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100 of the best books by Black Americans

100 of the best books by Black Americans

Books change lives. They have the power to inspire revolutions, transform government policy, and reveal to us our common humanity even when the people we read about have experiences that differ wildly from our own. Books also offer a platform for stories to be told that have otherwise gone unheard, giving a voice to the voiceless and effecting change.

Stacker compiled a list of 100 of the best books by Black Americans. The titles presented here are spread out between centuries, genres, subject matter, and themes. To create the list, we referred to major Black-owned platforms such as Shondaland, Essence, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Stacker also used social media and Black reading groups such as Women of Color in Romance and popular book platforms such as Book Riot and Goodreads. The list contains historical fiction, mystery, sci-fi, sociology, political commentary, poetry, cookbooks, and many more.

Black American authors have done integral work illuminating centuries of abuse, enslavement, and discrimination; and they have brought us thousands of rich, contemporary works of romance, comedy, kinship, family, and mystery. From thousands of slave narratives to a bestselling memoir from the first Black first lady of the United States, Black writers help to document a more holistic American experience that represents all of us.

Keep reading to find out more about 100 of the best books by Black Americans.

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Such a Fun Age

- Author: Kiley Reid
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

"Such a Fun Age" explores the intersections of growing up, race, and work. The book centers on the story of a 25-year-old Black babysitter who is accused of kidnapping the child in her care. The book is author Kiley Reid's debut novel.

I Almost Forgot About You

- Author: Terry McMillan
- Date published: 2016
- Genre: Romance, Fiction

“I Almost Forgot About You” tells the story of a woman in her 50s who decides to change her life and finds love in the process. Author Terry McMillan is a #1 New York Times’ bestselling author known for novels such as “Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”

It’s Not All Downhill From Here

- Author: Terry McMillan
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

“It’s Not All Downhill From Here” tells the coming-of-age story of a suddenly widowed 68-year-old woman determined to make the best of her life. The book takes a hard look at the inevitability of loss, mental health, and stepping out of your former self. Of the main character, author Terry McMillan told NPR "I I didn't know that she was going to lose her husband until—I mean, I just—I become the character. I became Lo... I was a mess before I even wrote it."

The Travelers

- Author: Regina Porter
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Historical Fiction

"The Travelers” follows the story of two families, one Black and one white, throughout six decades of American and world history.  The story jumps back and forth through time periods, stitching together a complex tapestry of human experiences and represents Regina Porter's debut novel.

Lot: Stories

- Author: Bryan Washington
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Short Stories, Fiction, LGBT

Bryan Washington draws on short stories and his own upbringing in Houston to explore the lives of Houstonians in “Lot.” The book celebrates themes of race, growth, and LGBT life. The book is Washington’s first; it made it onto Barack Obama’s “Favorite Books of the Year” list in 2019.

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The Water Dancer

- Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

“The Water Dancer” is about an enslaved man with a gift for memory. Gaining freedom, the protagonist begins to assist in the freeing of other enslaved people. The story uses themes of magic and spiritualism to paint an intriguing view of history. The book is also listed in Oprah’s Book Club.

What We Lose

- Author: Zinzi Clemmons
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

In her debut novel, Zinzi Clemmons writes the tale of a Black woman moving on after losing her mother to cancer. The stunning coming-of-age story has received critical acclaim; similarly to the book's main character, Clemmons lost her mother to cancer while coming into adulthood.

Sleeping With Strangers

- Author: Eric Jerome Dickey
- Date published: 2007
- Genre: Fiction

“Sleeping With Strangers,” book one in the five-part “Gideon” series, is a thriller about a hitman that involves themes of sex, violence, and family. Author Eric Jerome Dickey is a New York Times bestselling author whose 1997 effort “Friends and Lovers” was adapted into a film in 2015.

Everything Inside

- Author: Edwidge Danticat
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Short Stories, Fiction, Contemporary

“Everything Inside” is a collection of short stories addressing the different ways people confront death—their own, their parents', their children's, and their friends. Author Edwidge Danticat's writing is crisp and unflinching as it crisscrosses relationships and geographic locations.


- Author: Beverly Jenkins
- Date published: 1996
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Beverly Jenkins is a Michigan-born writer of romance novels. She has been writing since 1994, and her historical romances are loved and well-received. “Indigo” is the story of a woman who escapes slavery and becomes a member of the Underground Railroad. When a man comes into her care, their love story begins.

