From Classic to Contemporary: 15 Books by Black Authors You Need to Dive Into

As the world grows tired of hearing stories told only by old White men, more and more people are calling for books written by Black authors.

Redditor u/BoymanAndGirldog asked subreddit r/suggestmeabook for some new reading material. “Would love to read your favorite book by a Black author,” they wrote, “open to any suggestion.”

“I love non-fiction, and memoirs, but am open to novels as well. I also truly love poetry and short essay collections. Looking for your favorite books by black authors really of any genre though.”
Here are the 15 best books by Black writers Reddit recommended.

How Long Til Black Future Month by NK Jemison

u/Psychonautical123 answered, “If you'd like to dip into sci-fi/fantasy, I highly recommend NK Jemison! She has a book called How Long Til Black Future Month that is a collection of short stories. It was expanded upon and became a standalone novel called The City We Became, which I LOVED.”
How Long Til Black Future Month is set in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of New Orleans, but from the perspective of a parallel universe hoping to learn from our mistakes.

Jackie Kay's Poetry Collections

u/CuttynKitSark suggested, “Any poetry collection by Jackie Kay I highly recommend, especially Red Dust Road as an individual poem. The play is also spectacular if you can get hold of a copy of the playscript.”

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

u/MorriganJade shared, “My favorite book by a black author is probably Wild Seed by Octavia Butler.”
Wild Seed is a fantasy novel that follows Doro and Anyanwu, two immortals whose love story spans from 17th-century Nigeria to 19th-century United States. Doro is all powerful, fearing no-one until Anyanwu, a healer and shape-shifter.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

u/MamaJody had a few suggestions, including Trevor Noah's memoir, Born a Crime.  They wrote that it was their, “absolute favourite memoir, with a caveat though that you should absolutely listen to him narrate it. It is just incredible.”
Born a Crime chronicles Noah's childhood in South Africa during apartheid as the biracial (which is to say illegal) child of a Black woman.

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

No list of amazing Black authors to read would be complete without at least one mention of James Baldwin. u/MamaJody recommended Giovanni’s Room. They wrote that the book is: “Short and exquisite, but it might break you into pieces.”
A staple on queer reading recommendation lists as well, Giovanni's Room follows the affair between David, a newly engaged American ex-pat, and Giovanni, during 1950s Paris. David has a dark night of the soul after his fiancée, Hella, finds out about his relationship with Giovanni.

Kindred by Octavia Butler

The last book u/MamaJody suggested was Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, which they call “a masterpiece.”
On Dana's 26th birthday, she leaves the sunshine and warmth of 1976 California and is sent back in time to Maryland at the height of the American slave trade. She must survive the physical and psychological horrors of slavery to protect one of her ancestors to make sure she's still born.

Half an Inch of Water and The Trees, both by Percival Everett

One Redditor couldn't help but recommend two of Percival Everett's books that they considered “outstanding.”

u/tofu-weenie explained that Half an Inch of Water is a “short story collection all set (if I remember correctly) in modern rural America. He spins such an immersive world it was hard to pull myself out of it. The book as a whole felt like staring towards a dusty horizon.”

They also recommended The Trees, which they explained was on the “booker prize shortlist last year and in my opinion should have won. This is really different in tone to Half an Inch of Water — a fast-paced paranormal buddy cop thriller and an extremely intense read. Completely original and just a great piece of writing.”

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

Not only did u/u/pragmatic-pollyanna recommend James McBride's Deacon King Kong, but it was one of former President Barak Obama's “Favorite Books” of 2021.

In September 1969, an old church deacon takes a life for reasons he feel are justified. But there's a ripple through the neighborhood, through the witnesses, and through the members of the deacon's church. Set in New York City, Deacon King Kong has been called by critics, “A raucous, poignant, humanity-embracing novel.”

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

For u/ISayISayISay The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton is, “a kind of fictional biography. Fab read.”

This “electrifying novel” documents the rise and fall of (fictional) meteoric interracial rock group, Nev. Spanning from the 1970s to the 2010s, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev was named a best book of 2021 by Barack Obama, Reader's Digest, The Washington Post, NPR.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

u/ShakespearesSister12 added, “Beloved by Toni Morrison was my favorite book in a literature class in college.”

Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize winning novel follows Sethe, a former slave who was been living in Ohio for the past 18 years. While Sethe might be living free, the memories of her life at Sweet Home, the farm she was born a slave at, haven't let her go.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

For some readers, their hands-down favorite book just happens to be written by a Black author. Redditor u/heck-ward wrote that Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward was  “one of [their] favorites by any author.”

Salvage the Bones spans the course of 12 days as Hurricane Katrina bombards the Gulf of Mexico. But in Ward's novel, the story focuses on Mississippi which critics promise expand your “understanding of Katrina's devastation, beyond the pictures of choked rooftops in New Orleans.”

A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib

u/Nervous-Shark provided a few titles as suggestions. The first was, “Anything by Hanif Abdurraqib. His essays and poetry are incredible – he’s such a poignant, thoughtful, beautiful writer.”

They added that, “If you’re interested in the history of Black music, check out A Little Devil in America or Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest.”

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marion James

But u/Nervous-Shark also thought A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James was a must-read.

“It is a ride,” they wrote. “It starts with the assassin attempt of Bob Marley and spins out from there and it’s fierce and brilliant.”

A Brief History of Seven Killings is fiction, but built on the very real, very trumaltuous history of of Jamaica at the end of the 20th century.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

u/Nervous-Shark's final recommendation: “Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a classic for a reason.”

Published in 1952, Ellison's Invisible Man follows a nameless narrator growing up in the segregated South and his journey to becoming the chief spokesperson of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Lastly, u/scoutnature recommended Maya Angelou's debut memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Angelou leads readers through her childhood with her brother, Bailey, growing up with her grandmother in a small Southern town. At the age of eight, Angelou discloses she was brutally attacked — a trauma that would echo through her life, haunting her into adulthood.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Maya (she/they) is a queer entertainment and culture journalist. They cover interviews, reviews, roundups, news, and more. She loves horror, history, and creativity. They hope their writing both entertains readers and inspires them to think critically. Her favorite pastimes include needle felting, gaming, and drawing.

Nicole Tommasulo is Boston-based and Buffalo-born writer and editor. Typically covering all things lifestyle, her beat spans from food, to breaking news, to travel, mental health, and everything in between. She has an MFA in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design and has been previously published by The List, Heels Down Magazine, Hello Giggles, and several now-dead but not forgotten websites like xoJane and Femsplain. When she's not writing or editing, she's nerding out over books, prestige TV, plants, food, and frisbee golf.