CBL List of Recommended Books by Black Authors

Since 2002, the mission of Center for Black Literature has been and continues still to expand, broaden, and enrich the public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of the value of Black literature. In keeping with its mission, the staff at CBL began compiling a reading list of titles that we and our colleagues turn to for fortitude, inspiration, and uplift. These titles provide impactful narratives that reflect the rich, wide-ranging literary genres in which Black writers use their voices to express their experiences and to center on the political and social consciousness that represents varied Black experiences, in America, the Caribbean, and abroad.

Literature as a reflection of society is a forceful tool. During today’s challenging times of the health pandemic and the recent mass protests and demonstrations against this country’s long history of police brutality and institutional racism, there have been an outpouring of emotions, from anger to grief, all galvanizing calls for political change. In the past few months, there has also been an overwhelming surge of interest in literature on the subjects of race and Black identity in America, and with that, renewed support of Black authors and sales at Black-owned bookstores.

Our listing only scratches the surface of an ever-growing literary landscape of Black writers; thus, we invite recommendations from our colleagues, friends, and supporters. Kindly feel free to send your recommendations and suggestions for consideration to us at writers@mec.cuny.edu. For information on some of these and additional titles, please visit the African American Literature Book Club at AALBC.com.


  1. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, 2010
  2. White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson, 2016
  3. Collected Essays and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, 1998
  4. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story by Elaine Brown, 1993
  5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015
  6. Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat, 2011
  7. The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues by Angela Y. Davis and Robin D. G. Kelley, 2012
  8. The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, 2005 (1963)
  9. Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr., 2017
  10. Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr., 2020
  11. Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr., 2016
  12. The Black Book with Foreword and Preface by Toni Morrison by Middleton Harris, with Morris Levitt, Roger Furman, and Ernest Smith, 2019 (1974)
  13. Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines by Sandhya Rani Jha, 2015
  14. Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essaysby June Jordan, 2002
  15. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, 2019
  16. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi, 2016
  17. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele, 2018
  18. Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change by John Lewis, 2012
  19. Sister Outsider: Essays And Speeches (Crossing Press Feminist Series) by Audre Lorde and Cheryl Clarke, 2007
  20. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison, 1992
  21. The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison, 2019
  22. The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad, 2010
  23. We Are Worth Fighting For: A History of the Howard University Student Protest of 1989 by Joshua M. Myers, 2019
  24. Born a Crime: Stories of a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, 2016
  25. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, 2019
  26. Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry, 2019
  27. Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry, 2018
  28. Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad, 2020
  29. My Vanishing Country: A Memoir by Bakari Sellers, 2020
  30. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, 2016
  31. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, 2014
  32. The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart, 2018
  33. From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, 2016
  34. What It Is: Race, Family, and One Thinking Black Man’s Blues by Clifford Thompson, 2019
  35. The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward
  36. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, 2013
  37. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, 2020
  38. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, 2010
  39. We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness by Alice Walker, 2006


  1. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, 2002 (1969)
  2. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin, 2013 (1974)
  3. Gorilla, My Love by Toni Cade Bambara, 1992 (1972)
  4. The Sellout by Paul Beatty, 2015
  5. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, 2020
  6. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, 2009 (2003)
  7. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehesi Coates, 2019
  8. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, 2018
  9. A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines, 1992
  10. The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden, 2017
  11. The Other Sister by Donna Hill, 2020
  12. Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill, 2007
  13. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, 2006 (1937)
  14. The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes, 1990 (1934)
  15. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin, 2017
  16. The Known World by Edward P. Jones, 2003
  17. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, 2018
  18. Big Machine by Victor LaValle, 2009
  19. The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, 2013
  20. Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden, 2012
  21. The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, 2019
  22. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, 2007 (1970)
  23. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, 2004 (1977)
  24. Beloved by Toni Morrison, 1987
  25. Stand Your Ground by Victoria Christopher Murray, 2015
  26. Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, 2010
  27.  Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, 2017
  28. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, 2019
  29. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, 2016
  30. Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique, 2014


  1. Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 by Elizabeth Alexander, 2010
  2. S O S: Poems 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka, 2014
  3. SOS—Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader by John H. Bracey Jr., Sonia Sanchez, and James Smethurst, 2014
  4. The Tradition by Jericho Brown, 2020
  5. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, 1965–2010 by Kevin Young and Michael Glaser, 2012
  6. American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes, 2018
  7. Olio by Tyehimba Jess, 2016
  8. Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis, 2017
  9. We Want Our Black Bodies: Poems by jessica Care moore, 2020
  10. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, 2014
  11. Shake Loose My Skin: New and Collected Poems by Sonia Sanchez, 2000
  12. Life on Mars: Poems by Tracy K. Smith, 2011

Young Adult and Children

  1. New Kid by Jerry Craft, 2019
  2. Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewel Parker Rhodes, 2020
  3. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, 2020
  4. Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice by Mahogany L Brown, Elizabeth Acevedao, Olivia Gatewood, Theodore Taylor III, and Jason Reynolds, 2020
  5. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison, 2019