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Rebel: Women Who Dare

- Author: Beverly Jenkins
- Date published: 2019
-Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

In one of her latest novels “Rebel,” Beverly Jenkins sets a love story in New Orleans. The story follows a woman as she falls for a man who does not meet her father’s approval. Differing from “Indigo,” this story takes place in the time period after the Civil War. The book is the first in the “Women Who Dare” series.


- Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT

Nicole Dennis-Benn is a Jamaican-born, New York-based writer who received acclaim with her debut novel “Here Comes the Sun.” In her second book “Patsy,” we meet a Jamaican woman who travels to New York on a visa to reunite with her old love, Cicely, with no intention of returning home.


- Author: Yaa Gyasi
- Date published: 2016
- Genre: Historical Fiction

“Homegoing” is a piece of historical fiction centering around two half-sisters who end up having incredibly different lives: One is sold into slavery while the other marries an Englishman. Thenovel follows the women and their families through the centuries. Yaa Gyasi is Ghanian American who works as a professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Clap When You Land

- Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Poetry

In “Clap When You Land,” two girls discover they are sisters through the death of their father. The story explores family secrets, sisterhood, and the intersections of American and Dominican culture. New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo is a Dominican American writer and poet whose work often navigates themes of Afro Latinidad identity, coming of age, and family.

With the Fire on High

- Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

In “With the Fire on High,” Elizabeth Acevedo writes of a single, teen mother in Philadelphia with a passion for cooking. The book explores themes of motherhood, responsibility, and family.

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Red at the Bone

- Author: Jacqueline Woodson
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

“Red at the Bone” documents a 16-year-old’s coming-of-age and the family history that brought her where she is in life. The book made it onto the New York Times bestseller list; author Jacqueline Woodson is also an award-winning writer of children’s books.

Brown Girl Dreaming

- Author: Jacqueline Woodson
- Date published: 2014
- Genre: Nonfiction, Poetry, Children’s

In “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Jacqueline Woodson writes poems through the lens of herself as a childhood. Raised in New York and South Carolina, Woodson navigates the contrasts of the plains and the desires of her younger self. The book earned the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. At times during her writing career, Woodson has caused some controversy for using curse words in children's books and exploring themes of sexuality. Woodson’s book “Miracle’s Boys” was adapted into a miniseries by Spike Lee in 2015.

Children of Blood and Bone

- Author: Tomi Adeyemi
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Tomi Adeyemi’s bestselling debut novel “Children of the Blood and Bone” is the first book in the “Legacy of Orisha” series and is currently being adapted to film. Vann R. Newkirk II of the Atlantic characterized the book as a "Black Lives Matter-inspired fantasy novel."

The Hate U Give

- Author: Angie Thomas
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

"The Hate U Give" follows a teen girl who witnesses a murder at the hands of the police and explores themes of friendship, race, family, grief, police brutality, and American politics. The book is author Angie Thomas' debut novel; it ascended to a #1 New York Times bestseller and was adapted to film in 2018.

Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick: Stories From the Harlem Renaissance

- Author: Zora Neale Hurston
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Classics, Short Stories

Zora Neale Hurston, widely ranked among the greatest American authors of all time, was also a filmmaker and anthropologist. Her work often looked at race issues from the early 20th century; her most popular novel, "Their Eyes Were Watching God" (see next slide), came out in 1937. Although she died in 1960, “Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick” is a newly released collection of short stories written during the Harlem Renaissance.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

- Author: Zora Neale Hurston
- Date published: 1937
- Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction

Their Eyes Were Watching God” is considered a classic work of American literature and is required reading in most high school English classes. In it, we follow the main character, Janie Crawford, as she navigates her identity over the course of three marriages. The book, which highlights an independent, strong, Black woman, went largely overlooked by men when it was first released. Out of print for three decades, it was reissued in 1978.

Moses, Man of the Mountain

- Author: Zora Neale Hurston
- Date published: 1939
- Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction

In “Moses, Man of the Mountain,” Zora Neale Hurston rewrites the story of Moses of the biblical Old Testament, mixing the tale with folklore and the Black experience. The book is considered one of Neale Hurston’s best and is revered as a classic.

An American Marriage

- Author: Tayari Jones
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

“An American Marriage” tells the story of a young couple suddenly separated by a wrongful conviction. The love fades over the years and forces the couple to confront difficult questions after the conviction is overturned. The novel is an Oprah’s Book Club selection and is a New York Times Notable Book.


