14 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 enough of 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 discovering a good book that you can lose yourself in is the best feeling. 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. Whether you're also a fan of memoirs, romance, or thrillers, I hope you choose one of the below books by Black authors to celebrate Black History Month. Our stories deserve to be listened to. So grab a cup of your favorite beverage and prepare to dive into a new title.

01 of 14

Weightless by Evette Dionne

weightless by evette dionne book cover


Much like Hunger by Roxane Gay (which is another great memoir by a Black woman that details what it's like to be fat in a country like the United States) Weightless seeks to expand our society's conversation about how bodies that aren't white are viewed when they're bigger than what is deemed "acceptable". What I really enjoyed about this book is that Evette Dionne doesn't shy away from analyzing her own behavior. For example, she talks about the harmful aspects of the TLC series My 600-Lb. Life, while also being a big fan of the show. She also recounts a story about dating as a fat Black woman and how she was embarrassed to date another fat person when she was younger. Dionne doesn't portray herself as a perfect body positivity activist, and that gives her an introspective that is worth reading about.

To buy: $18, amazon.com

02 of 14

Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

somebodys daughter by ashley c. ford


While I was reading Somebody's Daughter, I had to actively take breaks because some details of her story hit a little too close to home for me. I've been a fan of Ashley C. Ford's work for years now, and I eagerly anticipated this memoir. It didn't disappoint—no wonder this title made our spring books list. What Ford has written is a beautiful and devastating memoir about her fraught relationship with her mother during her childhood, her rape that occurred at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, and what it meant to find out that her father had been imprisoned for a similar act as well. I hold this book close to my heart. I hope that after reading it, you will do the same.

To buy: $15, amazon.com

03 of 14

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

milk blood heat by dantiel w. moniz


I don't read nearly as many short story collections as I should, but any collection that focuses on the experiences of young Black girls is one that I gravitate towards. Milk Blood Heat is Dantiel W. Moniz's debut, which is so good that I almost want her to take me under her wing and teach me her ways—and I don't even write fiction. Each of these stories depict a violent personal awakening, but they're all so unique that I don't even know where to begin to explain them. If you like stories that focus on race, connection, motherhood, grief, and so many more complex human emotions—all against the backdrop of Florida—then this book is for you.

To buy: $13, amazon.com

04 of 14

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé


I picked this one up after seeing a fellow Bookstagrammer (shout out to @_pagesandleaves) rave about this book repeatedly. It was billed as Get Out meets Gossip Girl, and much to my delight, that's exactly what it is. Ace of Spades made me gasp out loud while reading it in a bar, much to the chagrin of the people next to me. What can I say? That ending startled me! Even though this is Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé's first book, I already know that I will get my hands on anything and everything that she publishes going forward. This book was just that good. Don't let the "young adult" tag fool you: Ace of Spades will leave you feeling all sorts of...unsettled.

To buy: $16, amazon.com

05 of 14

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw


If you've come into the bookstore where I work within the last three years and have asked for a recommendation, I have probably either suggested or hand-sold you a copy of this incredible short story collection. It's Deesha Philyaw's debut and every piece of work in this book spoke to me. I still reference the stories "Peach Cobbler" and "How to Make Love to a Physicist" because both of them took my breath away. While those are my two favorites in the collection, every story is noteworthy, and I can name several moments from other stories that made me shake. While The Secret Lives of Church Ladies does revolve around a church and the Black women that attend it, it doesn't preach anything to its readers. Well, except maybe, "Look at what happens when you eat the forbidden fruit."

To buy: $17, amazon.com

06 of 14

Reggie and Delilah's Year of Falling by Elise Bryant

Reggie and Delilah's Year of Falling by Elise Bryant


I first fell in love with Elise Bryant's work when I read an advance copy of her debut novel Happily Ever Afters. I am excited to tell you that with each of her books, she gets better and better, though I'm unsure how that's humanly possible. Bryant has a way of making her readers feel seen, especially if they're people who have been told that they're not "Black enough" to be in certain spaces. Reading her work makes me feel like I'm being hugged and soothed for things that were out of my control when I was a child. If you are a Black teen or know and love a Black teen, please give them this book and let them know that whoever they are at this very moment is the right kind of Black.

To buy: $11, amazon.com

07 of 14

Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola

Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola


I was lucky enough to read this for the book club that I run for Black women, and let me tell you: I had forgotten how fun reading could be. Bolu Babalola's writing made me laugh more than I thought possible while reading. Babalola created such lovable characters, the kind that you want to root for but also yell at when they make continuous mistakes because they’re young and we all cringe at our younger selves. There’s so much growth for these characters and I was so proud to be able to sit back, kick my feet up, and be there for it all. I will be recommending this one to everyone for as long as I am a bookseller. Not all Black stories need to be tragic; sometimes, we just want to laugh, too.

To buy: $20, amazon.com

08 of 14

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: $8; amazon.com.

09 of 14

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: $11; amazon.com.

10 of 14

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: $17; amazon.com.

11 of 14

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: $20; amazon.com.

12 of 14

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: $15; amazon.com.

13 of 14

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Books by Black Authors: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison died at the age of 88 in 2020, and her loss was felt as soon as she left this earth. Her first novel, 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, debut novel is a masterpiece.

To buy: $14; amazon.com.

14 of 14

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: $21; amazon.com.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles