The act of reading — even if it’s just for pleasure — is inherently political. As such, it’s important to be intentional about your reading choices, and your purchasing choices. This means making the conscious decision to read books by authors from marginalized communities, including Black authors.
In early 2023, WordsRated conducted research about Black authors in the publishing world. Their findings concluded that there has been an increase of Black authors in children’s literature over the years, which is great news, especially since they had previously reported a 23% decline in children’s books featuring Black characters in 2022.
Despite an increase in books by Black authors being published, bestseller lists and award shortlists continue to underrepresent marginalized authors, especially Black authors. Authors of colour continue to be paid less than white authors. And the books being consumed tend to overrepresent stories about trauma and racism.
However, there is so much more out there! There are incredible books by Black authors across all genres — books for all readers, books that focus on so much more than trauma and pain. There are books that highlight love and joy, and explore the many complexities of the human experience.
This list below is meant to share some of those rich and incredible stories with all of you, so you can read these books during Black History Month, and every other month.
Rest is Resistance – Tricia Hersey
Written by the founder and creator of the popular Instagram account, The Nap Ministry, Tricia Hersey, Rest is Resistance is a manifesto and guidebook for the tired and the hopeful. Rest is Resistance is rooted in spiritual energy and centered on themes of Black liberation, Afrofuturism, and womanism. This book is part battle-cry, part manifesto, all aimed at challenging the myth of capitalism, that our worth is in how much we produce. Hersey offers up an alternate suggestion — that rest, in its simplest form, is an act of resistance and a reclamation of power, thanks to the ways it challenges and disrupts capitalism and white supremacy. This book is a revelation in the power of rest, and an antidote to hustle culture.
Their Vicious Games – Joelle Wellington
Joelle Wellington’s Their Vicious Games is a fast-paced, dark thriller, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Ready Or Not. It follows Adina Walker, a Black teen desperate to regain her Ivy League acceptance after uncharacteristically getting into a fight, which, after years of being perfect, cost her everything. Her only choice to try to regain the future she had worked so hard for is ‘The Finish’. The winner of this high-stakes competition will be granted entry into the fold of the Remington family, whose wealth and privilege can open all kinds of doors…but the prize comes at a much greater cost than expected.
Honey & Spice – Bolu Babalola
Bolu Babalola’s Honey & Spice is a delight. The story follows a young Black radio host who has made it her mission to give no-nonsense relationship advice so the women at her university don’t fall prey to players and “situationships”. However, her show and her reputation for being unbothered are at risk when she kisses the guy she had just publicly denounced as a player and a “Wasteman”. Soon, in an attempt to save their reputations, they find themselves in a fake relationship. Fun, flirty, and fiery, this rom-com was laugh-out-loud funny, full of banter, wit, romance, and the charms of friendship. It draws you in, and hooks you immediately — with the perfect amount of heat to carry you through blustery winters.
Faebound – Saara El-Arifi
Saara El-Arifi’s Faebound is the perfect read for lovers of fantasy romance, faeries, and magic. I already spoke about it as one of my most anticipated books coming in early 2024. It’s the first book in a new fantasy series set in the intoxicating world of the fey. Yeeran is an elven warrior, who has known nothing but violence, as her sister Lettle tries to make her living divining prophecies. After a fatal mistake, Yeeran and Lettle are exiled and forced into the terrifying wilds, where they encounter the impossible and irresistible fae court… who haven’t been seen for a millennium. As Yeeran and Lettle are thrust into the mystical and magical world of the fae, they are forced to decide between their homeland, their hearts, and each other.
How We Heal – Alexandra Elle
Alexandra Elle’s How We Heal is a beautiful, practical, and tender guide to healing yourself and reclaiming your peace. This book includes Elle’s own words, exploring her own healing journey, alongside the stories of prominent thought leaders and writers, like Nedra Tawwab, Morgan Harper Nichols, Dr. Thema Bryant, and many more. This book pulls together themes of mindfulness, healing, and boundaries, making it the perfect read for anyone interested in wellness and healing.
