11 May 2018

Book Insights & Summary | Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Overall Rating




(Top 25% of all books read)

Book Summary

  • This book is Trevor Noah’s autobiography; he spends much of his time telling us about his childhood, his mother, and his experiences growing up in apartheid in South Africa.
  • It’s funny, touching, and full of insights on racism, life, and parenting.


Read If You...

  • Love storytelling as a way of conveying life lessons
  • Love comedy!
  • Seek to better understand racism in a multi-national context

Avoid If You...

  • Prefer dense, non-autobiographical non-fiction.

Personal Opinion

LOVED this book.

I’d highly recommend listening to the audiobook instead of reading it, because Trevor does an amazing job narrating the story and different characters. Also feels way more real and personal, like you’re having a conversation with Trevor himself.

There are very few people I wouldn’t recommend it to.


Regret is the thing we should fear the most.

I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say.

We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer.

Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. “What if…” “If only…” “I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.”

Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it.

(Book Excerpt)

“I was blessed with another trait I inherited from my mother, her ability to forget the pain in life. I remember the thing that caused the trauma, but I don’t hold onto the trauma.

I never let the memory of something painful prevent me from trying something new. If you think too much about the ass kicking your mom gave you or the ass kicking that life gave you, you’ll stop pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules. It’s better to take it, spend some time crying, then wake up the next day and move on. You’ll have a few bruises and they’ll remind you of what happened and that’s ok. But after a while, the bruises fade and they fade for a reason. Because now, it’s time to get up to some shit again.”

No Limitations

(Book Excerpt)

On Domestic Violence

“It is so easy, from the outside, to put the blame on the woman and say, “You just need to leave.” It’s not like my home was the only home where there was domestic abuse. It’s what I grew up around. I saw it in the streets of Soweto, on TV, in movies. Where does a woman go in a society where that is the norm? When the police won’t help her? When her own family won’t help her? Where does a woman go when she leaves one man who hits her and is just as likely to wind up with another man who hits her, maybe even worse than the first? Where does a woman go when she’s single with three kids and she lives in a society that makes her a pariah for being a manless woman? Where she’s seen as a whore for doing that? Where does she go? What does she do? ”

Apartheid was really, really, really bad.

“In America you had the forced removal of the native onto reservations coupled with slavery followed by segregation.

Imagine all three of those things happening to the same group of people at the same time. That was apartheid.”

On Language's Role in Racism

“Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says “We’re the same.” A language barrier says “We’re different.”

If you’re racist and you meet someone who doesn’t look like you, the fact that he can’t speak like you reinforces your racist preconceptions: He’s different, less intelligent.

A brilliant scientist can come over the border from Mexico to live in America, but if he speaks in broken English people say, “Eh, I don’t trust this guy.” “But he’s a scientist.” “In Mexican science, maybe. I don’t trust him.” However, if the person who doesn’t look like you speaks like you, your brain short-circuits because your racism program has none of those instructions in the code. “Wait, wait,” your mind says, “the racism code says if he doesn’t look like me he isn’t like me, but the language code says if he speaks like me he…is like me? Something is off here. I can’t figure this out.”

How strong is your reading game?

It's no secret that one of the top habits of highly successful people is that they read regularly:

  • Warren Buffett - 5-6 hrs/day
  • Bill Gates - 50 books/yr
  • Elon Musk - 2 books/day
  • Oprah - 1+ book/month

If you find you want to read, but don't have the time, join our book summary newsletter here, in which I'll deliver the insights & wisdom of non-fiction books to your inbox.