Important Black Authors We Should All Add To Our Reading Lists

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Books have the power to open our eyes to a new world. By reading about experiences different from our own, we are able to empathize and learn more about humanity. One small thing we can do during this time is make sure that our libraries reflect the many voices in this country. Whether you're a fan of poetry, science fiction, or just beautiful prose, these Black authors are some of the many we should all know and read regularly.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, we hope that it's a starting point for us all to diversify our own libraries.

Read on for some of the many important Black authors to add to your reading list.

01 of 30

Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison Beloved $15
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It would be remiss to not include Nobel Laureate in Literature Toni Morrison on this list. Her beautiful prose on Black identity and Black womanhood was celebrated by critics, winning her many prizes from a Pulitzer to a National Book Critics Circle Award. Though she passed in 2019, her books, from Song of Solomon to Beloved, still resonate today.

02 of 30

Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings $8
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The accomplished poet and memoirist fills the pages of her work with lyrical prose and poetry about her life in the context of racism and sexism in America. While she is best known for her first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou wrote six volumes in total about her life, making her one of the most widely read Black writers of our time.

03 of 30

Zadie Smith

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith White Teeth $16
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Zadie Smith's debut novel White Teeth won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award in 2000. She's a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and is known for her eccentric characters and clever dialogue.

04 of 30

James Baldwin

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
James Baldwin Go Tell It On The Mountain $15
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James Baldwin's account of the Black experience in America spanned poetry, essays and plays. While he is best known for works like If Beale Street Could Talk or Nobody Knows My Name, he was also a major activist in the Civil Rights movement.

05 of 30

Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward Sing, Unburied, Sing $16
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Jesmyn Ward is a two-time National Book Award winner (for 2017's Sing, Unburied, Sing and 2011's Salvage the Bones) whose searing and lyrical prose set in the deep South stays with readers long after they've finished her novels. Her writing focuses on past and present injustices as well as spirituality and has drawn comparisons to Toni Morrison.

06 of 30

Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison Invisible Man $15
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Ralph Ellison's debut novel Invisible Man won the National Book Award for fiction, remained on the bestsellers list for weeks, and has been a pillar of American literature since. After its publication, Ellison taught at many universities including Bard College, the University of Chicago, and Yale.

07 of 30

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Americanah $15
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Celebrated Nigerian writer and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is best known for her 2013 novel Americanah, a love story spanning two continents and countless adversities. She was also, famously, sampled in Beyonce's hit song, "Flawless," in which she read from her essay, "We Should All Be Feminists."

08 of 30

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me $26
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A former national correspondent for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of the New York Times bestseller Between the World and Me, which won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction. His work spans culture, power, politics, and societal issues. His first novel, The Water Dancer, was published in 2019.

09 of 30

Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas The Hate U Give $24
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Angie Thomas' 2017 bestselling young adult novel, The Hate U Give, tackles important issues of police brutality and systemic racism. Though she writes with a teen audience in mind, everyone can benefit from reading her work.

10 of 30

Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead The Underground Railroad $17
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Colson Whitehead is a prolific writer with nine novels to his name. His most famous, The Underground Railroad, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and reimagines the secret network as an actual underground railroad.

11 of 30

Alex Haley

Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
Alex Haley Roots: The Saga of an American Family $17
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With his novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, Alex Haley traced his maternal line to a young enslaved man in Gambia and follows his descendants as they go through major historical events. The book was adapted into a TV miniseries in 1977 and became a cultural phenomenon with another adaptation in 2016. Haley was also an accomplished interviewer; his interview with Malcolm X in 1963 for Playboy magazine served as the beginning to The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley.

12 of 30

Richard Wright

Native Son by Richard Wright
Richard Wright Native Son $11
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Richard Wright was a novelist and short story writer who was among the first to protest societal injustices toward Black people in his writings after the Second World War. His most famous novel, Native Son, was published in 1940, setting the stage for the Civil Rights movement in the '50s and '60s.

13 of 30

Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Kiley Reid Such a Fun Age $21
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Kiley Reid's debut novel, Such a Fun Age, was met with critical acclaim when it was published late December 2019, detailing a familiar moment where police are called on a Black nanny with a white child. Reid is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop where she received the Truman Capote Fellowship.

14 of 30

Terry McMillan

How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan
Terry McMillan How Stella Got Her Groove Back $16
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Terry McMillan's 1996 novel How Stella Got Her Groove Back details the life of a high-powered investment analyst too busy for love until she takes a last minute vacation to Jamaica. McMillan's work focuses on the lives and loves of Black women.

