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Spend this month reading Black authors, from modern favorites like Roxane Gay and Jasmine Guillory to classics like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison
This Black History Month, support Black authors by picking up a few great reads. Whether your taste runs toward fun and flirty romantic comedies, teeth-rattling suspense novels that will keep you up past your bedtime or historical fiction that sneaks some education in with the entertainment, options abound for book lovers.
Of course, plenty of Black artists, thinkers and celebrities have stellar nonfiction on offer, as well. Don't miss a new women-focused history of hip-hop from Nadira Simmons, a look at the relationship between designer B Michael and Cicely Tyson or new nonfiction from Roxane Gay. Whatever your reading diet, we've got your February TBR pile right here.
'First Things First: Hip-Hop Ladies Who Changed the Game' by Nadirah Simmons
From factual firsts like Queen Latifah's star on the Walk of Fame, Lauryn Hill's Album of the Year award and April Walker's groundbreaking fashion to personal anecdotes from a lifelong listener that keeps things fresh and funky, this is the history of hip-hop that needs to be on every fan's bookshelf.
'Muse: Cicely Tyson and Me: A Relationship Forged in Fashion' by B Michael
This rapturously photographed book about the lifelong bond between famed designer B Michael and his famous muse, actress and activist Cicely Tyson, is a love letter written in chiffon and satin. Michael first met and designed for Tyson when she was 80, forging a collaborative friendship that ensured their style had real substance, while winning accolades. It proves that kindness and friendship never go out of fashion. — Caroline Leavitt
'Opinions: A Decade of Arguments, Criticism, and Minding Other People's Business' by Roxane Gay
If you already know Gay from her previous bestsellers, Bad Feminist and Hunger, you're going to devour her latest: A collection of her opinion writing from the past decade. The essays span as many topics as the news itself, including politics, civil rights and cultural conversations. Predictably, a must-read.
'Come and Get It' by Kiley Reid
Visiting professor Agatha Paul intends to spend a year at the University of Arkansas teaching and doing research for her next book. But she quickly becomes entangled in the lives of a dorm’s residents, including Millie, an RA with homeownership aspirations and a trio of secretive, scheming suite-mates. Low-stakes squabbles soon escalate, leading to a shocking end of the semester. A thrilling, delectable look at wealth, privilege and desire. — Carly Tagen-Dye
'Beloved' by Toni Morrison
Morrison is a national treasure, so if you haven't read any of her books, start here. This suspenseful story follows an escaped enslaved person named Sethe whose demons keep chasing her down long after she's made it to safety. It's a beautifully painted tale of love, loss and the lasting impact of trauma.
'The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store' by James McBride
It's 1972, and Black and immigrant Jewish residents are living together on the margins of white society in this vivid fictional romp. This captivating yarn unspools around the resident's secrets and sorrows, traditions and trials and an honest-to-goodness skeleton in a well. You'll soon see why Barack Obama named it one of his favorite books of 2023.
'Let Us Descend' by Jesmyn Ward
Take a harrowing journey from a Carolina plantation through the slave markets of New Orleans and on to Louisiana in this masterful work from one of our best living writers. It follows an enslaved woman named Annis who conjures the beloved memory of her late mother, lost lover and African warrior ancestors to comfort her on the trek. A gorgeously imaginative tale.
'Black Friend' by Ziwe
Pop culture aficionados may already know Ziwe from her frank (and frankly hilarious) interviews with celebrity guests like Alyssa Milano and Chet Hanks, and those who love her unapologetic style will also gobble up this book. But for anyone who isn't familiar, Ziwe's own introduction tells it best: "While I am a supportive friend, I am not a supporting character. I am the protagonist of my perfectly imperfect story."
'Notes on a Native Son' by James Baldwin
No list of Black authors, artists or thinkers would be complete without the inimitable Baldwin. While the essays in this book were written in the 1940s and '50s, his writing on life in Harlem, the protest novel and civil rights feel just as current today.
'This Is the Honey' edited by Kwame Alexander
If middle school English class convinced you not to read poetry, let this collection of contemporary poetry change your mind. With joyful, poignant, piercing and unfailingly beautiful work from greats like Rita Dove, Jericho Brown, Ross Gay, Tracy K. Smith, Terrance Hayes, Morgan Parker and Nikki Giovanni, it'll have you dog-earing every other page.
'Octavia E. Butler: Kindred, Fledgling, Collected Stories' by Octavia E. Butler
The best sci-fi addresses intimately familiar problems, even if they take place in a galaxy far, far away. This classic collection includes two of Butler's most well-known pieces of Afrofuturism that take a fictionalized approach to the horrors of our country's history, along with other stories that make a great introduction to Butler's work.
'Between the World and Me' by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Toni Morrison called this literary memoir "required reading," and it's also won or been nominated for just about every literary prize there is. Weaving together big questions about our country's history and the state of things today with an intimate letter to his young son, this book is an absolute force of nature.
'The Wedding Date' series by Jasmine Guillory
During Black History Month (and always!) it's important to celebrate Black joy and no one does it better than Guillory. Her sexy, steamy romance novels keep her fans clamoring for more, and this series is no exception. It includes stories about a last-minute wedding invitation, two high-powered professionals trying to make room for love and lots more.
'Children of Blood and Bone' by Tomi Adeyemi
Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas and other Booktok hits, this one is inspired by West African legends. Zélie Adebola, remembers when Orïsha was a magical place, before a tyrannical king took over. Now, she's got a chance to save it, herself and her people in this gripping fantasy that just might bring a little romance into play.
'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' by Maya Angelou
Much like many of the other authors on this list, Angelou likely needs no introduction. This stunning memoir of a lonely childhood marred by a devastating attack and the reverberations throughout her life belongs on every reading list.
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