30 New and Old Books by Black Authors You Should Read

The Root celebrated National Literacy Month with a wide array of black authors worth reading.


The written word is not only informative, it’s transformative. For as long as I can remember, words have always been an escape for me. During the summer, my mom would take me to the library, where I’d get lost in the shelves for hours, pulling down books, sitting right on the floor and reading them. I’d dive into whatever world my eyes allowed me to be part of, and when it was over, I’d pull down the next book.

It was reading that helped me discover the many undeniable perks of the written word. As I matured, so did my reading. I went from Rabble Starkey to Good Night, Mr. Tom and then on to gems like Sula and Maya Angelou’s poems. It was words that taught me about the importance of blackness. School wasn’t teaching our history, so I sought it for myself.

From Langston Hughes to James Baldwin, I was hooked on our stories in our words. Reading about my history, struggles and triumphs despite the heartache and actual pain our ancestors endured throughout those pages I loved to turn, I understood our importance in this world. Because of black writers, I knew that my life mattered. Literacy, especially melanin-rich literacy, is important.

September was National Literacy Month, and I decided to engage you wonderful readers on Instagram around black authors—new and old—whose books are well worth the read. As the list grew, so did your interest. Many of you suggested that we compile a full list to share on the site, and so, here you have it. A full list of all the beautiful black authors and their masterpieces that we celebrated all month long.

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    Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues




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    Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye






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    Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad





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    Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God






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    Richard Wright, Black Boy






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    Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom





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    Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming





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    Alice Walker, The Color Purple




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    Sonia Sanchez, Homegirls & Handgrenades




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    Marc Lamont Hill, Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond




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    W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk




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    Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings




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    Ty Alexander, Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mom Died




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    Amiri Baraka, Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems




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    Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man




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    August Wilson, Fences





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    Octavia Butler, Kindred




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    Alex Haley, Roots: The Saga of an American Family




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    Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me




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    Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun




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    Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress




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    Nikki Giovanni, Chasing Utopia




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    Paul Laurence Dunbar, Lyrics of Lowly Life




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    Joi-Marie McKenzie, The Engagement Game: Why I Said “I Don’t” to Marriage and “I Do” to Me




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    Mychal Denzel Smith, Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education




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    Gwendolyn Brooks, Annie Allen





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    Chinua Achebe, No Longer at Ease




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    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah





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    Ntozake Shange, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf




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    Tananarive Due, The Black Rose




Danielle Young, The Root’s social-content producer, is pretty, witty, girly and worldly. One who likes to party but comes home early. Boldly telling stories with heart, sass and humor. Prince once called her “excellence.” Follow her on Twitter.