11 Books by Black Authors You Should Read in College

Black authors share stories not always highlighted in modern literature. Discover these must-read books and how they help us build our understanding.
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Books provide insight into worlds of possibility, creativity, and learning. Stories written by authors from marginalized communities offer us perspectives that enlighten our worldview.

While Black History Month is an excellent time to honor and celebrate the contributions of Black Americans, year-round explorations are critical to our personal and societal growth.

The expanse of books written by Black authors is profound. Consider enhancing your understanding of the world with the help of a few great books.

Let us celebrate the literary contributions of Black authors together.

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We continue to acknowledge the accomplishments of Black Americans. And we must also recognize the ongoing strife and adversity that Black people face. Publicized incidents of police brutality against Black people and continued racism make it important to grow our understanding of race, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Literature is a space where authors share their personal and creative stories to connect with readers from all walks of life. Let us celebrate the literary contributions of Black authors together. In honor of great literature, we've compiled a list of notable books by Black authors you should read in college.

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"Citizen: An American Lyric"

by Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine's "Citizen" takes readers on a groundbreaking journey through racial tensions using her profound poetic craft. "Citizen" is the winner of multiple book awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and the NAACP Image Award.

Weaving together media images, poetry, and prose, "Citizen" creates a powerful depiction of modern racial slights and aggressions. Rankine's personal and dynamic storytelling offers an understanding of the impact of our views on citizenship and the effects of racism in the 21st century.

"The Autobiography of Malcolm X"

by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Published in 1965, this autobiography was voted one of Time's 100 nonfiction books of all time. This autobiography chronicles the life and contributions of civil rights activist Malcolm X, an African American Muslim minister known for advocating for Black economic and political autonomy.

In contrast to Martin Luther King Jr.'s strategy of nonviolence and civil disobedience, Malcolm X urged Black people to engage in self-defense if met with resistance or opposition.

Journalist Alex Haley co-authored the book based on a series of in-depth interviews. Haley's interviews with X took place between 1963 and his 1965 assassination.

Malcolm X's memoir does an extraordinary job of articulating the trials and tribulations of Black Americans in the 1960s. X's advocacy for Black nationalism and supremacy shares the spotlight with his growth and development over his life.

"Girl, Woman, Other"

by Bernardine Evaristo

Winner of the Booker Prize and a national bestseller, "Girl, Woman, Other" is a triumph in storytelling. Bernardine Evaristo showcases the lives of 12 Black British people as they move through life and the intersections of their identities.

Evaristo's poetic and dynamic writing pulls readers into the characters' lives in modern and colonial Britain. As each character shares their narrative, we dig deeper into the intersecting storylines. "Girl, Woman, Other" shows aspects of Black life not frequently shown.

This historical fiction account of Black British life is a must-read for understanding the complexities of living as "other" and the power of standing in your truth.

"The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness"

by Michelle Alexander

Released in 2010, "The New Jim Crow" was named one of the most influential books of the last 20 years by The Chronicle of Higher Education. In this book, Michelle Alexander — a civil rights advocate, legal scholar, and New York Times columnist — debunks the myth that racial discrimination was erased with the end of the Jim Crow era.

There's a widely held belief that America is in a post-racial or colorblind society — in which race no longer impacts a person's life. Many have used the 2008 election of Barack Obama and the 2020 election of Kamala Harris to support this claim.

Alexander argues that the war on drugs and the mass incarceration of primarily low-income African American men has created a racial caste system in America. This system continues to decrease opportunities for social and economic advancement for Black Americans.

"The New Jim Crow" challenges our conventional thinking about race and sheds light on how institutions continue to disempower Black and brown communities.

"The Water Dancer"

Ta-Nehisi Coates

New York Times bestseller and a top pick for Oprah's Book Club, "The Water Dancer," was written by one of the most talented Black American writers on race and culture — Ta-Nehisi Coates. In this novel, Coates provides a moving account of the emotional and psychological toll of slavery on families.

