44 of the Best Books by Black Authors You Should Read in Your Lifetime

44 of the Best Books by Black Authors You Should Read in Your Lifetime

1

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

In one of 2019’s most talked about novels, a 25-year-old journalist in London attempts to recover from a terrible break up with her long-time boyfriend. But while on the path to finding happiness, road blocks, questionable decisions, and more-than-a-few problematic men get in her way.

2

Between the World and Meby Ta-Nehisi Coates

A 2015 winner of the National Book Award for non-fiction, the renowned journalist and writer pens a profound letter to his son about what it means to be Black in America in the 21st century—a place in which you struggle to overcome the historical trauma of your people while trying to find your own purpose in the world. 

3

We Should All Be Feminists/i> by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Adapted from her TEDx Talk of the same name, Adiche uses personal experiences and understanding of sexual politics to define what feminism means in the 21st century. 

4

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Jones’s bestselling memoir is a personal account of growing up in the South as a young gay man who’s attempting to find himself while battling rocky relationships with family, friends, and lovers.

5

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Already being called one of the best books of the year, James’ epic fantasy honors African mythology and history. In it, a hunter named Tracker must find a mysterious missing boy with the help of a rag-tag group of mercenaries. The first of a planned trilogy, some are calling it the “African Game of Thrones.” And Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan just earned the film rights for the book through his production company, Outlier Society. 

6

Kindred by Octavia Butler

In what is considered a literary masterpiece and Butler’s most popular novel, Kindred follows a young Black woman named Dana. Though she lives in 1976 L.A., she’s suddenly transported to a Civil War-era plantation in Maryland. Soon, the more frequently Dana travels back in time, the longer she stays, as she faces danger that threaten her life in the future.

7

Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim

Curated by the founder of the Well-Read Black Girl Book Club comes this collection of essays—all written by Black women writers—about the importance of representation in literature.

8

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

A 2011 National Book Award Winner, Salvage the Bones chronicles a 12-day period in which a poor Mississippi family faces the looming threat of a hurricane. With no mother, a drunken father, a pregnant 14-year-old, and wayward brothers, they have little access to helpful resources—except for love.

9

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

In this debut for Emezi, we meet Ada, a young Nigerian woman who’s born with multiple personalities (or spirits). As the story goes on, we hear from each, as they drive Ada towards reckless behavior as she grows up. But once she moves to America and endures a traumatic event, the spirits threaten to takeover.

10

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

In Reid’s debut novel, which “explores the stickiness of transactional relationships,” we’re introduced to Alix Chamberlain and Emira Tucker. Alix is a successful businesswoman and influencer, while Emira is her young babysitter who’s strapped for cash and just trying to figure out her next life move. But when Emira is racially profiled while watching Alix’s young daughter Briar, their relationship is changed forever.

11

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Written by a legendary writer, civil rights activist, and one of Oprah’s greatest friends, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an poetic memoir that captures Angelou’s childhood struggles and the freedoms of her adulthood, which allowed her to find strength amidst despair. 

12

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi

Ibram X Kendi
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$24.30

In this acclaimed nonfiction work, racism scholar Ibrahim X. Kendi explains an array of antiracist ideas to his readers in order to help them understand the depth of discrimination in our society and how they can stand against it.

13

Indigo by Beverly Jenkins

As a queen of historical romance, Jenkins tells the endearing love story of escaped slave Hester Wyatt and the irresistible underground railroad conductor dubbed “Black Daniel.” Not only does this tale not disappoint when it comes to passion, but it provides insight into the history of the North’s underground railroad network. 

14

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi
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$15.64

In a re-imagining of the classic German fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, a woman named Harriet narrates her origin story to her daughter Perdita. She makes a mysterious gingerbread that’s incredibly popular in Harriet’s magical hometown of Druhástrana. And it’s especially loved by her childhood best friend: Gretel.

15

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

In an effort to fight for love and put herself first, Patsy leaves her daughter in Jamaica to follow her oldest friend to New York. But as she’s living in America as an undocumented immigrant, Patsy must adjust to her brand new life.

16

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

In this New York Times bestseller, Alexander explains how the mass incarceration of Black people in the United States is today’s version of the Jim Crow era.

17

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat

In this book of short stories, Haitian American writer Edgwidge Danticat explores themes of unexpected romance, divorce, and more, in eight intimate tales of life and love.

18

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Half-sisters Effia and Esi are born in two different villages in 18th century Ghana. One marries a British slaver, while another is sold into slavery and shipped to America. Gyasi’s prose follows the generations and descendants that follow. 

19

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde
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$15.63

The celebrated collection of 15 essays and speeches by Audre Lorde, the famed activist reflects on themes of ageism, racism, homophobia, and class.

20

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

In this National Book Award-winning memoir, Broom opens up about a 100 years worth of family history in the vibrant city of New Orleans and a “shotgun house” that would be the center of it all. 

21

It’s Not All Downhill from Here by Terry McMillan

Waiting to Exhale‘s Terry McMillan tells the story of Loretha, a 68-year-old woman whose life is full of dear friends, lasting love, and a thriving business. But when an unexpected loss causes her to question her optimistic outlook on life, Loretha must gather all her strength to push through heartbreak. Read an OprahMag.com review here.

22

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

In this satirical thriller, Korede’s life is constantly upended as she’s forced to clean-up after her sociopathic sister who has a tendency to kill her boyfriends.

23

The Vanishing Half

After growing up together in a southern Black community, the identical Vignes twin sisters end up leading separate lives. One returns to her hometown with her daughter, while another attempts to pass as white. Though they’re separated, their lives are still very much intertwined.

24

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

In this novel-in-verse, two sisters—one in the Dominican Republic and another in New York City—learn of each other for the first time after their father dies in the November 2001 American Airlines plane crash. 

25

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

In this 2014 New York Times Bestseller, activist Janet Mock details the challenges of growing up in America as a multiracial, transgender woman, offering readers an honest look into the challenges of a marginalized community.

26

Grand Union by Zadie Smith

In this collection of 11 short stories, Smith explores a variety of genres to reflect on the complexities of life in modern times through themes of “place, identity and rebirth, the persistent legacies that haunt our present selves and the uncanny futures that rush up to meet us.”

27

More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth

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