There have been some great conversations lately about the importance of black voices in publishing. I have always tried to make an effort to read more books by authors of color. And I’m not doing great with that goal. I need to do better. Especially when it comes to black authors. So, I decided to come up with a list of ten books by black authors that I really want to read in 2020.
I’m very excited about this list. It’s a mix of fiction, nonfiction, backlist, and new releases. I think it’s important that we read the nonfiction books to educate ourselves AND read the fiction books so that we learn the value of black stories. All of them are important.
There are about six months left in the year – and you all know I have to challenge myself – so I chose twelve books by black authors to read by the end of 2020. Because we should be reading these constantly, and not when the Black Lives Matter movement is brought to our attention. Knowing me, I’ll probably end up reading more than what’s on this list. But I think this is a great starting point.
Stamped From the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
This was already on my planned reading list for this month (for an upcoming blog project) and it just felt like fate. I actually already started the audiobook, and I can tell this is just going to be amazing. I’m prepared to learn a lot, and also be angry that this is still happening. Which is just what I need. I’m so glad to see so many BookTubers and bloggers are reading Stamped from the Beginning (or the shorter, YA version: Stamped) this month.
I’ve always loved history, but I think we all know history was mostly written by white people. One of my goals (probably over the next few years) is to fill in those gaps, so that I have a more complete view of history in my own head. This book seems like a really great step towards that goal.
Transcendant Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
I’ll be honest. I had to look up the synopsis for this post, because I had no idea what this book is about. Yaa Gyasi absolutely blew me away with Homegoing, so I’m going to read anything she writes from now on. Even if it makes me feel inadequate because she’s younger than me and has already written a masterpiece. It’s fine. I’m fine.
Anyway, this book is about a Ghanan family in Alabama dealing with depression, addiction, and grief. It sounds like a really great family drama with a nice helping of science. and I would like to read it right now, please. But I’ll have to wait until September like everyone else. Totally fine. I’ll just read the other books on this list until then. But I’m warning you now, I am dropping everything the second this comes in the mail.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Another author whose debut (Freshwater) was so incredible, I added their new book to my to-read list without even checking what it was about. This one is set in Nigeria, and is about what unfolds after a mother opens her front door to find her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric. I am guessing this book will be darkly whimsical, which is not something I knew I wanted until I read Freshwater.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
This is another book that I was already planning on reading for an upcoming “secret TBR” project (there is no way you will ever guess what this one is about). It hasn’t gotten great reviews, but I am curious about it. The synopsis is giving me The Color Purple vibes, and I love that book so much, so I have to read this one.
Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston is just one of those authors that I feel like I have to read, but haven’t gotten to yet. And my inner history nerd cannot resist this book. It’s an account of Cudjo, the last living slave who was transported to American on a cargo ship. Hurston personally interviewed Cudjo for this book. It’s probably going to make me deeply uncomfortable, but it’s something I need to read.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Because I couldn’t have this list being entirely drama and the history of slavery (I would really like to not be super-depressed when this is over), I had to add a romance. I loved Hibbert’s first book Get a Life, Chloe Brown, when I read it earlier this year. This one is a follow-up featuring Chloe’s sister. Normally, I don’t really like these kinds of romance novels that just follow a different couple in the same story. But Hibbert’s writing was just so fun, I am making an exception.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
I just got this one in the mail, and I am very excited to read it. It’s the story of two African-American twin sisters who choose to live very different lives. One embraces her black heritage. The other passes as white and does not even tell her husband. I am so intrigued by this premise!
It reminds me a little bit of Homegoing (where one sister marries a white general in Ghana and the other is sold into slavery). I think stories like this do a great job at highlighting the differences between black and white experiences.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadette Evaristo
I’ve mentioned before that there are two people whose book recommendations I almost always love. And they are Bill Gates and Barack Obama. I was honestly on the fence about this one until Obama put it on his 2019 favorites list. It also won the Booker Prize last year, and I tend to enjoy most Booker winners.
This book follows twelve characters (mostly women) who are both black and British. I read Why I No Longer Talk to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge last year, and realized how little I know about racial issues in the UK. It’s just something that never crossed my mind. But it’s something I want to know more about. I already read nonfiction, so I think it’ll be nice to read a fiction book about black Brits to lear more.
Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
This novel centers around three women living in the South before and after the Civil War. And it just sounds amazing. There are secrets and an accursed child and superstition. Every time I read the synopsis, I just get really excited to read it. It’s also a debut novel, and I have a feeling Afia Atakora might just be a new author for me to watch.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
This has been on my TBR for a while. I think we’re all aware of how racist our current prison system is. And the more I hear about it (especially lately), the more I realize just how terrible it is for everyone involved. It’s something I really want to know more about. Because it’s an issue I want to feel confident speaking out about. I’m starting to be more confident arguing with people who don’t really understand racism. And the more facts I have in my pocket, the more I can stand up to people who refuse to acknowledge their own privilege.
I just like to have the tools to back up my own outrage. And I feel outrage at how black people are being treated in regards to our “justice” system. I want to know more about why.
Know the Beginning Well: An Inside Journey Through Five Decades of African Development by K. Y. Amoako
This book was not on my radar at all. But yesterday I got an email from this author’s publicist. Now, if I’m being honest, I just really don’t have time to respond to all of the review requests I get (sorry). But this one definitely caught my attention. Amoako has worked in the field of African development for decades (including with the UN) and founded the African Center for Economic Transformation.
This book is all about Africa’s economy. It examines policies, people, and institutions that have shaped Africa’s history and how it can change going forward. Economics is not really my strong suit (it’s the only course I
maybe failed in college). But this just sounds so interesting! I realized that, in trying to learn more about black history, I have never really learned much about Africa. And this seems like a really great way to begin.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
I loved The Hate U Give so much. (If you haven’t read it, go do it right now – I’m serious.) And I’m pretty sure I preordered this one. It’s been living on my shelves, unread, for a year. Oops. I’ll be honest, rap and rap culture is not really my thing. So while I love Angie Thomas, this just didn’t sound like my kind of book. However, I am wiling to give it a shot. Because I am still thinking about The Hate U Give three years later.
I am honestly very excited about all of the books on this list. I think it’s a great mix of educational and entertaining. And I also think it’s going to contribute very well to my goal of reading more authors of color in 2020.
Let me know in the comments which books you think I should add to my list! Is there a book by a black author you’re looking forward to reading?