BOOKS: 13 Must-Reads by Black Authors to Add To Your Library

In light of the recent events surrounding racial and social injustice around the country, knowing our history, as part of our eternal quest to “stay woke,” is more important than ever. While many of us are experiencing a new movement unfolding right before our eyes, scholars, experts and even regular folks with stories to tell, have been putting their experiences to the page to enlighten generations.

The publishing industry suffers from the same lack of diversity and racial biases that plague society at large. While many books don’t make school reading lists or even the New York Times Bestsellers List, there are countless classics that break down the Black experience in America.

It’s hardly a complete list, which could go on for volumes, but it’s a great starting point:

1. The Mis-Education of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson

Portrait of Carter Woodson
Carter Woodson (Source: Hulton Archive / Getty)

This book is of primary importance in understanding the legacy of slavery and how it affects Black Americans’ perspectives in society. The book essentially argues that Black Americans are not educated, but rather conditioned in American society. It challenges Black Americans to “do for themselves” outside of the constructs that are set up for them.

2. And Still I RiseMaya Angelou

Maya Angelou Signs Copies Of 'Maya Angelou: Letter to My Daughter' - October 30, 2008
Maya Angelou (Source: Jemal Countess / Getty)

This is one of the most affirming books you will ever read. Technically, it is a collection of poems which focus on hope, determination and overcoming struggle. It contains one of Angelou’s most famous poems, Phenomenal Woman.

3. The Souls of Black FolkW. E. B. Du Bois

Portrait of W.E.B. DuBois
W.E.B. DuBois (Source: Underwood Archives / Getty)

One of the most important books on race in sociology and African-American studies, it is a collection of essays that Du Bois wrote by drawing from his personal experiences. Two of the most profound social concepts – The Veil And Double Consciousness were written about in this book which have come to be widely known as part of the experience of being Black in America.

4. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
'The Color Purple' TimesTalks: Jennifer Hudson, Cynthia Erivo, Alice Walker, John Doyle
Alice Walker (Source: D Dipasupil / Getty)

You may have seen the movie from Steven Spielberg or the recent Broadway musical, but I highly encourage you read this powerful novel, too. The book explores in depth the low position Black women are given in society through the lens of a particular group of women. The story explores both interpersonal turmoil and socially-inflicted violence toward Black women, as well as the bonds they share.

5. Things Fall ApartChinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe (Source: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / Getty)

This book is among the most critically acclaimed ever written by an African author. Through the character Okonkwo, his family and the experiences of his village, Achebe tells the tale of colonization and its effects on African communities, particularly in Nigerian traditional social life. 

6. Go Tell It On The Mountain, James Baldwin

Ulf Andersen Archive - James Baldwin
James Baldwin (Source: Ulf Andersen / Getty)

In this book, Baldwin looks at multiple sides of the effects of Christianity on Black Americans, while also examining racism. He explores controversial topics, such as the hypocrisy and oppression Black Americans have been indoctrinated with as part of their faith in the Christian Church, as well as how it provided a source for overcoming many struggles.

7. Long Walk To FreedomNelson Mandela

History of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela (Source: Per-Anders Pettersson / Getty)

Widely-known as one of the world’s greatest modern leaders, the late Nelson Mandela retells the story of his youth growing up in apartheid South Africa, as well as his time of spending 27 years in jail in this autobiography. Mandela also provides one of the best in-depth examinations of the political and social implications of apartheid as well.

8. Dreams from My FatherBarack Obama

President Obama Arrives In Air Force One At LAX
President Barack Obama (Source: Michael Kovac / Getty)

In this heartfelt memoir, President Obama shares deeply personal accounts from his youth as he examines his life growing up biracial in the country. The book chronicles his experience up until attending Harvard Law School, and offers an inside look at the man who would make history as the first African American president of the United States.

9. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander


Through one of the most important books in understanding the fallacies of colorblindness and the concept of a post-racial society, Alexander explains how the “War on Drugs” is a racist tool that the country uses to create a prison industrial complex, which is highly-racialized and adversely affecting Black Americans.

10. Americanah, Chimamanda Negozi Adichie

Reading List

Americanah is a tale of love, race, and the essence of being an African living in America. It breaks down the experience of being an outsider in terms of nationality and race, all through a complicated, vivid and emotional love story of two Nigerians living outside of their homeland.

11. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Correspondent for The Atlantic Magazine, wrote the cover piece about reparations in this month's issue...
Ta-Nehisi Coates (Source: The Washington Post / Getty)

One of the finest works written on race this year, Coates tells his story through letters to his son. The letters, both personal and profound, detail his experiences and feelings about being a Black male in America. Seen as the successor to Baldwin’s thoughts and ideas, Coates writes bluntly about the lack of racial progress in modern America.

12. Sula, Toni Morrison

toni morrison
Toni Morrison (Source: PATRICK KOVARIK / Getty)

Winner of the Nobel prize, Sula tells the story of two friends who meet in their small town in Ohio. As they go through their lives, bound by love and a terrible secret, the women take profoundly different paths. The book — beautiful, funny and devastating — chronicles the painful experiences Black women often endure through their personal and social experiences.

13. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison (Source: Keystone / Getty)

The 1952 masterpiece of author Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man chronicles the depths of socio-political issues facing African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. The crux of his work is the complicated dynamics of Black nationalism, Marxism and bigotry. His work was unparalleled in its examination of the minds of the victims of racism, as well as its aggressors.

article by Kovie Biakolo via

6 thoughts on “BOOKS: 13 Must-Reads by Black Authors to Add To Your Library”

  1. You forgot one — it’s modern, it’s real, it’s hard, it’s compelling, it’s raw — “Love Conquers All: How Love Delivered Her from Cancer and Him from Prison,” by Lenny & Vandy Singleton. This crosses bridges. Written in letter format, it is a like peeking into the lives and souls of these two people. Here is a recent review — made by a black man in prison — “Love Conquers All…A beautiful love story between two souls who have reunited with one another after traveling through their respective worlds of adversity for nearly 30 nears apart. Lenny and Vandy’s story has an esoteric feel that touches the higher emotions. Love Conquers All is truly inspiring and thus, a must read!” Visit to learn more and get your copy today!

  2. Reblogged this on Thought Provoking Perspectives and commented:
    They left on phenomenal novel of the list JUST A SEASON; One of my reviewers say, “… this is the stuff movies are made of… not since “Roots” have I read anything that so succinctly chronicles an African American story.” Amazing! Another said, “Not since The Color Purple have I read a book that evoked such emotions. John T. Wills possesses the ability to transport the reader directly into the life and struggles of his main characters story.” – for more info and reviews. This book is the best gift you can give this holiday season!!!

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