42 Amazing Books Written By Black Authors
A diverse range of classics, contemporary must-reads, and memoirs you'll definitely wanna fill your time with!
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1. Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin is the story of a preacher's son in Harlem trying to understand his identity and what it means to be black, male, and gay in an increasingly conflicted America.
2. You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson talks about what it means to be a black woman in modern day America, discussing micro-aggressions and the intersection of race and gender in a hilarious way.
3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas tells the story of Starr Carter, a teenager caught between two worlds: the low-income neighborhood she lives in with her family and the predominantly white prep school she attends each day. After she becomes the sole witness of a police shooting (the shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil), her life is sent into turmoil as the wall she's constructed between those two worlds begins to fall.
4. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde tackles views on feminism through the lens of being a black lesbian and how those two traits affect the way she navigates the world.
5. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou tells the story of a young black girl who isn't conventionally beautiful. It'll inspire you to be unapologetically yourself, even in (especially in) the face of adversity.
6. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a deeply moving and personal narrative as written by a father to his son, focusing on what it means to navigate the world in a black body, especially in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
7. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae shows what it's like to be just a little odd during a time when pop culture regards black people as being automatically ~cool~.
8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison discusses what it's like to be a black man navigating a society of intolerance and ignorance, making readers realize the only way change can take place is if people are given voice and visibility.
9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker tells the story of two sisters, focusing on Celie and her struggle to be seen, respected, and ultimately empowered, even though the forces of the universe are constantly throwing things at her. With the help of other black women uplifting her, she is able to find her inner worth.
10. A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James brings to life an unstable Kingston, Jamaica. Set in the '70s, the fictional narratives create a unique landscape of Jamaican history.
11. We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union discusses her life and how she dealt with trauma, stigma, and colorism in Hollywood, but still came out on top.
12. Women, Race, And Class by Angela Y. Davis dives right into the feminist movement and how it's always been tainted by racist and classist bias that hinders the true liberation of its Black sisters.
13. Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire is a poignant and lyrical group of deeply personal poems describing the nuance of Shire's identity as a black, Muslim woman.
14. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison tackles what it means to be a black girl attempting to achieve the white standard of beauty imposed by popular culture, while also shedding a light on African American family dynamics as they pertain to class and gender.
15. Assata: An Autobiography describes Assata Shakur's precarious situation (as part of the Black Panther Party) and how she ended up as one of America's most wanted during a time of outward fighting for black liberation.
16. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe examines the colonization of Africa through the eyes of Okonkwo, an Igbo warrior fearlessly trying to resist the forced assimilation of his people by the British.
17. They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib uses music as a lens to discuss the systematic violence African Americans face while doing the most mundane, everyday tasks. Through this juxtaposition, it truly magnifies the black millennial experience.
18. The Mother of Black Hollywood: A Memoir by Jennifer Lewis describes her humble beginnings, how she's dealt with undiagnosed mental illness, and how she's cemented herself as one of the most recognizable actors in Black Hollywood.
19. Waiting To Exhale by Terry McMillan details a genuine friendship between four black women and the misadventures they go through while trying to find ~the one~.
20. The Autobiography Of Malcolm X chronicles the life of a revolutionary and how he used his unwavering Muslim faith as a basis to fight for black liberation until his assassination.
21. Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward depicts a young black girl and her family in coastal Mississippi during the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, and how they continuously protect each other through the thing we call life.
22. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses why feminism should be accessible to women, but also to men (in terms of awareness of one's personal actions and decisions they make day to day).
23. Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes gives insight into the inner workings of a black family during segregation, told through the eyes of Sandy Rodgers: a young black man trying to find his place in a divided America.
24. Beloved by Toni Morrison sheds light on the aftermath of slavery, how trauma affected black people who had to go through such atrocities, and what sacrifices they made in order to survive.
25. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay intimately tackles body image as it pertains to food and what it's like to maneuver in a body that society says is less than ideal and in some ways, even invisible.
26. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses the culture shock an educated Nigerian woman experiences as she comes to terms with being black in racially-charged America.
27. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander illuminates how institutional racism has been redefined and redesigned, leading to the continuous increase of black men being incarcerated as a contemporary system of racial control.
28. The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois eloquently discusses how it is below black people to beg American institutions for freedoms that are inherently theirs. Du Bois argues that the only way to tackle white supremacy is to organize, protest, and be heard.
29. Black Boy by Richard Wright tells the story of Wright's early life during The Great Migration when many black families fled the Jim Crow south for the north and better economic and social opportunities (soon discovering that it really wasn't the promised land).
30. On Beauty: A Novel by Zadie Smith explores generational change, identity, and love through the lens of an interracial family living in Massachusetts as they come to terms with culture wars within their community.
31. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor depicts a young albino Nigerian girl who discovers she has magical powers and is pulled into a secret magical society that hunts down others who use their powers for ~evil~.
32. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison highlights trailblazers of change young children can look up to (especially young black women who want to see heroes who look just like them).
33. The Mothers by Brit Bennet explores how much the choices we make in our youth truly affect our future, while also dissecting the depths of true friendship and romantic relationships as we grow into ourselves.
34. Soar: How Boys Learn, Succeed, and Develop Character by David C. Banks tackles how best to facilitate educational growth for young black and brown men through individual stories of the real-life experiences of students at The Eagle Academy For Young Men.
35. Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry includes her most famous poems like "Phenomenal Woman" and "Still I Rise": they continuously influence multiple generations of black women to be proud of their magic.
36. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is the chronicle of an independent 20th century black woman, (Janie Crawford) as she discovers herself through love, poverty, and ultimate purpose.
37. The Sellout by Paul Beatty is a satire about a black man going on trial before the Supreme Court for attempting to re-institute segregation and owning slaves. Through the absurd narrative, Beatty examines what it really means to be apart of a "post-racial" America.
38. Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America is a heartwarming portrait of the legendary baseball player written by his daughter. She shares memories of how he inspired his family, friends, and fans to be the best versions of themselves.
39. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler tells a tale of time travel: the main character, Brenda, continuously gets pulled back into the past where she is enslaved like her ancestors before her. Butler, with this narrative, sheds light on what modern day African Americans would actually do when faced with one of the greatest historical horrors.
40. Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward is a coming of age story of a young black man in Mississippi trying to reconcile the two parts of his identity while navigating through life with his dysfunctional, but loving family.
41. Another Brooklyn: A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson transports you into the '70s where the author describes the duality of Brooklyn through the backdrop of four friends on the precipice of adulthood.
42. A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo depicts vivid narratives of modern Africans rising up to battle the atrocities happening in their countries, proving ordinary people can, in fact, make a difference.
Reviews here have been edited for length and/or clarity.