52 Best Books by Black Authors You’ll Want to Know About
On the hunt for recent reads by authors of color? These engaging and powerful books by Black authors will stay with you long after you've finished them.
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Put these books on your must-read list
Books provide an entry point into the minds of others. Like an invitation to a well-thought-out event, the best books leave an indelible imprint. While some books teach and others entertain, the written word has a way of moving people while providing a greater understanding of a person, place or thing. That is certainly true of books by Black authors, which can highlight certain experiences and issues that often aren’t given the attention they deserve.
The books on this list include novels, memoirs, biographies and more, all written by Black authors in the past several years. While they deal with a wide range of issues—some are feminist stories, some are books about race relations in America and others are pure entertainment—they all offer important and thought-provoking perspectives. They’re also page-turners, and many of them have racked up numerous awards and earned a place in the hearts of millions of readers. And you’re about to see why.
From children’s books about diversity to banned books to some of the best titles to hit shelves this year, these are the top books by Black authors to add to your reading list. Not sure where to buy them? Consult a Black-owned bookstore in your area.
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1. Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Take My Hand was one of the most highly anticipated fiction books of 2022, and for good reason. It delves into the forced sterilization of Black women in the American South during the 1970s. Based on true events, the timely story sheds light on the history of the health-care system in America and how it often negatively impacts the lives of those who are Black and poor. Our grim history is explored through the lives of tween sisters Minnie Lee and Mary Alice Relf, who are not sexually active and are being coerced into sterilization without knowing it. Perkins-Valdez masterfully makes an argument on behalf of the disenfranchised and marginalized and uses historical fiction to amplify the history of racial inequality and injustice in the health-care system. Take My Hand diplomatically cuts to the core of America’s long-hidden legacy of traumatizing the Black body.
2. The Personal Librarian by Victoria Christopher Murray and Marie Benedict
The New York Times bestselling The Personal Librarian has been hailed by the Washington Post as “historical fiction at its finest” and tells the story of Belle da Costa Greene, a “white-passing” Black woman who became a powerful force in the art world. Not only was da Costa Greene the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan, but she also created the famous manuscript collection and became one of America’s most prominent librarians. In 1924, she was named the first director of the Pierpont Morgan Library. The Personal Librarian, which came out in 2021, centers her story and provides an opportunity for readers to explore and further examine what it means to be Black in America.
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3. Wahala by Nikki May
Published in 2022, Wahala centers on three Anglo-Nigerian pals whose longtime friendship is upset when the charming Isobel bursts into their group. Hailed as a mix between My Sister, the Serial Killer, Sex in the City and Big, Little Lies, the book delicately delves into the dynamics of female friendship and explores themes of colorism, multiculturalism and even internalized racism. If you’re curious about Nigerian cooking and fashion and want a refreshing take on culture through a biracial lens, this book is the perfect read for you.
4. Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Landing on the New York Times bestseller list when it came out in 2022, Black Cake opens with the death of matriarch Eleanor Bennett. She’s left her two adult sons a small inheritance: a voice recording and a traditional Caribbean black cake. They raise more questions than answers, hinting at long-buried family secrets. As the men puzzle out their mother’s history, they grapple with their estrangement from each other and the spiritual and emotional ramifications of their mother’s hidden past. As readers soon find out, secrets, once discovered, can make or break a family. If you find yourself hungry for more after devouring Black Cake, you’re in luck. It’s currently in development as a Hulu original TV show set to be produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films.
5. Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb
If you were mesmerized by Brendan Slocumb’s The Violin Conspiracy, you’re in luck: The author is back with another music-inspired story. (No surprise there: He’s a violinist and spent years as a music teacher.) One of the most anticipated books of the year, Symphony of Secrets, which hits bookstores on April 18, 2023, follows a music professor who gets the shock of a lifetime when he discovers that the object of his longtime study may have stolen his music from an unknown Black woman living in the 1920s. The modern-day mystery at the crux of the book uncovers a twisted history that could change the music world.
6. Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
Presidential inaugural poet—the youngest in U.S. history—Amanda Gorman captured the nation’s attention in 2021 with her poem “The Hill We Climb.” Published later the same year, Call Us What We Carry is a meditation on identity, history and language. In this poetry collection, Gorman shares messages of hope and reckoning. It’s a definite must-read for anyone looking for powerful Black History Month quotes that inspire.
