Books by Black authors to read right now | Wholesome Culture
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From intense, gripping words by Claudia Rankine to empowering, self-love motivation by Chidera Eggerue — these are 22 incredible books written by Black authors to read at least once. (And before you get too cozy in your reading spot, be sure to grab a pen first. These reads are packed with passages you’ll want to revisit later.)

NOTE: We included links to, a site dedicated to supporting local, independent bookstores. Here’s how it works: click on “Find a Bookstore” and look for a shop in your area! Two bookstores that have become favorites to team members at WC are Cafe Con Libros and Ashay by the Bay — both of which are run by Black women.

22 books by Black authors to read (and then, re-read) right now

1. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Rankine’s observations on everyday encounters with racism makes Citizen a must-read. And go here to watch Rankine read a portion of her book.  It’s worth a listen. 

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“Yes, and the body has memory. The physical carriage hauls more than its weight. The body is the threshold across which each objectionable call passes into consciousness—all the unintimidated, unblinking, and unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived through, even as we are eternally stupid or everlastingly optimistic, so ready to be inside, among, a part of the games.” • “Another friend tells you you have to learn not to absorb the world. She says sometimes she can hear her own voice saying silently to whomever—you are saying this thing and I am not going to accept it. Your friend refuses to carry what doesn’t belong to her.” • Thank you to everyone who urged me to read this book, yesterday. I read it within two hours this morning, and cried most of the time. A lot of what I read from this book hit very close to home. This should be required reading for everyone.

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2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

You’ve likely already seen this book on a friend’s bookshelf, somewhere on Instagram, or on another “must-read books” list — and it’s for good reason. Coates offers thoughtful discussion on not only America’s past and present, but also the future. You’ll also see Toni Morrison is quoted on the front cover, calling this book “required reading” — which is enough in itself to make us read it more than once. 

3. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This profound and complex book by Ward follows a Mississippi family blighted by drugs and prison. Her other books, such as Salvage the Bones and Where the Line Bleeds, are also extremely powerful reads.

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Sing, Unburied, Sing // Jesmyn Ward 〰 “And then I fell, dove into the dirt, and it parted like a wave. I burrowed in tight. Needing to be held by the dark hand of the earth. To be blind to the men above. To memory. It came anyway. I was no more and then I was again.” 〰 This magnificent book follows a biracial family’s journey through the deep south to pick up their father from prison. It gives a heartbreaking glimpse into the historical and modern prison system. And the ghosts don’t hurt. When I finished this book I just sat and cried for a minute…I just want to hug Jojo and Richie. I also just want to stare at a blank wall and process my feelings. Read this book, I beg you! 〰 #SingUnburiedSing #JesmynWard

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4. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

While this book by Adichie is small in size, it’s packed with incredible insight. By examining ingrained gender expectations in everyday interactions, Adichie records how women are questioned differently than men in hotels, by wait staff, and within the household. In these seemingly small moments that often go unchallenged, Adichie argues, is exactly where gender inequality persists from generation to generation. (We recommend ordering two copies because once you read this book, you’ll want to share it.) 

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A less quoted passage from We Should All be Feminists, but one I find myself thinking about often: “The first time I taught a writing class in graduate school, I was worried. Not about the teaching material, because I was well prepared and I was teaching what I enjoyed. Instead I was worried about what to wear. I wanted to be taken seriously. I knew that because I was female, I would automatically have to prove my worth. And I was worried that if I looked too feminine, I would not be taken seriously. I really wanted to wear my shiny lip gloss and my girly skirt, but I decided not to. I wore a very serious, very manly, and very ugly suit. The sad truth of the matter is that when it comes to appearance, we start off with men as the standard, as the norm. Many of us think that the less feminine a woman appears, the more likely she is to be taken seriously. A man going to a business meeting doesn’t wonder about being taken seriously based on what he is wearing—but a woman does.” -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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5. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

This book by Carty-Williams centers on a 25-year-old Jamaican-born woman living in London. As the character straddles two different cultures, she finds herself questioning her identity, purpose, and path. The story is relatable, funny, and inclusive — perfect for anyone looking to laugh while they learn. 

