Mandatory Reads: The Best Fiction Books by Black Writers
Now more than ever, we need to listen to black voices and celebrate their stories. One way to do that is through books. By delving into narratives by African-American authors, you’ll expand your worldview and tap into a deeper sense of connection and compassion with your fellow man (and woman). If your current reading list is bereft of diversity, fret not; we’ve gathered up the best page-turners by black writers you should be reading right now. While they are all fiction, they’re brutally true to life.
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'Black Leopard, Red Wolf' by Marlon James
Man Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James combines historical fiction, fantasy, and African folklore in this Game of Thrones-style epic that centers around the search for a missing boy.
'The Nickel Boys' by Colson Whitehead
Set in the Deep South circa the 1960s, this novel traces the traumatizing path of teen Elwood Curtis as he enters a brutally racist juvenile reform school, which is based on a real-life Florida institution that was shut down less than a decade ago.
'The Underground Railroad' by Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead gets two nods on this list because he's just simply that good of an author. In this novel, he reimagines the underground railroad as an actual rail transit system and takes readers on a journey with the slaves that attempt to escape through it.
'Go Tell It on the Mountain' by James Baldwin
James Baldwin pulled from his real-life experience as the stepson of a Baptist preacher to write this story of a Harlem preacher's son grappling with his identity as a black gay man.
'Difficult Women' by Roxane Gay
Author Roxane Gay pulls no punches in this page-turning short story collection that intimately explores the mercurial nature of women and those who love them. Her characters are sultry, sassy, and sometimes, a little bit scary.
'The Color Purple' by Alice Walker
Told in the form of letters, this classic novel follows the lifelong bond between sisters as they navigate their tumultuous lives in racist, rural Georgia and abroad. The novel was made into an Academy Award-nominated film by Steven Spielberg in 1985.
'The Sellout' by Paul Beatty
This acclaimed satirical novel follows a black Los Angeles marijuana grower who wants to reinstate segregation so he can own a slave, a desire that takes him all the way to the Supreme Court.
'We Cast a Shadow' by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
In this darkly comedic novel, black folks can essentially erase their racial identity, one physical feature at a time at Dr. Nzinga’s clinic, where a black father contemplates "demelanization" for his biracial son.
'The Mothers' by Brit Bennett
This New York Times bestseller finds a young Californian woman unexpectedly pregnant by her boyfriend, a pastor's son, and desperate to keep the slip-up a secret.
'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas
In an unfortunately timely tale, this award-winning book focuses on a teen girl who witnesses a black friend's death at the hands of police.