7. Lone Women by Victor LaValle
From the award-winning author of The Changeling comes another tense horror novel that’ll have you flipping pages faster than you can say “keep the lights on.” Lone Women takes readers to the American West in 1915, where Adelaide Henry arrives with a steamer trunk. It’s locked and must be kept that way—otherwise, people will die. A well-plotted, genre-blending tale that ratchets up the suspense and weaves mystery throughout (what, we ask, is in that trunk?), Lone Women is must-read fiction. Preorder now so you can read it when it releases on March 28, 2023.
8. Decent People by De’Shawn Charles Winslow
A taut mystery that explores the types of murders that make headlines and see police action, De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s 2023 novel, Decent People, tackles race, money and class in segregated ’70s North Carolina. When three Black people are murdered and the police seem uninterested in solving the crime, a retiree who has just returned to town takes it upon herself to uncover the secrets. Though this is firmly fiction, it’ll appeal to fans of true-crime books as well.
9. Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
In her powerful 2022 debut novel, Tara M. Stringfellow explores three generations of a Southern Black family, along with long-buried secrets, matrilineal tradition and the healing power of art. When Joan, her mother and her little sister return to the family’s ancestral home, family secrets come to light and the family’s lineage becomes an open gateway through which history and unspoken memories can pass. Memphis is a page-turner, and it’s the perfect pick for simultaneous mother-daughter reads.
10. You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays by Zora Neale Hurston
In the words of literary powerhouse Toni Morrison, “Hurston was one of the greatest writers of our time.” And You Don’t Know Us Negroes provides another opportunity to step into the mind of the great cultural anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. This collection of essays spans more than 35 years and further solidifies the vibrant Harlem Renaissance writer’s place in literary history. Throughout her long career, she reshaped literature, took ownership of words (especially Black vernacular) and archived Black culture in the process.
Edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Genevieve West, this 2022 compilation of Hurston’s essays offers her thoughts on Black vernacular, historically black colleges and universities, religion, voting, jazz, folklore, race relations and many other topics. It includes essays like “What White Publishers Won’t Print” and “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” If you’re looking to dig deeper into an unapologetic literary genius’s mind, you will definitely want to read this book.
11. Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead
If you loved Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and devoured The Nickle Boys (or any of his other works), you’ll want to mark your calendars for July 18, 2023. The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner is back with another must-read novel in the Ray Carney series, so if you haven’t read the first (Harlem Shuffle), now’s the time to do so. In Crook Manifesto, you’ll visit seedy New York City of the ’70s, where Carney and his crew are running heists and other crimes. The city comes alive in Whitehead’s skillful hands—it’s as much a character as Carney and his endearing partner in crime. If you’re looking for outstanding books by Black authors, you can’t go wrong with Whitehead.
12. You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen
A powerful YA novel that shines a spotlight on characters often overlooked in literature, You Truly Assumed explores what it means to be both Black and Muslim. When a terrorist attack happens in a community, hatred and Islamophobia begin to grow. That’s why Sabriya, a studious and thoughtful teenager, turns to her blog for comfort. But when a post she shares goes viral, it creates a wildly popular space for other Muslim teens to share their own thoughts and experiences. Laila Sabreen’s You Truly Assumed centers teen voices, the Muslim faith and Islamophobia with great care.
13. God Is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland
When Christena Cleveland had a crisis of faith, she ended up on a 400-mile walking pilgrimage to the Shrines of the Black Madonnas to find healing. Readers will be able to draw a line from that experience to the publication of this 2022 book. God Is a Black Woman boldly rejects the notion of white, patriarchal Christianity while encouraging readers to connect with the divine outside the context of Western perceptions of the religion. A work of nonfiction, the book tackles themes of theology and healing while exploring the notion of the sacred black feminine.
14. The Great Mrs. Elias by Barbara Chase-Riboud
Barbara Chase-Riboud, author of the award-winning Sally Hemings, is back with another book about a powerful woman hidden in history. The Great Mrs. Elias brings to life the story of Hannah Elias, one of the wealthiest Black women in the early 1900s. An unsolved murder and case of mistaken identity prompt the police to knock on Hannah’s door, setting off a suspenseful tale studded with scandal and intrigue.
