Caste (Oprah's Book Club)

Caste (Oprah's Book Club) by Isabel Wilkerson Book Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.
LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD • “An instant American classic.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.”
In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.

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Caste (Oprah's Book Club) (Isabel Wilkerson) Book Reviews

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- Boooooriiin1 star

Can she go back to giving away cars

- Should be required reading for every American5 star

Beautifully and powerfully written. All of us can learn something from this brilliant book. Trying to imagine how much better we can all be if we open our eyes to the realities Ms. Wilkerson describes and work together to help our nation live up to its founding intentions of “liberty and justice for all”.

- Don’t bother.1 star

This is absolute trash.

- Caste5 star

A must read for ALL of humanity!

- The Root of Our Evil5 star

By the time you get to chapter six of Caste, you start to see concepts like “trickle-down economics,” shift in your mind. They transition from debatable topics, to their true state. The light is fully shown on the vile and wholly disgusting nature of these ideologies. They are the tools for the perpetuation of a system of subjugation and dehumanization that America cannot seem to shake. Wilkerson has masterfully disassembled the structure of Caste in America and elsewhere. The chilling comparisons and contrasts emphasize the utter absurdity of arbitrary divisions between men. Caste systems are mechanisms for the wicked and greedy to coalesce power and wealth to themselves. And worse, it is a system that can completely shatter the free will of a human being. This book provides an exploded view of the internal machinery that powers human subjugation. It is mandatory reading for a world demanding social justice at louder and louder decibels. Fast forwarding to present day, this book reaffirms a belief I’ve had about minorities who seem to desperately seek the approval of the dominant caste by worshiping at the alter of money or denigrating their own as a means to social status & acceptance.

- I get it4 star

Thanks to this book I better understand some/many Trump supporters. It’s an insight that should embarrass anyone that claims to be American.

- Excellent summary of history and the true meaning of caste5 star

Highly recommended - a must read

- A Thought Provoker of a Book!5 star

Having dealt this past summer with the Confederate monument issue as a public servant and descendant of Confederates, I found Ms Wilkerson's premise both insightful and thought provoking. It reaffirmed my long-wrestled-with decision that the time was past due to deal with issues that are destructive to building a true community in the 21st Century. It was very readable and eye-opening.

- Caste The Origins of our Discontent5 star

This books provides a clear understanding of the basis of racism in America.

- Caste4 star

It is commendable that the author has focused on caste system in Hinduism. India is the bastion of caste apartheid ! It is not just the Brahmins that do this. There are other so called upper castes that use it to suppress everyone below them ! This is done through caste nepotism also known as caste networking. Where caste nepotism exists, merit dies ! You can see that in India. In the past 70 years Japan, China, Europe rose from the ashes of WW2 to accomplish great things for their people. India has been held back by caste nepotism ! This is sad.

- So important! And painful5 star

This book was painful to read. So much of what she writes is showing the reader the cruelty, hatred, and evil perpetrated as a result of the caste system. I appreciate that she used this word to describe the system - and showed examples from the United States, India, and Nazi Germany. It shows us that this is a human tendency/evil - not just an American one. As such, rooting out this evil becomes a duty of our humanity, our call to honoring all humans as they are created, and to understanding how we are so much more alike than we are different. The book ends with a hopeful tone and a realistic challenge to the reader - I am a reader from the dominant caste - to set aside the “fake crown” and “see all of humanity.” I appreciate the way that she shows us that an end to the caste system can be done - as it was done in Germany with the end of the Nazi reign. The parallels that she draws between what happened there, and how they continue to heal from it - and our system of racial inequality in the United States, was so powerful. I enjoyed the way that she included some personal experiences in this well researched book. She helped us to see and hear the daily human impact of the caste system, which is where we meet it. I did not find this book to be a page turner. It is in no way pleasant or acceptable to witness the violence and harm that is a result of the caste system. I committed to reading it because I know how essential it is to understand deeply this injustice, so that I can commit more fully every day to setting it right. Thank you Ms. Wilkerson for this labor of justice and love. I pray that this book finds its way into the hands of millions so that we can engage together to dismantle the harmful system of caste in this country.