- Author: Toni Morrison
- Date published: 1987
- Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction

“Beloved” is the late Toni Morrison' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a Black woman living in the United States following the Civil War. The main character was inspired by Margaret Garner, an African American woman enslaved in Kentucky who in 1856 escaped by crossing the Ohio River.

Bloodchild and Other Stories

- Author: Octavia E. Butler
- Date published: 1995
- Genre: Science Fiction, Short Stories

“Bloodchild and Other Stories” is a collection of short stories from acclaimed science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler. that were originally published in 1995, with a second edition published in 2005. Her dark fictions function as parables for real life. From the collection, "Bloodchild" won the Hugo and Nebula awards; "Speech Sounds" also earned a Hugo Award.

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Friday Black

- Author: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Short Stories, Fiction, Science Fiction

“Friday Black” is The New York Times bestseller debut by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. The collection of short stories is set in a dystopian world and explores themes of racism and Black identity through satire, the surreal, and characterizations of cultural unrest.

In West Mills

- Author: De’Shawn Charles Winslow
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Historical Fiction

De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s debut novel “In West Mills” takes place in North Carolina, where the author was born and raised. The work of historical fiction is the story of a woman determined to live life as she pleases. The book follows themes of family, friendships, and life in a small town.

The Accidental Hunter

- Author: Nelson George
- Date published: 2005
- Genre: Fiction, Mystery

“The Accidental Hunter” is a mystery story that takes place in New York. It is book one in the “D Hunter” book series. Nelson George is an award-winning author, music and culture critic, producer, and filmmaker. He’s written several books and has produced various TV shows and films, including “Surviving R. Kelly.” Nelson has won a Grammy for best album notes and various other awards.

Team Seven

- Author: Marcus Burke
- Date published: 2014
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction

“Team Seven” is author Marcus Burke's debut novel that takes a close look at Black inner-city life. In it we meet Andre Battel, a Jamaican American teen coming of age just south of Boston in Milton, Massachusetts. The book, which follows Battel as he grows apart from his family, finds new parts of himself on the basketball court, and gets tangled up in selling drugs, explores themes of family, the inner city, and community whiel drawing on Burke's own experiences growing up in Massachusetts.


The Residue Years

- Author: Mitchell S. Jackson
- Date published: 2013
- Genre: Fiction, Crime, Contemporary

“The Residue Years” is the autobiographical fiction by Mitchell S. Jackson about his early life in Portland, Oregon. It tells the story of a teen who takes to selling drugs in order to make ends meet. The novel is about family and growing up in the difficult circumstances poverty produces. The novel won multiple awards and was adapted into a documentary film in 2014.

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All Our Names

- Author: Dinaw Mengestu
- Date published: 2014
- Genre: Historical Fiction

All Our Names” explores concepts of belonging, identity, and immigration as it follows the story of two friends living in Uganda in the early '70s who get swept up in a revolution. Author Dinaw Mengestu was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Chicago. He has written various works, including commentary on conflicts and war in Africa.

The Bewildered Bride

- Author: Vanessa Riley
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Vanessa Riley writes enchanting historical romances reminiscent of aristocratic life. “The Bewildered Bride” is book four in the “Advertisements for Love” series. Each book is a stand-alone and details stories of extravagant affairs.

The Art of Love

- Author: Suzette D. Harrison
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

“The Art of Love” is a romance novel set in the age of prohibition as an artist and bootlegger fall in love and face the dangers of the time. The book is the fourth in the “Decades: A Journey of African American Romance” series, comprised of books by different authors that explore romance in different time periods. Suzette D. Harrison is a baker and writer who graduated from the University of California with a degree in Black studies. Harrison writes fiction and romance.

Love’s Serenade

- Author: Sheryl Lister
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

“Love’s Serenade” is the story of a woman fleeing an arranged marriage and chasing her dream to be a singer; leaving her family in the South, heading to New York City, and finding love. The love story takes place during the Harlem Renaissance and is the third book in the “Decades: A Journey of African American Romance” series. Author Sheryl Lister resides in California and is a member of the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

An Extraordinary Union

- Author: Alyssa Cole
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Alyssa Cole is an award-winning writer in the romance, science fiction, and historical fiction genres. “An Extraordinary Union” is about an enslaved woman who gains freedom and falls in love with a white man. The book has received various praises for its descriptive nature and sensitivity despite being written about interracial romance during the Civil War.