15. Black Girls Must Be Magic by Jayne Allen
The second installment in the Black Girls Must Die Exhausted book series, this 2022 title tackles what it means to be a Black woman and single mother. In Black Girls Must Be Magic, Tabitha Walker is at a crossroads in her life: She recently found out that she’s pregnant. As the pressures of life mount, she must balance and prioritize self-love all while trying to keep her proverbial village together. This debut novel is a bit magic itself, combining an engaging plot, relatable situations and characters you’ll absolutely root for. Want to add more to your reading list? Check out these outstanding books by Asian authors.
16. Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
Hailed as the “buzziest book of 2021” and already optioned by Netflix in a seven-figure deal, Beasts of Prey is your new fantasy obsession. The first in a three-book fantasy series, it follows two Black teens as they journey into a magical jungle to track down a monster that has been menacing their city for a century. The book takes inspiration from Greek and Roman mythology as well as Ayana Gray’s discovery of Octavia Butler. It’s packed with monsters, mythos and lots of Black girl magic.
17. Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough by Candice Marie Benbow
Fans of self-help books and a good red lipstick will love Candice Marie Benbow’s Red Lip Theology, aptly subtitled For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough. It’s a transparent collection of essays that encourages Black women to embrace wholeness and helps non-Black women and allies reach for new levels of understanding. This 2022 title definitely leans toward progressive Christian ideals, thoughtfully examining aspects of church culture that often alienate younger generations. Pick it up for themes of alternative spirituality, womanist theology and activism.
18. We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza
Many believe that the bonds of true friendship can never be broken, but what happens when issues of race fray the ties that bind? In We Are Not Like Them, a childhood friendship is tested by the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager by a white police officer. In this riveting book club pick, themes of friendship, marriage and career ambition collide against a backdrop of racial tension. Published in 2021, this is a timely story that’s perfect for a buddy read with friends.
19. Hope and Glory by Jendella Benson
Jendella Benson’s Hope and Glory, a heartbreaking yet hopeful family drama published in 2022, centers on a Nigerian immigrant family in London. With the death of her father, Glory Akindele returns home after living her most fabulous life in California to find her family has fallen apart. In her quest to reunite them, she learns a secret that could totally destroy everything she’s working to reconcile.
20. Something Good by Vanessa Miller
If women’s fiction is your go-to genre, you’ll want to snap up this 2022 story that’s sure to inspire. Vanessa Miller’s Something Good is a redemptive tale about three women linked though an accident that left a man paralyzed. This inspirational story delves into themes of guilt, anger, forgiveness and how all things work together for good in the end. Read this one when you need a pick-me-up.
21. Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters edited by Jessica Pryde
A play on the phrase Black Lives Matter, the title of this 2022 essay collection is a reminder that all aspects of Black lives have significance. And that includes Black romance, something modern entertainment is still sorely lacking. Black Love Matters is an insightful essay anthology that centers the voices of Black readers, writers and cultural commentators. It shares the diverse ways in which Black people express and perceive love.
22. Peace Is a Practice: An Invitation to Breathe Deep and Find a New Rhythm for Life by Morgan Harper Nichols
Life is stressful, but Morgan Harper Nichols’s 2022 self-help book is a balm for trying times. In Peace Is a Practice, she invites readers to live in the present while actively pursuing and embracing peace. The beautiful book gently nudges us to let go of regrets, pursue meaning and purpose in life, and allow faith to usher in confidence while shoving anxiety and fear out the door. Through it, we can explore different ways of pursuing peace in our daily lives. It’s one of the best books by Black authors for finding inspiration.
23. Don’t Cry for Me by Daniel Black
Jacob and Isaac haven’t spoken in years, but now that he’s on his deathbed, Jacob has something to say about family history, about relationships and about the terrible way he reacted when Isaac came out. With 2022’s Don’t Cry for Me, Daniel Black provides a peek inside the often-strained relationship between Black fathers and gay sons. Poignant, timely and beautifully written, this LGBTQ book centers on themes of ancestral legacy, generational pain and family dynamics.
24. Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
Pheby Brown isn’t simply enslaved. The protagonist of Sadeqa Johnson’s 2021 novel, Yellow Wife, lives in one of the most harrowing slave jails in all of Virginia. Though promised her freedom at the age of 18, she soon learns that nobody keeps a promise to a slave. This book, which details her fight for freedom, incorporates elements of the true story of Robert Lumpkin, one of the most brutal slave traders in the South. A definite must-read, it has already drawn comparisons to Solomon Northup’s 12 Years a Slave and Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s Wench.
25. Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells by Michelle Duster
Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in 1862, but in 2020—nearly nine decades after her death—she won a Pulitzer Prize. Written by Wells’s great-granddaughter Michelle Duster, 2021’s Ida B. the Queen brings to life the legacy of a woman who was a force during the civil rights era and was considered a threat to the FBI. Ida B. Wells was an investigative journalist, suffragist and anti-lynching activist who lived a life committed to fighting racial injustice and inequality, and this nonfiction book dynamically delves into the impact that Wells had on American society during a pivotal time in this country. Check out these other incredible Black Americans you may not have learned about in history class.
26. The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Released in 2021, Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut novel, The Other Black Girl, delves into the microaggressions that editorial assistant Nella Rogers experiences as the only Black employee at her job with Wagner Books, a story Harris wrote while working as an editorial assistant herself. This smartly written satire delves into issues of race, authenticity and workplace cultures in a way that many different people can relate to. But it does so much more—expect thrills, twists and a genre-bending story you won’t be able to put down.
27. Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
The caste system isn’t something that happens only in faraway places—it’s something that happens right here in America. That’s what Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson explores in Caste, her 2020 book about the rigid hierarchy of human rankings. In addition to her unflinching look at the United States, she delves into the caste system in India and Nazi Germany as well. So what, exactly, does caste mean? “Caste is the granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt and human kindness to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing in the hierarchy,” Wilkerson has said. “What some people call racism could be seen as merely one manifestation of the degree to which we have internalized the larger American caste system.”
28. Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box by Evette Dionne
Evette Dionne won a Coretta Scott King Author Honor award for her 2020 novel, Lifting as We Climb. In it, she examines the contributions of Black women and their efforts in ending slavery, fighting for the right to vote and more. This book also examines the fight for Black women to be treated equally by their white peers, highlighting the reality that many white suffragists did not treat their Black female counterparts well or fairly.
29. Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson
In this poignant memoir, legendary actress Cicely Tyson shares her truth about her six decades in the entertainment industry as well as the lessons about love, life and loss she learned along the way. Just as I Am was published just two days before Tyson passed away in late January 2021, and it quickly topped multiple bestseller lists. If you don’t know much about Tyson, now is the time to learn. She was known for her integrity, her elegance and grace, and her unflinching commitment to taking on only those roles that elevated the consciousness of others and presented Black female characters with dignity.
30. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Black Buck is a New York Times bestseller that gets real about the many compromises Black people make while navigating America’s workforce. Mateo Askaripour’s debut novel is a racial satire, and it centers on a Black salesman who works at an extremely successful start-up and comes up with a plan to help young people of color infiltrate the country’s sales force. It delves into code-switching and ultimately shows how this linguistic back-and-forth takes a toll psychologically and emotionally over time. For a real-life take on this topic, read this story of a woman who is the only Black person in her office.
31. How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith
Released in 2021, this nonfiction book by Atlantic writer and poet Clint Smith delves into America’s history as a slave-owning nation and examines its many monuments and landmarks in relation to slavery. It reveals how important aspects of our country’s history are often hidden in plain sight and how they have shaped our world. Get started on your own tour with these American landmarks that celebrate Black culture.
32. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Are you a fan of historical fiction? You won’t want to miss this page-turner, which reveals how the memory and residue of captivity still linger generations later. It tells the story of two sisters—one who was captured and sold into slavery and the other who marries an Englishman and lives in a castle. Themes of generational trauma, blood memory and colonization run deep. Since its publication in 2016, Homegoing has received numerous literary accolades, including the Hemingway Foundation PEN Award, the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature and the American Book Award.
33. Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s 2021 debut novel, delves into race, masculinity and love. In this beautiful story, two Black British adults who both received scholarships to private schools, fall in love. She’s a dancer, and he’s a photographer, but while the two artists seem akin to soul mates, their relationship is tested by fear and violence. This novel delves into the psychological and emotional trauma that can accompany being seen as just a “Black body.”
34. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Set in a fictional Louisiana town in 1848, The Vanishing Half follows twin sisters Stella and Desiree. Both have light skin and hazel eyes. Both feel the impact of the hierarchy of racial constructs. Yet their futures stand in stark contrast. This sweeping, generational novel examines themes of “passing,” colorism and the concept of race. This thought-provoking work from Brit Bennett, author of The Mothers, was named a Best Book of 2020 by NPR, the Washington Post, the New York Times and even Barack Obama. It’s destined to stand the test of time, unlike these beloved books that didn’t age well.
35. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi’s follow-up to Homegoing is equally stunning and completely different. In 2020’s Transcendent Kingdom, she tells the story of a Ghanaian family based in Alabama that is greatly impacted by depression, grief, science, faith and love. Gifty, who’s working on her PhD in neuroscience at Stanford, is determined to understand the science behind all the pain she has seen in her family. But in the process of looking for answers, she is drawn back to the faith of her youth.
36. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
The 2021 prequel to the blockbuster YA novel The Hate U Give offers a glimpse into Garden Heights nearly two decades earlier. Familiarity with Thomas’s debut novel is nice but not necessary. In Concrete Rose, she provides a thorough and introspective look inside the psyche of the 17-year-old son of an infamous drug lord and the many challenges he faces. While the protagonist, Maverick Carter, appears to have everything under control, his world is upended when he finds out he has a child. He’s forced to decide whether he wants to aspire to the drug-lord legacy of his father or break free from that generational pattern to give his own child a different life. Some good news for bargain hunters: The e-book is free on Kindle Unlimited.
37. The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne
This new biography of Malcolm X chronicles the iconic leader’s life from his childhood in Nebraska to his death in Harlem in 1965, focusing on his integral role in the struggle for Black freedom. The Dead Are Arising made quite a splash when it debuted in 2020, and it has since racked up a number of accolades, including the 2021 Pulitzer Prize and the 2020 National Book Award for Non-Fiction. Speaking of Malcolm X, the movie based on his life is just one of the Black History Month movies worth watching year-round.
38. Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink
Travel back to 1921 with Randi Pink’s Angel of Greenwood. In this YA novel, set in a neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, dubbed Black Wall Street, 17-year-old Isaiah Wilson, an avid reader, and Angel Hill, a studious, Bible-loving 16-year-old, come together to help their English teacher run a mobile library. All is well until one fateful day—May 31, 1921—when their city is attacked by a white mob. For those who aren’t aware, that event subsequently became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, and it left 36 people dead. The 2021 publication of Pink’s novel marked the 100-year anniversary of the massacre and serves to this day as a reminder of the events that get lost in history.
39. White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue … and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation by Lauren Michele Jackson
In 2019’s White Negroes, author Lauren Michele Jackson calls for a brutally honest look at cultural appropriation. The book’s message asserts that while America and Americans have benefited from Blackness, Black pioneers are often left behind when it comes to the benefits. A mixture of narrative, scholarship and critique, Jackson’s exploration of the topic is insightful and highlights how this cultural theft has exacerbated inequality in this country.
40. Aftershocks: A Memoir by Nadia Owusu
Family secrets leave an emotional residue, and the people involved in them have to somehow press through the pain. That’s the throughline of 2021’s Aftershocks, which deeply cuts into Nadia Owusu’s experiences as a woman who has lived in many different nations, has had many different career paths and has grappled with secrets come to light. Of her writing, Owusu has said, “A story is a flashlight and a weapon. I write myself into other people’s earthquakes. I borrow pieces of their pain and store them in my body. Sometimes, I call those pieces compassion. Sometimes, I call them desecration.”
41. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Warning: You won’t be able to put this one down. Kiley Reid’s debut novel, published in 2019, examines race and privilege, raising powerful questions about identity, class, interpersonal relationships and more. Emira, a babysitter in the home of Alix, a blogger and public speaker, learns of her employer’s racist past through Alix’s ex, who Emira is coincidentally dating. But nothing is ever as it seems when it comes to well-meaning racists. Such a Fun Age immediately became a New York Times bestseller and went on to win the African American Literary Award in 2020.
42. You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Leah Johnson’s debut YA novel, which came out in 2020, centers on Liz Lighty, a high schooler who devises a plan to leave her small town of Campbell, Indiana. With no other way to earn the cash, she joins a prom contest with the hopes of winning scholarship money and finds herself with a crush on one of the other girls in the competition. You Should See Me in a Crown is the fun, queer romance novel you (and your teen) have been waiting for. And don’t miss Johnson’s sophomore effort, Rise to the Sun.
43. Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
How’s this for the punishment not fitting the crime: Amal, a talented 16-year-old, is put in prison for throwing a punch. So begins this novel in verse, a story about the fiercely sympathetic Amal and his fight for justice. Award-winning author Ibi Zoboi co-wrote this gem with Yusef Salaam, who spent six years in prison as a result of a wrongful conviction. Published in 2020, Punching the Air humanizes the many multidimensional human beings behind bars who have had their lives interrupted by an unjust and racially biased judicial system and institutional racism.
44. Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
This thought-provoking, riveting mystery shines a bright light on rape culture, impressionable teenage girls and the older male predators who can spot vulnerability a mile away. Enchanted Jones aspires to become a professional singer, so she’s thrilled when R&B artist Korey Fields notices her at an audition. But things don’t turn out as she has planned. See, Korey is dead. And though she can’t remember the night before, Enchanted knows that’s blood on her hands … Like Tiffany D. Jackson’s gripping debut, Allegedly, 2020’s Grown is a tightly plotted mystery full of twists and turns.
45. The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph
It’s not enough to say that you’re not racist—you need to be anti-racist. And even if you mean well, there are a few things you need to learn to be a true ally. This honest and powerful book, published in 2020, offers up the author’s personal experiences with everyday racism as well as those from well-known artists and activists. It features interviews with Toni Tone, writer Angie Thomas and April Reign, creator of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. What makes The Black Friend so potent is that Frederick Joseph speaks directly to white people as a Black person—a Black friend—and highlights the dangers of Black tokenism in an honest, unapologetic manner.
46. Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard by Echo Brown
Morris Award finalist Black Girl Unlimited—a semi-autobiographical tale infused with magical realism—centers on a girl from the East Side whose childhood in a rough neighborhood has been far from perfect. When she transfers to a wealthy school on the West Side, she finds inspiration. But at the same time, depression creeps in as she struggles to understand the intersection of the two worlds she’s living in. The guilt and pressure that often accompany those who “make it out” of their disenfranchised neighborhoods and communities make for an important sub-narrative in the book, which came out in 2020.
47. Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne
Designed to encourage young Black girls and teens to embrace their beauty and brilliance, this poem was published in 2018 as a form of resistance to society’s messages to Black girls that they aren’t enough. Within the pages of this poetry book, Mahogany L. Browne has crafted words of empowerment and strength that will inspire young Black girls to embrace their own unique “magic.” If you have little ones, this is one of the best children’s books by Black authors to buy.
48. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Released in 2018 to critical acclaim, this bestselling YA book series is a West African–inspired fantasy that will appeal to teens and adults alike. Pick up this series for exquisite world building, well-drawn characters, magic and a fight for power. Children of Blood and Bone is a thrilling read that, while strictly fantastical, explores relevant issues of police brutality, discrimination and violence.
49. Black Candle Women by Diane Marie Brown
Next time you’re in the mood for magic, pick up Diane Marie Brown’s multigenerational historical fiction novel, Black Candle Women, which will transport you to 1950s New Orleans. Publishing on Feb. 28, 2023, the book introduces readers to four generations of Black women dealing with a family curse: Anyone they fall in love with ends up dead. The narrative sails through a present timeline and the past, when the women’s line was originally cursed. Fans of Practical Magic will go wild for this story—it’s a perfectly witchy pick for a Halloween read.
50. Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson
Based on the true story of the women of the Six Triple Eight—the primarily Black postal battalion of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—Kaia Alderson’s 2021 novel, Sisters in Arms, is like a slice of hidden history. Dive into the lives of the fictional Grace Steele and Eliza Jones, two Black women members shipping out with the battalion on a mission to deliver mail in the European Theatre of World War II. This timely book is a great read for history buffs looking to learn more about Black women and the role they played in World War II.
51. How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
In this gripping 2021 novel by Imbolo Mbue, author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers, a brave African woman starts a revolution when an American Oil company begins to wreak havoc in her village. How Beautiful We Were sheds light on environmental destruction and the marginalized communities, cities, villages and towns that often suffer in silence at the hands of big corporations.
52. Nobody’s Magic by Destiny O. Birdsong
In her debut novel, published in 2022, Destiny O. Birdsong gives voice to three Southern Black women who happen to be albino. Nobody’s Magic gracefully chronicles the lives of Maple, Agnes and Suzette, all of whom are at a crossroads in their lives, and brings its setting to life like, well, magic. Pick up this book for its themes of grief, self-realization and strength—or if you’re interested in getting a glimpse of life in and around Shreveport, Louisiana.