Advertisement

25 Books By Black Authors To Add To Your Reading List This Month

From fiction to young adult to middle grade, there's something for everyone!

As conversations across the country move to the topic of Black history this month, I’m arming myself with book recommendations — must-reads, if you will! One of the most impactful ways to experience and learn about a community is stepping into their shoes through literature. Someone far wiser than me once said, “reading breeds empathy.” And there are a plethora of books by Black creators to choose from. So, as you’re stacking those shelves with shiny new books, go ahead and grab these, too!

Understanding that palettes vary, I curated an expansive list with some books you might have heard of and others you may have not. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but here are 25 of my faves. From light-hearted magical adventures to social justice contemporaries to essay collections, there’s something for everyone here.

G.P. Putnam's Sons, Riverhead Books, Gallery/Scout Press

1. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

With racism and privilege at the forefront of national conversation, this is a timely centerpiece for dissection and discussion. Equally compelling as it is poignant, this gripping, intricately-woven story about a Black woman who is wrongly accused of kidnapping a white child she is babysitting will have you either feeling seen for the first time in a long time, or shifting in your seat as your erected walls of understanding crack.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Stirring and highly-addictive, this is a read that’s going to pull you out of your reading slump. It’s also going to plant some seeds of contemplation about racial passing and selfhood that will sit with you long after the last page. This compulsive page-turner, set in the past, is about twin sisters who runaway from home as teens to a Louisiana town, one marries and the other spends her life passing as white. This story is ripe for book club dissection. A must have on your shelf.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

3. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Look no further for your next binge read. This is a book that you’re going to hug when you finish, and then pick up the phone to gab about it to your friends. Perfect for book clubs, this relatable and honest tale is about a Jamaican-British woman in London who has one foot in each of her cultures, but does not feel squarely fit in either. As she spirals from a bad break up into a series of questionable decisions, she’s forced to evaluate who she is and what she really wants.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

Advertisement

Ballantine Books, 37 Ink

4. Well Read Black Girl by Glory Edim

Discourse about representation in literature is a conversation that’s grown legs outside of publishing circles. This is an opportune read, whether for affirmation or exploration, for those eager to explore the soul-shattering experience of seeing oneself reflecting in literature. This is a deeply moving, quick-paced read with first hand accounts as a collection of essays written by Black women exploring the way we naturally look for ourselves in stories.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

5. Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Thompson-Spires puts you in the shoes of an everyday Black person in America with a deftness that’ll have you sitting up straight in your chair. The textured portraits of Blackness she portrays explore the intersection of the roles we play, those we choose and those we do not, both within ourselves and to the outward world. This collection of satirical literary essays is wrought with the occasional dark humor explore themes of Black identity and America’s modern middle class. This one is also a great audiobook listen. The narration is beautifully done.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

Advertisement

Farrah Penn / BuzzFeed
Square Fish, Delacorte Press, Margaret K. McElderry Books

6. A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

For action-loving fantasy fans who enjoy a balance between the familiar and the fantastic, this series is a must-read. And the great part is there are three books (so far) so you can really get lost in the world and come back to it again and again. In this contemporary reimagining of Alice In Wonderland, a Black teen, juggling an overprotective mom and high-maintenance BFF, battles monstrous creatures in a dark dream world with magical weapons.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

7. Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis

This is more creepy than gory horror, but it packs a chilling punch with a voice that sucks you in from line one. In this contemporary fantasy, we follow a Black teen with a lucrative hustle: talking to the dead. But when Katrell realizes she can actually raise the dead, she gets dollar signs in her eyes. Who wouldn’t pay to see their loved ones again? But the dead don't like being brought back to life, and Katrell may be the one to pay the price.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

8. Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

This is for those who love the aura of a dark, lush fantasy with messy characters front and center. Expect sharp dialogue, edge of your seat stakes, and heaps of Black Girl Magic. In this contemporary grounded fantasy, a Black teen witch living in Toronto fails to come into her powers and is forced to choose between losing her family’s magic forever or murdering her first love.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

