You probably know that around here we love to help you find your next read, and one of our favorite ways to do that is by curating great book lists for you almost every week. Sometimes I share lists built around topics that have been on my mind, or books I’ve been reading lately. Sometimes I put together lists based on reader requests; sometimes our content is driven by my team members.
Today’s post is a combination of all three, and features Black-authored newer releases that I’ve read and loved this spring. You’ve seen some of these books on the blog before—in the Summer Reading Guide, in book list posts, as podcast recommendations and the focus of bonus episodes. It’s not unusual for us to feature the same title multiple times through different lenses—in fact, we try hard to do just that.
Our lens today is this: these books are all by Black authors, and they hold three additional, specific things in common. While they span many different genres and settings, they all share a heartfelt tone. While hard things happen in these books, they have a great sense of humor. And their endings are exuberant perfection.
Two titles (The Poet X and Bingo Love) are several years old; the rest are 2020 releases. I listened to four of these on audio; they were excellent in that format. This list skews female; please pile on the recommendations in the comments section, from authors of all genders.
I hope you find a good book (or six) for your TBR here today. Happy reading!
I adored this spring release and included it in this year's Minimalist Summer Reading Guide. Jemisin’s new urban fantasy, packed with explosive energy and astonishing worldbuilding, is the first installment of a planned trilogy. Every city has a soul, and the great cities of civilization—like Rome, Athens, São Paolo—finally reach a point when they come to life. Now it’s New York’s time to be born, but the city itself is too weakened by a gruesome attack to complete the process. If New York is to live, five people—or, more precisely, five avatars, one for each of the city’s boroughs—must rise up and unite to evade, and then destroy, the creeping tentacles of their opponent, the amorphous power personified by the Woman in White. Jemisin layers her fantasy upon a deeply realistic modern-day New York. A wild and wonderful ride, fantastically inventive and imaginative. More info →
Olivia Monroe (who you may remember as Alexa’s sister in The Wedding Date) is back in L.A., freshly arrived from NYC to finally start an all-female law firm with an old friend. She hasn’t even had a chance to find a place to live when she meets a cute guy in the hotel bar and enjoys lively banter about her favorite subject: dessert. It’s not until Olivia turns on the tv later that she realizes there’s a reason he looked so familiar: Max is the hot-shot new California senator who is everything Olivia is not: wealthy, privileged, and a total workaholic. This relationship could never work. But when he begins wooing Olivia by sending her baked goods, she decides she’ll see where it goes. Fast and fun. More info →
Read along with us in Book Club this fall as we dig into coming of age-themed novels. This novel-in-verse won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Xiomara finds her voice as she pours her soul into her notebook. Every frustration, every harassment, every triumph and every secret is turned into a poem. When she gets invited to share her work in slam poetry club, Xiomara isn't sure if she can keep her passion secret from her strict family. But she soon learns that speaking up and living her truth is the only way to be fully herself. The audiobook version, narrated by the author, is AMAZING. More info →
I initially had a tough time focusing on this one (it was me, not the book), but once I switched to the audio version I couldn't put it down. The story begins with a shooting: it's 1969, in the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn; a beloved drunk deacon named Sportcoat wanders into the courtyard and shoots the drug dealer he'd once treated like a son point-blank, in front of everyone. After this jolting beginning, McBride zooms out to show the reader how this violent act came to take place, exploring the lives of the shooter and the victim, the victim's bumbling friends, the residents who witnessed it, the neighbors who heard about it, the cops assigned to investigate, the members of the church where Sportcoat was a deacon, the neighborhood's mobsters (and their families). All these people's lives overlap in ways that few understand in the beginning, and McBride's gentle teasing out of these unlikely but deeply meaningful connections—and the humor and warmth with which he does it—is what captured me. More info →
