12 Books to Read During Black History Month

Black History Month is a time to celebrate Black voices and stories while committing to furthering one’s education on Anti-Racism. While this is an ongoing journey and not one that should end when February does, we gathered 12 must-reads for book lovers looking to engage with Black authors and experiences. Whether you enjoy novels, non-fiction, or celebrity memoirs, we’ve got you covered. If you’re looking to buy any of the books below, consider supporting black-owned bookstores, either local to your community or online!

# 1 – Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

A #1 New York Times Bestseller, Four Hundred Souls explores 400 years of history in Black America working its way to the present day. Told by 90 of the nation's leading Black writers, this anthology tells a story of unspeakable sufferings, courageous triumphs, and the power of community. Buy now

# 2 – The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Classic, deep, and moving, The Color Purple is a critically acclaimed epistolary novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker. The novel tells a beautiful story of pain, redemption, and hope – following two sisters in rural Georgia and spanning 20 years. The Color Purple broke down barriers around conversations of abuse and is heralded as a touchstone of classic American literature. If you’re not much of a reader, the novel has been adapted for both film and the Broadway stage. Buy now

# 3 – The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris

From Vice President Kamala Harris, The Truths We Hold is about the core truths that unite us, how best to act upon them. In this book, Kamala gives us a master class in problem-solving, crisis management, and leadership all while sharing a glimpse into her life and upbringing. Buy now

# 4 – The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison's acclaimed first novel explores the pain and curiosity that comes with desire. In this national bestseller, Pecola Breedlove prays for her eyes to turn blue so that people will look at her. The Bluest Eye examines our perceptions of the world and how our identities may be challenged by those around us.Buy now

# 5 – The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

You can’t have a list on Black literature without including text by James Baldwin, a key voice of the Civil Rights Movement and acclaimed writer and essayist. Often considered a seminal text, The Fire Next Time is a must-read for understanding race in America today. Buy now

# 6 – Conversations With Myself by Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is widely considered to be one of the most inspiring and iconic figures of our age. After a lifetime of taking pen to paper to record thoughts and events, hardships and victories, he bestowed his entire extant personal papers in 2010, which offer an unprecedented insight into his remarkable life.Buy now

# 7 – Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

For the fiction lovers, this novel has it all: it is a New York Times Bestseller, winner of the National Book Award, Finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and an Andrew Carnegie Medal recipient. The complicated and beautifully written book tells the story of three generations living in Mississippi dealing with hope and struggle. Oprah calls it “a tour de force” – and if that doesn’t convince you, the countless other glowing reviews will.Buy now

# 8 – How we Fight For our Lives by Saeed Jones

This Award-Winning memoir by poet Saeed Jones has been selected as the best book of the year by NPR, Time, The New Yorker, O, The Oprah Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, BuzzFeed, Goodreads, and many more. This is a striking coming-of-age story about growing up as a Black gay man in the South and is powerful, beautiful, and essential reading for any lover of literature. Buy now

# 9 – More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth

An instant New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2020 NAACP Image Award for outstanding literary work, his part–manifesto, part–memoir is an exploration of what it means to come into your own, on your own terms. Elaine Welteroth is also known as the revolutionary editor who infused social consciousness into the pages of Teen Vogue. Read More Than Enough now and get a head-start on the conversation – before it’s turned into a TV series by Paramount television studios!Buy now

# 10 – The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalia Harris

Another New York Times bestseller! This urgent, propulsive, and sharp as a knife debut dives into the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing. A whip-smart and dynamic thriller, The Other Black Girl is a sly social commentary perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace.Buy now

# 11 – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give is as joyous as it is painful, as mysterious as it is memorable. The uneasy balance between two worlds is shattered when the protagonist witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer. This riveting book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and was quickly adapted for the screen, giving you plenty of ways to engage with this important story. Buy now

# 12 – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Saving the best for last – you simply must read this book. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide. It is so poetic and powerful. Maya learned that through self-love, the kindness of others, and her own strong spirit, she would find freedom. Buy now

If you (like most) can’t read twelve books in one calendar month, consider this list a jumping-off point in your ongoing commitment to diversifying your reading list. Want more? Elif Notes put out an expanded list of this month’s essential reading, the NAACP published a list of ways you can thoughtfully celebrate Black History Month, and CNN shared 5 organizations you can consider donating to this month (or every month).

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