Reading Recs

30+ Books by Black Authors to Check Out

This was a list too long to post on social media, so here you go! I mainly read SFF and romance, so gaps in genres reflect that. I’ve mentioned a bunch of these before, but I’m adding mini book reviews so they’re all in one place. I’m absolutely confident there’s something in here that you’ll love!

Adult SFF

  • The Broken Earth Series by N. K. Jemisin (F) – This series deserves all the awards it received. It takes place on a geologically unstable world where people have fractured into stratified societies where magic users are are treated like tools instead of people. I had a hard time getting through it, but it’s also a master class on craft. Just… damn. The first book features two points of view that interweave – I won’t spoil how. If you’re a writer, you shouldn’t miss it. All her books are great! So don’t stop there.
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (SF) – African futurism. Set in post-apocalyptic Sudan, its a revenge story featuring a rape survivor. It is heavy, angry, and if you’re looking for something lighter, I recommend the Binti novellas where a genius Himba girl goes to space and befriends squid-like aliens.
  • The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden (SF) – Near future South Africa plus gods, magic, and technology. It’s full of chaotic energy, action, and awesome. I think it would make an incredible movie. I really need to catch up on her newer books!
  • Trail of Lightning Series by Rebecca Roanhorse (F) – Supernatural x Navajo mythology. It’s a gritty future world, featuring a tough as nails monster hunter with no fucks left to give and a gorgeous healer with secrets.
  • Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (F) by Kai Ashante Wilson – This is one that I think needs to be read aloud or listened to on audiobook. It’s dark and brutal story about mercenaries escorting a caravan through a monstrous jungle to a famous city.
  • MEM by Britanny C Morrow – This one defies categories. It’s a novelette set in an alternate 1920’s where people make clones of themselves to store painful memories. It’s unsettling, strange, and leaves you thinking about what it means to be human.
  • Witchmark by C.L. Polk – A queer Edwardian murder mystery, set in an alternative world where magic exists but is outlawed.
  • The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (SF) – It feels like she predicted the social unrest in the world we’re living in. All of her books are worth checking out.

YA SFF

  • River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy (First in a F series) – Two sisters must battle each other for the throne, but Eva has a dark magic that hasn’t manifested. Eva goes up against unfavorable odds and love for a sister she’s supposed to kill. There are different kinds of magical creatures, monsters, and peoples in this book.
  • Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron (First in a F series) – West African inspired fantasy where a girl is born without magic in a world where everyone else has it, and a demon king has returned. This one gets dark, and I’m not sure if the MC is a hero or an anti-hero – which is a cool dynamic.
  • Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (SF) – This book is an ode to music and books. In a world where the arts are banned a rebel librarian and a music loving alien go on a road trip and end up saving the world.
  • A Blade So Black (3 books F) – Alice in Wonderland x Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Thick with romantic tension, trouble with strict parents, living a double life, and MONSTERS. Lots and lots of monsters and unfortunately ruined clothes.
  • The Belles (2 books F – though I’ve heard rumors of book 3?!) by Dhionelle Clayton – A world where beauty is currency and some girls are born with the magic to cosmetically alter people. It’s fantastically pretty and sinister at the same time. One of the most original series I’ve ever read.
  • Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi (2 books) – These books are so richly detailed, and OMG they made me hungry. Original world building and characters you root for. I’m really looking forward to reading War Girls and Riot Baby.
  • Dread Nation (2 books) – ZOMBIES + girls kicking butt during the civil war. FUN but also history.
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – Currently being made into a movie. It’s an African inspired heroes quest for a magic artifact. Also, falling in love with the enemy.

YA Contemporary

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – It’s a movie and on the best seller’s list forever for a reason. It’s a story of police brutality, yet ends with a hopeful note. Powerful. You should check out On the Come Up too.
  • The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon – A romance that takes place in the span of one day, with a black immigrant MC about to be deported and a Korean-American love interest. It’s got music, sweetness, and the end punched me in the gut.
  • Pride by Ibi Zoboi – A retelling of Pride and Prejudice about families on a block in Brooklyn. I’ve mentioned it here before, but it’s one of my faves.
  • Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann – A romance featuring an asexual protagonist. The first ace romance I’ve read, and I could relate to a lot of it. Happy ending, of course!
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – It’s a book of narrative poetry, that tells the story of a girl finding her voice and going for her passion. One of the most original books I’ve ever read.

Middle Grade

  • The Tristan Strong books by Kwame Alexander (F) – These are packed with SO much attitude and humor, I snorted in laughter so many times. A fun, fast paced set of books infused with American folk tales.
  • The Jumbies books by Tracey Baptiste (F) – A series of creepy things happen when a stranger comes to Corinne’s town. It’s a story steeped in Carribean folklore, magic, and the kind of monsters that snatch kids in the dark.

Adult Contemporary

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – It’s not just a book about history, but a masterclass in narrative craft. It left me wrecked, and thinking for a long time about the legacies of slavery.

