25 Books by Black Authors You Should Read This February

This is one of the 273 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

    In this gritty and evocative novel, readers are introduced to a young Black woman living in Oakland who, struggling to keep her family afloat after being abandoned by her mother and incarcerated by her brother, turns to sex work to survive. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she becomes entangled with a corrupt police department, exposing systemic abuse and sparking a complex journey through the criminal justice system. The protagonist's resilience and the poetic exploration of her inner world offer a raw and powerful examination of race, poverty, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of institutional betrayal and personal adversity.

  • That Bird Has My Wings by Jarvis Jay Masters

    The book is a powerful memoir of a man who, despite a tumultuous and troubled childhood marked by abuse and instability, finds himself on death row for a crime he insists he did not commit. Within the confines of his cell, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening, finding solace in Buddhist practice and writing. His story is one of transformation and hope, as he uses his experiences to reflect on issues of justice, redemption, and the possibility of inner freedom even in the most unfree places. Through his narrative, he challenges readers to look beyond their preconceptions of guilt and innocence, and to consider the profound impact of compassion and mindfulness.

  • Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

    "Somebody's Daughter" is a powerful memoir that delves into the complexities of family, identity, and forgiveness. The author recounts her experience growing up as a black girl in Indiana, grappling with the absence of her incarcerated father and the difficult relationship with her mother. As she navigates the challenges of her youth, including poverty, sexual assault, and the search for her own voice, she also embarks on a journey of self-discovery that leads her to confront the truths about her father's imprisonment and the impact it has had on her life. The narrative is a poignant exploration of the intersections of race, gender, and the criminal justice system, as well as a daughter's longing for connection and understanding within her own family.

  • The Love Songs Of W.E.B. Dubois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

    "The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois" is a multi-generational family saga that explores the complexities of race, identity, and history through the experiences of Ailey Pearl Garfield. As a young woman, Ailey is haunted by the legacy of her family's slave-owning past and struggles to reconcile her own sense of self with the expectations of her community. Along the way, she uncovers the stories of her ancestors, including the famed civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, and grapples with the enduring impact of racism in America. With lyrical prose and a rich cast of characters, Honoree Fanonne Jeffers' novel is a powerful meditation on the enduring power of love and the search for belonging in a divided world.

  • The Street by Ann Petry

    The novel is a poignant exploration of the struggles faced by a young African American single mother living in Harlem during the 1940s. It delves into the systemic racism and sexism that constrict her life, as she endeavors to create a better future for her son amidst the poverty, violence, and oppressive social forces of the urban landscape. The narrative follows her tenacious fight against the insurmountable barriers imposed by a society that is indifferent to her dreams and her dignity, painting a vivid portrait of resilience and the human spirit's quest for freedom.

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The book is a profound work that explores the concept of race in America through the lens of the author's personal experiences. It is written as a letter to the author's teenage son, offering him a stark portrayal of his place in a society that is marked by racial injustice. The narrative provides a deeply personal analysis of American history and its lasting impact on the African American community, with the author sharing his experiences of fear, violence, and struggle. It is an exploration of the physical and psychological impacts of being black in the United States, and a call for a deeper understanding of the nation's racial history.

  • The Sweetness Of Water by Nathan Harris

    In the aftermath of the Civil War, two emancipated brothers find refuge on the farm of a conflicted landowner and his grieving wife, who are mourning the loss of their son in the war. As the brothers work the land and form a tentative bond with the couple, their presence in the rural town stirs tensions among the townspeople, still reeling from the war's end and the shifting social landscape. The novel explores themes of freedom, redemption, and the complex nature of human relationships, set against the backdrop of a Southern community grappling with its past and uncertain future.

  • Recitatif by Toni Morrison

    The story is a provocative exploration of the complex friendship between two girls, Twyla and Roberta, who meet in a shelter during their childhood and encounter each other at various points throughout their lives. Their intermittent interactions over the years reveal the deep-seated racial tensions and societal prejudices that shape their realities. The narrative deliberately obscures the girls' racial identities, challenging the reader to confront their own assumptions and biases about race and privilege. As the two women's lives intertwine, their shared history and the changing social landscape of America force them to grapple with their personal and collective memories, ultimately questioning the very nature of their recollections and the impact of race on their experiences.