6. Hunger by Roxane Gay

Race, fat-shaming, and womanhood are written about with vulnerable intensity in this memoir by Gay. The book is divided into six parts and 88 chapters, floating between autobiography, cultural criticism, and social analysis. Then, after you finish this one, pick up her other book, Bad Feminist

7. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

This book by Guillory follows the journey between an interracial couple after they meet in an elevator (swoon-worthy!). The couple’s romance is fun and engaging to read, and it also offers insight into the unique challenges interracial couples face. If you enjoy this book, grab Guillory’s other books The Proposal, The Wedding Party, and Party of Two

8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

While so many lines in this memoir are worth quoting, we’ll just pick one: “If you’re for the right thing, you do it without thinking.” Let’s just say, this is one of those books that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. 

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Thanks @randomhouse for gifting me this modern classic! 😍 ••• I’m finishing February off with I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I’m almost half way through, and it’s both a marvel and heartbreaking. I think that’s because it’s still the beginning of Maya’s story. But I’m still finding pieces of wisdom on almost every page. ••• “Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” ••• ••• What book are you ending February with? • • • #mayaangelou #iknowwhythecagedbirdsings #modernclassics #literature #bibliophile #fromabove #flatlaystyle #flatlay #bookstagram #booksbooksbooks #allthebooks #bookseverywhere #reader #igreads #instareads #booksofinstagram #bookaddict #cozybooks #bookworm #bookishlove

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9. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This timely YA book — inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement — shows a Black teenager finding her voice and refusing to be silent , even when it’s terrifying to speak up. And once you finish reading Thomas’ words, you can also watch the movie based on the book. 

10. Beloved by Toni Morrison

This Pulitzer Prize winning book is a sensational story on racism and slavery in the United States. It’s an important book that challenges readers to take a harder look at the painfulness of tenacious, unyielding racism.

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Beloved by Toni Morrison ⁣ ⁣ Happy New Week Beloveds 🤣🤣 and I'm officially back to regular posting. ⁣ ⁣ So, we know words can be magical but can a person be magical? Because clearly, Toni Morrison was magical. ⁣⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️5 ⁣ I finally read Beloved and I’m still in awe! ⁣ To start off Beloved is not an easy read, but once you decipher it, you are good go. The book is magical, poetic, intense, complex and enthralling. The story inspired by Margaret Garner who ”killed her own daughter to keep her from being returned to slavery”⁣ ⁣ Beloved is a symbol of how horrendous the impact of slavery was. The psychological trauma it had for a mother to opted to kill her children rather than having them dragged back to slavery. How the ghosts of the action came to hunt and consume her whole being. ⁣ ⁣ ”What she called the nastiness of life was the shock she received upon learning that nobody stopped playing checkers just because the pieces included her children.”⁣ ⁣ #⁣nalireads #namibianbookblogger #namibianblogger #booksofinstagram #booksofafrica #afticanbooks #africanreaders #booknerds #igreads #belovedtonimorrison ⁣ ⁣#bookstagramafrica #africanliterature #pyschologicalthriller #historicalfiction

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11. Becoming by Michelle Obama

It’s easy to lose time reading this record-breaking memoir. Obama’s writing is effortless, and her stories from childhood to becoming the First Lady are just as captivating as they are inspiring. In the mood to listen rather than read? The audio book is narrated by Michelle Obama herself! 

12. Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim

This moving collection of essays will make you feel deeply inspired by both the women sharing their stories and the books that have influenced each of their lives. 

13. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

A Black babysitter’s good intentions are turned upside down when a security guard accuses her of kidnapping. The story is thoughtful and surprising, and Reid’s language reads so effortlessly — you may just get to the end sooner than you like! 

14. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

If you want to be more educated on criminal justice reform and mass incarceration amongst Black communities, this book by Alexander is a non-negotiable read. 

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Let’s talk about difficult, but important books. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander reads like a textbook, but oh boy, it’s one of the most crucial books I’ve ever read. Alexander looks at how the legal system views people of color, and more specifically black men, taking a deep dive into how black men are targeted in the War on Drugs, therefore creating racial control through the prison system. It’s important to note that this book was published in the Obama era-I can only imagine the additional issues on race in the US that would be covered if it had been published in 2019. I’m so curious to know: what is an important social issue book that you’ve read? I would love to create a reading list. I will forever and always also recommend Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc and have had Evicted by Matthew Desmond on my TBR for far too long. ——————————————————————————— “The genius of the current caste system, and what most distinguishes it from its predecessors, is that it appears voluntary. People choose to commit crimes, and that's why they are locked up or locked out, we are told. This feature makes the politics of responsibility particularly tempting, as it appears the system can be avoided with good behavior. But herein lies the trap. All people make mistakes. All of us are sinners. All of us are criminals. All of us violate the law at some point in our lives. In fact, if the worst thing you have ever done is speed ten miles over the speed limit on the freeway, you have put yourself and others at more risk of harm than someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of his or her living room. Yet there are people in the United States serving life sentences for first-time drug offenses, something virtually unheard of anywhere else in the world.”

