20 Must Read Books By Black Authors

Angela Radulescu – Wikimedia Commons

You may not know all your authors since a lot of us do not choose our books by authors alone. We bring you a collection of 20 must-read books by black authors. These authors and their books take you on a sublime journey of their world. 

The Hate U Give (2017), by Angie Thomas

Walker Books – Amazon

Angie Thomas was the first black teenager to graduate from her creative writing course, and ‘The Hate U Give’ is her debut novel. This gripping young adult novel follows Starr, a young African American girl who witnesses the police shooting of her best friend. The novel focuses on race, identity, and activism.

Between the World and Me (2015), by Ta-Nehisi Coates

One World – Amazon

Ta-Nehisi Coates is an American author and journalist, a black man with worldwide recognition for his unique work. Coates, in his book ‘Between the World and Me,’ pens down his perception of his feelings. The book is more of a powerful letter to his son about the complexities of being a Black citizen in America.

Kindred (1979), by Octavia E. Butler

Beacon Press – Amazon

Octavia E. Butler is an American novel and science fiction writer. She is widely known for her mesmerizing writing work. However, the one that holds the most attention and is a must-read is ‘Kindred’. The novel is about Dana, an African American woman who is involuntarily time-traveling.

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), by Zora Neale Hurston

Virago – Amazon

‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ is a classic by Zora Neale Hurston, an American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. Her work in this book is rich in language and culture. The fictional story is all about love, independence, and self-fulfillment. For love story seekers, this is a must-read book by a black author.

Beloved (1987), by Toni Morrison

Vintage Books – Amazon

‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison is a novel set after the American Civil War. This brilliant work of words explores the period after the war. The book explores the physical, emotional, and spiritual devastation wrought by slavery. The story premise is about an escaped slave, Sethe, whose daughter has died and she is haunted by her ghost. 

The Color Purple (1982), by Alice Walker

W&N – Amazon

Alice Walker is a black author and the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction writing. Her work, ‘The Color Purple,’ is a prize-winning work that talks about resilience and sisterhood. The storyline focuses on an abused and uneducated African American and her struggle for empowerment.

Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), by James Baldwin

Penguin Classics – Amazon

Some books are must-reads once in a lifetime, and ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’ is that for you. This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of John Grimes and his bond with his family and the church. The book talks about the system of racism, religion, identity, and societal expectations.

Americanah (2013), by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fourth Estate – Amazon

‘Americanah’ is an award-winning novel that earned Adichie the 2013 U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award. The novel focuses on the main character, Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman navigating race and identity in America. Once you read half through it, you will come across an exploration of love, immigration, and the pursuit of the American dream.

The Souls of Black Folk (1903), by W.E.B. Du Bois

Martino Fine Books – Amazon

W.E.B. Du Bois fought for the independence of African colonies from European powers, and you cannot miss his work, especially as a black author. This book is an excellent work of American literature, with several essays on race, racial inequality, and more. The book is full of numerous sketches and essays.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), by Maya Angelou

Virago – Amazon

‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is one of Maya Angelou’s best works of her lifetime. We know that she was loud and clear about civil rights and her dedication to being an activist. In this book, she describes her childhood days, talking about racism, trauma, and resilience at the heart of it. 

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995), by Barack Obama

Canongate Canons – Amazon

We love Barack Obama for the chivalrous man he is. But the book ‘Dreams from My Father’ is something else. It is an exceptional journey where he explains what being a Black man means in the West. He talks about racial authenticity and the politics of identity, and also covers many events from Chicago and Honolulu. 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

RHUS – Amazon

Malcom X had a traumatized childhood, filled with challenges from start to end. The book is an autobiography talking exactly about that: his life, his childhood days as a criminal and the memories he created when he was in New York and Boston. He also talks about his conversion to Islam and how he journeyed into activism. 

Queenie (2019), by Candice Carty-Williams

Trapeze – Amazon

If you are craving something refreshing? Definitely go for this novel by Candice Carty-Williams. Featuring a Jamaican British woman as the protagonist, this book talks about relationships, friendships, sex, and race. But all with a hint of good humor. It is a wonderful play of words with facts right in your face. 

Homegoing (2016), by Yaa Gyasi

Penguin – Amazon

Homegoing is a must-read historical fiction novel. The novel is centered around two Ghanaian half-sisters and their descendants. Its storyline revolves around the effects of slavery and colonialism. Some concepts are powerful and can shake your thoughts. The book has won amongst critics’ circles.

The Wedding Date (2018), by Jasmine Guillory

Berkley – Amazon

‘The Wedding Date’ is the debut novel of Jasmine Guillory, an American romance novelist. This spicy romance book is about a fake wedding date and how it can go the distance in a fun and flirty way. The multicultural romance will keep you hooked from start to end, maintaining your curiosity.

The Vanishing Half (2020), by Brit Bennett

Dialogue Books – Amazon

Are you into historical fiction? If yes, then do read ‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett. It is the second novel by Bennett and appeared on the bestseller list of The New York Times. Although it is not appropriate for all, if you love thought-provoking exploration, do give it a read. 

If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), by James Baldwin

Penguin Classics – Amazon

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ by James Baldwin is a classic from 1974. The book is a love story of a young couple who fall in love and get engaged, but later life takes a turn. The heart-wrenching storyline focuses on one of them getting falsely accused of the rape case.

Silver Sparrow (2011), by Tayari Jones

Oneworld – Amazon

An amazing African American author, this novel by Tayari Jones centers around James, his two families, and the tangled web of their relationships. Everything you can think of, family secrets, bonds of fate and identity as a whole, this book is the perfect amalgamation of it. The twists and turns are what make it a must read for any bookworm.

The Underground Railroad (2016), by Colson Whitehead

Fleet – Amazon

This one is Colson Whitehead’s imaginative and powerful historical fiction novel. As you read the book, you reimagine the ‘Underground Railroad’ as a literal network of secret tracks and tunnels. It is beyond a thrilling adventure. We loved the book as it explores the emotional and psychological impacts of slavery. 

An American Marriage (2018), by Tayari Jones

Oneworld – Amazon

Once again, a masterpiece by Tayari Jones. It is a novel that digs into the heart-wrenching story of a couple torn apart by wrongful imprisonment. You get a deep exploration of love, loyalty, and injustice, with so much emotional depth. Jones’ skillful portrayal of complex relationships and societal issues, takes you to a whole new world. 


Leave a Reply