  • Finding Me by Viola Davis

    In this deeply personal memoir, a renowned actress shares her journey from a challenging childhood marked by poverty and family dysfunction to her ascent as one of the most respected and acclaimed talents in Hollywood. She candidly recounts her struggles with self-esteem, her experiences with racism and sexism in the entertainment industry, and her relentless pursuit of authenticity both on and off the screen. Through her story, she offers an inspiring testament to the power of resilience, the importance of owning one's story, and the transformative act of finding and asserting one's voice amidst adversity.

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

    This novel follows the life of Janie Crawford, a young African-American woman, in the early 20th century. She embarks on a journey through three marriages and self-discovery while challenging the societal norms of her time. The narrative explores her struggle for personal freedom, fulfillment, and identity against the backdrop of racism and gender expectations, ultimately emphasizing the importance of independence and personal growth.

  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

    This novel explores the role of the Christian Church in the lives of African-Americans, both as a source of repression and moral hypocrisy and as a source of inspiration and community. It also, more broadly, examines the role of the Pentecostal Church in the African American experience. The narrative focuses on a fourteen-year-old boy's struggle to discover his identity amidst a family filled with secrets and a life marked by a religious community's strict moral code.

  • Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James

    The book is a richly woven tapestry of African mythology, fantasy, and history, told from the perspective of an immortal witch with the power to control minds. As the second installment in a series, it delves into the complex and tumultuous life of the witch, who is both feared and revered in her world. Her story intersects with that of a young man destined to become a legendary fighter, and together, their narratives explore themes of power, identity, and the nature of truth. Set against a backdrop of warring kingdoms and political intrigue, the novel is a dark and compelling saga that expands upon the vibrant universe established by its predecessor.

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

    This memoir recounts the early years of an African-American girl's life, focusing on her experiences with racism and trauma in the South during the 1930s. Despite the hardships she faces, including sexual abuse, she learns to rise above her circumstances through strength of character and a love of literature. Her journey from victim to survivor and her transformation into a young woman who respects herself is a testament to the human capacity to overcome adversity.

  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

    "Sister Outsider" is a collection of essays and speeches that delve into the complexities of intersectional identity, exploring themes of racism, sexism, and homophobia. The author, a black lesbian poet and feminist writer, challenges the marginalization of minority groups and critiques the lack of inclusivity within feminist movements. Through personal narratives and powerful prose, the work confronts social injustices and calls for the recognition and celebration of differences as a means to drive political change and dismantle systemic oppression. The book is a seminal text in intersectional feminist thought, advocating for solidarity and the importance of communication across diverse communities.

  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

    This book is an in-depth exploration of the Great Migration, the movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North and West that took place in the 20th century. The narrative is built around the personal stories of three individuals who made this journey, providing a detailed and intimate look at the experiences, struggles, and hopes of those who participated in this significant historical event. The book also examines the broader social, economic, and political implications of the Great Migration, shedding light on its impact on American society and culture.

  • Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

    This memoir explores the life of a man who grew up in a multicultural family, with a Kenyan father and an American mother. The narrative delves into his early years in Hawaii and Indonesia, his self-discovery and racial awakening in Chicago, and his journey to Kenya to learn more about his father's heritage. The book provides an introspective look at the author's struggle with his racial identity, his relationship with his family, and his path to finding his place in the world.

  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

    "Kindred" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that follows the life of Dana, a young African American woman living in the 1970s. Suddenly, she finds herself inexplicably transported back in time to the early 19th century, where she becomes entangled in the lives of her ancestors, who are enslaved on a plantation. As Dana navigates the brutal realities of slavery, she grapples with her own identity, the complexities of race, and the enduring legacy of the past. With its powerful storytelling and exploration of the connections between past and present, "Kindred" is a profound examination of history, race, and the enduring resilience of the human spirit.