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev – Dawnie Walton
Dawnie Walton’s The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is an unputdownable and electrifying story, perfect for fans of Daisy Jones and the Six. Set in the 1970s, this book follows the meteoric rise of an iconic interracial rock duo, their breakup, and the dark secrets between them. Opal is a fierce young woman who pushes against the grain as she grows up in Detroit, punk in attitude and aesthetic, before the term ‘Afro-punk’ even existed. Opal believes she can become a star, so when aspiring British singer-songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at an amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together. Decades later, Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, as a music journalist seizes the opportunity to put together an oral history of one of music’s most iconic duos. As the interviews dig deeper, secrets become unveiled, threatening to blow everything up.
The Marvelous – Claire Kann
Claire Kann’s young adult novel The Marvelous is a fun and fast-paced story about six teens who are locked together in a mansion to compete for a life-changing cash prize, in a competition run by a reclusive heiress who created the massively popular video-sharing app: Golden Rule. After mysteriously disappearing for a year, Jewel makes her dramatic return with an announcement saying she’s chosen a few lucky Golden Rule users to spend a weekend at her private estate. However, once they arrive, they discover they are now players in an elaborate, and at times dangerous, game. This is the perfect, fast-paced, character-driven book for fans of The Inheritance Games and Glass Onion.
Akata Witch – Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch is a gorgeous and transportive young adult novel, perfect for fans of magical schools, and epic battles between good and evil. Born in New York, but now living in Nigeria, twelve-year-old Sunny is a bit lost. She is albino, so she’s incredibly sensitive to the sun. All she wants is to play outside and get through another day without being bullied. Soon, she befriends Orlu and Chichi, who bring her into the magical world of the Leopard People, where your “weaknesses” become your strengths. Together, they form a coven, in order to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. The world-building is stunning and vividly described, full of quirky characters, weird creatures, and a unique and fascinating brand of magic. This is a great story for young readers and older readers alike.
The Black Joy Project – Kleaver Cruz
Kleaver Cruz’s The Black Joy Project is a gorgeous visual love letter, full of full-colour photos and essays on Black joy. Taking us from Lagos to Jamaica to the Bronx and beyond, this book collects words, art, and photos, highlighting joy alongside resistance. This is a stunning book you can leaf through at your leisure, or keep as a coffee table book. It asks the question: What does Black Joy mean to you?
My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
I loved Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer so much that I can’t stop talking about it! Told in short chapters, this unputdownable story is set in Nigeria, following two sisters. One, Ayoola, who can’t stop murdering her boyfriends, and one, Korede, who can’t stop answering her calls and helping Ayoola clean up. Korede knows she should probably go to the police, but family comes first! That is, until Ayoola starts dating Korede’s long-time crush. As much as she loves her sister, she doesn’t want to see her crush dead… but to save him might mean sacrificing her sister.
Survival of the Thickest – Michelle Buteau
You may know (and love) Michelle Buteau from her acting, her recent Netflix show, or her reality TV hosting gigs. Although she’s frequently stealing scenes, now she’s going to steal your heart, with her unique voice and her unapologetic sense of humour. This is a collection of hilarious essays where Buteau reflects upon her experiences growing up Caribbean, Catholic, and thick; her many friendships and dating disasters; IVF, surrogacy, motherhood, and so much more. This is a delightful, yet heartwarming memoir, perfect for when you’re looking for a little joy!
Ameema Saeed (@ameemabackwards) is a storyteller, a Capricorn, an avid bookworm, and a curator of very specific playlists, customized book recommendations, and cool earrings. She’s a book reviewer, a Sensitivity Reader, a book buyer at Indigo Books & Music, and the Books Editor for She Does the City, where she writes and curates bookish content, and book recommendations. She enjoys bad puns, good food, dancing, and talking about feelings. She writes about books, big feelings, unruly bodies, and her lived experiences, and hopes to write your next favourite book one day. When she’s not reading books, she likes to talk about books (especially diverse books, and books by diverse authors) on her bookstagram: @ReadWithMeemz