A selection of fiction and nonfiction books written by Black authors.
This list is far from exhaustive and we are always open to including new titles. If you have recommendations for books by Black authors to add, please contact us.
Many of the titles present here are about race and racism, however this list is intended to showcase Black voices across a whole range of subjects and genres. For more books about race and racism specifically, please see our Antiracist Reading list.
- by Kiley Reid
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A Best Book of the Year:
The Washington Post o Chicago Tribune o NPR o Vogue o Elle o Real Simple o InStyle o Good Housekeeping o Parade o Slate o Vox o Kirkus Reviews o Library Journal o BookPage
Longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize
An Instant New York Times Bestseller
A Reese's Book Club Pick
"The most provocative page-turner of the year." --Entertainment Weekly
"I urge you to read Such a Fun Age." --NPR
A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, 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 things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.
- by Eternity Martis
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Winner of the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Nonfiction
Nominated for the Evergreen Award
A powerful, moving memoir about what it's like to be a student of colour on a predominantly white campus.
A booksmart kid from Toronto, Eternity Martis was excited to move away to Western University for her undergraduate degree. But as one of the few Black students there, she soon discovered that the campus experiences she'd seen in movies were far more complex in reality. Over the next four years, Eternity learned more about what someone like her brought out in other people than she did about herself. She was confronted by white students in blackface at parties, dealt with being the only person of colour in class and was tokenized by her romantic partners. She heard racial slurs in bars, on the street, and during lectures. And she gathered labels she never asked for: Abuse survivor. Token. Bad feminist. But, by graduation, she found an unshakeable sense of self--and a support network of other women of colour.
Using her award-winning reporting skills, Eternity connects her own experience to the systemic issues plaguing students today. It's a memoir of pain, but also resilience.
- by Perdita Felicien
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"A phenomenal, human story. . . . I could not put this book down." --CLARA HUGHES
An instant national bestseller, this raw and affecting memoir is the story of a mother and daughter who beat the odds together.
Decades before Perdita Felicien became a World Champion hurdler running the biggest race of her life at the 2004 Olympics, she carried more than a nation's hopes--she carried her mother Catherine's dreams.
In 1974, Catherine is determined and tenacious, but she's also pregnant with her second child and just scraping by in St. Lucia. When she meets a wealthy white Canadian family vacationing on the island, she knows it's her chance. They ask her to come to Canada to be their nanny--and she accepts.
This was the beginning of Catherine's new life: a life of opportunity, but also suffering. Within a few years, she would find herself pregnant a third time--this time in her new country with no family to support her, and this time, with Perdita. Together, in the years to come, mother and daughter would experience racism, domestic abuse, and even homelessness, but Catherine's will would always pull them through.
As Perdita grew and began to discover her preternatural athletic gifts, she was edged onward by her mother's love, grit, and faith. Facing literal and figurative hurdles, she learned to leap and pick herself back up when she stumbled. This book is a daughter's memoir--a book about the power of a parent's love to transform their child's life.
- by Frederick Joseph
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The instant New York Times bestseller!
Writing from the perspective of a friend, Frederick Joseph offers candid reflections on his own experiences with racism and conversations with prominent artists and activists about theirs--creating an essential read for white people who are committed anti-racists and those newly come to the cause of racial justice.
"We don't see color." "I didn't know Black people liked Star Wars!" "What hood are you from?" For Frederick Joseph, life as a transfer student in a largely white high school was full of wince-worthy moments that he often simply let go. As he grew older, however, he saw these as missed opportunities not only to stand up for himself, but to spread awareness to those white people who didn't see the negative impact they were having.
Speaking directly to the reader, The Black Friend calls up race-related anecdotes from the author's past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently now. Each chapter features the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host; and eleven others. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, "reverse racism" to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as conversation starter, tool kit, and invaluable window into the life of a former "token Black kid" who now presents himself as the friend many readers need. Backmatter includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.
- by Heather Mcghee
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD o One of today's most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone--not just for people of color.
"This is the book I've been waiting for."--Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist
Heather McGhee's specialty is the American economy--and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?
McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm--the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this country--from parks and pools to functioning schools--have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world's advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare.