Johnson makes a triumphant debut with her happy and poignant YA novel. Orchestra geek Liz Lighty stays out of the spotlight in small town Campbell, Indiana, and she's totally okay with her wallflower status. She has a plan to escape the Midwest and become a doctor, and it all starts with attending her elite dream school, Pennington College. When her financial aid package falls short, Liz is devastated until she remembers that her school offers a large scholarship for the prom king and queen each year. Reluctant to subject herself to extra attention but eager to win the money, Liz enters the competition for prom queen. The smart and funny new girl in school makes events leading up to prom more bearable, but Mack is also vying for the prom queen title. As Liz develops feelings for her, the competition gets complicated. More info →
I appreciate how in this timely book, Brandy Colbert takes on big, complex issues and serves up a warm and engaging story. Black teen protagonists Marva and Duke take turns as narrators, which makes the story feel intimate and personal, while offering lots of food for thought. Told over the course of one day, Marva, enthusiastic citizen, and Duke, son of a politically-engaged family, overcome obstacles in their quest to make Duke’s vote count on election day. As they work together for a shared cause, they talk about their lives, and the hard stuff they’re facing, right now. It’s a book I’m sure I’ll continue to think about as our own election day draws nearer here in the United States. More info →
After witnessing many live-tweet moments on Twitter over the years, Farrah Rochon decided to turn live-tweet-gone-viral into a fabulous rom com premise. Samiah Brooks catches her three-timing boyfriend after seeing a live-tweet of him on a date. When the three "girlfriends" Samiah, London, and Taylor go viral, they meet up, become best friends, and vow to focus on their single selves by not dating for six months. With her newfound free time, Samiah pores herself into developing her passion project. Just as her dream app starts to take shape, she meets Daniel Collins, a charming coworker who might be perfect boyfriend material. Steamy, smart, and centered around friendship, this is the first in an upcoming series. More info →
Quadir and Jarrell are determined to give their friend Steph the legacy he deserves after losing him. With the help of Steph's sister Jasmine, they take his tracks and come up with a plan to release them under a new rapper's name: The Architect. When Steph's music catches the ear of a big-time producer, the Brooklyn teens scramble to prove their friend's talent, even though he's gone. Jasmine, Quadir, and Jarrell each keep secrets of their own, and as they dig into Steph's music, and his past, they must confront the truth. A powerful story of friendship with a page-turning puzzle and satisfying ending, this YA novel is excellent on audio. More info →
Nice Stone calls this one "a book that knocks you off your feet while dropping the kind of knowledge that’ll keep you down for the count. Prepare to BE slain." At school, Kiera Johnson is an honor roll student, math tutor, and one of the only Black kids in her classes. But in the world she's created for herself, she is one of hundreds of thousands of Black gamers dueling in the online role-playing card game, Slay. Kiera is the game developer, but no one in her "real life" knows about the project, and her identity is a secret online. When Slay is mentioned in relation to the murder of a Kansas City teen, Kiera is distraught. News of the game and its Black-players-only rule reach media outlets, and Kiera's safe haven becomes a point of national discussion. When an anonymous troll enters the game and threatens to sue over discrimination, Kiera is determined to protect herself, her game, and her Blackness in a world that doesn't understand. More info →
This one's not new but it's new to me, and I just recommended it on What Should I Read Next? Episode 243, "Predicting the next great American classic." This is a heartwarming, heartbreaking, laugh, cry, and clutch-the-book-to-your-chest-after-reading graphic novel. In 1963, Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray meet and fall in love as they come-of-age. But society rejects their love, and their families force them apart. Both women marry men and have families of their own, resulting in grandchildren and plenty of responsibilities. Decades later, both women are in their 60's when they unexpectedly meet at a Bingo hall. Their feelings for each other rush back, and the grandmothers take a risk for happiness and love. The illustrations are beautiful in this own voices queer love story. More info →
Have you read any fabulous joyous books by Black authors lately? Share your favorite titles in the comments.
P.P.S. We also share other creators’ top-notch content—including regular book lists and #ownvoices reviews and reading reflections—in our weekly Links I Love posts. (To receive those by email, visit our subscribe page and make sure you’re signed up for the blog post option.)