Yara Shahidi, the 22-year-old actress and activist, has quickly become a cultural icon in the world of entertainment. Born to an African-American mother and Iranian-American father, Shahidi’s been a powerful voice for inclusivity and social justice since her rise to fame.

After her breakout role on the hit television show “Black-ish,” Shahidi has continued to make waves in Hollywood with captivating performances in films like “The Sun Is Also a Star” and “Smallfoot.” But beyond her acting career, Shahidi’s also become known for her passionate activism. In 2018, she founded Eighteen x 18, a platform dedicated to empowering young people to participate in the political process.

Shahidi’s commitment to social justice and inclusivity is also evident in her fashion choices. Known for her bold and colorful ensembles, Shahidi often uses her red carpet appearances to highlight underrepresented designers and pay homage to her multicultural heritage. Despite her young age, she’s already been recognized for her impact on the industry, and in 2020, was named to Time’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Sharing her top 10 desert island books with NY-based bookstore One Grand, Shahidi recommended classic tales of love, identity, and liberation. From Toni Morrison to Aldous Huxley, check out her favorite books below, and explore the reading lists of other famous actors right here.

Yara Shahidi’s Reading List

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (also rec’d by Amanda Gorman, Emily Ratajkowski, Gabrielle UnionGeorge SaundersIbram X. KendiJane Elliott & Tarana Burke)

“Still one of the only books that has left me in tears. Morrison’s words vividly depict how societal pressures and stereotypes become internalized, emphasizing the importance of self-love through a story of self-hate.” -YS

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

“Cat’s Cradle is a perfectly satirical novel poking fun at the arbitrary systems, institutions, and rules that hold society hostage, in a way that only Vonnegut could. It is easy to get lost in the fantastical island of San Lorenzo and its religion of Bokononism. A story with an even more fantastical back story.” -YS

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (also rec’d by Janelle Monáe, John LennonMarianne FaithfullRichey EdwardsSusan Sontag, Vivienne Westwood & Yuval Noah Harari)

“Infamous for the predictions made about the modern world, Huxely’s Brave New World gives chilling commentary on the flaws of both the present and future societies that we are and will be living in. At the epicenter, it is an age-old debate about the dichotomy of freedom and happiness.” -YS

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (also rec’d by Alice Walker, Florence WelchHoward ZinnIbram X. KendiJanet Mock, Phoebe Robinson, Tarana Burke & Zadie Smith)

“Everything about this novel is poetic. From the ripe symbolism and haunting telling of true love, to witnessing the true liberation of a woman who has led a life dictated by societal pressures. The story of Janie is both insanely specific to her life and also a statement on the universal transformative stages of womanhood.” -YS

The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin (also rec’d by Carrie Brownstein)

“Through a series of essays, Baldwin discusses the significance of actors, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier and others, all mainstream entertainers and pivotal members of the Civil rights movement. Their on- and off-screen lives became political statements around the racial landscape of America. Baldwin recognizes the double-edged sword of media: A celebration and suppression of the Black community.” -YS

The Odyssey by Homer (also rec’d by Bob Dylan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Nick Cave & Jay-Z)

The Odyssey was first book I read with my Grampie at four years old and was my introduction to the mesmerizing tales of Roman and Greek Mythology. Not only is this book a classic, with plenty of recognizable tales, but truly a whimsical experience of triumph, love, and hardship.” -YS

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Chains was my introduction into the world of historical fiction, and oh what a lovely introduction it was. Laurie Halse Anderson writes about the unbreakable bond of love between two sisters, a love that carried them through the hardships of slavery, to fight for the freedom of both themselves and America.” -YS

Candide by Voltaire (also rec’d by Vincent van Gogh)

“Probably the best example of Murphy’s Law, Voltaire is an iconic writer from the era of Enlightenment, whose work speaks to the shifting of morals, ethics and policies during the 18th century. A wonderful complementary reading to my AP European History class.” -YS

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bud, Not Buddy should be mandatory reading. The story of an orphan, determined to find his father, weaves in and out of an accurate illustration of life during the Great Depression. A feel-good tale that beautifully and painfully describes the determination of a young black boy.” -YS

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (also rec’d by Charlie Brooker, George R.R. Martin & Hugh Laurie)

“Oh, how beautifully confusing this novel is. Heller, a war veteran himself, creates a cast full of colorful characters and antagonists to illustrate the insane bureaucracy of the war machine. A perfect compatriot to Slaughter House 5, revealing that we all may have a little Yossarian and Billy Pilgram in our personalities.” -YS

(via One Grand Books; photo by Adrienne Raquel)

Looking for an Amazon alternative? Support local, independent booksellers by shopping Yara Shahidi’s reading list – and hundreds of other celebrity book recommendations – through Radical Reads’ Bookshop.org profile.

Categories: Actors