This month, I have been focusing on highlighting black authors. And I planned this post for the perfect day, because this week is actually #BlackPublishingPower week! This is an initiative to buy more books by black authors. They’re asking that everyone purchase two books by black authors this week and Blackout the bestseller lists I think this is awesome, and already participated! (I purchased Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, which I loved, but didn’t own and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, which is on my reading list for this year.) Read more about #BlackPublishingPower and #BlackoutBestsellerList here.
I have read a lot of amazing books by black authors (and will be reading more this year), so it was a little bit difficult to narrow down this list. That said, I have not read nearly enough of them, so this list is not even close to being comprehensive. They’re just my personal favorites as of June 2020. But hopefully they give you some ideas to shop for this week.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
I read this book back in January and have not stopped thinking about it. It completely blew me away. This is known as the first sci-fi novel by a black woman, and you could not have asked for a better book to have that title. It’s about a black woman, from the 1970s, who gets pulled back in time to the 1800s to save her ancestor. Who just happens to be the son of a white slave-holder. The premise is brilliant. You can probably imagine how much conflict arises, but it’s done so well.
I loved this book so much! I would be shocked if this does not end up on my favorites list this year. It’s amazing that it has taken me until this year to finally read Octavia Butler. But I’m kind of glad it did, because I appreciated this so much more in my thirties than I would have in my teens or twenties. Sometimes books find you at the right time, and this was definitely one of those cases.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Like Kindred, The Color Purple a classic for a reason. It’s about Celie, a young black woman born in the American South at the beginning of the 20th century. She is subjected to repeated abuse by her father and then her husband. And she is kind of beaten down. Until she meets a woman who finally sees her for herself, and helps Celie free herself from her past.
This book is not the easiest to read (there is a lot of hardship and abuse), but it’s still so hopeful. I just wanted to give Celie a hug. It’s one of those books that is worth the tough beginning, because it will leave you smiling.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I don’t even know how to begin with this book. It just utterly blew me away, and I still feel kind of speechless when I try to talk about it. It’s about two half-sisters in Ghana. One marries an English general and the other is sold into slaver in America. It follows their descendants and shows the very different paths each line takes.
It’s also one of the best things I’ve ever read. I cannot believe this was Yaa Gyasi’s debut (or that she is younger than I am – which does not make me feel at all totally incompetent). I read this a while ago, and still find myself talking about it or recommending it quite a bit. It’s one of those books I will probably come back to over and over. It really feels like a piece of literature that is going to cement itself into must-read lists for years, just like the two books above it.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
This is a new 2020 release, but it’s been everywhere. And for good reason. Honestly, when I picked it up, I was a little bit skeptical about it living up to the hype. But I loved it! It’s such a brilliant discussion of race as it pertains to our current society. It’s a story we see all the time (especially lately), where a black person is minding their own business and is discriminated against for no reason. And then it blows up on social media.
I loved this commentary on how that looks from a black person’s perspective. It’s interesting to think about. Because, like the main character here, I think I would want to just leave it alone so I can forget about it. But I also see how amplifying stories like that are impactful. It’s a strange balance we have to find, and this book made me look more closely at it.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
I love Trevor Noah. I have made several people watch his comedy specials on Netflix (seriously, go watch them, you won’t regret it). And while I like him as a late show host and a comedian, I didn’t really know much about him, other than that he was from South Africa. But his life in South Africa turned out to be absolutely fascinating (also, his mother is a total badass). I know this book gets a lot of hype, but it’s totally justified. This book is just that good.
I read a decent number of memoirs, most of them by celebrities. And this is easily in my top five. I do love Trevor Noah, but I think this book is so good, I would have loved it just as much if it had been written by someone I wasn’t familiar with. His writing is just compulsively readable. And Ioved it. Highly recommend!
We Should all Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is is less than a hundred pages, but it’s one of the most impactful things I’ve ever read. Adichie lays out her argument for being a feminist so eloquently and convincingly. I truly believe we should all be feminists. And I’m glad this book exists to provide some great arguments to have in your back pocket. (I might need to reread this soon so I remember them better.) I think everyone should read this. It’ll take you less than an hour, and you will be better for it.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Yet another debut novel that kind of blew my mind. Akwaeke Emezi is a nonbinary author (who has been very open about her experiences, and I’ve learned a lot from her). In Freshwater, she depicts a character with a fractured self. And it is fascinating! It’s a reminder that we don’t all experience the world the same way. And it definitely changed my way of thinking.
You know those books where when you finish the last page, you have to put them down and stare at the wall for a little bit? This is one of those. It’s completely unique and like nothing I’ve ever read. I know this is probably not for everyone, but it is definitely my kind of book!
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I’m pretty sure you’ve all heard of this book. It’s about a teenage girl and how she deals with the aftermath of watching her unarmed friend be killed by police. It’s basically a novel starring the Black Lives Matter movement. And it’s one I think is so important. It left a huge impact on me, personally. And it makes me so happy to know that this book is out in the world for young readers (and that it’s getting the attention it deserves).
It takes a lot these days for a contemporary young adult novel to end up on my favorites list, but this one did it. I loved it. I haven’t read Angie Thomas’s sophomore novel, On the Come Up, but it’s on my list for this year!
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
I devoured this entire trilogy (and immediately went out and bought Akata Witch). This is one of the best things I have ever read, for so many reasons. First of all, it still amazes me how Okorafor managed to fit what feels like a full sci-fi novel in less than a hundred pages. The world building alone felt like it should take longer than that. But beyond that, the story itself is incredible. I think it’s a great story of two different cultures coming together, but in space. I’m a pretty big sci-fi reader, but this might just be a top ten sci-fi book for me.
I still can’t get over the fact that this is ninety pages and truly packed as much of a punch as some six-hundred page sci-fi novels I’ve read. (And was even more impactful than a few of them.)
Hunger by Roxane Gay
We all know Roxane Gay from Bad Feminist (which I still haven’t read) and her routine takedowns of Twitter trolls. But I think this book is how I will always think of her. It’s her memoir of being a fat black woman, and it is easily one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read. (I made my cousin read it, and she agrees.) This is definitely a very emotional book, but it is worth every second. Yet another memoir that has made my top five (I should probably post a list at some point).
That’s it for this post! I hope you enjoyed it and that you maybe found a new book or two to check out!
More to Read
This is the last post I have planned spotlighting black authors, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading them or featuring them on this blog! Check out my post on the changes I’m making going forward both as a reader and a book blogger.
And if you want more books by black authors to add to your reading list (including some new releases) check out the twelve books by black authors on my reading list this year.
Also, my most anticipated 2020 releases by black authors (I published it back in February, so some of them have already been released!)