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Once Ghosted, Twice Shy

- Author: Alyssa Cole
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction, LGBT

Differing from the historical theme in “An Extraordinary Union,” in “”Once Ghosted, Twice Shy” Alyssa Cole writes of a queer romance in modern-day New York. After meeting on a dating app, the couple is estranged but somehow run into each other on the subway. The story explores rekindled love in modern times.

See Me

- Author: Michele Arris
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Romance, Fiction, Contemporary

“See Me,” the first book in the “Tycoon Temptation” series, is a novel about a professional rivalry-turned-romance. Author Michelle Arris is an award-winning author who specializes in seductive, romantic fiction.

Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard

- Author: Echo Brown
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary

Echo Brown is a storyteller and author from Cleveland. In her debut novel, “Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard,” Brown uses magic to paint her autobiographical fiction masterpiece about a Black girl and wizard learning to navigate between two worlds.

Saving Savannah

- Author: Tonya Bolden
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Young adult novel “Saving Savannah” takes place in 1919 Washington D.C. and follows Savannah Riddle, a 17-year-old Black girl from a high-class family who is uncomfortable with her privilege. When Savannah meets a working-class girl named Nella, she's inspired to engage in the suffragette movement.

Riot Baby

- Author: Tochi Onyebuchi
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

In the critically acclaimed “Riot Baby,” author Tochi Onyebuchi describes the story of two siblings: a brother who is wrongfully convicted and his sister who has special powers. Onyebuchi is a Nigerian American civil rights lawyer and science fiction writer. He studied at Yale University, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Instituts d’études politiques in France, and Columbia University.

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Beasts Made of Night

- Author: Tochi Onyebuchi
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

In “Beasts Made of Night,” Tochi Onyebuchi uses his Nigerian background to write a thrilling fantasy. The novel, described by Penguin Random House as "Black Panther meets Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch," received various acclaim from outlets including NPR and BuzzFeed. “Beasts Made of Night” is the first installment of the series by the same name.

The Worst Best Man

- Author: Mia Sosa
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Romance, Fiction, Contemporary

In “The Worst Best Man,” a woman is forced to work with her ex-fiance’s brother who encouraged the fiance to leave her at the altar. An unlikely spark forms between the pair. The novel has received various praise for its wit and humor.

The Long Fall: Leonid McGill

- Author: Walter Mosley
- Date published: 2008
- Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Fiction

“The Long Fall” is the first book in a series that follows protagonist Leonid McGill, a 53-year-old New York City investigator who has made a career out of working for the mob. The series comes from acclaimed and bestselling crime author Walter Mosley, who has more than 50 books in his catalogue.

The Only Black Girls in Town

- Author: Brandy Colbert
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Middle-aged Fiction, Contemporary

“The Only Black Girls in Town” is a story about a middle-school friendship between two girls, Alberta and Edie. Adventure unfolds when the girls find an old box of journals that hold surprising secrets about the past.


- Author: Brandy Colbert
- Date published: 2014
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery

Differing from the lighthearted theme in “The Only Black Girls in Town,” Brandy Colbert writes a shocking story of friendship in “Pointe.” The book is about a ballet dancer and her friend who returns home after being kidnapped for several years.

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When You Were Everything

- Author: Ashley Woodfolk
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

“When You Were Everything” is Ashley Woodfolk’s second book. Instead of common young-adult themes of falling in love, Woodfolk takes readers on a journey through the end of a friendship via two concurrent timelines. The book grapples with themes of uncertainty, new beginnings, growth, and forgiveness.

The City We Became

- Author: N.K. Jemisin
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

In “The City We Became,” science fiction author and psychologist N.K. Jemisin brings ancient magic to New York City. The novel centers around the disappearance of New York's avatar and the coming together of five new avatars (each representing one of New York's five boroughs) to set things right.

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted

- Author: Jayne Allen
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: New Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Jayne Allen's debut novel “Black Girls Must Die Exhausted” centers around a woman seeking to start a family who gets sidelined by a difficult medical diagnosis. The book sees her being tested in her relationship with her partner, herself, and her friends.

