Education

19 Must-Read Books by Black Authors in Honor of Black History Month

Written by Deanna Nguyen | February 3, 2021

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Bookworms, have you started your reading challenge yet? Whether you’ve made significant progress or you haven’t touched a single book, it’s never too late to grow your TBR list. February is also known as Black History Month, and what better way to celebrate than to read books from notable Black authors? What’s more, you can save money when you shop from secondhand bookstores like ThriftBooks!

At ThriftBooks, the largest online independent bookstore that offers new and used books, you’ll find a huge library with discounted prices—all at your fingertips. Plus, when you join their ReadingRewards program, you get to pick a free book that’s under $5 for every 500 points you earn! Ready to join the book club? Below is a diverse selection of thrifted books by Black authors recommended for your reading pleasures to celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth, from fiction to fantasy, short stories to memoirs, poetry to children’s books—and more!

Fiction / Short Stories

What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
Price: $16 $14.30
Format: Paperback
Condition: New

Lesley Nneka Arimah made an unforgettable debut with the short story collection, What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, which explores the tense relationships between parents and children, the post-apocalyptic future, and human desires through magical realism. The collection isn’t for the faint of heart, as the themes are pessimistic and bleak. If you enjoy delving into human life through a dystopic lens, you’re in for one heck of a ride.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Price: $16.95 $15.17
Format: Paperback
Condition: New

Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing earned many accolades such as the PEN/Hemingway Award and the American Book Award in 2017. It’s a multi-generational saga, categorized as historical fiction, that starts with two half sisters who were born in different villages in Ghana during the 18th century. The chapters are devoted to the women and their descendants, as their parallel journeys unravel the brutality of warfare, colonization, and slavery in Ghana and America.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Price: $26 $22.51
Format: Hardcover
Condition: New

As one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2017, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for Fiction the same year. The story highlights the raw truths about American life as well as a family’s struggles and bonds in Mississippi during the early 21st century. Fans of Morrison and Faulkner will enjoy Ward’s work of American literature, as it paints a powerful picture about America and is soon to be an all-time classic.

Biographies / Memoirs / Nonfiction

A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Price: $45 $37.89
Format: Hardcover
Condition: New

In A Promised Land, the first volume in The Presidential Memoirs, Obama takes readers on his life journey, from when he was a young man finding his identity to his first term as America’s first Black president. He reflects on his time at the White House, the challenges he faced, and the meaning of democracy, all while revealing the true nature of being the President of the United States.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Price: $32.50 $27.69
Format: Hardcover
Condition: New

Before her husband published his memoir, Michelle Obama was one step ahead with her own called Becoming. Her storytelling is engaging and thoughtful as she takes readers through her life journey — from where she spent her childhood in Chicago to her time as the First Lady at the White House. She continues to inspire many people through her honesty and conviction, and just like her husband, Barack, instills hope in Americans.

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Asha Bandele, Angela Y Davis (Foreword)
Price: $16.99 $15.20
Format: Paperback
Condition: New

Ever wondered how the Black Lives Matter movement started and who spearheaded it? When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir details the ongoing racial injustices against Black lives as well as the meaning behind being a Black woman in America. Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the corrupt criminal justice system and how it has always thrived on white privilege. The memoir is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn about the origins of #BLM and how they can become proactive advocates in the fight against violent racism.

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Asha Bandele, Angela Y Davis (Foreword)
Price: $19.99 $17.75
Format: Paperback
Condition: New

If you’re looking for a well-researched historical narrative about racism in America, Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi should be at the top of your list. The debates between segregationists and assimilationists and between racists and anti-racists are supplemented by ideas founded by prominent American intellectuals like Thomas Jefferson and William Lloyd Garrison. According to Kendi, racist thinking doesn’t stem from ignorance and hatred but rather the popularization of defending and rationalizing the country’s discriminatory policies.

Young Adult / Teen Fiction

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Price: $18.99 $16.80
Format: Hardcover
Condition: New

The Hate U Give earned a number of awards and received a movie adaptation a year after its publication in 2017 — did we mention it’s Angie Thomas’s debut novel? If you’re looking for a story about racial injustice and the #BLM movement from a teenager’s perspective, The Hate U Give should be next on your reading list. When Starr Carter witnesses a police officer fatally shooting her childhood friend, Khalil, she’s torn between speaking out and staying silent about the truth of what happened. Starr’s struggle for justice is one that echoes reality for many.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
Price: $17.99 $16.01
Format: Hardcover
Condition: New

For some Black girl magic, A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow is all about two best friends, Tavia and Effie, who are trying to survive junior year of high school while dealing with secret identities, a haunted past, racism, and sexism. When Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop — not long after discovering a siren murder trial — she and Effie do everything in their power to keep themselves from drowning. The modern approach to the siren mythology is one that resonates in our current waters.

