35+ Top-Rated Books by Black Authors From Many Walks of Life

Posted on Feb 26, 2024

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Written by Bella Rose Pope

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Being able to locate and support books by Black authors is important. Books shape our culture, whether we want to admit it or not, and the fact that so many Black authors’ voices have been silenced for so long has only contributed to the systemic challenges we still face today.

But it’s also worth noting that this isn’t just the case for historical books about the experience of being Black. It’s also just as necessary for books to feature Black characters without the entire story revolving around the color of their skin.

For that reason, I’ve included a couple different lists of books by Black authors, in addition to methods for you to find them yourself.

Here’s what you’ll read here about books by Black authors:

  1. How to Find Books by Black Authors
  2. Historical Books by Black Authors
  3. Highly Rated Books by Black Authors

How to Find Books by Black Authors

Unfortunately, you can’t just go to Amazon and search for authors by their skin color. While at times, this might be helpful, that sort of categorization is often frowned upon. But during months like Black History Month, Amazon does make an effort to amplify these voices, which you can see in their top book category on the Books page here depicted as “Read Black Authors“:

Amazon Books By Black Authors Category Page

But every other month of the year, this isn’t necessarily present. So how do you specifically search for and find books by Black authors? There are a few methods of doing so and most of them involve taking to the web.

1. Search Reddit

Utilizing the collective of people on the internet is a great way to find books by Black authors. Reddit’s subreddit r/books specifically helps a lot. Navigate to this page, and just put “Black authors” in the search function to get many posts with various comments, including why those people loved the books.

How To Find Books By Black Authors Reddit Example

The thread in the image above features 80 comments, which is more than enough recs for someone to put together a TBR (to be read) pile.

2. Post in Facebook groups

The same idea can be applied to Facebook groups, and is also really helpful when searching in genre-specific groups as well. You’ll get a wider variety of book recommendations.

First, head to the search bar on your profile and look up a genre, and then “books” and specify “groups” in the search criteria. So if you’re looking for a fantasy writing group, you might type “fantasy books” and then hit enter. On the results page, choose “groups” as a filtering option.

When you join the group, just make a post asking for recommendations, or utilize the search feature inside a group to discover if someone has already searched for it. You might find some already, as I did in the image example below.

Books By Black Authors Example Facebook

This has over 300 comments, and many recommendations for books by Black authors specific to the genres covered in the group.

Of course, these are just a couple methods to discover books by Black authors,

15 Historical Books by Black Authors

Understanding where we’ve been allows us to better choose where we want to go. Black History is important, and here’s a list that’s specific to stories of Black authors by Black authors.

  1. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois: A seminal work in African-American literature, this book explores issues of race, identity, and the struggle for equality.
  2. Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington: Washington’s autobiography chronicles his journey from slavery to prominence as a leader in the African-American community.
  3. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley: This autobiography offers a compelling account of Malcolm X’s life, from his childhood to his leadership in the Nation of Islam and his later transformation.
  4. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs: Jacobs’ autobiography provides a firsthand account of the struggles faced by enslaved women in the United States.
  5. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass: Douglass’ narrative is a powerful indictment of slavery and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
  6. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Although primarily a work of fiction, this novel offers valuable insights into the experiences of African-American women in the early 20th century.
  7. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson: This book chronicles the mass migration of African Americans from the South to the North and West between 1915 and 1970.
  8. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi: Kendi’s book traces the history of racist ideas in America, challenging readers to confront the legacy of racism in the country.
  9. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist: This book explores the economic impact of slavery in America, arguing that it played a central role in the country’s development.
  10. Black Reconstruction in America by W.E.B. Du Bois: Du Bois’ book reinterprets the Reconstruction era, arguing that it was a period of great promise for African Americans that was ultimately thwarted by white supremacy.
  11. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein: Rothstein explores how government policies, such as redlining, have perpetuated racial segregation in America.
  12. Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo’ by Zora Neale Hurston: Hurston’s book tells the story of Cudjo Lewis, the last known survivor of the Atlantic slave trade, in his own words.
  13. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson: Wilkerson examines the hidden caste system that has shaped American society, drawing parallels with caste systems in India and Nazi Germany.
  14. The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad: Muhammad explores how ideas about race and crime have been used to justify discrimination against African Americans in urban America.

21 Highly Rated Books by Black Authors

As I mentioned in the introduction of this post, we want more than just books by Black authors about the very specific experience of growing up or living as a black person in America or other marginalized countries. We also need stories that simply feature Black characters just like many other books contain stories of white characters.

While some feature the experience, others are simply there for the story.

Here are highly rated books by Black authors to add to your reading list:

  1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This novel follows the lives of two young Nigerians as they navigate love, race, and identity in Nigeria and America.
  2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: A blend of historical fiction and magical realism, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel reimagines the Underground Railroad as an actual railway system.
  3. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: A gripping blend of science fiction and historical fiction, this novel follows a young Black woman who is mysteriously transported back in time to antebellum Maryland.
  4. Beloved by Toni Morrison: A haunting tale of slavery and its aftermath, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel centers on Sethe, a former enslaved woman haunted by the memory of her dead daughter.
  5. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward: Set in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, this novel follows a young girl and her family as they prepare for the storm and confront their own personal struggles.
  6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker: A classic novel about resilience and sisterhood, this Pulitzer Prize-winning book follows the life of Celie, an African-American woman in the early 20th century South.
  7. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This epic novel follows the descendants of two half-sisters from Ghana, tracing their divergent paths through history and across continents.
  8. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: This novel explores the impact of a wrongful incarceration on a young African-American couple and their marriage.
  9. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: A powerful young adult novel about race, identity, and activism, this book follows Starr, a Black teenager who witnesses the police shooting of her friend.
  10. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: A lyrical and haunting novel set in rural Mississippi, this book follows a young boy and his family as they grapple with the legacy of racism and violence.
  11. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: This humorous and heartfelt novel follows Queenie, a young Jamaican-British woman navigating love, relationships, and identity in London.
  12. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi: This novel follows the members of a fractured Ghanaian-Nigerian family as they come together in the wake of their father’s death.
  13. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Coates’ debut novel is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, following the journey of a young enslaved man with a mysterious power.
  14. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson: This novel explores the intergenerational effects of a teenage pregnancy on two families in Brooklyn.
  15. The Mothers by Brit Bennett: Set in a tight-knit African-American community in Southern California, this novel explores themes of love, loss, and secrets.
  16. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones: This novel tells the story of two half-sisters in Atlanta, one of whom is aware of their father’s other family and one who is not.
  17. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James: Set in Jamaica and New York City, this novel weaves together multiple voices and perspectives to tell the story of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley.
  18. The Turner House by Angela Flournoy: This novel follows the members of the Turner family as they grapple with their family home in Detroit and the ghosts of their past.
  19. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: This novel follows the lives of twin sisters who choose to live in different racial identities, exploring themes of race, identity, and family.
  20. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi: A unique and inventive novel about identity and self-discovery, this book follows a Nigerian woman with multiple selves.
  21. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: A fantasy novel set in a West African-inspired world, following a young woman with magical powers as she seeks to restore magic to her people and fight against a tyrannical monarchy.

Reading books by Black authors helps us prioritize the stories that would otherwise be overlooked or consumed less due to the nature of systemic challenges. Reading books by all types of authors is something that should just be a given. But because of our history, we need blog posts like this, with lists of books by Black authors specifically to help diversify our reading.

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