15 of 30

Samantha Irby

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life
Samantha Irby We Are Never Meeting in Real Life $16
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Comedian Samantha Irby's hilarious collections of essays, from We Are Never Meeting in Real Life to Wow, No Thank You are riotous bestsellers with her takes on how she could be the next Bachelorette, and, relatably, why she can't get the hang of a budget.

16 of 30

Jason Reynolds

As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds As Brave As You $9
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Jason Reynolds is a young adult author whose works can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. His book Ghost was a National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature, and he won the Kirkus Prize for the 2016 novel As Brave as You.

17 of 30

Phoebe Robinson

You Can't Touch My Hair (and Other Things I Still Have to Explain) by Phoebe Robinson
Phoebe Robinson You Can't Touch My Hair (and Other Things I Still Have to Explain) $15
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Comedian Phoebe Robinson's collections of essays bring the same humor and tone you know and love from her stand-up shows and popular podcast Two Dope Queens to the page. Her second book Everything's Trash, But It's Ok, is a hilarious look at politics, gender, race, and dating in America.

18 of 30

Trevor Noah

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood $17
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Comedian Trevor Noah of Daily Show fame penned a memoir in 2016 about his life in Apartheid South Africa. As Noah was born to a white father and a Black mother (a crime punishable by five years in prison at the time), his book chronicles his early life before he became an internationally successful comedian.

19 of 30

Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God $17
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Writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston focused on Black life in the rural South in her writings while her research in anthropology centered on Black folklore. Her most popular novel Their Eyes Were Watching God was published in 1937 and still resonates today.

20 of 30

Audre Lorde

Sister Outsider
Audre Lorde Sister Outsider $15
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The many words to describe Audre Lorde's legacy include writer, feminist, womanist, poet, and Civil Rights activist. Her work addressed issues from homophobia to racism and classism.

21 of 30

Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Tayari Jones An American Marriage $17
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Tayari Jones' most recent novel, An American Marriage, was the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Aspen Words Prize and an NAACP Image Award. It chronicles the relationship between newlyweds in the context of a false conviction and made President Barack Obama's 2018 Summer Reading List.

22 of 30

Alice Walker

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Alice Walker The Color Purple $17
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Alice Walker, best known for her novel The Color Purple which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, was born to Black sharecroppers in Georgia in 1944. Her writing and poetry detail the Black southern experience and examine racism and gender in America.

23 of 30

Bernice L. McFadden

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden
Bernice L. McFadden Praise Song for the Butterflies $16
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Bernice L. McFadden is a prolific author with nine critically-acclaimed books to her name. Her novel The Book of Harlan won the 2017 American Book Award and the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.

24 of 30

James McBride

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
James McBride The Good Lord Bird $16
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An accomplished musician and writer, James McBride won the National Book Award for his 2013 novel, The Good Lord Bird. He also received the National Humanities Medal in 2016 and is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.

25 of 30

Ijeoma Oluo

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Ijeoma Oluo So You Want to Talk About Race $16
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Ijeoma Oluo's book gives readers the tools they need to discuss race in America. With her sharp ideas and unflinching honesty, this book, along with Oluo's other writing, is a manual for anyone to learn how to discuss everything from intersectionality to affirmative action.

26 of 30

Talia Hibbert

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Talia Hibbert Get a Life, Chloe Brown $15
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Everyone's bookshelf has room for a little romance. Hibbert's charming works (her most famous being Get a Life, Chloe Brown) bring sharp humor and emotional depth to everyone's favorite genre.

27 of 30

Octavia Butler

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Octavia Butler Kindred $18
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Interested in science fiction? Octavia Butler's works are a must-read. Known as the "grand dame of science fiction," she received both Hugo and Nebula awards and was the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.

28 of 30

Marlon James

A Brief History of Seven Killings
Marlon James A Brief History of Seven Killings $19
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Born in Jamaica, Marlon James' most famous book A Brief History of Seven Killings is a fictional retelling of the attack on Bob Marley and his band before the Smile Jamaica concert in 1976 and the aftermath of that event. The novel won the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

29 of 30

Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay Bad Feminist $20
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Roxane Gay is a novelist, essayist, and short story writer known for Bad Feminist, Hunger, Difficult Women, and Not That Bad. She's also a contributor to the New York Times, covering the intersections of identity and culture.

30 of 30

Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson Just Mercy $16
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Bryan Stevenson is a writer, lawyer, and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization. His most famous work, Just Mercy, chronicles his experience defending a wrongly accused man, Walter McMillian, who was sentenced to die for a murder he didn’t commit and was recently adapted into a film starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

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