In the documentary film Thug Angel, Shock G from the rap group Digital Underground said it best about Tupac Shakur. “When people say ‘Pac is the best rapper of all times, they don’t just mean he’s the best rapper. They just mean what he had to say was most potent, most relevant, and that he was the better human being.”
Before his tragic death at age of 25, Tupac rapped about poverty, violence in the black community, police brutality, black empowerment, political strategy and spirituality. When you learn what books Tupac read, it’s evident that literature had a big influence on his life and music. We compiled a list of books that Tupac talked about in interviews and ones that close friends remembered him reading. We picked books that are still very much relevant today.
11 Books From Tupac Shakur’s Bookshelf
Book 1: The Confessions of Nat Turner – William Styron
Why It’s Relevant: In early 2016 at the Sundance Film Festival, Fox Search Light made a record-breaking $17.5 Million deal to purchase the world rights of Nate Parker’s film The Birth of a Nation, a film about Nat Turner – an American slave who led a slave rebellion in 1831. Parker is fulfilling one of Tupac’s dreams. In the book Holler If You Hear Me, film producer Preston Holmes revealed to Michael Eric Dyson that Tupac wanted to produce a film about Nat Turner.
Book 2: The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Alex Haley
Why It’s Relevant: The world wept on June 3, 2016 when the greatest fighter of all time, Muhammad Ali passed away. Ali inspired so many people with not only his footwork in the boxing ring, but also with his courage to stand up for what’s right – starting with his refusal to enter the Vietnam War. Not many people know that Malcolm X was a mentor and inspiration for Ali. It was Malcolm X’s influence that made him want to join the Nation of Islam and change his name from Cassius Clay to Cassius X, and eventually to Muhammad Ali.
Book 3: The Buying of The President – Charles Lewis
Why It’s Relevant: This year’s campaign for the 45th President of the United States is one of the most expensive political campaigns in American history. If you’ve ever wondered why presidential campaigns are so expensive, you should read this book.
Book 4: In Contempt – Christopher Darden
Book 5: How to Argue & Win Every Time: At Home, At Work, In Court, Everywhere, Everyday– Gerry Spence
Why They’re Relevant: It’s been two decades since the OJ Simpson trial rocked American culture with a powder keg filled with clashes of race and class. In recent months we’ve seen the trial of the century reemerge with the FX channel’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 documentary O.J.: Made In America. These books are from two people who had front row seats to the case. Author Christopher Darden was on the prosecution team against Simpson and Gerry Spence is a lawyer who has never lost a criminal case and was a legal consultant who covered the trial for NBC.
Book 6: Roots: The Saga of an American Family – Alex Haley
Why It’s Relevant: Alex Haley’s novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family was first published in 1976 and then the TV miniseries followed in 1977. Memorial Day 2016, the History channel premiered a remake of the miniseries executive produced by Will Packer (of Think Like a Man, Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer and Straight Outta Compton).
Book 7: Assata: An Autobiography– Assata Shakur
Why It’s Relevant: Since President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro announced efforts to improve the relationship between the United States and Cuba, reports of pressuring Cuba to release Assata Shakur (aka of JoAnne Chesimard) has remained in the news. Assata was convicted (many believe wrongfully) of killing one state trooper and wounding another in 1973 in New Jersey. The former Black Panther has had political asylum in Cuba, after escaping prison and fleeing the U.S. in 1979. Tupac’s stepfather (Mutulu Shakur) also connects him to Assata. Mutulu was accused and convicted of helping Assata escape prison.
#8 Ponder On This: A Compilation – Alice A. Bailey
#9 The Phenomenon of Man – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
#10 Thoughts and Meditations– Kahlil Gibran
#11 The Tibetan Book of the Dead – Karma – Glin-Pa, W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Donald S. Lopez Jr.
Why It’s Relevant: Spirituality is where most people turn to for healing and understanding. With recent news of mass shootings and deaths of celebrities who made strives to help humanity; these books are timeless and are a much needed read in times like this. Tupac often referenced God and spirituality in his music. Towards the end of his life it’s clear that he was wrestling with pain after being shot and spending time in jail.
Written by Tanisha Blakely.