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
Price: $11.99 $11.19
Format: Paperback
Condition: New

In a riveting yet war-torn Nigeria in 2172, two sisters, Onyii and Ify, join the fight in order to see a better future full of hope and peace. War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi is seated in an immersive setting, with a world ravaged by climate change and nuclear disasters. Soldiers and mechs have bionic limbs and artificial organs to protect themselves from radiation. If you enjoy sci-fi and a post-apocalyptic setting, you’ll want to pick up War Girls.

Fantasy / Sci-Fi

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
Price: $16.99 $15.32
Format: Paperback
Condition: New

A fantasy of epic proportions, The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter introduces readers to a world where one in every 2,000 women have the power to call down dragons and one in every 100 men can transform into upgraded killing machines. Everyone else is considered weak and must fight for their lives in a never-ending war. Tau wants to live a humble life, but after seeing his loved ones get brutally murdered, he goes on the path of revenge. Fans of Game of Thrones and Gladiator will want to check out Winter’s enthralling debut novel.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Price: $28 $24.16
Format: Hardcover
Condition: New

N.K. Jemisin is a three-time Hugo Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author whose latest novel, The City We Became, delves into the different boroughs of New York — each of which is a person. It’s a contemporary fantasy that takes you all over New York as you try to wrap your head around the concept of cities having human souls and forms. Fans of Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy and The Broken Earth Trilogy won’t be prepared for the magic and thrills of The City We Became.

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden
Price: $15.99 $5.59
Format: Paperback
Condition: Good

The Prey of Gods is sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and dark humor all wrapped up in one package that’ll leave you wishing there was a sequel. Nicky Drayden weaves together an exciting and adventurous story that’s set in a near-future South Africa where hallucinogenic drugs, an AI uprising, and an ancient, blood-thirsty demigoddess are terrorizing the country. The novel won the 2017 Compton Crook Award and 2017 RT Booklovers Award in Science Fiction, so if you’re wondering whether it’s worth checking out, you already have your answer.

Children’s Books

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
Price: $17.99 $15.90
Format: Hardcover
Condition: New

Hair Love is not only a children’s book but also an Oscar-winning short film about a young girl named Zuri who tries to style her hair by watching her mom’s hair tutorials. She receives help from her dad, but the end result is an even bigger mess. A touching story about self-confidence and the relationship between a father and daughter, Hair Love encourages everyone to love their natural hair. Plus, it was narrated by none other than Beyonce’s daughter, Blue Ivy!

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles
Price: $17.99 $16.15
Format: Hardcover
Condition: New

A New York Times bestseller, All Because You Matter by Tami Charles is a love letter to Black and brown children from around the world. It’s part anthem, part love letter, and even a bit of a lullaby, as Charles lyrically reminds readers that they matter and are worthy no matter what other people say or think. The book provides comfort, joy, and hope to young readers as they grow up and make sense of the world they live in.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James
Price: $17.99 $16.01
Format: Hardcover
Condition: New

Every year is the year of self-confidence; both Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James conveyed the feeling in I Am Every Good Thing through the Black narrator who’s always looking forward and basically hyping himself up. He’s proud of everything that embodies who he is, and he’s not afraid to show it! If you have a kid who needs a gentle reminder that there’s nothing wrong with being themselves, this upbeat and empowering picture book is the perfect pick-me-up.

Poetry

I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark
Price: $17 $15.06
Format: Paperback
Condition: New

Writers are painters of words, but not everyone can illustrate an image that haunts them like Tiana Clark. I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood is a collection of poems that draw on Clark’s memories of living in the South and the violent history that cost so many Black lives. She muses about race and touches on some mythology — even a bit of Rihanna. If you’re looking for contemporary poets to follow, Clark is one that you can’t afford to miss.

The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde
Price: $21.95 $19.08
Format: Paperback
Condition: New

Audre Lorde was a prominent and inspirational poet and civil rights activist who left her mark on the world through her powerful and thought-provoking prose. The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde offers more than 300 poems, all of which voice her fears and hopes for a society that’s still rife with racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Lorde helped pave the way for LGBTQ+ rights and contributed to Black lesbian feminism. If you didn’t know who Lorde was before, now you do!

The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Nate Marshall
Price: $19.95 $17.72
Format: Paperback
Condition: New

Do you love hip-hop? If so, then The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop might be your next favorite poetry collection. The anthology features 78 poets from different parts of the U.S. and challenges the ideas of who is a poet and what a poem should be. These modern scribes acknowledge traditions but put their own spin to poetry and push the boundaries. Fans of hip-hop culture should crack open this poetry collection, even if they don’t read poetry!

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