Advertisement

Balzer & Bray/Harperteen, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

9. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Contemporary lovers looking for a book that feels like a comfy chair and warm blanket, this is for you. It’s an unforgettable, emotional story about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time. Deftly woven with stunning characters, this novel touches on lessons in friendship, forgiveness, and recognizing the love you deserve. Be sure to bring Kleenex. Callender never disappoints, and this is a masterpiece.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

10. The Meet Cute Project by Rhiannon Richardson

Okay so laughter is medicine, right? Right. So be sure to snag this YA contemporary that’s full of healing chuckles. This book took me back to high school — to that bubbly angst of figuring out dating. As sweet and cute as its gorgeous cover, this hijinks-filled rom-com is about a teen girl who hates romantic comedy when everyone around her seems to love it. But alas, she will do whatever it takes to find a date for her sister’s wedding.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

11. Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Have you ever read a book with a character that makes you feel like you’ve known them for your entire life? A book you want to hug when you finish? Yes, well — here’s another one! Happily Ever Afters stole my heart so quickly because of Tessa’s charming voice and relatable sensibility. This is a heart-warming, swoony romance about an aspiring writer who's working on a romance writing project but stumped with writer's block. So she and her BFF concoct a plan to jump-start her inspiration by engineering classic romance scenarios in real life.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

Advertisement

Henry Holt & Company, Quill Tree Books, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Harperteen

12. Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown

This one sits on you like a weight — but in the best way. Heavily grounded in the contemporary with a magical realism vibe, this is for readers who relish finding that beacon of hope in stories that look darkness right in the face. Black Girl Unlimited is a deeply moving, inspiring story about a Black teen wizard from the East Side who transfers to ritzy side of town, meets an influential mentor, and struggles to navigate her two worlds while exploring the intersection of drug addition, sexual assault, and poverty.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

13. When You Look Like Us by Pam N. Harris

For my fellow Tiffany Jackson, Nic Stone, Karen McManus lovers, say hello to your next thriller obsession — but with a twist. When You Look Like Us is dotted with humor, which makes it incredibly digestible and fresh. This gripping contemporary thriller is about a Black teen who must find his sister when she goes missing in a neighborhood where Black girls’ disappearances too often go overlooked.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

14. A River Of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

A River Of Royal Blood will keep your stomach in knots at the deftly woven political intrigue and action that leaps off the page. I was excited to find something different from other African-inspired fantasies I’d read, and Joy delivers. This is a bold story set against a backdrop of war/violence, where two sisters must fight to the death for the crown. Of the two, one can’t control her magick, realizing the only way to survive is to embrace her wicked, violent magick. Full of sword fights, magick lessons, and swoony romance.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

15. Witches Steeped In Gold by Ciannon Smart

This is one of the best escapist fantasy reads of the year as far as I’m concerned. Think dark, twisty, and angsty intrigue with magic and deeply immersive worldbuilding. This lush, atmospheric Jamaican-inspired fantasy is about Jazmyne and Iraya, two enemy witches, who must team up in a deadly alliance to take on a mutual enemy. If you like books that keep you guessing what will happen next, this one's for you.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

Advertisement

Farrah Penn / BuzzFeed
Versify, Scholastic Inc., Walden Pond Press

16. The Last Mirror On The Left by Lamar Giles

Middle grade readers: do you love to get lost in books that feel like the next coolest adventure could be right around the corner? Then Lamar Giles is the name to write down. He has several books out, but this series stole my heart with its mysterious plot, snappy pacing, and laugh-out-loud take. It's a continuation of the beloved The Last Last-Day-Of-Summer stories with Otto and Sheed. The Alston boys are back at it again, this time to help Missus Nedraw bring a legendary fugitive to justice.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

17. Josephine Against The Sea by Shakirah Bourne

Another for my adventure-loving middle grade readers! Josephine Against The Sea will whisk you away to a new fantasy world beautifully inspired by Caribbean mythology. This story is about a girl who unearths a vengeful sea spirit — in the form of her daddy’s new girlfriend — from a silk cotton tree. She and her friends must tap into her cricket skills and love of mischief to save her daddy before it’s too late. I also really love the elements of contemporary woven throughout that make the world building very accessible.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

