STARRED REVIEW
June 16, 2020

25 books that showcase Black talent

STARRED REVIEW
June 16, 2020

25 books that showcase Black talent

June 16, 2020

25 books that showcase Black talent

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Antiracist reading includes recognizing that Black voices belong on your bookshelf in all seasons—when reading for joy, for comfort and for the expansion of hearts and minds. No matter what genre you love to read, we’ve got you covered. Here are 25 great books that amuse, delight, thrill and showcase the full range of Black writers’ talents.


Fiction

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

So you’ve read Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, had a heart-opening discussion with your book club and are on the hunt for another brilliant mixture of heavy social themes and big feelings. Try Candice Carty-Williams’ 2019 debut, which follows a Black woman navigating a breakup and a major life recalibration with the support of her caring community, all delivered with a touch of British humor.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

Lauren Wilkinson certainly didn’t set out to write about an undercover Black spy, but thank goodness she did, because her blending of fact and fiction makes for thrilling reading. Cold War history fans, strap in.

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Set before and after the Civil War, Afia Atakora’s epic tale spans two generations of folk healers to slowly reveal the drama at the novel’s core. There hasn’t been a more nuanced portrait of the Civil War-era South since Octavia Butler’s Kindred.

Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones’ remarkable storytelling ability and knack for creating grounded, rounded characters was evident from her very first novel. This sensitively written coming-of-age story is set against the backdrop of the 1979 Atlanta child murders, which remain unsolved to this day.

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

This cozy, small-town story covers one year in the lives of four smart, interesting women who have been friends for more than 40 years and meet regularly at an Indiana diner to dish on life and offer each other moral support. Fans of Fried Green Tomatoes or the novels of Jan Karon shouldn’t miss it.


Nonfiction

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

No subject is too taboo for Samantha Irby, from becoming a stepmother to living with inflammatory bowel disease. With pitch-perfect self-deprecation, her essays transform life’s too-real moments into undeniable hilarity. (PS, the audiobook is also amazing.)

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

If you’re after more lyrical fare, there’s no one better than poet Ross Gay to turn everyday moments of wonder—about hummingbirds, cardinals, bumblebees and more—into refreshing vignettes you can visit over and over again.

Olympic Pride, American Prejudice by Deborah Riley Draper and Travis Thrasher

History lovers, this book about the Black American athletes who competed in the 1939 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, is a fascinating true story, cinematically told.

The Life of Frederick Douglass by David F. Walker, illustrated by Damon Smyth and Marissa Louise

For a slightly different take on the biography, David F. Walker's graphic history offers a high-­level portrait of Frederick Douglass’ life that is more humanizing, vivid and heart-stirring than words alone could paint.

The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

If you don’t already know Edna Lewis, there’s no time like the present to get acquainted. Sometimes referred to as the Julia Child of the South, she is a veritable icon of Southern customs, culture and cuisine.  (Turtle soup with dumplings, anyone?)


Mystery

The Good House by Tananarive Due

The Good House is intelligent, hypnotic and unnerving: a singular work of horror. Anyone looking for uniquely disturbing stories that effortlessly mix the horror, mystery and supernatural genres will love Tananarive Due’s whole opus.

Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

Taut, brutal and filled with author Walter Mosley’s trademark mix of imperfect winners and losers, Down the River Unto the Sea introduces the complicated and endearing New York detective Joe King Oliver.

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Attica Locke is brilliant when it comes to depicting the South with authenticity. Blending page-turning mystery with an illuminating dissection of plantation tourism, The Cutting Season is among Locke’s best works.

The Missing American by Kwei Quartey

In Ghanaian American author Kwei Quartey’s The Missing American, lonely-hearts internet scams abound, overlaid with a witch doctor (or two) and a trio of likable, if occasionally gullible, protagonists.

Borrowed Time by Tracy Clark

Fans of Sue Grafton and Sarah Paretsky will delight in Tracy Clark’s snappy first-person narration and wry wit—and any reader will be happy to discover a writer who deftly combines clever crime-solving, stress-inducing action sequences, nail-biting suspense and lots of love for Chicago.


Romance

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Totally hilarious and glowingly romantic in equal measure, Get a Life, Chloe Brown is proof positive that Talia Hibbert is the next big thing in romance.

A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole’s ability to examine real-world issues in the context of escapist, effortlessly funny romance is on full display in this delightful Scotland-set romance.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory specializes in light, fluffy romances with food porn galore. This one is our favorite, given its depiction of the outright horror that is the unwanted public proposal.

Enticed by You by Elle Wright

An engrossing family drama spiced with fiery love scenes and full of characters who deserve a happy ending, Elle Wright’s romance has all the joys of a classic soap opera.

Tempest by Beverly Jenkins

You truly can’t go wrong with anything by living legend Beverly Jenkins, but Tempest is a standout among her recent work with its rifle-toting, convention-defying heroine.


Sci-Fi and Fantasy

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

It’s clear that N.K. Jemisin is an outright genius from the first pages of her very first book, a paranoid and twisty political thriller starring literal gods and the powerful human family that enslaved them.

Temper by Nicky Drayden

An absolutely wild ride from start to finish, Nicky Drayden’s sophomore novel follows Auben, who’s an actual evil twin to his nearly vice-free brother, Kasim. From there, Drayden launches fearlessly into questions of morality, religion and marginalization.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Combining African myth with African reality, Nnedi Okorafor created a unique and powerful tale in her startling adult debut, which won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

A modern-day fairy tale that goes to some thrillingly dark, gothic and complicated places, Victor LaValle’s novel is a magic trick that earns every bit of its wonder.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

In addition to being the winner of back-to-back fiction Pulitzers, Colson Whitehead is a virtuoso of genre-hopping. His 2011 take on the zombie trope is keenly observant, darkly absurdist and downright scary as it follows reluctant hero Mark Spitz through an undead-infested lower Manhattan.

 

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