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These are 22 of the best books by black authors that should make the top of your reading list

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Look through your bookshelves and assess whether you need to diversify the voices that you’re reading. My guess is you probably do – that we all do. When browsing my own shelves as a former English Literature student, I realised how little we read from black authors over those three years. The events of last summer were the biggest wake-up call many white people had encountered in recent years in terms of realising how rife racism is – even down to the voices we read and prioritise.

Reading work from a range of diverse voices can only better our understanding of each other and of plight’s we might not otherwise consider. But that being said, work by black writers isn’t there just to educate the white reader. There’s so much joy and celebration in these book picks, as well as heavier reads that call for deeper reflection and then action.

If you’re looking for your next unputdownable read, I think you’ll find it here. There’s Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys, which I’ve been recommending to anyone who will listen since I finished it, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo whose skillful portraying of womanhood had me crying in the work kitchen, and classics like poems by Langston Hughes.

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  • Best books by black authors: the award winner

    Best books by black authors: the award winner

    The Nickel Boys, £6.99, Amazon

    Set during the Jim Crow era, this book pulls you in and won’t let you go until you finish the last page – even then, it’s still etched into the recesses of your mind. Fictional, yes, but it draws on things that really did happen such as all-boy prisons with racist and abusive agendas.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: the eductor

    Best books by black authors: the eductor

    Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, £7.34, Amazon

    This book has become one of the staples in modern anti-racist reading.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: classic reading

    Best books by black authors: classic reading

    The Bluest Eye, £6.95, Amazon

    Society’s obsession with Western ideals of beauty (such as blue eyes) are addressed in this classic read. It’s one of Toni Morrison’s best loved books, so if you’re new to her writing this is a good place to start.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: the YA read

    Best books by black authors: the YA read

    Noughts & Crosses, £6.54, Amazon

    The book that reverses what we know and makes black people the dominant race. You probably read this as a teenager, but given the recent-ish TV adaption of the book (which, by the way, has some major plot differences) we think this is a worthy of a re-read. And no, it isn’t too childish.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: classic reads

    Best books by black authors: classic reads

    Kindred, £7.49, Amazon

    You’ll likely fly through this book that deals looks at the connection between two people, one being a female slave who dreams of being a writer.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: generation Windrush

    Best books by black authors: generation Windrush

    Small Island, £7.37, Amazon

    Small Island takes us back to the Windrush era and is set between England and the Caribbean. As some characters pine for England, others have no interest in leaving behind what’s shown to be a vibrant and lively island. It was also adapted for a sellout National Theatre production.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: winner of The Booker

    Best books by black authors: winner of The Booker

    Girl, Woman, Other, £5, Amazon

    This past winner of the Booker prize is written in a way that might feel alien at first as it’s in verse rather than prose, but don’t be put off. A few pages in and you’ll be reading in the natural flow the structure was intended for and won’t think a thing of it. The book is a powerful series of vignettes of womanhood.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: urban fiction

    Best books by black authors: urban fiction

    The Hate U Give, £5.99, Amazon

    Though classes as YA fiction, we think adults will find this a good read too. Angie Thomas wrote the book in response to the police shooting of Oscar Grant.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: best theory book

    Best books by black authors: best theory book

    Decolonising The Mind, £12.83, Amazon

    Ngugi Wa Thiong’o originally started his writing career with a Western name, though reached a point where he decided he no longer wanted to hide his African-ness and so began using his real name. This book looks at his arguments for using African language after his own transition to it.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: classic autobiographies

    Best books by black authors: classic autobiographies

    The Fire Next Time, £6.95, Amazon

    This autobiography was a 1960s bestseller at the time of it’s release. James Baldwin looks at his life against the backdrop of racism in America. It’s told in two letters.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: groundbreaking fiction

    Best books by black authors: groundbreaking fiction

    White Teeth, £7.37, Amazon

    Zadie Smith is one of the biggest literary voices of the moment, and White Teeth is the book that caused her popularity to explode.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: winner of the Booker prize

    Best books by black authors: winner of the Booker prize

    The Sellout, £6.94, Amazon

    This award-winning satire has been called outrageous, comical and absurd. It’s exactly what we need right now.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: classic reads

    Best books by black authors: classic reads

    Invisible Man, £8.19, Amazon

    Invisible Man is Ralph Ellison’s first novel. It looks a man who feels invisible because society refuses to see him, though we see him experience different events such as riots in Harlem.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: poetry

    Best books by black authors: poetry

    Selected Poems, £9.41, Amazon

    Langston Hughes was one of the defining voices of the Harlem Renaissance and this collection puts some of his greatest work together. We recommend that you read the poem Harlem, for a start.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: gipping fiction

    Best books by black authors: gipping fiction

    The Color Purple, £5.99, Amazon

    You’ve likely heard of this given its film adaption with Oprah Winfrey, but this Pulitzer-winning story needs to be read. Trigger warning: it deal heavily with rape.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: autobiography

    Best books by black authors: autobiography

    I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, £6.99, Amazon

    This is the first volume of Maya Angelou’s autobiography which focuses on her childhood in 1930s America. It balances both the beauty of her childhood with issues such as poverty.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: modern day classics

    Best books by black authors: modern day classics

    Between The World And Me, £8.27, Amazon

    Between The World And Me has become essential reading as Ta-Nehisi Coates pens a letter to his son about racism, history, and his own lived experiences.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: classic books

    Best books by black authors: classic books

    Sister Outside, £4.99, Amazon

    Sister Outside is a collection of essays, speeches, letters, interviews, so it’s a good one if you want a varied reading experience that takes you in and out of different modes of communication. As well as race, it explores sexuality and feminism.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: the award-winner

    Best books by black authors: the award-winner

    Queenie, £5.99, Amazon

    Queenie is about as relatable as fiction gets for 20-something women trying to figure it all out.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: self-help books

    Best books by black authors: self-help books

    What I Know For Sure, £9.67, Amazon

    You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been inspired at some point down the road by Oprah Winfrey. Find a lot of that wisdom packed into here.

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: non-fiction

    Best books by black authors: non-fiction

    Bad Feminist, £9.89, Amazon

    Roxane Gay – one of the most authoritative voices in the literary space today – looks at her own journey as a queer woman of colour and comments on the state of feminism today. (Hint: we can all be better).

    Buy It Now

  • Best books by black authors: self-help books

    Best books by black authors: self-help books

    What A Time To Be Alone, £10.58, Amazon

    If you’re working on fostering self-love, this book can help with that. The graphic style makes it an easy one to sit through in one read or dip in and out of when you need a reminder of why you are all you need.

    Buy It Now

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