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35 Books by Black Authors to Read in 2021

In celebration of diverse cultures and literature, we’re partnering with Barnes & Noble to shine a light on Black voices that enlighten, entertain, and educate their readers through classic African American stories, lyrical poetry, soul food cookbooks, historical fiction, YA fantasy, and empowering children’s books.

Ready to turn the page? Here’s our list of books by Black writers to pick up and read today:

Table of Contents

Best Books by Black Authors in 2021

Black Voices: Fiction

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Book title The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

A gripping family saga centers on two sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes; inseparable as youths, the identical twins lead very different lives in adulthood—one black and one white.

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Book title Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

A young man becomes the only Black salesman at a shadowy, next-best-thing startup in this satirical critique of the American dream, ambition, and racism in corporate America.

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah

Book title The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah

Sister Souljah’s first novel is hip-hop generation approved, a riveting tale of New York City life centered on an ambitious, young woman willing to do anything to stay ahead of the game.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Book title The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

This award-winning novel, set in Jim Crow-era Florida, weaves a tale of two boys at a reform school, based on the now-closed Dozier School, a centuries’ old institution with a dark history.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

Book title The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

Two enslaved young men at a Mississippi plantation forge an unbreakable bond; once accepted by their community, cruel circumstances lead to a betrayal that threatens the existence of all.

The Color Purple: A by Alice Walker

Book title The Color Purple: A by Alice Walker

Set in rural Georgia, this heartbreaking yet powerful narrative explores gender, race, sisterhood, domestic abuse, and resilience through African American women’s experiences during the early 20th-century.

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Black Voices: Poetry

The Hill We Climb and Other Poems by Amanda Gorman

Book title The Hill We Climb and Other Poems by Amanda Gorman

The debut poetry collection of 22-year-old Gorman (the youngest presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history) includes the moving, historic poem read at the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States.

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song (A Library of America Anthology)

Book title African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song (A Library of America Anthology)

The most extensive anthology of African American poetry ever published covers eight time periods and features 250 poets—from Phillis Wheatley’s colonial-day verses to voices from the Black Lives Matter movement.

Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks

Book title Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks

The first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize is best known for compassionately documenting the Black experience during the 1940s and ’50s while exploring racial inequality, poverty, and gender issues.

The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998 by Nikki Giovanni

Book title The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998 by Nikki Giovanni

This collection includes the first seven volumes of verse from critically acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni, whose themes of racial pride, gender equality, and civil rights resonates with all ages.

HER by Pierre Alex Jeanty

Book title HER by Pierre Alex Jeanty

The author’s short greeting-card writing style makes this uplifting collection of poetry and prose celebrating women’s strength, resilience, and beauty a quick and easy read.

Black Voices: Civil Rights & Black History

Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis, Michael D’Orso

Book title Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis, Michael D'Orso

As told by the late Georgia Congressman John Lewis, this first-hand account of the civil rights movement and its leaders provides unique insight into historical events of the late ’50s and ’60s.

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights by Gretchen Sorin

Book title Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights by Gretchen Sorin

Historian Gretchen Sorin highlights the profound significance of the automobile in African American history—and how freedom on the open road also helped fuel the fight for civil rights.

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 by Ibram X. Kendi (Editor), Keisha N. Blain (Editor)

Book title Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 by Ibram X. Kendi (Editor), Keisha N. Blain (Editor)

The retelling of the four-hundred-year existence of African Americans from 1619 to the present unfolds in five-year increments; it features the perspectives of eighty Black writers and 10 Black poets.

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

Book title Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

Baldwin’s essay collection is a critique of what it means to be Black in America; it’s as relevant today as when he first wrote about living in Harlem during the 1940s and early 1950s.

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Book title From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor examines the heavy toll that historical and modern racism takes on the black communities’ social-, political- and economic growth.

I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World by Martin Luther King Jr.

Book title I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World by Martin Luther King Jr.

Explore the history of the civil rights movement and related events through Dr. King’s most significant orations and writings, from his famed March on Washington keynote address to his last sermon, “I See the Promised Land.”

