Over his 20-season career, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar racked up 6 MVP awards and more points than anyone else in NBA history. Since his 1989 retirement, he’s been appointed a cultural ambassador for the U.S., written a regular column for Time, and co-authored a series of books based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes characters.

Sharing a list of his ten favorite reads with Reader’s Digest, Abdul-Jabbar included work by Conan Doyle, John le Carré, Harper Lee, James Baldwin and Malcolm X. Find his favorites below, and complement with the book lists of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.


The Red-Headed League by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“It has all the elements you’d expect from a Sherlock Holmes story—you’re presented with a number of things that would help you solve the question, but you can’t or you don’t. When you get to the end and Sherlock explains everything, you say, ‘Aw, I should have noticed that!’ All the facts are there. It’s hard to piece things together without the background and the inquisitive mind Holmes has.” -KAJ

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré

“It’s all very fascinating, the background and the authenticity that Mr. le Carré brings to the things that he writes.” -KAJ

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (also rec’d by Neil Patrick Harris & Shonda Rhimes)

“People don’t understand the nature of racism here in our country. They don’t get how insidious it is…When you start reading [Mockingbird], you start to get an idea of just how awful it is that people just discriminate on the basis of race.” -KAJ

The Spenser Series by Robert B. Parker

“Hawk is intellectual but he’s also a tough guy. So there’s stuff there that you kind of get into with having those macho moments.” -KAJ

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (also rec’d by David Bowie & Nipsey Hussle)

“It really helped me get what the civil rights movement was about…He talks about what racism does and how it has just distorted everything in our country.” -KAJ

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

“Walter Mosley reminds me of Raymond Chandler, [except] writing from the black side of town…He has the ability to describe the negative effects of racism while writing an entertaining novel.” -KAJ

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (also rec’d by Kurt Cobain, Liz Phair & Philip Roth)

“I remember comparing Holden Caulfield’s experiences with my own…High school was an ordeal.” -KAJ

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X (also rec’d by Gabrielle UnionJanelle Monáe, Rose McGowan, Tupac Shakur & Questlove)

“[The book] enabled me to understand how much of a struggle it is to gain success in America when you’re going up against entrenched, racist institutions.” -KAJ

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

“Spade’s commitment to his partner is [one] that he must honor, even though the femme fatale of the story has compromised him…Loyalty is a key issue for Sam Spade. It motivates him to get to the bottom of the things.” -KAJ

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

“Arkady Renko is a hero—he knows how much corruption he’s immersed in, but he still pursues the murderers, no matter how well connected they might be…He is fearless, and I love these types of characters.” -KAJ

(via Reader’s Digest)

Categories: Athletes

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