on select bits of reality, reality isnt myth), this should be read with a hyper-critical eye for falsehoods and skewings of reality, and as a set of more excuses designed to blame society for personal failure. The House of America does not exist, as it’s a material thing...fallible, tangible, susceptible to rot and the erosion of time. America is an idea, not a “house.” And THAT is why there are over 100 Constitutional Republics across the world who have modeled their Constitutions and systems of government after ours. Dont like it? You’re free to stay, but hey....why stay in a place you hate, or has discontented you so much? You are FREE to leave, and pursue your own happiness.