7 Must-Read Books by Black Authors

Including a smart romance, several thoughtful memoirs, and Toni Morrison's first novel.

the yellow house by sarah broom
Photo: courtesy

As a Black bookseller at one of the largest bookstores in the world, I'm in charge of displaying a selection of books to read to celebrate Black History Month every February. While I love incorporating the classics, it can get tiring seeing the same four titles everywhere in the store. For this collection of Black History Month books, I wanted to include books that touch on more than slavery—the Oscars nominations already do that.

I wanted readers to find new favorites during Black History Month. There's nothing that I love more than finding out that a customer bought a book that I recommended, and they absolutely loved it. Books can be used as a form of escapism, and there's nothing better than discovering a good book that you can lose yourself in. As a bookseller, I tend to love memoirs, because it can be hard to make your own life sound interesting to someone who doesn't know you from Michelle Obama. I hope that you choose one of these books to celebrate Black History Month. Our stories deserve to be listened to. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and prepare to dive into a new title.

01 of 07

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Books by Black Authors: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Drew, a pediatric surgeon living in Los Angeles, and Alexa, the chief of staff for the mayor of Berkeley, Calif., begin a steamy romance after Alexa agrees to be Drew's pretend date for a wedding while they're stuck in an elevator together. I devoured this novel in two hours and recommend it to anyone wanting to read a smart romance novel starring a black woman.

To buy: $9; amazon.com.

02 of 07

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Books by Black Authors: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

I don't normally highlight or write in books, but I had to after reading Citizen. It is such an excellent meditation on race. It's a collection of essays, images, and poetry that will start a required conversation about a difficult topic. A desperately needed conversation, in my opinion.

To buy: $16; amazon.com.

03 of 07

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Books by Black Authors: The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Sarah M. Broom has written one of the best memoirs—ever. I'm calling it. Broom tells the story of her family history, but she uses the yellow shotgun house that her mother purchased in New Orleans as the starting and ending point. The house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but with Broom's excellent storytelling, it feels like a historical landmark.

To buy: $16; amazon.com.

04 of 07

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Books by Black Authors: How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

In this winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction, Jones crafts a tender coming-of-age memoir, detailing his story of growing up as a young, black, gay man from the South. My heart ached while reading this memoir. It is an examination of race, queerness, and vulnerability that will stick with you.

To buy: $15; amazon.com.

05 of 07

I'm Telling the Truth, But I'm Lying by Bassey Ikpi

Books by Black Authors: I’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi

There are very few memoirs about mental illness through the lens of what it also means to be black. Nigerian-American Ikpi explores her life in multiple frames—slam poet; mother; daughter; girlfriend—and shows readers what life looks like when you're living with bipolar II and anxiety. It reads like a stream of consciousness, which I found fascinating, and I know you will too.

To buy: $10; amazon.com.

06 of 07

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Books by Black Authors: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

2020 was our first year without Toni Morrison, but her loss was felt as soon as she left this earth. The Bluest Eye tells the heart wrenching story of Pecola Breedlove, a dark-skinned child who desperately wants blonde hair and blue eyes so she can fit in. Raising questions about race, gender, colorism, and more, Morrison's first novel is a masterpiece.

To buy: $9; amazon.com.

07 of 07

When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Books by Black Authors: When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Written by the founders behind the profound hashtag and organization Black Lives Matter, this memoir details what it's like to be a Black woman living in a country that has not been kind to us. The world saw it differently and called them terrorists and a threat to America. Hearing their stories was refreshing and I will stand behind them forever.

To buy: $14; amazon.com.

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