18. Root Magic by Eden Royce

You’re in for more adventure than spook with this one, which is a phenomenal choice for readers who like that occasional hair-standing moment. This ghost story, set in South Carolina in the '60s, is a tale of bravery and friendship, lush in the history and culture of the Gullah people. In it, siblings who train in root work find that it’s going to take every bit of the magic within them to face a dark supernatural evil that’s moved into their town. This story is equally poignant as it is magical.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

Advertisement

Katherine Tegen Books, Quill Tree Books, Yearling Books

19. From The Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

If you loved Dear Justyce by Nic Stone or This is My America by Kim Johnson, this is a middle grade must-read. From The Desk of Zoe Washington is a powerful middle grade debut about a girl who receives a letter from her incarcerated father and sets out to prove his innocence. It’s as courageous and moving as it is sweet as Zoe juggles her Food Network baking internship and hiding the investigation from her family.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

20. Class Act by Jerry Craft

If you have a reluctant reader, have you tried handing them a graphic novel? As a former educator, I find these books are the perfect gift for even the most hesitant reader, and Jerry Craft has such a vivid way of authentically depicting that middle grade age. This laugh-out-loud companion to New Kid is about a Black kid who is the only person of color at a prestigious private school. He grapples with bridging divides in his friend group and finding peace in self-acceptance.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

21. The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

This story feels like...glittering rainbows. Is that a feeling? Because this story is infused with so much heart and hope, it gives me chills. It’s also being turned into a major motion picture with Michael B. Jordan producing. This timely middle grade novel is about a boy navigating life in the projects of Harlem after his brother's death. When he receives two huge bags of Legos, he sets out to forge his way forward as pressure mounts to join the streets that claimed his brother’s life. Beyond its heart, this story is also incredibly timely. Seeing inner city Black youth full of wonder and Black Boy Magic is everything we need right now.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

Advertisement

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Crown Books for Young Readers, Scholastic Press

22. Ways To Make Sunshine by Renée Watson

I love the way Watson paints Black children with such strokes of gentleness and innocence. Piecing Me Together is one of my favorite stories of all time. Ways to Make Sunshine is about a girl whose spirit is as radiant as sunshine. And despite money being tight, moving into a new house, and selling their family’s car, she always finds a way to push through setbacks with joy and wit. Readers who love quieter stories full of smile-invoking moments, this heartwarming contemporary is a must-read!

Purchase it from Bookshop.

23. Love Like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood

I love middle grade books that feel like wrapping up in a fuzzy blanket with a warm cup of cocoa. Renée Watson lovers, this middle grade is for you! This is a charming story about a big sister trying to do all she can to help herself and her 6-year-old sister adjust to life with their new step-dad and step-sister. Only, she’s so preoccupied with trying to be liked, she isn’t there when her little sister needs her most. This is a compassionate tale about blended families and the power of love.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

24. Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

A must have on your shelf! Teachers, parents, historians… this is a book that’s equally engaging as it is educational. My teacher-brain synapses were firing a million miles a minute as I read this one, but this story is also just plain fun and full of page-turning suspense, as Stone does so expertly does. Kids are gonna rave. Clean Getaway is a suspenseful middle grade contemporary story set against the backdrop of the segregated South, where a Black boy and his white grandma take a road trip in an RV where he discovers that the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

25. Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

For my fellow R.L. Stine Goosebumps addicts — and those who can handle even a dash more spook than Stine — move this one to the top of the TBR. Hide and Seeker is a creepy middle grade horror novel about a game of hide of seek that goes very wrong. With his friends disappearing, Justin must suss out clues to find them. But when he’s unexpectedly transported to an alternate realm, he discovers his friends are being held hostage by a villain who feeds off fear.

Purchase it from Bookshop.

Advertisement

J.Elle is the New York Times bestselling author of Wings of Ebony and its forthcoming sequel. She is also the author of Park Row Magic Academy, a forthcoming middle grade series about an inner-city magic school, out with Bloomsbury in 2022.

Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books, wingsofebony.com
Close this modal Close this modal
Share on Facebook Share on Facebook Share Share on Twitter Share on Twitter Share More More

More like this:

More entertainment, shopping, and quizzes in the BuzzFeed app!

Comments
Unable to load comments. Try reloading this page or viewing the full site. Pop out
Show more Expand

Advertisement