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15. My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera

This beautifully illustrated and written children’s book shows one young girl’s journey of learning to find her Black hair beautiful. Also, the book includes actionable tips on how to care for Black hair lovingly. 

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My Hair is a Garden is quite simply a gorgeous book. The illustrations are breathtaking and the message is even better. There is styling tips and information in the back of the book (even recipes!) which makes this a wonderful gift for any little Black kid beginning the journey of caring for their own hair. It’s also just a wonderful book for any kid to see the other side of bullying, and finding self-love and self-acceptance. A very happy library find for us! ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ 🌱💁🏿‍♀️🌷⠀ ⠀ ⠀ @cozbi @albertwhitman ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ 🌷💁🏿‍♀️🌱⠀ ⠀ #myhairisagarden #melaningirlreads #melaninbabies #blackparents #blackkidshairstyles #blackkids #mindfulnessforkids #mindfulkids #kidlit #kidlitart #illustration #kidsillustration #picturebook #readaloud #kidbooks #booksforkids #diversity #inclusion #diversityandinclusion #diversitymatters #inclusionmatters #antibully #friendship #consciousparenting #socialactivism #afamilyisafamily #raisingkids #conversationstarters #childrensbooks #kidsbookstagram

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16. What a Time to be Alone by Chidera Eggerue

Eggerue’s words provide all the inspiration to take yourself out on a date, be your own best friend, and find empowerment in loving your own company. The pages are bright, the words are bold, and the self-love message shines from cover to cover. (P.S. Eggerue’s Instagram is a must-follow, too.) 

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There isn’t a book on this earth that exists like WHAT A TIME TO BE ALONE. I was almost talked out of the book title because it sounded ‘too gloomy’. I was also almost talked out of creating it to be a colourfully-paged book because the printing costs were too expensive for such a high risk new author like me. (Some people didn’t think it would sell very well as a debut author) I out-sold my advance within a year of publication – 50,000+ copies and counting, to be precise. I wrote the book in two languages to honour my Igbo language, knowing that the world needs an Afro-British literary fusion and I wasn’t willing to wait for it to become trendy. Powerful things happen when you create what you want to see. There is no creator like you.

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17. Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin

This book centers on a teenager living in Harlem, and his relationships to his family and church. Baldwin’s writing is mesmerizing, as he describes self-discovery, loneliness, and desire in a way that truly transports you into his character’s world. 

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Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin. A gorgeous semi-autobiographical novel surrounding the themes of race, sexuality, and religion. As John turns fourteen he struggles with his family dynamic and the church he has grown up in. I loved learning about the family background person by person, revealing each persons strengths and struggles one by one. “ The menfolk, they die, all right. And it's us women who walk around, like the Bible says, and mourn. The menfolk, they die, and it's over for them, but we women, we have to keep on living and try to forget what they done to us. “ There are so many amazing quotes I could pull from this novel that still ring true today. Baldwin’s writing is as always eye opening and poetic.

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18.You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson 

Funny, smart, and full of pop-culture references, Robinson’s book discusses race and gender in an approachable and entertaining way. While her anecdotes may make you laugh, the amount of racism she faces in her everyday life will make you want to push for a changed, better world. 