- Hateful and Unfounded1 star

I read this with hopes of finding some better understanding as to where all of the hatred could have originated. However, there is no substantive data. In fact, there is no mention of the failing policies in place for nearly a decade with Obama, the Democrat machine that thrives on the misfortune of minorities, and the absolute dismissal of the importance and success of nuclear families. These families thrived until welfare was instituted. Please review the statistics on this and just how well minorities were doing prior to COVID-19 and BLM/ANTIFA. There has never been a more anti-Semitic movement in the U.S. until BLM. Shame on you for continuing to propagate this misinformation and for continuing to hate those who do not agree with your fascist ideas.

- Worst comparison of hindus1 star

Not sure why there is so much toxic towards Hindus.. and especially Brahmins.. this is taken from people who hate certain section due to personal hate and just want to win elections use this.. why use Hindus for comparison with anti semitism of Germany .. I wish we had negative stars..

- Horrible1 star

Racist. Poorly research. Undeserving of a Pulitzer Prize

- Illuminating.5 star

Incredibly thought-provoking and insightful. Wilkerson’s thesis is so well articulated as to feel undeniable. Highly recommend.

- Perspective shifting!!5 star

Especially for those who think they know their history and are aware of the social injustices in our country.. this is a must read. So many learnings and moments where I had to stop, re-read, put the book down and absorb new historical context. Imperative for us all to actually learn the history of our nation in order to come through this moment truly better and with more undertanding of how we got here and what was created. so so great

- Caste5 star

I’m not sure where to start except to say we should all read this book! Books that make me have to look things up, grab a highlighter and say have I done this? These are books that should be given to everyone! Plus there is a reference section in the back!

- Absolutely Essential Reading5 star

I don't know how to begin reviewing this book short of stating that it is arguably the best and most important non-fiction book that I have read to date. It is informative, powerful, and inspiring. In her acknowledgments, Isabel Wilkerson credits Ibram X. Kendi and Bryan Stevenson for their scholarship and efforts as it pertains to racism in America. Bryan Stevenson's book "Just Mercy" was the first book that I ever read that truly opened my eyes to the inequities of the U.S. criminal justice system, and after reading Dr. Kendi's "How To Be An Antiracist" recently, I contend that it is the definitive text for defining American structural racism. What Wilkerson does in this book is take it one step further. Whereas "How to Be An Antiracist" answers the 'what' questions, "Caste" answers the 'why.' As opposed to just speaking to racism, she compares the structure of America to India's long-standing caste system - essentially a fixed hierarchy of all of its citizens - and how this country was built and maintained to keep African Americans on the bottom rung of that totem. To provide just one small example, she identifies how the Nazis used America's treatment of black people as a framework for their Nuremberg Laws of 1934 that were designed to institutionalize marginalization of Jews during the era of the Third Reich. Just think about that for a moment. She then later goes on to detail how Germany has responded to that piece of their history with shame, education, and memorialization. Meanwhile, we have a large portion of our population in the United States fighting to preserve statues and monuments that honor men that provided Hitler with his playbook. Moreover, Wilkerson's book is so much more than research and facts. Throughout the book, she weaves her message through historical examples, personal anecdotes, and cultural references. She writes of tales of lynchings during the Jim Crow era that are so heart-wrenching and visceral that they read like a photograph. She highlights systemic absurdities with an undeniable sense of logic. And she appeals to humanity in a way that makes me feel like this book should be required reading for obtaining a driver's license or I don't know...buying a Big Gulp. Since the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all that has ensued, I have finally been educating myself. I have felt guilt. I have felt sad. I have started to identify and continue to work on my own shortcomings. I have felt empathy. I have donated to causes that are advocating for policy change. I have felt supportive. This was the book that I needed to feel outraged. It's time to do more.

- This should be part of every American’s history lesson5 star

The book is excellent. Wilkerson has masterfully woven a complex history of events into a clearly understood, data supported explanation of what got us to where we are right now. Her metaphors are so insightful and her evidence of how the USA has established a hierarchy that debases human beings for the color of their skin is so thought provoking and at times, shocking to realize. She is an incredible storyteller and this story is so powerful and life changing- it should be required reading for every American student.

- Thought Provoking, Educational and Engaging5 star

I found this book thoroghly educational and engaging. After reading it, I have vowed never to go back to the person I was before reading it. It has encouraged a deeper empathy and understanding for the experience of people of color, and has been the best education on the role of race/caste in our country that I have ever had. The stories woven through the book were enlightening and thought provoking and served as a way to allow the reader to feel strong emotions and a personal connection to the content. The connection to Nazi Germany and India provided views that I had never before considered. I learned so much and am seeking ways to incorporate what I have learned into my day to day life. Highly recommend. My only complaint is that I wish she had spent more time on how we can move forward and heal as a nation.