Black Voices: Cookbooks

Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking by Jessica B. Harris, Albert G. Luka

Book title Sweet Home Café Cookbook: A Celebration of African American Cooking by Jessica B. Harris, Albert G. Luka

Celebrate the diversity in African American cooking with over 100 recipes, including cuisine inspired by foods from Black culture, global influences, and dishes served at the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Sweet Home Café.

The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food by Marcus Samuelsson, Osayi Endolyn

Book title The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food by Marcus Samuelsson, Osayi Endolyn

Samuelsson’s trailblazing new cookbook shines a light on contemporary Black cooking through cultural storytelling and 150 recipes that pay homage to today’s top chefs, writers, and activists.

Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed [A Cookbook] by Bryant Terry

Book title Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed [A Cookbook] by Bryant Terry

Named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks of all time by Bon Appétit, renowned chef Bryant Terry’s remix of classic African Diaspora cuisine includes over 100 plant-based dishes.

Son of a Southern Chef: Cook with Soul by Lazarus Lynch

Book title Son of a Southern Chef: Cook with Soul by Lazarus Lynch

Explore creative soul food recipes crafted by a two-time Chopped winner, whose first Southern cookbook serves up plenty of colorful storytelling, photography, food, and fashion.

The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem by Marcus Samuelsson

Book title The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem by Marcus Samuelsson

Not just a cookbook bursting with flavorful Southern comfort food and multicultural recipes from Samuelsson’s iconic Harlem restaurant, there are poetic essays, special menu secrets, and stunning photography too!

Food for Life: Delicious & Healthy Comfort Food from My Table to Yours! by Laila Ali

Book title Food for Life: Delicious & Healthy Comfort Food from My Table to Yours! by Laila Ali

Learn how to make the Greatest of All Time Burger with boxing champ Ali’s first cookbook; it has over 100 recipes with innovative ingredient swaps for healthier takes on comfort food.

Black Voices: Teens YA

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

Book title The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph

From the perspective of a friend sharing his experiences of intentional (and unintentional) racism, Frederick Joseph delves deep into controversial themes, from cultural appropriation to white privilege, through conversations with prominent artists and activists.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Book title The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr witnesses a police officer shoot and kill her childhood best friend; the traumatic event leaves her struggling to find her voice and cope with the effects of police brutality, racism, and violence.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Book title Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

The prequel to The Hate U Give takes place seventeen years before we meet Starr and examines the expected role of Black men within their communities through her father, Maverick, the son of a former street legend.

Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson

Book title Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson

Teenager Nala Robertson struggles to keep up with the “little” lies she tells a guy she likes and eventually learns valuable lessons in self-love, acceptance, and community along the way.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

Book title One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

Eighteen-year-old activist Keziah mysteriously dies following her first social justice rally, prompting her sisters to honor her uniquely—by taking an eye-opening road trip using the Negro Motorist Green Book.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Book title The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

In this West African-inspired fantasy, sixteen-year-old Deka’s gold blood makes her a village outcast; her future lies in fighting for the emperor alongside a superior army of girls just like her.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Book title Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster sends a strong social message and uniquely unfolds like a screenplay from the main character’s imagination: Steve Harmon is a teenager in juvenile detention awaiting trial for felony murder.

Black Voices: Kids

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

Book title Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

This heartwarming tale celebrates natural hair, Black pride, identity, and culture as told through a father’s experience learning how to style his daughter’s hair for the first time.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

35 Books by Black Authors to Read in 2021 Image 1

Here’s a picture book full of positive self-love energy, from its colorfully painted illustrations to the young Black narrator’s radiating self-awareness and confidence.

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou

Book title Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou

The abstract paintings of iconic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat bring Maya Angelou’s poem about courage and fearlessness to life in the 25th-anniversary edition of this children’s book.

This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

Book title This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges pens a letter to the reader, sharing her experiences as one of the first Black students to integrate into New Orleans’ all-white public school system.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Book title Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Heartwarming illustrations accompany inspiring stories of forty Black women in American history who changed the world, from abolitionist Sojourner Truth to mathematician Katherine Johnson.

Save More on Black Voices at Barnes & Noble

Right now, take up to 30% off highly anticipated books written by Black authors; you can preorder select titles written by Sister Soulja, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, and more.

Giving Assistant shoppers save more with Barnes & Noble coupon codes and earn 5% cash back on all purchases, plus get free shipping on eligible-item orders of $35 or more.

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