Thriller/Mystery

Hollywood Homicide Series by Kellye Garrett – A former actress turns detective. It’s funny, fashionable, and very LA.

Non-Fiction

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay – Her essays are smart and poignant. Many of these were published online previously, but it’s nice to see them in one collection.

Romance

These authors are PROLIFIC. I can’t even rec individual books, just everything by them, because they’re that good.

  • Alyssa Cole – Her princess books are nerdy fun, and her historical fiction handles the complexities of the past with a deft hand. Read it all!
  • Alexa Martin – I’m not a fan of sports, but her books are so much fun and I have a new appreciation for both athletes and their partners.
  • Kennedy Ryan – I picked up Queen Move on sale, and now I’m going through the back list on one click order. If you like messy, complicated drama in relationships, and soulmates, you’ll like these.
  • Vanessa Riley – Regency romance with black characters and POC. YES PLEASE. There’s so much societal nuance in these books than your typical regencies, but they’re just as romantic and swoony.
  • Jasmine Guillory – Funny and sweet. Good if you want something lighthearted to make you smile.
  • Kwana Jackson – Real Men Knit is probably a perfect rom com. A yarn shop, hot men that knit, and an awkward but loveable longtime friend heroine. I need to check out her other books too.
  • Rebekah Weatherspoon– Very explicit, but also character focused, and full of sweetness and heart. I’m a particular fan of the FIT books, and the Loose Ends books.
  • Melissa Blue – You want sexy Scottsmen? Melissa’s got a series of them. Also explicit.
  • Beverly Jenkins – The QUEEN. She’s written 60+ books? I haven’t had time to count the actual number, and she’s still going!

Of course, I hope you either continue to, or begin to, read books by Black authors all the time, and not just now. My personal goal is to add more non-fiction to my reading list this year.

What are your favorites or what are you looking forward to reading next?

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Reading Recs

Fall 2019 Reading Recs
Fall Book Recs

Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants by Anna Hui (Non-Fiction)

This was one of my favorite reads this year. What starts out as an effort to discover the roots of Canadian-Chinese cuisine, turns out to be both a story about the author’s family and a celebration of immigrant resilience.

I will never turn my nose at the thought of anything being inauthentic again. Americanized Chinese food is it’s own thing, and so many of the dishes in the book are a part the comfort food I still eat. Going on road trips and stopping at the one Chinese restaurant in the tiny towns we drove through them was also something my family used to do all the way up and down the West Coast and I always wondered about how those places survived. Even if you are American I think the stories here would still apply.

Now… I really have a craving for ginger beef…

Circe by Madeline Miller (Historical Fantasy/Mythological)

It lives up to the buzz. This story was both beautiful and devastating.

The story is centered around Circe, a nymph and witch. She slowly discovers her powers, and comes to understand humanity over the millennia, while facing crippling loneliness, and being treated terribly by almost everyone she cares for. It’s a beautifully written survivor story. If it were a movie, it would have golden dappled light, white sand beaches, and wide frame shots like you’d see in an Ang Lee film.

It’s also a refresher in Greek mythology, that makes the mythology feel so painfully relevant. The ending was spectacular.

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev (Contemporary Romance)

It’s a foodie romance! The love interest is a chef and oh my God I wish I could just eat everything that was described. There’s even a recipe in the back!

But it wasn’t an easy book to read. The train wreck begins right from the start, and I wasn’t sure how either Trisha or DJ could ever redeem themselves. Trisha takes a long journey to change and unpack the privilege she had growing up. There were times I didn’t sympathize with her and I didn’t think she could ever turn around her life, yet she did. By the end I was rooting for her happy ending. It’s testament to brilliant writing craft.

Yes it’s another pride and prejudice retelling, but Austen is more inspiration than a beat for beat guide in this story. It deals with class, and privilege, and family drama along with standing up for yourself and what you want.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (YA Fantasy)

This is a silk road story about a young tailor who has to create three magical dresses after winning a competition against the best tailors in the country. There’s a slow burning central romance which I also really enjoyed, and there’s a cool quest to find the most impossible materials: thread of sunlight, moonlight, and starlight. This whole book is a sewist’s dream and I would love to see fan art of the dresses that the main character created. I’m looking forward to the sequel!

Like a Mother – A feminist journey through the science and culture of pregnancy by Angela Garbes (Non-Fiction)

I wish this book existed when I was pregnant with my first child. I had so many questions about the science behind what was going on with my body, and very confused about what was normal and what was not.

This book is part autobiography, part anthropology text, and part science journal. I appreciated the perspectives, as well the information about what to expect both physically and emotionally not only during pregnancy but aftewards.

The emotional fallout, body changes, and relationship challenges post baby were things I did not expect, did not handle well, and I haven’t seen covered in depth in other pregnancy books. If you have a friend going through their first pregnancy, or you’re thinking about having children, I highly recommend this one.

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