The Boyfriend Project

- Author: Farrah Rochon
- Date published: 2020
- Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Louisiana native Farrah Rochon is a USA Today bestselling author. In contemporary romance “The Boyfriend Project,” three girls become friends after discovering they’re dating the same man through Twitter. It is book one in a three-part series.

The Wedding Date

- Author: Jasmine Guillory
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

Jasmine Guillory is a romantic fiction writer. In “The Wedding Date,” a man finds the perfect date to his ex’s wedding—a complete stranger he meets in an elevator. This is book one in “The Wedding Date” series. It is also Guilory’s debut novel and was featured in Cosmopolitan’s "33 Books to Get Excited About" in 2018.

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Native Son

- Author: Richard Wright
- Date published: 1940
- Genre: Classics, Fiction, Race, Criminal Justice

The acclaimed “Native Son” is the story of a Black man living in poverty who commits a crime. The overwhelming theme of the novel is the despair that Black Americans constantly face. “Native Son” became a bestseller at the time of its publication in 1940. The novel was adapted into a film in 2019.

Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems

- Author: Danez Smith
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Poetry, Race, LGBT

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, HIV-positive writer and performer from Minnesota. “Don’t Call Us Dead” is a powerful collection of poems regarding race in America.

Dien Cai Dau

- Author: Yusef Komunyakaa
- Date published: 1988
- Genre: Poetry, War

The recipient of numerous literary awards, Yusef Komunyakaa is an American poet from Louisiana who has written several acclaimed pieces of work. “Dien Cai Dau” is a collection of poems regarding the Vietnam war. Komunyakaa was a journalist during the war and the poems speak of his experiences.

The Body’s Question: Poems

- Author: Tracy K. Smith
- Date published: 2003
- Genre: Poetry

Tracy K. Smith is a Harvard graduate and American poet who was raised in California. She has won a Pulitzer Prize for her work and is critically acclaimed. In “The Body’s Question,” she explores identity and race within the African American diaspora.

Boy With Thorn

- Author: Rickey Laurentiis
- Date published: 2015
- Genre: Poetry, Race, LGBT, History

Rickey Laurentiis is an acclaimed poet from New Orleans. “Boy with Thorn” represents his debut collection in a series of poems that take an unapologetic look at history, sexuality, violence, and race in the American South. The collection of poems is a winner of various awards.

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Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night

- Author: Morgan Parker
- Date published: 2015
- Genre: Poetry, Feminism

In Morgan Parker's debut collection of poetry, “Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night,” the author explores themes of equality in a modern age. Her criticisms of American culture touch on a sense of the American dream's diminishing returns.

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé

- Author: Morgan Parker
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Poetry, Feminism, Womanhood

“There Are Things More Beautiful Than Beyoncé” is a highly-celebrated collection of poems that take a long, hard look at Black womanhood and claps back at common American clichés. The poetry is rich and fearless with haunting lines like "At school they learned that Black people happened. The present is not so different. I'm looking into their Black faces. They do not understand that they exist."

I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood

- Author: Tiana Clark
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Poetry, Race

I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood” explores the history of race in America while poet Tiana Clark exposes her own vulnerabilities, anger, and pain. The title references Clark's inability to interact with the South without seeing its bloody, complicated past. Entries in the collection include heavy hitters like "Nashville," "Soil Horizon," and "The Ayes Have It."

We Hope This Reaches You in Time

- Authors: Samantha King Holmes, R.H. Sin
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Poetry

“We Hope This Reaches You in Time” is a collection of poems and prose by husband-and-wife duo Samantha King Holmes and R.H. Sin. The pair's collection of love poems cover the rawness of heartbreak and the terrifying nature of vulnerability.


She Just Wants to Forget

- Author: R.H. Sin
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Poetry

In “She Just Wants to Forget,” R.H. Sin explores themes of discovery. The collection is geared toward strong women done with wasting their energy and thoughts on the wrong people. "She Just Wants to Forget" is the follow-up to Sin's New York Times bestselling collection "She Felt Like Feeling Nothing." 

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The Underground Railroad

- Author: Whitehead Colson
- Date published: 2016
- Genre: Historical Fiction

Whitehead Colson's Pulitzer Prize-winning sixth novel is an odyssey that reveals the horrors faced by Black Americans in the pre-Civil War South while also providing an allegory for the modern-day. In the story, characters Cora and Caesar take the ultimate risk and try to escape slavery. Cora ends up killing a white boy who tries to catch her, adding a new dimension of danger as the pair is hunted while risking it all to head north.

