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by Kaitlin McManus | February 04, 2019

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Woman reading subway

A friend of mine was telling me not long ago that, for a culture to persist and thrive, it needs media representation. I agree with him completely. In fact, he reaffirmed my belief that one of the best ways to engage with a culture that is not yours is to engage with its media. This Black History Month (and throughout the year), it’s so important that we stop to acknowledge the Black American experience. We as a culture must evaluate our commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and appreciate that a variety of viewpoints and experiences isn’t just desirable—it is necessary.

Below you’ll find 25 books by Black authors. The list spans a variety of genres for all readers, and I cannot recommend each of them enough. They are beautifully written, thoroughly researched, and/or emotionally resonant, as all excellent literature must be. I can’t think of a better way to utilize one’s commute than by broadening one’s worldview.

Note: I have intentionally chosen modern works (mostly published within the last two or three years) for this list. I have chosen not to name beloved classics by Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Octavia Butler, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Frederick Douglass, and the hundreds of brilliant writers in their ranks. Why? Because while “Sula,” “Native Son,” “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” and all the rest are some of my (our) favorite books, they’ve been out for years or decades. Hopefully you know of them and that you should pick them up, if you haven't. My intent with this list is to showcase books published by brilliant authors who speak to the infinite aspects of the modern Black experience.

Fiction:

Friday Black – Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

How Long ‘til Black Future Month? – N.K. Jemisin

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie – Ayana Mathis

Binti series – Nnedi Okorafor

What is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi

Rosewater– Tade Thompson

Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward

Non-Fiction:

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé – Michael Arceneaux

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Hunger: a Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row – Anthony Ray Hinton

Heavy– Kiese Laymon

The Blood of Emmett Till – Timothy B. Tyson

Poetry:

American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin – Terrance Hayes

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé – Morgan Parker

Don’t Call Us DeadDanez Smith

Not Everything is a Eulogy – Crystal Valentine

Young Adult/Children’s Lit:

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History – Vashti Harrison

Miles Morales – Jason Reynolds

Ghost Boys – Jewell Parker Rhodes

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

Pride – Ibi Zoboi

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