The current global uprisings demanding justice for Black lives ushered in a call for liberation through reading the work of Black authors. While necessary, nearly every list featured the same litany of books by the same classic authors. As a result, I decided to craft a list along with another bibliophile Jessica Hite of contemporary works by Black writers that we think everyone should read.
The list contains literature that was published within the last five years because decades are markers of cultural shifts, and thus, within this timeframe, writing has shifted to be more inclusive. These excellent works span across the Black diaspora and include nuanced Black stories of mysterious, satire, thriller, and romance. We wanted the books to show nuanced and complicated Black stories and lived experiences through a variety of writing that moves away from stereotypes and the mainstream and white supremacist idea that, as a people, we are a monolith.
As readers, Jessica and I prefer fiction over other genres despite being writers of non-fiction and poetry. We find that novels uphold the most truth about the societies we live in. It allows for a writer’s imagination to flow freely without the association of shame, judgment, or a need to conform to traditional ideologies of a dominant culture. While at the same time highlighting those gray areas of morality, leaving room for discourse and learning. Although not on the list, our current favorite books are Salvage Bones by Jesmyn Ward and James Baldwin: The Last Interview: And Other Conversations.
Check out the list below and share your reviews if you’ve read any or want to suggest others. Jessica’s Good Reads account is a great place for honest reviews.
- Queenie – Candace Carty-Williams
- Patsy – Nicole Dennis Benn
- My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
- In West Mills – De’Shawn Charles Winslow
- Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
- Friday Black – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
- Red at the Bone – Jacqueline Woodson
- The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
- Real Life – Brandon Taylor
- The Sellout – Paul Beatty
- An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
- How We Fight for Our Lives – Saeed Jones
- The Yellow House – Sarah Broom
- I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying – Bassey Ikpi
- Heavy – Kiese Laymon
- Notes from a Young Black Chef – Kwame Onwuachi
- Negroland – Margo Jefferson
- Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own – Eddie Glaude
- Living In Color: What’s Funny About Me – Tommy Davidson
- The Tradition – Jericho Brown
- Build Yourself a Boat – Camonghne Felix
- Don’t Call Us Dead – Danez Smith
- Wild Hundreds – Nate Marshall
- Black Girl Magic: The Breakbeat Poets Vol.2 – Mahogany L Browne, Idrissa Simmonds, and Jamila Woods
- My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter – Aja Monet
Here’s a super cool directory of Black-owned bookstores that could use your support.