- Wonderful5 star

Thoughtful and challenging.


Another Pulitzer please!! This is a brilliant, moving, spot on analysis of the truth our country must face. Our system has too long allowed the caste hierarchy to exist and it needs to stop. The humanity exhibited in the writing here is astounding and reading this should deepen any human being’s resolve to make change. Thank you for yer another superb and necessary book.

- Transformational5 star

Powerful read that moved me from page one and took me on a journey that will forever change the way I view this experiment we call America.

- Important Read in Our Current Times5 star

A very eye opening book that does not point the finger but presents the ugly, uncomfortable facts. Beautifully written, though sometimes hard to read in its naked truthfulness, this is simply a book book we all must to read. With anti-racism books flying off the shelves in the current climate in the U.S., be sure to put this book at the top of your reading list.

- Compelling argument but not scientific4 star

Wilkerson is a journalist, not a scientist, so while her book presents a logical case for a caste system in the United States that system is not examined beyond the White/Black situation. She makes little effort to fit Native Americans, Jews or those of Latin American ancestry into her theory of an Amciacn Caste system. However, she gives a compelling agrument for the exisance of millions of White Amcericans who are determined to keep their power and dominance over those from Noneuropean ancestry. Even to the point of electing a clearly incompetent person to the Presidency because he promised to make (Whte) America Great Again. The many negataive coments on this site show that she hit a nerve among those who believe they have the God-given right to domminate those who are not white or Protesant Christians but don’t want to publically admit it. Wilkerson is deservidely angry at the treatment she and other Black women have received because they are in the very lowest class/caste: Black and female. Her anger and attempt to understand how she became a bottom person sparked this book that gives an important insight into our nation.

- Life changing and essential book5 star

There are rare times when reading a book that you realize this is not merely a book but a companion, a guide to which you will return to help understand the world around you. Caste is one of those paradigm shifting books. My jaw was dropped and my stomach churned while seeing how Isabel Wilkerson laid out a convincing framework for how the U.S. society is organized. Not only by race but by something older: caste. Reading this book will make you look at your life and your place in the world differently. It’s an eye opening book. You can’t go back! Be brave enough to read it! The fact that it’s engrossing and well written only helps make its brilliant points come out more clearly. Thank you Oprah for choosing this book.

- A masterpiece5 star

This book is a magnificent tapestry - weaving together history, social commentary, personal stories, and eye-opening anecdotes to tell an American history missing from textbooks. You will not want to put it down.

- Caste5 star

Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste is not a book; it’s a cultural watershed. Her reportage is astute, her sentences beautifully crafted, as she strikes at the heart of what has plagued our nation since its founding. She deftly connects our race-based caste system to India’s Dalits and the Nazis’ genoice of Jews. Destined for this year’s big nonfiction prizes, and a worthy sequel to Wilkerson’s classic The Warmth of Other Suns. Kudos to Oprah and her team, and please buy this book!

- Transformative Read.5 star

This book is a beautiful, harrowing and eye-opening read that will never leave me. It’s changed the way I see our history and our future as a nation. I’ve never been more compelled to share a book with everyone I know!

- eye-opening, world-altering5 star

both rich in metaphor and incisively pragmatic, caste is one of those very rare books that reveals the world to you as it really is. the paradigm presented in this book will open your eyes and, hopefully, your heart.

- Caste is ESSENTIAL5 star

I was learning new things from the very first page. I couldn’t believe what I was reading because they never taught us this in school. So I’d google it and BAM! It was real. This book should be in every classroom in America to help us move forward. Great job Isabel!

- Such an enlightening read about our history, even as a Black wkman5 star

I thought I was educated about our history in this country, but I was floored to learn about everything from exactly how similar our nation is to the Indian caste system to the fact that our relationship with race isn’t much different than that is the nazis. Isabel’s writing is phenomenal and I also appreciated her personal perspectives about her time as a Black NYT writer.

- This books has opened my eyes!5 star

There could not be a more perfect time for this book to arrive. I’m purchased it yesterday and I’m already halfway through! The way that Isabel is able to weave historical fact in with astounding anecdotes makes the writing so engaging and beautiful. I will eat my hat if this work of art does not receive the accolades it deserves.

