Emmy-winning CNN Tonight anchor Don Lemon has served as the network’s leading Black voice on the past year’s COVID pandemic, election chaos, and increasing racial unrest. Since publicly coming out as gay in his 2011 memoir TransparentLemon’s received numerous accolades for his visibility and advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community. His newest work This Is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism, a searing portrait of America’s deepest systemic flaws, comes out in March.

Sharing his reading list with McKinsey, Lemon noted that “a must-read right away is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabelle Wilkerson..I’m fascinated by the subject. I’ve been intrigued by how it plays out in India, since I was assigned by CNN to work there in 2008. The caste system and their obsession with light skin has always reminded me of growing up in Louisiana with its caste system among African Americans. When I grew up, one had to be lighter than a brown paper bag if you wanted to be accepted by whites and [be] on the higher rung of black society. This is gonna be good.”

From Zadie Smith to David Mitchell, check out Don Lemon’s reading list below.


Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (also rec’d by Mariah Carey)

Intimations by Zadie Smith

The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir by Michele Harper

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (also rec’d by Mariah Carey & Noname)

Utopia Avenue: A Novel by David Mitchell

Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand

(via McKinsey)