The Autobiography of X Books

X Books


We are X Books, the first book-to-prison non-profit founded and based in Georgia. Our mission is simple: we dedicate ourselves to restoring access to books for those inside prison walls. We believe that reading is a human right, and that autonomy and imagination create a connection to the outside world. After talking to our incarcerated friends, we understand that books have the opportunity to feed one's identity and provide self-respect in a dehumanizing place like the prison environment.
X Books has been working since 2020 to learn the rules of the Georgia Department of Corrections and build relationships with prison staff and administration. Before we started sending out books, this research afforded us an understanding of which prisons had strenuous rules and regulations and which facilities had no line of communication at all. The last thing we want to do is make a promise that we can’t keep.
Are you incarcerated and interested in our services? Our process is easy: we send letters to you and ask what books you want. We are aware that you can only request up to three books and that most facilities will not allow for certain content (porn, maps, etc.). We are not here to tell you what to read; that is your choice. If you ask for it, we will look through our library in Atlanta or attempt to buy it online and have it sent directly to you. If we are unable to find the book you request, we will send something that we believe is similar. We will not send you a book until you say that you want it. If you are not sure what book you want, you can tell us what genre piques your interest and we will send something from one of those genres. We try to meet you where you’re at. 

Sometimes we may send you a list of books that we have in vast supply. These books will still be free and we will be able to get them to you faster than others.

We will continue to contact you to make sure that you get the books that we send. If a prison rejects a book that we send, we will keep a log of the cited reason (if one is provided) and which facility rejected it. If a reason is not cited or we do not believe that it is sufficient, we will challenge that decision, by taking it up with either the warden of the facility or the Department of Corrections administration.

Last but not least, if you enjoy what we do, tell a friend. The goal isn't for us to engage you in a one-sided conversation. We are looking to build relationships. Your relationship with us may start behind the prison walls, but it doesn't have to end there. Another goal of ours is to work with formerly incarcerated folks who used to receive our books and who can pay it forward by volunteering or working with us after they’re released.

We will never ask for money, or sensitive information, or anything that you don't want us to know. We only care about what book you would like and we don't even need to know why. We are here to help. When there is no one for us to help, our purpose will be fulfilled. We aim to  serve incarcerated people until there is no one in a prison, juvenile detention center, immigration center, jail, or any kind of correctional facility.

You may be wondering, “Why? Why are you helping me?” Well, I personally have been in and out of jails and courtrooms. I have not been to prison, but I do know the effects of the criminally unjust system on a person. One month before my twenty-first birthday, I found myself sitting in a jail cell not sure how this was going to affect me. After pleading guilty, I lost my scholarship and my place at the University of Georgia. I had to leave campus and go work at a warehouse in my hometown of Braselton, Georgia. I lied on applications and said I graduated in order to get jobs I wasn't qualified for and I never checked the box that said I was a felon. I denied it internally and externally. I was ashamed and embarrassed. 

At school, my major was political science with a minor in African American studies. After leaving university, I still wanted to explore those concentrations, so I started working on political campaigns during my spare time. Once I was able to go back to school, I continued to lie about my criminal background and I always looked for jobs that I knew wouldn't ask about it. My goal was to work in an executive office that could make changes that I couldn't make alone. I was going to change the laws of this criminally unjust system and the fact that I wasn’t a lawyer or college graduate wasn't going to stop me.

I signed up to work for the campaign of the future Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. He was the underdog in his primary race, but he won. He brought me with him to work for his administration as a staff assistant. After a year in that role, I became a policy analyst. I thought I had made it, but I quickly learned that just because I had achieved this position did not mean that I could change the world. I became disenchanted and realized I needed a purpose. I started visiting prisons in Georgia and talking with prison officials. I learned about incarcerated folks’ lack of access to literature like the autobiography of Malcolm X and books on Martin Luther King, Jr. I couldn't get the lack of access issue out of my head. I became obsessed with groups in other states that were fighting the dearth of books in their states’ prisons. Georgia had no group like this. I had to do something about it and that something became X Books.

If there is assistance or support beyond books that we can offer, please let us know. We have cultivated a community of people outside of prison walls. We are ready to tap into that network on your behalf. Use us.

We can't wait to hear back from you.

Tyrel Dale

X Books

Portrait of Malcolm X, 1964, by Herman Hiller

“I knew right there, in prison, that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.”
—Malcolm X