101 powerful books to celebrate Black History all year long

101 powerful books to celebrate Black History all year long

Readers, we’re nearing the end of Black History Month, and I’ve been loving seeing the reading lists, Instagram challenges, and inspiration around bookish corners of the internet. 

I’ve been delighted to see requests for Black History Month book recommendations in our #wsirnreaderrecs inbox. To maintain an evergreen and easy-to-access resource for readers, today we’re sharing a list of 101 #ownvoices book recommendations for Black History Month and beyond. “Own voices” means that the authors are members of the community they’re writing about—in this case, Black authors writing about vast and varied Black experiences.

This list includes a wide variety of genres, from fantasy to memoir to middle grade, but it’s certainly not comprehensive. For more #ownvoices book recommendations and reviews, I recommend following Black bloggers, podcasters, and bookstagrammers. Here’s a short list of twenty amazing Instagram accounts to check out:

We try to link to the titles we mention as a service for readers—these links make it easier for you to find more information on the titles we mention on Modern Mrs Darcy and What Should I Read Next. Today we’re happy to share affiliate links from the new Bookshop program. Bookshop is an online bookstore that supports independent bookstores. More details here.

Fiction

Nonfiction 

Memoir & Biography

Middle Grade

Young Adult 

Romance 

Graphic Novel 

What have YOU been reading for Black History Month? Which books should be added to this list? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.

P.S. Check out these 20 terrific titles from #ownvoices and #diversebooks authors.

101 powerful books to celebrate Black History all year long

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39 comments | Comment

39 comments

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      • Maria Kovacs says:

        I read With The Fire on High (YA fiction) and loved it! Also really enjoyed The Water Dancer. And for memoirs I loved We Speak for Ourselves- so good and written by a Baltimore boy which is my city! Also just finished The Color of Water. And The Color of Compromise is really excellent from a faith background. So many good books by AA authors!

  1. Tabatha Turner says:

    Timothy Tyson, the author of The Blood of Emmett Till, is not African American. He’s a scholar of African American history and a civil rights activist, but he is white.

  2. Alison says:

    Thanks for the list! For the memoir section, I enjoyed both “Black Boy” by Richard Wright and “My Grandfather’s Son” by Clarence Thomas.

  3. Our couples’ book group just read The Street by Ann Petry, and I am so happy to see it on your list. A street in Harlem in 1944 is a character as much as the people in this incredibly well-written, but devastating book. Even though it was written decades ago, it stands up well against more contemporary works and unfortunately feels all too relevant for today.

  4. Another great list! I highly recommend both Behold the Dreamers and Such a Fun Age. And if you like one, you will likely like the other as there are some parallels. I also just read Just Mercy, and it is a non fiction must read for everyone that really makes you think about the legal system.

  5. Marion says:

    I’m currently reading Before The Mayflower by Lerone Bennett Jr. It is dense but quite informative on the black experience in America since 1619. Also, I would include Black Fortunes by Shomari Wills. The story of the first black millionaires that happened just after the end of slavery. And for fiction recommendations I will mention Lion’s Blood and Zulu’s Heart by Steven Barnes. A fascinating 2 book series that re-imagines slavery where blacks are control and whites are enslaved.

  6. Jo says:

    The Last Thing You Surrender by Leonard Pitts, Jr. The writing is superb and I am still thinking on the words he wrote. It is set during WWII. Excellent read. 5 stars

  7. Cheryl says:

    An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. I’m enjoying her writing and the story so much and am planning on reading her backlist! Not quite finished, but 5 stars!

  8. Myrthe says:

    My book club pick for this month was Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo about twelve black women in England. I loved it and it also made for a very good discussion at our meeting. Highly recommend because it’s a good book but also as a great read for a book club.

  9. Nancy B. says:

    I just wanted to add my praise for Sing, Unburied, Sing. It starts out very bleak. I put it down once for that reason. But I’m so glad I picked it up again. It’s a beautiful story which rewards the reader who continues with it.

    Between the World and Me is a very powerful book that will stay with you about how young black lives are filled with worries and dangers that most young white people don’t even think about.

  10. Nancy Taylor says:

    I would add Natasha Trethewey’s book of poetry, Monument. My Book Club heard her speak (along with Sarah M. Broom who wrote The Yellow House) a few weeks ago. I usually don’t read entire books of poetry, but hearing Ms. Trethewey read some of the poems from Monument reminded me that poetry has a different effect on our emotions as opposed to prose. Very powerful! I also suggest In the Country of Women by Susan Straight, which is written as a memoir for her three biracial daughters about their ancestors; some from Europe and some from former slaves. Beautiful book!

  11. Others to for SURE add: Wade in the Water (poetry, Tracy K. Smith + her collection of essays, Ordinary Light, is AWESOME). Also, New Kid (graphic novel, Jerry Craft) is amazing. And for the justice/reconciliation folks out there, I Bring the Voices of My People (Chanequa Walker-Barnes) is a MUST. Also, I only read Black authors during Black History Month, and here’s a post of what I’ve recently been reading: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/coloringoutsidethelines/2020/02/reading-with-intention-during-black-history-month/

  12. VERA WEBB says:

    How about something by Marlon James (2015 Booker Prize winner)? He is Jamaican but lives in Minneapolis. I have on my TBR “Black Leopard, Red Wolf”.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the list, I would add The Water Dancer by Ta-nehisi Coates. Very beautiful writing..

    I am adding quite a few to my TBR.

  14. DD says:

    Red at the Bone. The Fifth Season. Parable of the Sower. Dear Ijaewele (for the re-read 2020 challenge). Binti. The Deep.
    I was intentionally reading Afrofuturist books this month, but mostly because I like them so much 🙂

  15. Kara Middleton says:

    Native Son is one of the most powerful novels I have ever read. It changed me, and I will never forget it. It’s difficult to read, but so worth it.

    I’ve read Their Eyes were watching God twice and am planning a second reread this year. Thank you for a great list!

  16. Ames says:

    Last year I listened to Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster
    by Stephen L. Carter, and I really enjoyed it. The author is the subject’s grandson, but most of his research was done as a historian rather than family member. It was also a fascinating look at a working mother with a child before it was the norm in America. I highly recommend it, especially for anyone with an interest in the 1930s, or in law, the mob, etc.

  17. Carol says:

    Check out the three book YA series by Laurie Halse Anderson: The Seeds of America Trilogy. Chains, Forge and Ashes take you through the years of the American Revolution lived through two young slaves: Isabel and Curzon. Both yearn to escape the bondage of cruel masters and both envision the dream of independence the Patriot forces are struggling to implement. It paints familiar events in American history in a whole new light!

  18. Pat Smith says:

    If it has not been already, hope to see Bud, Not Buddy added to the list by Christopher Paul Curtis. The book was a Newbery Award and Coretta Scott King Award winner, and is read in schools. Bud is a resilient Depression-era foster care kid with themes of jazz music throughout the story.

  19. Jayda says:

    Great list!!! I read several of these in February and have added many more to my TBR list! I would add Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith, a thought-provoking YA book about a young woman dealing with racism and sexism as she tries to become a pilot for the war effort during World War II.

  20. Kristin says:

    Hi Anne! Please add two memoirs: The Color of Water by James McBride, and Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High by Melba Beals. I read these years ago and both have stayed with me.

  21. Carrie says:

    One of the most powerful and moving novels I’ve ever read is The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. I was very surprised it wasn’t in the list (unless I missed it). There was also a 6-part miniseries of the same name based on the novel.

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