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#YouCantTouchMYHair, my first ever book, which is published by @plume_books is now available for PRE-ORDER!!! WHUT?!?!?!?! Y'all, it feels like I've been knighted by Michael Fassbender's peen – #AGirlCanDream – and now I'm in the exclusive club of Dames with Judi Dench and Helen Mirren in which they trash talk Pierce Brosnan and Malcolm MacDowell, because of course that's what Judi and Helen do. ANYWAY! The point is I'm very excited about this book. It's a culmination of all the skills I've acquired doing stand-up over the past 8 years and blogging over the past four years on my Blaria blog and places like Vulture and Vanity Fair. And I use these skillz to talk about gender (dub X chromosome life rules), race (being black is like wearing Spanx: it's tight AF in a good way, but also slightly uncomf), and pop culture (The Rock is amazing and if we ever had sex,, he would snap my hips like a wishbone during Thanksgiving. #PassTheCranberrySauce). In short, y'all are going to LOVE this book. At least that's my hope, so go ahead and pre-order it NOW wherever books are sold because all those sales count toward first week sales and we're trying to get this bad boy to debut on the NYT Best Sellers List, which has been a dream of mine. Special thanks to my lit agent @bobsinthecity, my rock star editor @sassy_nation, my work wife @msjwilly for writing the foreword, @plume_books for going on this journey with me and everyone who reads my blog posts, recaps, and FB rants over the years. Love you. Mean it. LINK IN BIO! Makeup by: @delinamedhin Hair by: @gisellemacri Photo by: @withreservation

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19. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The lives of a teenager, a professor’s mistress, and a young Englishman are woven together in this complex and layered novel by Adichie. 

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‘Nigerians of all other ethnic groups will probably achieve consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo.’ – Chinua Achebe 🌞 #OnThisDay in 1967, the Republic of Biafra officially seceded from Nigeria. 🌞 Following a series of pogroms against Igbos (and other South-Easterners) in the north, and the failure of the Gowon-led regime to offer any meaningful recourse, Colonel Ojukwu (the military governor of the Eastern Region) having consulted various traditional leaders of the region, announced Biafra’s secession from Nigeria on the 30th of May (1967). 🌞 In response, Nigeria with the full support of Britain and other western nations declared war on the secessionist state, and the rest, as they say, is history. 🌞 In spite of several peace talks (from Aburi to Kampala), protests like the infamous self-immolation of Bruce Mayrock, and the efforts of mediators like Emperor Haile Selassie and Wole Soyinka, Nigeria was determined to ensure that though their independence was negotiated for, Biafra’s would be earned on the battle field. 🌞 The war raged on till 1970, but in the end, the infamous food blockade that led to the deaths of around 2 million civilians, coupled with a steady influx of ammunition, intelligence, and personnel from Britain and its western allies, proved too much for the Biafrans, who surrendered in January 1970, much to the delight of Britain. 🌞 What led to the secession of the oil rich Eastern Region from ‘the fatherland’, is complex and can be traced all the way back to the colonial times that preceded Nigeria’s amalgamation. 🌞 At the heart of it, though, was structural injustice, tribal and ethnic conflict, and an attempt by the British (and their Northern Nigerian allies) to keep control of the region’s resources at all costs – even after independence. 🌞 For a (fictional) story of the Nigerian Civil War, life inside Biafra, and an attempt at answers as to why Nigeria and Britain just could not let Biafra become its own state, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ is the perfect place to start. 🌞 #neverforget

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20. Skin Like Mine by Latashia M. Perry

At the core, this story is about accepting others for who they are and loving yourself for who you are. So, whether you’re two or 92, you’ll be touched by the compassion and heart in these colorful pages.

21. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibran X. Kendi

What is antiracism? And why is it important? Kendi answers both questions in this book. You can also read Kendi’s powerful words in various essays, such as The American Nightmare and The Greatest White Privilege is Life Itself

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Wonderful to see Capital High! ~ Repost from @capitalhighmmsd • At Capital High, we are committed to racial justice by dismantling systems of oppression within education. One step we have taken is to engage in a whole-staff read of How to be an Antiracist by acclaimed researcher Ibram X. Kendi. We invite you to explore more of Kendi's work by visiting his website: @ibramxk ………………………………. En Capital High, estamos comprometidos con la justicia racial por medio de desmantelar los sistemas de opresión dentro de la educación. Un paso que hemos tomado es que todo el personal va a leer Como ser un antiracista por investigador aclamado Ibram X. Kendi. Te invitamos a explorar más del trabajo de Kendi por visitar su sitio web: #antiracism #capitalhighroyals #deeperlearning #ibramxkendi #ibramkendi

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22. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Morrison addresses race and gender within a framework of what is considered beautiful in America — and she shows how often that beauty is defined by white standards. 

This is only a tiny collection of books by Black authors to add to your must read- list. Have you ready any of them? What books would you add?

Want to add more books to your reading list?

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