With the current climate, everyone has more time on their hands. If you want to start reading as a new hobby or are just searching for a new book, there are plenty of books to read by black authors.
Black literature shares stories that you haven’t, and unfortunately, won’t learn about in some education systems. These stories are important, expand on true history, and share narratives that have been overlooked for decades.
Black authors are raw, imaginative and captivating. They compose daring adventures, intriguing fantasies and touch on subjects their readers welcome and appreciate.
If you’re not reading books by black authors, you’re missing out on amazing literature.
Books to Read by Black Authors
I’ve compiled a list of books to read by black authors that I recommend with their GoodReads’ synopses. Categories include classic fiction, contemporary fiction, poetry and prose, indie, and my favorite, magical realism.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
“First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison’s nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be”…(more)
Beloved by Toni Morrison
“Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved”…(more)
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
“Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots”…(more)
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
“The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life”…(more)
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
“Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right”…(more)
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
“Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her”…(more)
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
“Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit”…(more)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr”…(more)
The Terrible: A Storyteller’s Memoir by Yrsa Daley-Ward
“Through emotional snapshots that span from her adolescence through her early twenties, each brought to life in Yrsa’s signature style of open white spaces and stirring, singular lines, The Terrible evokes the pain and thrill of girlhood, as well as what it means to discover the fear and power that come with being a woman. With a sharp eye and a rare talent for mining the beauty and the sorrow in the everyday, Yrsa recounts her remarkable life: growing up as one of the only black children in a poor, white, working class town; navigating the extreme Christianity of her family; inquiring after her paternity; moving through phases of addiction and sexual encounters; and ultimately finding her place in her family and in life”…(more)
POETRY/PROSE & SHORT STORIES
Helium by Rudy Francisco
“Helium is the debut poetry collection by internet phenom Rudy Francisco, whose work has defined poetry for a generation of new readers. Rudy’s poems and quotes have been viewed and shared millions of times as he has traveled the country and the world performing for sell-out crowds. Helium is filled with work that is simultaneously personal and political, blending love poems, self-reflection, and biting cultural critique on class, race and gender into an unforgettable whole. Ultimately, Rudy’s work rises above the chaos to offer a fresh and positive perspective of shared humanity and beauty”…(more)
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance by Zora Neale Hurston
“In 1925, Barnard student Zora Neale Hurston—the sole black student at the college—was living in New York, “desperately striving for a toe-hold on the world.” During this period, she began writing short works that captured the zeitgeist of African American life and transformed her into one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Nearly a century later, this singular talent is recognized as one of the most influential and revered American artists of the modern period.
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick is an outstanding collection of stories about love and migration, gender and class, racism and sexism that proudly reflect African American folk culture”…(more)
Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward
“The poems in Yrsa Daley-Ward’s collection bone are exactly that: reflections on a particular life honed to their essence–so clear and pared-down, they become universal.
From navigating the oft competing worlds of religion and desire, to balancing society’s expectations with the raw experience of being a woman in the world; from detailing the experiences of growing up as a first generation black British woman, to working through situations of dependence and abuse; from finding solace in the echoing caverns of depression and loss, to exploring the vulnerability and redemption in falling in love, each of the raw and immediate poems in Daley-Ward’s bone resonate to the core of what it means to be human”…(more)
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
“What elevates ‘teaching my mother how to give birth’, what gives the poems their disturbing brilliance, is Warsan Shire’s ability to give simple, beautiful eloquence to the veiled world where sensuality lives in the dominant narrative of Islam; reclaiming the more nuanced truths of earlier times – as in Tayeb Salih’s work – and translating to the realm of lyric the work of the likes of Nawal El Saadawi. As Rumi said, ‘Love will find its way through all languages on its own.’
In ‘teaching my mother how to give birth’, Warsan’s debut pamphlet, we witness the unearthing of a poet who finds her way through all preconceptions to strike the heart directly”…(more)
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
“An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.
Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry”…(more)
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
“Furo Wariboko – born and bred in Lagos – wakes up on the morning of his job interview to discover he has turned into a white man. As he hits the city streets running, still reeling from his new-found condition, Furo finds the dead ends of his life open out before him. As a white man in Nigeria, the world is seemingly his oyster – except for one thing: despite his radical transformation, Furo’s ass remains robustly black”…(more)
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
“The Book of Night Women is a sweeping, startling novel, a true tour de force of both voice and storytelling. It is the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they and she will come to both revere and fear.
The Night Women, as they call themselves, have long been plotting a slave revolt, and as Lilith comes of age and reveals the extent of her power, they see her as the key to their plans. But when she begins to understand her own feelings and desires and identity, Lilith starts to push at the edges of what is imaginable for the life of a slave woman in Jamaica, and risks becoming the conspiracy’s weak link”…(more)
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi
“Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good”…(more)
Love’s Trip by Resmond Richardson
“Love’s Trip is a journey worth going on if you are ready. The first step is to love yourself. If you can’t do this then you can’t love anyone else. The second step is love of adventure. We as people have to get out to explore and gain experience because that’s the only way we learn. The third step is to love your thoughts. Our thoughts are our dreams that we can work to make realities. Love’s trip is filled with poems, short stories and journal entries. Also have illustrations, paintings and pictures. So tie up your shoes and take this trip!”…(more)
THE BLVD: The Chronicles Of Urban Morality by Carlton Jones
“The city of Dallas, known for it’s cosmopolitan economy and vast amount of amenities. Has been portrayed as an ideal place to reside. The Lavish high-rises, five star restaurants and eateries, and prestigious neighborhoods, such as Highland Park and Preston Hollow, bring residents to the city on a mission of comfort. Many stay and only a few leave, but none who come in search of fortune and solace are aware of the city’s deep scared tissues. Simply known as the southernmost part of the city, Rhames Boulevard, or THE BLVD for short.Plagued by crime, drugs and poverty—Rhames Blvd. shows no remorse to those affected by it’s lineage”…(more)
For Girls Who Become Women: poems for the time it takes to grow, the in betweens of the soil and the rose. by Jessica Alyse Hamilton
“Jessica Alyse’s For Girls who Become Women is her transparent heart on page; both bleeding and mending publicly to show women that it is possible to love others, and themselves again – after heartache. This work can be best described as a poetic journey through womanhood, the pain of love lost but most importantly the ability to recover and rediscover oneself after the dust settles. It unites readers and people through universal experiences – our loves, our disappointments, our growths and most importantly, our beautiful attempts at survival”…(more)
Process: 14 Surprisingly Simple Behaviors to Skyrocket Millennials to Success by Jonathan J. Jones
“These principles are not a get rich quick scheme, nor will they always give you results the first time you try them. However, if you stick with them, you’ll eventually thank me. You’ll be shown what it takes to improve your own life’s value. Jonathan Jones delivers an inspiring and powerful story that shows us how to rid ourselves of something to which we can all relate–negative people or, even worse, a negative mindset. It was just another day at work where, many times, this young man would go through the motions and excel as a retail salesman at the local mall. However, there were a few areas where he lacked. He was no stranger to hard work but the longer he worked at this company, the more he began to notice that he was becoming somewhat of a negative Nancy. Unfortunately, these shortcomings were virtually overlooked by him until one day when he asked the question to which he wasn’t yet ready to hear the answer. There was a sudden shift that not only engendered his life to be changed but transformed his outlook as well”…(more)
un.packing: A COLLECTION OF POEMS AND PROSE by Aijah Monet
“un.packing tells the riveting story of a young woman who intricately unravels her life and her experiences of love, loss, and uncertainty. The author revisits places of pain in order to demystify mental health and heartbreak while proving resilience and exploring the truths found in young love through a series of collected poems and prose”…(more)
Any of these Books to Read by Black Authors Catch Your Interest?
I highly recommend any of these books! Whether you’re looking for poetry, fiction or self-help, this list has something for you to dive into.