- What an education.5 star

This book is not for the heart that wants to live unchanged. Only reading with intellectual tentacles up and with humanity in mind will allow you to receive this beauty in its fullness. What an education.

- Contemporary masterpiece5 star

This profound work of history gives me a new way of seeing the roots and continuing manifestations of racism. The language and thinking are magnificent. This Pulitzer Prize-winning deserves another Pulitzer for this book. It’s a book all should read.

- A true disappointment1 star

Much hyped but falls short of any reality in the modern age. Truly disappointed. Do not read this. Total waste of time.

- Justification for systemic racism1 star

If you have been contaminated by critical race theory, you will love this anecdotal piece o crap.

- Hogwash1 star

Total hogwash that there are only 3 Castes in the world. What garbage.

- Half Way Through....5 star

Have read the first 550 pages and I have a hard time putting the book down. I, too, have highlighted passages....words so important to the understanding and processing of such a well researched topic. I also find myself thinking of my own history....growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in the South and how perceptions of other races were never taught out loud but were quietly assimilated in the environment and without any voices to invite you to think differently. I can’t wait to finish this book so I can go back and read parts of it again.

- Junk1 star

Burn pile terrible

- Clarifying5 star

“Caste is the bones. Race is the skin”. She writes. And In 388 pages she makes defines the breadth, depth and body of racism in ways that are undeniable to an open mind.

- Caste5 star

So excited to read this book and really take in the lessons for our country. Don’t miss this one.

- Most IMPORTANT Book of our time5 star

Best read ever. The author is brilliant and delivers lighting bolt insights in every chapter. A couple of early bad reviews appear to be from people who haven’t read it but saw coverage on CNN or read a synopsis. These people are the ones who need to read this book the most. The author does a masterful job in explaining why we all have work to do when it comes to our own narratives around race. She gives compelling data and research, as well as real world examples of things our history books conveniently leave out. There’s a reason why this is being called the most important book of our time. And for the record, I have read it cover to cover and highlighted it beyond recognition. This book is going to be a catalyst for change if all of the naysayers just give it a chance.

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- Caste1 star

A boring piece of crap. Don’t bother.

- Incredible analysis5 star

One of the best books I’ve read in the past year. Precise analysis conveyed through beautiful writing.

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- Wow.5 star

Excellent read.

- CASTE5 star

This work has really opened my eyes up to what has really gone on and is still going on, in not just the USA and in my country Canada but all around the world. I am very grateful this book has been written and my hope is that millions around the world will read it and make a personal decision to be better human beings. I have already told many friends and family this is a must read and it is a life changing book. As you mentioned, when we do what is best for the collective we too benefit. Thank you Isabel Wilkerson for being inspired to write this book and having the courage to state the facts as they are. As Maya Angelou said, as we know better we do better. I believe self awareness and acceptance of our part in any interaction with others is the first step in changing behaviours that do not serve to promote the wellbeing of all humanity. The “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” creed is one we as human beings need to embrace wholeheartedly.

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Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents

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@THR: Apple and Oprah Winfrey have expanded their partnership into podcasting, with 'Oprah’s Book Club' podcast, an eight-part miniserie…

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@THR: Apple and Oprah Winfrey have expanded their partnership into podcasting, with 'Oprah’s Book Club' podcast, an eight-part miniserie…

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@THR: Apple and Oprah Winfrey have expanded their partnership into podcasting, with 'Oprah’s Book Club' podcast, an eight-part miniserie…

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Read "Caste"- (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents - Click on #caste #books…

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@THR: Apple and Oprah Winfrey have expanded their partnership into podcasting, with 'Oprah’s Book Club' podcast, an eight-part miniserie…

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Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents

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Podcast @Oprah and author Isabel Wilkerson, take listeners through the 8 Pillars of Caste, featured in the Oprah’s…

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The Moment Isabel Wilkerson Learned <i>Caste</i> Was an Oprah's Book Club Pick

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@THR: Apple and Oprah Winfrey have expanded their partnership into podcasting, with 'Oprah’s Book Club' podcast, an eight-part miniserie…

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@THR: Apple and Oprah Winfrey have expanded their partnership into podcasting, with 'Oprah’s Book Club' podcast, an eight-part miniserie…

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