The Color Purple

- Author: Alice Walker
- Date published: 1982
- Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction

Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winner "The Color Purple" follows the life of Celie, a 14-year-old African American girl being raised rural Georgia, over the course of four decades through letters she writes to God. Facing abuse from her father, estrangement from her sister Nettie, pervasive bigotry and subjugation, this masterpiece is at once a stunning coming-of-age novel and mirror reflecting many elements of America's dark past.

Iola Leroy

- Author: Frances E. W. Harper
- Date published: 1892
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Classics

Frances E. W. Harper, one of the first Black women to be published, was an abolitionist, writer, and suffragette born in 1825 in Baltimore. Her classic novel "Iola Leroy" is about an enslaved woman with a white complexion and blue eyes who becomes a nurse in the Union army. A doctor, assuming she is white, begins to fall in love with her but is tormented when he realizes she is Black. Various scholars consider the story to be one of the first romance novels.

Brown Girl, Brownstones

- Author: Paule Marshall
- Date published: 1959
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Classics

Revered novelist and Brooklynite Paule Marshall's 1959 debut novel follows the lives of Barbadian immigrants in Brooklyn during the Great Depression and World War II. The protagonists seek to transcend their poverty and overcome the racism around them as they make a home in a new country. The book was adapted into a drama by CBS Television in 1960.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

- Author: Frederick Douglass
- Date published: 1845
- Genre: Classic, Autobiography, Nonfiction

The famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass' memoir was written while he was living in Massachusetts and chronicles his harrowing escape from slavery in 1838, which he accomplished by posing as a free sailor and boarding a Philadelphia-bound train. The book was published to prove his history—many at the time doubted someone as educated as him could have been enslaved—and as a call to arms to abolish slavery.

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Up From Slavery

- Author: Booker T. Washington
- Date published: 1901
- Genre: Classic, Autobiography, Nonfiction

Booker T. Washington was an author, educator, and a post-Civil War leader in the Black community. “Up From Slavery” is his autobiography about his upbringing as an enslaved boy and how he later achieved an education.

The Women of Brewster Place

- Author: Gloria Naylor
- Date published: 1982
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Classics, Short Stories

Gloria Naylor was an award-winning writer who debuted “The Women of Brewster Place” in 1982. The novel is broken out into seven parts: Six follow individual women living in the Brewster Place housing development; the seventh is about the community there as a whole. The book was adapted into a television show in 1990 by Harpo Productions.

The Souls of Black Folk

- Author: W.E.B. Du Bois
- Date published: 1903
- Genre: Nonfiction, Sociology, Essays, Race, Classics

Civil rights activist, writer, historian, and sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois' classic “The Souls of Black Folk” contains  essays regarding race and sociology. In this book, Du Bois also argues against ideas by Booker T. Washington of what progress should look like for Black Americans.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

- Author: Maya Angelou
- Date published: 1969
- Genre: Classic, Autobiography, Memoir

One of the most-recognized writers American literature, Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist and celebrated thinker. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is one of her most-acclaimed memoirs and has a standing spot on most essential reading lists.

Invisible Man

- Author: Ralph Ellison
- Date published: 1952
- Genre: Classics, Fiction, Race

Ralph Ellison was a novelist and scholar. “Invisible Man” is an award-winning novel that explores racial divides in the United States. It won the National Book Award in 1953 and is an American classic.

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The Street

- Author: Ann Petry
- Date published: 1946
- Genre: Classics, Fiction, Race

Ann Petry was a writer and journalist. Her novel “The Street” is the story of a woman in World War II-era Harlem who is navigating the horrors of racism and functions as a commentary on social injustice.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

- Authors: Malcolm X, Alex Haley
- Date published: 1965
- Genre: Autobiography, Race, Classics

Civil rights-era activist and speaker Malcolm X's “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” chronicles the civil rights leader's upbringing and coming-of-age. The book was the result of a collaboration between Malcolm X and renowned journalist Alex Haley.

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

- Author: Ibram X. Kendi
- Date published: 2016
- Genre: Nonfiction, History, Race

“Stamped From the Beginning” is a history of racism and racist policy in the United States. The book was written by historian, writer, and scholar Ibram X. Kendi. This work of historical nonfiction has received multiple awards and is a New York Times bestseller.