But in unlikely places of worship and work, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: the benefits we gain when people come together across race to accomplish what we simply can't do on our own. The Sum of Us is not only a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here but also a heartfelt message, delivered with startling empathy, from a black woman to a multiracial America. It leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.
- by Rebecca Carroll
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A stirring and powerful memoir from black cultural critic Rebecca Carroll recounting her painful struggle to overcome a completely white childhood in order to forge her identity as a black woman in America.
Rebecca Carroll grew up the only black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Adopted at birth by artistic parents who believed in peace, love, and zero population growth, her early childhood was loving and idyllic--and yet she couldn't articulate the deep sense of isolation she increasingly felt as she grew older.
Everything changed when she met her birth mother, a young white woman, who consistently undermined Carroll's sense of her blackness and self-esteem. Carroll's childhood became harrowing, and her memoir explores the tension between the aching desire for her birth mother's acceptance, the loyalty she feels toward her adoptive parents, and the search for her racial identity. As an adult, Carroll forged a path from city to city, struggling along the way with difficult boyfriends, depression, eating disorders, and excessive drinking. Ultimately, through the support of her chosen black family, she was able to heal.
Intimate and illuminating, Surviving the White Gaze is a timely examination of racism and racial identity in America today, and an extraordinarily moving portrait of resilience.
- by Jael Richardson
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A fierce and illuminating debut from FOLD founder Jael Richardson about a young woman who must find the courage to determine her own future and secure her freedom
Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. In this world, Elimina Dubois is one of only 100 babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity as part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government.
But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself all alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. Elimina is sent to an academy with new rules and expectations where she befriends Gutter children who are making their own way through the Gutter System in whatever ways they know how. When Elimina's life takes another unexpected turn, she will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longs for after all. Richardson's Gutter Child reveals one young woman's journey through a fractured world of heartbreaking disadvantages and shocking injustices. Elimina is a modern heroine in an altered but all too recognizable reality who must find the strength within herself to forge her future and defy a system that tries to shape her destiny.
- by Cicely Tyson
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"In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history." -President Barack Obama, 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony
"Just as I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and a mother, a sister and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by his hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say." -Cicely Tyson
- by Ta-nehisi Coates
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK o From the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me, a boldly conjured debut novel about a magical gift, a devastating loss, and an underground war for freedom.
"This potent book about America's most disgraceful sin establishes [Ta-Nehisi Coates] as a first-rate novelist."--San Francisco Chronicle
IN DEVELOPMENT AS A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE o Adapted by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kamilah Forbes, produced by MGM, Plan B, and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films
NOMINATED FOR THE NAACP IMAGE AWARD o NAMED ONE OF PASTE'S BEST NOVELS OF THE DECADE o NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time o NPR o The Washington Post o Chicago Tribune o Vanity Fair o Esquire o Good Housekeeping o Paste o Town & Country o The New York Public Library o Kirkus Reviews o Library Journal
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her--but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he's ever known.
So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia's proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram's resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.
This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children--the violent and capricious separation of families--and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today's most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.
Praise for The Water Dancer
"Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race with his 2015 memoir, Between the World and Me. So naturally his debut novel comes with slightly unrealistic expectations--and then proceeds to exceed them. The Water Dancer . . . is a work of both staggering imagination and rich historical significance. . . . What's most powerful is the way Coates enlists his notions of the fantastic, as well as his fluid prose, to probe a wound that never seems to heal. . . . Timeless and instantly canon-worthy."--Rolling Stone
- by Barack Obama
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A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making--from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o NAACP IMAGE AWARD NOMINEE o NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post o Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times o NPR o The Guardian o Marie Claire
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency--a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation's highest office.
Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune's Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.
A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective--the story of one man's bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of "hope and change," and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.
This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama's conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.
- by James Mcbride
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Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction
Winner of the Gotham Book Prize
One of Barack Obama's "Favorite Books of the Year"
Oprah's Book Club Pick
Named one of the Top Ten Books of the Year by the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and TIME Magazine
A Washington Post Notable Novel
From the author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird and the bestselling modern classic The Color of Water, comes one of the most celebrated novels of the year.
