Mandatory Reads: The Best Non-Fiction Books by Black Writers
Let’s face it: our own perspective is limited. We only know what we’ve lived, and most of us haven’t done enough living to have a broad worldview. That’s where books come in. By stepping into another person’s story on the page, we vicariously feel what it’s like to live their life, to wade through their challenges, and to triumph over adversity. In these tumultuous times, we could all be more understanding of others’ struggles, especially those of the black community. That’s why immersing ourselves in non-fiction narratives by authors of color is so important — and a powerful way to instigate change. To get you started, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best books by black writers.
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'Between the World and Me' by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This book takes the form of a letter author Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote to his 15-year-old son about being black and dealing with racism in modern-day America.
'How We Fight For Our Lives' by Saeed Jones
In this devastating and lyrical coming-of-age memoir, poet Saeed Jones details how he came to embrace his identity as a black gay man from the South despite the lack of support from his family.
'The Terrible' by Yrsa Daley-Ward
Yrsa Daley-Ward is known for sparse, potent poems that she circulated for years on social media. In her debut memoir, she shares her backstory as a black British girl raised by her devout Seventh-Day Adventist grandparents and details overcoming anorexia, drug abuse, and toxic sexuality.
'Don't Call Us Dead' by Danez Smith
Poet Danez Smith (who uses they/them pronouns) explores the beauty and tragedy of growing up black in the U.S. with specific attention paid to their experiences as queer, HIV-positive person.
'Heavy' by Kiese Laymon
In this hard-hitting memoir, Kiese Laymon questions the impact of growing up in a family steeped in secrecy and a country in love with its own lies.
'Hunger' by Roxane Gay
Author Roxane Gay has battled her body since childhood. In this memoir, she traces the troubled relationship with her shape and eating habits back to a traumatic event that still haunts her.
‘How Not to Get Shot’ by D.L. Hughley and Doug Moe
In this New York Times bestseller, comedian D. L. Hughley offers black folks a tongue-in-cheek how-to guide on behaving so white people won't hurt you.
'The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl' by Issa Rae
The creator of the HBO series Insecure penned this collection of essays about being a black introvert in a white, extroverted world. Laugh along as Rae flubs everything from cybersex to eating out alone.
'The Autobiography of Malcom X' by Malcom X
Written from a series of interviews conducted by Alex Haley and published after his assassination, this historic book covers the evolution of Malcom X from convict to spiritual spokesperson to social justice warrior.
'Becoming' by Michelle Obama
Everyone loved Barack Obama as president, but his wife Michelle is the bigger celebrity now thanks to this memoir that catalogs every major event in her life (and the roadblocks along the way), from graduating law school to marrying Barack to enduring IVF treatments to being the first black family in the White House. You'll learn more about America's favorite black couple in this candid memoir than you ever could reading one of Barack's books.