So You Want to Talk About Race

- Author: Ijeoma Oluo
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Nonfiction, Race

Ijeoma Oluo is a Nigerian American writer who has published works in various media platforms. In “So You Want To Talk About Race,” she dives headfirst into a modern-day exploration of race issues with a series of hard-hitting essays that are essential reading for anyone looking to contextualize the issues of today.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

- Author: Michelle Alexander
- Date published: 2010
- Genre: Nonfiction, History, Race, Criminal Justice, Politics

Michelle Alexander is a writer, professor, and activist. “The New Jim Crow” is a New York Times bestseller that describes the harrowing history and policy of slavery, criminal justice, race, and mass incarceration.

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The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and Making Modern Urban America

- Author: Khalil Gibran Muhammad
- Date published: 2010
- Genre: Nonfiction, History, Race, Criminal Justice, Politics

Khalil Gibran Muhammad is a Harvard professor and writer. In “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and Making Modern Urban America,” Muhammad outlines the deep-rooted racial ideas within the United States and how they came to be. The book explores urban policy, intersectionality, history, and racism.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

- Author: Isabel Wilkerson
- Date published: 2010
- Genre: Nonfiction, History, Race

Isabel Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author. “The Warmth of Other Suns” is a history of the Great Migration, a time period when thousands of Black Americans moved from the Jim Crow South to the North in search of a better life.

Between the World and Me

- Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Date published: 2015
- Genre: Nonfiction, History, Race, Memoir

In “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates pens a powerful memoir and history of race in America packaged as a letter to the Coates' teenage son about the experience of being Black in the United States. The book is a #1 New York Times bestseller and has received various accolades.

Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond

- Author: Marc Lamont Hill
- Date published: 2016
- Genre: Nonfiction, History, Race, Criminal Justice, Politics

Marc Lamont Hill is a professor, academic, and writer. In “Nobody,” Lamont Hill analyzes Black deaths at the hands of the state. The book is critically acclaimed for its contemporary analysis of the ongoing issue of racialized state violence.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity

- Author: Beverly Daniel Tatum
- Date published: 2003
- Genre: Nonfiction, Race, Psychology

Beverly Daniel Tatum is a psychologist and educator. “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” is an analysis of racism and psychology, and required reading in many Black studies classes in American colleges. A national bestseller, a new edition of this book was released in 2017 that focuses on many of the same racial topics as they relate to schools today.

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Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy

- Author: Darryl Pinckney
- Date published: 2014
- Genre: Nonfiction, History, Race, Politics

Darryl Pinckney is a novelist and author. In “Blackballed,” he explores the Black vote within American politics using a combination of analysis, history, and memoir.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

- Author: Harriet Jacobs
- Date published: 1861
- Genre: Classic, Autobiography, Nonfiction

Harriet Jacobs was a writer who was born into slavery. “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” is her autobiography. It describes her life as a fugitive and her early upbringing, and has been reported to be the most-read narrative written by a female about her life during slavery.

Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

- Author: Bell Hooks
- Date published: 1981
- Genre: Nonfiction, Feminism, Intersectionality

Bell Hooks is a feminist, writer, and activist. In “Ain’t I a Woman,” Hooks writes about feminist history and theory in relation to a racial experience. It is a classic work that delves into a myriad of issues that have impacted Black women, from sexism during slavery to feminism.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf

- Author: Ntozake Shange
- Date published: 1975
- Genre: Musical

Ntozake Shange was a playwright and poet. “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” was her first work and was award-winning. The play was adapted into a film “For Colored Girls” in 2010.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

- Author: Roxane Gay
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Roxanne Gay is an award-winning social commentator, professor, and writer. “Hunger” is Gay’s well-praised memoir in which Gay reflects on her struggles with self-image and weight.

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Bad Feminist

- Author: Roxane Gay
- Date published: 2014
- Genre: Nonfiction, Feminism, Intersectionality

“Bad Feminist” is Roxane Gay's New York Times bestseller exploring modern ideas of feminism through essays and self-reflective commentary. She tackles the politics and culture of being a feminist, including the pressure to fit an impossible-to-conform-to feminist mold.

Sister Outsider

- Author: Audre Lorde
- Date published: 1984
- Genre: Nonfiction, Feminism, Intersectionality, LGBT

“Sister Outsider” is considered a classic in intersectional feminist theory and LGBTQ+ studies from Audre Lorde, a queer feminist, activist, and writer. The collection pulls together Lorde's most poignant speeches and essays tackling everything from race and activism to cancer and motherhood.

Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

- Author: Barack Obama
- Date published: 1995
- Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

In “Dreams From My Father,” former U.S. President Barack Obama pens a touching memoir of his life that begins when he learns of his father’s death and leads him on a journey in search of his own value as a Black man. Through his own storytelling, Obama takes readers on an exploration of human identity, race politics, and class issues.

Grand Union

- Author: Zadie Smith
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Short Stories, Fiction, Contemporary

“Grand Union” is a collection of short stories that cover an array of themes including race, aging, and gender with political tones throughout. The collection, which at various times alludes to presidents Trump and Obama as well as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, is Zadie Smith's first book of short fiction.

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves

- Author: Glory Edim
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Nonfiction, Essays, Women

Well-Read Black Girl” is a collection of stories from well-known Black women, assembled by writer and entrepreneur Glory Edim, the Well-Read Black Girl book club founder. Stories are designed to create a space for Black girls and women to discover characters and experiences that are at once relatable and inspiring—and to expand the horizons of other readers hungry for more diverse perspectives.

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Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

- Author: ZZ Packer
- Date published: 2003
- Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

ZZ Packer's debut book “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” is a collection of short stories that explore what it means to not belong. Entries explore the lives of Black men and women in various small American towns and grapples with American history from the early '60s through the '90s.

Known and Strange Things: Essays

- Author: Teju Cole
- Date published: 2016
- Genre: Nonfiction, Essays

“Known and Strange Things” is a collection of essays from award-winning art historian and author Teju Cole that bridges African and Western art and delves bravely into history and politics, among a myriad of other topics. The collection features more than 50 pieces that, among other things, take a fresh look at subjects like James Baldwin, Shakespeare, and Barack Obama.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More

- Author: Janet Mock
- Date published: 2014
- Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, LGBT, Trans Rights

Janet Mock is a TV host, director, and trans rights activist. “Redefining Realness” is her memoir and expresses her journey as a trans woman. The book is a New York Times bestseller.

How We Fight For Our Lives

- Author: Saeed Jones
- Date published: 2019
- Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, LGBT

Saeed Jones' memoir about growing up as a Black gay man in the South intricately lays out his coming-of-age story with unapologetic depth and honesty. Adding another, stunning layer to the work is Jones' ability to pull back and contextualize his own stories with history and social commentary; illustrating a larger framework of a shared human experience.

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

- Author: Michael W. Twitty
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Food, History, Cookbook, Memoir

In his award-winning “The Cooking Gene,” culinary historian Michael W. Twitty weaves memoir and culinary history into a rich discussion about race. Diving into the roots of Southern African American cuisine, Twitty brings readers from Africa to the United States via his own ancestry and the fascinating, complicated politics of soul food, barbecue, and other distinctly Southern styles.

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The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

- Author: Issa Rae
- Date published: 2015
- Genre: Nonfiction, Essays, Memoir

“The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” is a collection of comedic essays based on author Issa Rae’s wildly successful web series of the same name. The self-deprecating series of stories covers everything from natural hair to eating out alone.

Year of Yes

- Author: Shonda Rhimes
- Date published: 2015
- Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography

In “Year of Yes,” author Shonda Rhimes explores how a year of saying yes transformed her life. Rhimes is an award-winning writer and TV producer who made a name for herself with “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Princess Diaries 2,” “Scandal,” and “How To Get Away With Murder,” among many other works.

We’re Going to Need More Wine

- Author: Gabrielle Union
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography

“We’re Going to Need More Wine” is a collection of essays detailing author Gabrielle Union's life as an actress in Hollywood. At once touching and hilarious, Union seamlessly weaves her life story into larger discussions about trauma, racial identity, and family.

The Last Black Unicorn

- Author: Tiffany Haddish
- Date published: 2017
- Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

In “The Last Black Unicorn,” author, actress, and comedian Tiffany Haddish tells the true story of her upbringing in foster care and how she got her start in entertainment.


- Author: Michelle Obama
- Date published: 2018
- Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir

Former first lady and activist Michelle Obama's touching memoir "Becoming" is a #1 New York Times bestseller and now a documentary on Netflix. The book covers Obama's upbringing, highlighting the people who influenced and pushed her, motherhood, her time in the White House, and virtually everything in between. 

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