  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

    The novel is a poignant exploration of a young African-American man's journey through life, where he grapples with issues of race, identity, and individuality in mid-20th-century America. The protagonist, who remains unnamed throughout the story, considers himself socially invisible due to his race. The narrative follows his experiences from the South to the North, from being a student to a worker, and his involvement in the Brotherhood, a political organization. The book is a profound critique of societal norms and racial prejudice, highlighting the protagonist's struggle to assert his identity in a world that refuses to see him.

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama

    "Becoming" is a memoir written by Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States. In this inspiring and deeply personal book, Obama reflects on her childhood in Chicago, her experiences as a lawyer and a working mother, and her time spent in the White House. She shares her journey of self-discovery, highlighting the challenges she faced and the lessons she learned along the way. With honesty and grace, Obama offers readers a glimpse into her life, as well as her passion for empowering others and creating positive change.

  • The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones

    The book in question is a comprehensive re-examination of American history that places slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the national narrative. It challenges the traditional story of America's founding by marking the year 1619, when the first enslaved Africans were brought to the Virginia colony, as the country's foundational date. Through a collection of essays, poems, and fiction, the work explores the legacy of slavery across various aspects of American society, including democracy, the economy, and the legal system, arguing that the effects of slavery and racial discrimination are embedded in the fabric of the nation's identity and continue to shape its policies and social structures today.

  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    The book explores the importance of feminism in today's society and argues that gender equality is not just a women's issue, but a concern for everyone. Drawing from personal experiences and anecdotes, the author highlights the various ways in which gender inequality manifests itself and offers insightful perspectives on how we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable world for all.

  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker

    Set in the early 20th century, the novel is an epistolary tale of a young African-American woman named Celie, living in the South. She faces constant abuse and hardship, first from her father and then from her husband. The story unfolds through her letters written to God and her sister Nettie, revealing her emotional journey from oppression to self-discovery and independence, aided by her relationships with strong women around her. The narrative explores themes of racism, sexism, domestic violence, and the power of sisterhood and love.

  • A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

    The play explores the dreams and struggles of a Black family living on Chicago's South Side in the 1950s. When the family receives a $10,000 insurance check after the father's death, each member has different ideas about how to use the money. The mother wishes to buy a house to fulfill her late husband's dream of providing a better home for the family, while her son wants to invest in a liquor store to secure their financial future. The daughter seeks to use part of the money for her medical school tuition. Their conflicting aspirations and the pervasive racism of the era put a strain on the family's unity and values, as they strive to find their place in a world that often seems to work against them.

  • South To America by Imani Perry

    This book is a profound exploration of the American South, delving into its complex tapestry of history, culture, pain, and beauty to understand the region's significance to the entire United States. The author embarks on a journey through the Southern states, weaving personal narrative with historical analysis to uncover the soul of the region. By examining the South's influence on national identity and the profound impact of its past, from the legacies of slavery and the Civil War to the ongoing struggles for racial justice, the book presents a compelling argument that to truly grasp the American story, one must look South.

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

    This novel tells the story of a former African-American slave woman who, after escaping to Ohio, is haunted by the ghost of her deceased daughter. The protagonist is forced to confront her repressed memories and the horrific realities of her past, including the desperate act she committed to protect her children from a life of slavery. The narrative is a poignant exploration of the physical, emotional, and psychological scars inflicted by the institution of slavery, and the struggle for identity and self-acceptance in its aftermath.

About this list

Oprah Daily, 25 Books

Oprah's curated list celebrates Black authors, emphasizing the importance of recognizing Black voices throughout the year, not just during Black History Month. This selection showcases a range of perspectives, from the profound insights of esteemed writers like Maya Angelou to the fresh narratives of newer talents like Oprah's Book Club selection Leila Mottley, as well as pioneering figures such as Ann Petry. The list is designed to enrich readers' understanding of both the adversities and achievements of Black people in America through the powerful medium of literature. By featuring a mix of historical and contemporary voices, Oprah's collection highlights the significant contribution of African American authors to literature and society, offering readers a selection of seminal works that reflect the diverse and dynamic experiences of the Black community.

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