16 Books By Black Authors Everyone Should Read

Literary experts share the old and modern classics by Black authors to add to your reading list.

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Whether you missed out on reading some classic novels in high school or are getting caught up on books you missed a few years ago, everyone should read these books by Black authors.
Whether you missed out on reading some classic novels in high school or are getting caught up on books you missed a few years ago, everyone should read these books by Black authors.

Historically, a lot of literature taught in schools is written by white — and, typically, white male — authors. The publishing industry is also predominately white.

So although you may remember reading books like “The Great Gatsby” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” in school, you may have missed out on many classics by Black authors like Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” and “The Autobiography Of An Ex-Colored Man” by James Weldon Johnson.

There has been a “significant effort made to diversify” the books read in schools since the 1960s, according to Joanne Hyppolite, a supervisory curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. However, she said, “selections were focused almost solely on well-known authors” — which meant some students didn’t get to read works from lesser-known Black writers in school.

The book industry still has a long way to go to become more inclusive, but there are so many stories you can add to your to-read list from Black authors that are considered modern classics, like “The Mothers” by Brit Bennett. (And you can support Black creatives all the time — whether it’s buying from Black-owned jewelry shops, Black-owned beauty brands or Black-owned bookstores like Bronx-based The Lit. Bar and Shelves Bookstore in Charlotte, North Carolina.)

“Diversifying what we read, what we watch, where we eat and where we shop can save us from ignorance.”

- Abbigail Glen, owner of Shelves Bookstore in Charlotte, North Carolina

“Diversifying what we read, what we watch, where we eat and where we shop can save us from ignorance,” Abbigail Glen, owner of Shelves Bookstore, told HuffPost Finds. “That’s why I encourage my customers to become comfortable with being uncomfortable because growth can’t happen in your comfort zone.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to diversify your reading list?” she said.

We wanted to find recommendations for both old and new classics by Black authors that everyone should have on their bookshelves. We asked Hyppolite, Glen and the literary experts at Goodreads for their takes on the books we should be bookmarking right now.

As always, you should first check to see if your local independent bookstore has these titles in stock and support Black-owned bookstores in your neighborhood and nationwide.

Here are the 16 books our experts recommended:

1
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead
Amazon
"The Underground Railroad" is one of Goodreads' most popular “new classics" byBlack authors.

Cybil Wallace, senior editor at Goodreads, said it's a "Pulitzer Prize-winning dark and nightmarish reimagination of the underground railroad."

Find it on Amazon .
2
"The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" by Ernest J. Gaines
Amazon
This novel was one of Glen's recommendations. "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" features the story of its eponymous protagonist, who lives through slavery and the civil rights movement.

Find it on Amazon .
3
"The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson
Amazon
"The Warmth of Other Suns" is a nonfiction work that Hyppolite's currently reading. "It resonates powerfully with current events because it shows how deep-seated this violence is," she said.

Find it on Amazon.
4
"Native Son" by Richard Wright
Amazon
Glen recommended this classic novel from Richard Wright. "Native Son" tells the story of a young Black man living in 1930s Chicago.

Find it on Amazon .
5
"Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Amazon
Recommended by Hyppolite and Goodreads, "Americanah" is the story of Nigerian lovers who end up in separate places — the U.S. and the U.K.

Find it on Amazon.
6
"Sing, Unburied, Sing" by Jesmyn Ward
Amazon
Jesmyn Ward was one of the authors Glen recommended. Her novel "Sing, Unburied, Sing" is one of Goodreads' most popular books right now. Wallace described it as "beautiful and haunting story of a family coming undone."

Find it on Amazon.
7
"Brother, I'm Dying" by Edwidge Danticat
Amazon
Edwidge Danticat is one of Hyppolite's favorite contemporary writers — and she especially recommends "Brother, I'm Dying," an autobiography about leaving Haiti for New York City.

Find it on Amazon
.
8
"Plum Bun: A Novel Without A Moral" by Jessie Redmon Fauset
Amazon
"Plum Bun: A Novel Without A Moral" is one of the older classics that's been popular with Goodreads members. The novel tells the story of Angela Murray, who decides to pass for white and move to New York City.

Find it on Amazon
.
9
"Flyy Girl" by Omar Tyree
Amazon
"Flyy Girl" is one of Glen's recommendations. She first read it when she was in the eighth grade, when she otherwise saw a lot of "chapter books written by white authors."

"And although I enjoyed those stories, it's nothing like being able to see yourself in a story," she said.

Find it on Amazon
.
10
"Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi
Amazon
"Homegoing" was on Glen's list of recommendations and is popular right now among Goodreads members. The novel follows two sisters — one who is sold into slavery, and another who marries an Englishman — and the generations that come after them.

Find it on Amazon
.
11
"The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin
Amazon
"The Fifth Season" is among Goodreads' most popular books currently. Wallace called it "N.K. Jemisin’s redefining of the fantasy genre."

Find it on Amazon
.
12
"The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas
Amazon
One of Glen's recommendations, "The Hate U Give," tells the story of Starr Carter — the only witness when a police officer shoots her unarmed friend.

Find it on Amazon .
13
"Kindred" by Octavia E. Butler
Amazon
"While science fiction fans already know and love the groundbreaking work of Octavia Butler, she should be a household name for all book lovers," Wallace said. This book is among the most popular older classics on Goodreads.

Find it on Amazon.
14
"The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears" by Dinaw Mengestu
Amazon
Hyppolite's a fan of Dinaw Mengestu. "The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears" is a novel that tells the story of Sepha Stephanos, who fled Ethiopia after the country's revolution and now finds himself running a grocery store in D.C.

Find it on Amazon .
15
"Passing" by Nella Larsen
Amazon
"Passing" is an older classic that's been popular with Goodreads members lately. The book follows two friends, one of whom is “passing” as a white woman.

Find it on Amazon
.
16
"The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man" by James Weldon Johnson
Amazon
"The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man" is one of Goodreads' most popular classic books now. The novel follows a young biracial man working as a jazz pianist through the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Find it on Amazon.