In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and, in front of everybody, shoots the project's drug dealer at point-blank range.
The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride's funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood's Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.
As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters--caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York--overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.
Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.
- by Shani Mahiri King
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A tender and powerful affirmation that Black lives have always mattered.
Black lives matter. That message would be self--evident in a just world, but in this world and this America, all children need to hear it again and again, and not just to hear it but to feel and know it.
This book affirms the message repeatedly, tenderly, with cumulative power and shared pride. Celebrating Black accomplishments in music, art, literature, journalism, politics, law, science, medicine, entertainment, and sports, Shani King summons a magnificent historical and contemporary context for honoring the fortitude of Black role models, women and men, who have achieved greatness despite the grinding political and social constraints on Black life. Frederick Douglass, Toni Morrison, Sojourner Truth, John Lewis, Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong, Maya Angelou, Aretha Franklin, and many more pass through these pages. An America without their struggles, aspirations, and contributions would be a shadow of the country we know. A hundred life sketches augment the narrative, opening a hundred doors to lives and thinking that aren't included in many history books. James Baldwin's challenge is here: "We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it." Actress Viola Davis's words are here, too: "When I was younger, I did not exert my voice because I did not feel worthy of having a voice. I was taught so many things that didn't include me. Where was I? What were people like me doing?"
This book tells children what people like Viola were and are doing, and it assures Black children that they are, indisputably, worthy of having a voice.
Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter? is a book for this time and always. It is time for all children to live and breathe the certainty that Black lives matter.
- by Cheryl Thompson
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From martyr to insult, how "Uncle Tom" has influenced two centuries of racial politics.
Jackie Robinson, President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, O.J. Simpson and Christopher Darden have all been accused of being an Uncle Tom during their careers. How, why, and with what consequences for our society did Uncle Tom morph first into a servile old man and then to a racial epithet hurled at African American men deemed, by other Black people, to have betrayed their race?
Uncle Tom, the eponymous figure in Harriet Beecher Stowe's sentimental anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, was a loyal Christian who died a martyr's death. But soon after the best-selling novel appeared, theatre troupes across North America and Europe transformed Stowe's story into minstrel shows featuring white men in blackface. In Uncle, Cheryl Thompson traces Tom's journey from literary character to racial trope. She explores how Uncle Tom came to be and exposes the relentless reworking of Uncle Tom into a nostalgic, racial metaphor with the power to shape how we see Black men, a distortion visible in everything from Uncle Ben and Rastus The Cream of Wheat chef to Shirley Temple and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson to Bill Cosby.
In Donald Trump's post-truth America, where nostalgia is used as a political tool to rewrite history, Uncle makes the case for why understanding the production of racial stereotypes matters more than ever before.
- by Ibram X. Kendi
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o A chorus of extraordinary voices tells the epic story of the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present--edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire.
"A vital addition to [the] curriculum on race in America . . . a gateway to the solo works of all the voices in Kendi and Blain's impressive choir."--The Washington Post
"From journalist Hannah P. Jones on Jamestown's first slaves to historian Annette Gordon-Reed's portrait of Sally Hemings to the seductive cadences of poets Jericho Brown and Patricia Smith, Four Hundred Souls weaves a tapestry of unspeakable suffering and unexpected transcendence."--O: The Oprah Magazine
The story begins in 1619--a year before the Mayflower--when the White Lion disgorges "some 20-and-odd Negroes" onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history.
Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume "community" history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith--instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.
This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present.
- by Colson Whitehead
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Fiction
Finalist for the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award
Finalist for the 2021 DUBLIN Literary Awards
Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Awards
Longlisted for the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction
In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.
As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to heart: He is "as good as anyone." Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grand-mother, Elwood is a high school senior about to start classes at a local college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides "physical, intellectual, and moral training" so that the delinquent boys in its charge can become "honorable and honest men."
In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear "out back." Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr. King's ringing assertion "Throw us in jail and we will still love you." His friend Turner thinks that Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.
The tension between Elwood's ideals and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision with repercussions that will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys' fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.
Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.