Essential Reads for Those That Love the Cypher

This is a special book list of Essential Reads that was inspired by a 1990’s Hip-Hop playlist that took me back to my time at Bowie State University.

So let me set the parameters for this list.

  • First, ‘Essential Reads’ is different than staff recommendations. Any book we label as an ‘Essential Read’ is a title that we think is required reading and therefore should always be on your bookshelf. It doesn’t matter when you read it, just that you do because it will undoubtedly empower you as a critical thinker.
  • Second, I was introduced to these books as a college student, almost two decades ago. This is generally the time we are seeking out information, through reading and discourse, to help us better understand ourselves and the world. Therefore, these books are integral for any ‘late-night cypher with your homies.’

Let me know what you think. Have you read any of them? Which books are on your to-read list? Which book(s) would you add to this list?

Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery

by Na’im Akbar

One of the first books I read in the mid-90’s that introduced me to “consciousness” reading. It’s a book that’s easy to get into due to Dr. Na’im Akbar’s ability to be both straightforward and concise, while also striking the right nerve that challenges and unsettles the readers.

It was that last trait that prompted me to share what I was learning from this book with my homies, both at college and back home. The memories of the various conversations, debates, and cypher sessions with my friends are an indelible part of my college years. And ultimately, this book was a “red pill, Matrix moment” for me. It forced me to ask and seek the answer to unpleasant questions that, in the end, as I examine it now, defined the rest of my life.

The Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness

by Amos N. Wilson

So, let me make a quick disclaimer here. I have not read this book yet. But this book has been on my ‘to read list’ since I came across it maybe two decades ago. However, please do not let my procrastination dissuade you or be an indicator for the quality of this work.

The Falsification of Afrikan Consciousness by Amos Wilson is undoubtedly an ‘Essential Read’ for any person seeking to understand how centuries of forced enslavement, legalized segregation, our Eurocentric education system, and the propaganda of White Supremacy impacts the psychology of Black folk across the Diaspora. There is little doubt that any quality cypher session will inevitably require an examination of this trauma, placing Amos Wilson’s book squarely in the center of the conversation.

It is a Must Have

The Mis-Education of the Negro

by Carter G. Woodson

“If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”

― Carter Godwin Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro

Every educator, teachers, administrators, full-time, or substitute, should be required to engage in long-term professional development centering on this work. In fact, I would also make it required reading for all incoming high school freshmen to study and review this book. The information found within is just that important. ‘Nuf said.

The Destruction of Black Civilization

by Chancellor Williams

I love this book so much that I have two copies sitting on my bookshelf at home just in case I misplace one and for some unimaginable reason it goes out-of-print. I once took one of my copies to Kings Dominion because I refused to get on the roller coasters and read while everyone else was in line waiting to be tortured. Like I said…I love this book.

What stands out most about The Destruction of Black Civilization is the level of detail that Chancellor Williams provides. Not only are there names, dates, and places, but Williams’ ability to place all of this into the context of ‘why’ and ‘how’ makes this an ‘Essential Read.’ Any cypher on Black history, race, racism, and/or white supremacy is ultimately fruitless if we can’t identify the rationale and strategy of those seeking to harm us. Therefore, grab your highlighter, your homies, and commence your study group with this book as a prime text.

Nile Valley Contribution to Civilization

by Anthony Browder

OK…another quick disclaimer. I have not read this book either. However, Ramunda, my awesome wife and co-owner of MahoganyBooks, swears by this book. If I remember correctly, I think it’s actually in her Top 5 of books she’s read.

Here’s what I do know for sure from personal experience: Tony Browder is that dude. A number of his books at various times have been on the MahoganyBooks Bestsellers list at one point or another in the past two years. This for me is amazing considering most of them were written in the 1990’s. It speaks to the value of his scholarship and his incredible ability to communicate his findings for readers in all stages of study.

In the Nile Valley Contribution to Civilization, Tony Browder provides the first essential step in helping readers easily identify Black folks contribution to the evolution and advancement of civilization. As we begin to de-program ourselves using books from Na’im Akbar, Amos Wilson, and Carter G. Woodson, it is important to rebuild ourselves with right knowledge. Therefore, no cypher is complete without someone quoting from this ‘Book of Browder.’

About Derrick Young 24 Articles
I am the CEO and Co-Founder of the award-winning online bookstore, MahoganyBooks.


  1. Read all these books except the one by brother Amos. Definitely gave me a total different look at us as a people. Also, assisted in reconstructing my way of thinking. Hotep!

  2. The Mis-Education of the Negro
    by Carter G. Woodson

    Yeah I like this Cypher, Dropping Knowledge. Good Stuff! That was a Very Interesting Book! You have Knowledge in your hands that you don’t hear about too many other places. Definitely recommend as a Must Read for People of Color in the USA and West Indies!

    Jared F. Stays in the Desert somewhere

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