The story centers on Hiram Walker, a fugitive enslaved man with a mysterious power that allows him to transport people long distances. Hiram serves as an agent in the Underground, an organization committed to ending slavery in the United States. Hiram attempts to defeat enslavers' owners, rescue enslaved people, and reunite with his family.

This compelling tale highlights enslavement's atrocities and restores the humanity of the enslaved.

"Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower"

Brittney Cooper

Brittney Cooper — a professor, pop culture critic, author, social activist, and expert on intersectionality — wrote "Eloquent Rage." The book is an ode to Black history and women's history. Cooper explores how sexism, racism, and classism work together to create disadvantages for Black women and highlights the singular focus of modern-day feminism.

The book provides a vivid and brilliant portrayal of Black womanhood and how women of color have reshaped the mainstream feminist movement.

Cooper examines how Black women must deal with the racism perpetuated by white society while also encountering sexism and misogyny. She connects her personal stories to the larger social and political realities of the United States.

"Eloquent Rage" validates the experiences of Black women while giving other racial groups a comprehensive understanding of the complexity of Black womanhood.

"Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood"

Trevor Noah

In his 2016 autobiography, famed comedian and "The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah details his trials and tribulations of growing up during apartheid in South Africa. The son of a white Swiss father and a Black South African mother, Noah was born when interracial unions were illegal.

"Born a Crime" is an extraordinary tale of how Trevor and his mother navigated tyranny, poverty, violence, and abuse. You are pulled into their story as they ultimately learn to live openly and embrace new opportunities.

"Such a Fun Age"

Kiley Reid

Kiley Reid's "Such a Fun Age" was named the Best Book of the Year by NPR, The Washington Post, Vogue, and various other outlets. This New York Times bestseller is a page-turning novel that explores the complications of race, privilege, and relationships.

Alix, a white mother and influencer, and Emira, Alix's Black babysitter, are the main characters in the novel. The two become entangled in turmoil when a security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Alix's daughter while out shopping. The story is a genuine depiction of how we confront our past and learn to grow up in today's realities.

"How to Be an Antiracist"

Ibram X. Kendi

Named one of Time's most influential people of 2020, Ibram X. Kendi is a professor, historian, antiracist activist, and author. "How to Be an Antiracist" was a New York Times bestseller and winner of numerous awards.

This nonfiction book is one of the most honest and compelling analyses of race and race relations.

Looking beyond a base understanding of racism and social inequality, Kendi's work focuses on cultivating allies and activists committed to building a just and equitable society.

Through his book, Kendi instructs readers to develop an understanding of racism's evolution over time. To be an antiracist, Kendi argues that you must be aware of your own racism and perpetuation of racism — and actively promote antiracist policies.

Celebrate Black excellence in college — and learn why allyship is more important than ever.

"Children of Blood and Bone"

Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi's 2018 young adult novel is a fantasy depiction of magic and danger. The West African-inspired world is brought to its knees under the rule of a king who takes the magical powers from the Orïsha people.

Zélie, the story's main character, fights against the king and his supporters in an attempt to bring magic back to the land. "Children of Blood and Bone" is a story about discovering purpose and fighting for what's right — all wrapped in a fantastical bow.

Adeyemi won many awards for this work, including Time's Top 100 Fantasy Books of All Time and Most Influential People of 2020. This New York Times bestseller is worth every page of discovery and magic.


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie brings us a national bestseller that weaves together the stories of two Nigerians over their lives. Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love young. Then, they are torn apart when Nigeria becomes a military-ruled state.

Ifemelu moves to the U.S., and Obinze heads to the UK. Each discovers how Blackness is seen outside of their home country, attempting to build their lives all over again. As Ifemelu and Obinze make their way back toward each other, they seek a reunion that affirms their love and identities.

"Americanah" is a powerful rendition of love and life unlike any other. Adichie builds a world steeped in a reality we grow to understand and appreciate.