Back in 2011, renowned rapper and recording artist J. Cole founded The Dreamville Foundation, a non-profit “created to bridge the gap between the worlds of opportunity and the urban youth of Fayetteville, NC.” One of the major facets of the foundation is its book club – a discussion group for local high schoolers where J. Cole has made regular appearances, either in person or via Skype.
“I’m mad proud,” he told the Fayetteville Observer. “What you have is kids who had never picked up a book outside of class and who were barely picking up the books in class. Now, they’re telling me about books they’ve read that aren’t even related to book club; that feels really good.”
Just as Maya Angelou encouraged “everybody to read everything,” Cole’s book club covers a broad spectrum, ranging from Tupac’s poetry to sci-fi classics. “There are enough options for them to fall in love with something and spark an interest in reading,” he said. In providing “a chance for them to explore something they thought they might never do,” he hopes to inspire the teens to dream big. He elaborates on his inspirations and missions for the book club in a video spot here.
Read on for a list of books featured in J. Cole’s book club, along with others he’s named as his favorites, and complement with The Books Jay-Z Lives By.
Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Tyrell by Coe Booth
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
“I read a book called The Artist’s Way and it’s for any blocked artist. A year into making the album, I had all this incredible material. It was flowing but it stopped. Going to the studio was too much pressure. One thing the book talked about was, ‘Three pages a day.’ The first thing you do is write three pages freehand nonstop. That’s how I got back to writing. I got notebooks and notebooks full of lyrics.” -JC
Enders Game by Orson Scott Card
Eye Of The Hurricane by Rubin Carter
“I never saw the movie with Denzel Washington, but the book is incredible. It’s about a boxer who is a hometown hero in New Jersey because he went to juvie, then the army, made it big as a pro and then was wrongly accused of a triple murder. It’s kind of inspiring – and it makes me think, ‘Man, what have I really done?’” -JC
Maze Runner by James Dashner
Make It Happen by Kevin Liles
An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff & Alex Tresniowski
The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur