10 new novels by Black authors with heart, humor, and supremely satisfying endings

10 new novels by Black authors with heart, humor, and supremely satisfying endings

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!

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10 new joyous novels by Black authors to enjoy

The City We Became: A Novel

The City We Became: A Novel

Author:
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 →
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Party of Two

Party of Two

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 →
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The Poet X

The Poet X

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 →
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Deacon King Kong

Deacon King Kong

Author:
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 →
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You Should See Me in a Crown

You Should See Me in a Crown

Author:
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 →
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The Voting Booth

The Voting Booth

Author:
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 →
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The Boyfriend Project

The Boyfriend Project

Author:
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 →
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Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Let Me Hear a Rhyme

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 →
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Slay

Slay

Author:
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 →
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Bingo Love

Bingo Love

Author:
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 →
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Have you read any fabulous joyous books by Black authors lately? Share your favorite titles in the comments.

P.S. Keep adding to your library holds list with 20 terrific titles from #ownvoices and #diversebooks authors and celebrate Black History all year long with 101 powerful books by Black authors.

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.)

10 new novels by Black authors with heart, humor, and supremely satisfying endings

41 comments | Comment

41 comments

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  1. Donna Bijas says:

    Some good titles here. I’ve read The Poet X plus her new one Clap When You Land (you should add that to your list). Also read Deacon King Kong. Huge fan of McBride. Currently reading Conversations in Black by Gordon which is excellent. Girl Woman Other, The Undocumented Americans, The Revisioners, Sister Outsider are others I’ve enjoyed. Great writing all around.

    • Tienne says:

      This one and her previous, Half Blood Blues (which also won the Giller Prize) are amazing! HBB stuck with me for months.

  2. Jes says:

    This is a fantastic list! I have read The Duke, A Lady and A Baby by Vanessa Riley. A fun regency romance with strong female characters. The main character is from the West Indies and the book, although lighthearted in tone, deals with the serious issues of racism.

  3. Anissa says:

    Thank you for this list:
    Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown—so good!
    Graphic novel series Check Please—look up author bc I’ll spell wrong—it’s delightful and will make you happy, and we all need some of that right now!
    Get A Life Chloe Brown—Talia Hibbert and she has a new one just out I haven’t read yet but heard great things about Take A Hint, Dani Brown—great romances!

  4. Tracie says:

    This is great! I have heard several Black authors say that it’s important not only to read anti-racist books (and then do the work), but also to read about Black joy, Black people living multifaceted lives.

    I have read and enjoyed several of the above. Also, Take a Hint, Dani Brown is awesome. (As is the first book in the series: Get a Life, Chloe Brown). They’re open door romance.

    Rebel is my first Beverly Jenkins historical romance and I really liked it.

    All of the “Reluctant Royals” books by Alyssa Cole are great, open door romances.

    Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor are great YA books that I enjoyed on audio.

    Of course there’s Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. So excited to see she was longlisted for the Booker Prize!

  5. KT says:

    New Kid by Jerry Craft was a laugh out loud funny graphic novel appropriate for as young as elementary kids.

    As for what’s on my list… Besides many of what you’ve listed here I have had Kindred by Octavia E. Butler on my list for a while.

    Fascinating (but not “happy”) ones I read this year: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead). That last one won the Pulitzer in 2016 and fully deserved it. Can’t recommend it enough.

    • Rachel says:

      I’ve got Octavia Butler on my TBR list too, especially Parable of the Sower.

      New Kid is amazing! I still laugh thinking about that two-page spread of the main character missing his grandfather. I appreciated how nuanced it was compared to most school stories. Jerry Craft’s sequel, Class Act, is coming out soon and I’m looking forward to it!

  6. Carrie Padgett says:

    I recently read Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Not humorous by excellent. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory, book 2 of The Wedding Date series was a lot of fun. A Long Time Comin’ by Robin Pearson was amazing! About 3 generations.
    Piper Hughley writes wonderful historical novels.
    Looking ahead, I’m excited for Wild Women and the Blues, a debut coming early 2021 by Denny S. Bryce.

  7. You definitely need to include the “Faith and Fortune” series by Toni Shiloh in this list. All three books will be available by the end of summer. “The Trouble with Love,” “The Truth About Fame,” and “The Price of Dreams” which is available the end of August.

  8. Faith says:

    Here are two 2020 books by Black women, aimed more towards middle grade/YA:
    This is My American by Kim Johnson (highlights equivalent of Innocence Project working with death row inmates when wrongly convicted; protagonist writes them repeatedly, begging for their intervention in her father’s case)
    The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones (1950s in the South — biracial high schooler sent to live with white aunt and uncle, only black person in unfriendly town, forms friendship with gregarious, creative Juniper Jones)

  9. Alicia Fortier says:

    “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat” by Edward Kelsey Moore
    Good story of three women and their relationships. The author’s blurb on the book is a great description of what I loved about it.

    “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is rooted in the fond memories I have of a childhood spent eavesdropping on the women of my family as they talked at family gatherings. Even when I was too young to fully understand the often very adult subject matter or their conversations, I was struck by how quickly the topics veered for the heartbreakingly tragic to wildly hilarious. My intention in writing this novel was to celebrate the joy of true friendship and to invite readers to remember the smart, funny and strong women in their lives.”

    His love for the characters really comes through in this and it made me enjoy being in their world. An uplifting read.

  10. Carrie B says:

    I just finished Genesis Begins Again, a middle grade novel by Alicia D. Williams. Oh my! It had me laughing, it had me crying and it had me cheering. Not always an easy read but so good!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for list, Anne, and thank you to all the readers that have added their suggestions as well. I did enjoy Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, The Mothers by Brit Bennett.

  12. Carrie Hodges says:

    I love your lists, but I wish their format made it easy to screen shoot just one page —if it’s only ten or twelve. I use these shots as reference all the time.

  13. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke was a great mystery set in East Texas where the main character is a Black Texas Ranger. There’s a sequel with the same character that I haven’t read yet but I enjoyed Bluebird, Bluebird very much!

  14. Carol Hansen says:

    I recommend American Marriage, Washington Black, and I liked her Half Blood Blues even more, The Hate You Give, everything by Jaqueline Woodson, Sadie Smith, Ta N’ehisi Coates, and Colin Whitehead.

  15. Wendy Barker says:

    The Water Dancer by Ta-Nahesi Coates was quite wonderful. I also recently read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor which is certainly not new (it first came out in 1976) but it is a classic about growing up black in the south during the Depression.

  16. Michelle says:

    Just read “You Should See Me in a Crown” and loved it!! So sweet and fresh and fun. Put a hold on “Bingo Love” – thanks for sharing some queer pics Anne!!! 💖🌈

    I have “The City We Became” on my nightstand and can’t wait to crack into it!!

  17. Debi says:

    Loved The Vanishing Half. Great story. Shocking ending. Truly a good read. I did not know that the shade of your skin made your life different so it was a good life lesson.

  18. Megan says:

    Esi Edugyan is one of my favourites! Also Helen Oyeyemi doesn’t get recommended nearly often enough. Everything she writes is great, but my favourite is What is Not Yours is Not Yours.

  19. Kayla says:

    Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson was visceral and moving. I am not typically drawn to poetry/books in verse, but this is a beautiful special piece of writing.

  20. LoisAnn says:

    I was really hoping there was a new book by Attica Locke on this list. I read Black Water Rising and couldn’t wait to read Pleasantville and The Cutting Season. This lady can tell a story and make you experience what the characters are feeling.

  21. RuthAnn says:

    I loved “Notes from a young black chef”. The book includes recipes. But I listened so I didn’t get recipes. Still a really good book.

  22. Sarah E Jackson says:

    The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet, If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin, Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

  23. Lisa says:

    I loved Deacon King Kong but my husband is having trouble getting into it. I’ll suggest he try the audio book. Thanks!

  24. Jennifer says:

    I highly recommend With the Fire on High also by Elizabeth Acevedo. It is a wonderful story but prepare to be hungry while you read it! I’m currently reading From Scratch by Tembi Locke and am really enjoying that one as well.

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