It’s Black History Month! You might be able to guess how we’re celebrating — by reading! Here are ten books worth reading, re-reading, and celebrating — from nonfiction classics that changed the world to hot new historical novels, debut voices to past masters, stories of the American West to narratives of the U.K., Sierra Leone, and beyond.
Happy reading — be sure to follow us on Twitter, where every day this month we’ll be sharing a different book we love by a Black author.
A compelling and important historical novel that takes us back to an extraordinary moment when enslaved people were shedding their bonds and embracing freedom, with powerful depictions of the camaraderie forged between fighting men and heartrending scenes of sacrifice and courage.
“This book is a straight-up page-turner… A classic war story told simply and well, its meanings not forced but allowed to bubble up.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times
Things I Have Withheld by Kei Meiller
An acclaimed novelist and poet’s deeply moving collection of linked essays that blend memoir and literary commentary to explore the silences that exist in our conversations about race, sex, and gender.
“Dynamic… Examines personal and professional moments in which silence revealed a truth about race and oppression.”—New Yorker
The Window Seat by Aminatta Forna
A stunning collection of essays from one of our most important literary voices, The Window Seat explores border crossings both literal and philosophical, our relationship with the natural world, and the stories that we tell ourselves.
“These essays, ranging across continents and time, so broad in their themes and so deep in their perceptions, are essential reading, combining Aminatta Forna’s great gifts as a storyteller and her razor-sharp analytical skills.”—Salman Rushdie
Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma
Ambitious and masterfully wrought, Book of the Little Axe is an incredible journey, spanning decades and oceans from Trinidad to the American West during the tumultuous days of warring colonial powers and westward expansion.
“Epic in ambition and scope, a sweeping tale that illuminates pivotal historical periods…Lauren Francis-Sharma brings her characters and their tangled histories to life with tremendous precision and sensitivity. This is the work of a major voice, a brilliant talent.”—Laura van den Berg
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
A stunning, virtuosic debut about two young Black artists in London falling in and out of love, hailed as one of the most essential debut novels of recent years. Keep an eye out for Azumah Nelson’s Small Worlds, forthcoming this summer.
“Azumah Nelson’s poetic brilliance, his ability to balance the general and the specific, the ambient and the granular, makes for a salient achievement… Whether he’s describing a tense police encounter or lovers intertwined, when he’s great, which is often, his descriptive powers are truly special.”—Gabriel Bump, New York Times
The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, translated from the French by Richard Philcox
A timeless, ferocious, and indispensable work of revolutionary anticolonial theory by the psychiatrist and political philosopher whom Angela Davis called the twentieth century’s “most compelling theorist of racism and colonialism.”
“Fanon’s theoretical genius, literary artistry, and political courage are undeniable.”—Cornel West, from the introduction
The Awkward Black Man by Walter Mosley
A masterful, NAACP Image Award-winning collection of stories that showcases one of the country’s most beloved and acclaimed writers—Walter Mosley, the legendary author and winner of PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Reading these stories, you feel as if you’re sitting with a gifted storyteller while he spins yarns about the strange people living in his mind… Each protagonist seems simple and often shallow on the surface, but as the story progresses he unfurls into greater and frankly breathtaking complexity.”—New York Times
Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz
This livewire debut depicts the sultry lives of Floridians in intergenerational tales that contemplate human connection, race, womanhood, inheritance, and the elemental darkness in us all, set among the cities and suburbs of the Sunshine State.
“Reading one of Moniz’s stories is like holding your breath underwater while letting the salt sting your fresh wounds. It’s exhilarating and shocking and even healing. The power in these stories rests in their veracity, vitality and vulnerability.”—Washington Post
A Visitation of Spirits by Randall Kenan
Weaving the mythos and the hard realities of rural Black life and easily gliding between past and present, A Visitation of Spirits is a classic novel of growing up from a giant of American lettters, one of the few writers to bring the southern Black, gay experience into literary fiction.
“A genius, our Black Marquez.”—Terry McMillan
Manifesto by Bernardine Evaristo
From Bernardine Evaristo, author of the Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other, a memoir of her own life and writing, and her manifesto on unstoppability, creativity, and activism.
“Evaristo’s life as detailed in Manifesto is the story of dreams made real through an unshakeable belief in the self despite the naysaying noise of the world… A nonfiction bildungsroman that is a towering monument to the creative life of Black women.”—Hope Wabuke, NPR