I know this is a little late in the month to be getting this post up, but I still wanted to share a few of my favorite books that are perfect for Black History Month. Although, let’s be honest: these books are perfect any time of the year. Personally, I think they’re all amazing pieces of literature made even more amazing by the diversity of their characters, themes, and authors. Each of these books deals with race in a different way, and each of them has contributed to my education of racial issues. I highly recommend all of them.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. This book is about a young black girl who wants one thing: blue eyes. She prays for them every night, thinking that blue eyes will give her the ability to leave her abusive family. I don’t normally love Morrison’s writing (it’s just hard for me, personally, to connect with it), but I’ve read several of her books and definitely think everyone should read something of hers at least once. This one has stayed with me the longest, and I think made the most impact on me. It’s brilliant. It also provides a brief look at what life was like for black families in the years before the Civil Rights Movement.
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This is an alternate history in which the underground railroad is a literal railroad. I used to live in Boston right next door to what once served as one of the final stops on the underground railroad (and is now the African American History Museum), and as a history major, I learned a lot about the real history, and loved seeing Whitehead’s take on it. It’s fascinating as an alternate history, but what I loved most is how personal it felt.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I love, love, love this book! It focuses on the lives of women of color in Georgia in the 1930s. The main character, Celie, is abused by her father, and then her husband before realizing her own strength. It’s touching and empowering and I just can’t recommend it enough!
- Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. This one is actually a Snow White retelling that takes place in Massachusetts in the 1950s. If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t love it, but it was entirely worth reading for two reasons. First, it was an introduction to Helen Oyeyemi’s writing (I’m currently reading another one of her books and really loving it). And second, it explored race and skin color and beauty in a really interesting way that definitely left me thinking for a long time.
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I read this in an American Studies class in college, so I think it’s cemented in my brain as an important book when it comes to black history. It explores race relations across the country – from the Deep South to the streets of Harlem – in 1952. It’s been a while since I read this one, so I’m actually planning on rereading it soon.
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. This is the first (and so far only) book I’ve read that actually directly addresses the Black Lives Matter movement. And it does so brilliantly! I really enjoying reading this take on race relations in the twenty-first century, because it’s something I think everyone should be aware of.
Because this list doesn’t feel at all conclusive, I decided to include a few books from my TBR that I think would also be great books to read for Black History Month:
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Do you have any books I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments! I’m always open to suggestions, and I’m sure others will appreciate them as well!