By Chester Himes
Set in Los Angeles during World War II, this is an extremely harrowing book. It describes the oppression of racism through its effect on the main character, a worker at the shipyards. It's the story of a man who is utterly at the mercy of his environment—and of how his rage at that fact eats at him. Reading the novel is such a visceral experience. I could feel this man's anger seething through him, especially at the end when he's accused of rape by a white woman, who is lying, and yet has no way to clear his name. I've never read a book that could better make you understand what it feels like to be subjugated.