The ongoing protests against racism and police brutality have many seeking ways they can do better: Not only by said peaceful protests and offering donations to beneficial organizations, but also by supporting the Black community and the art they create and educating oneself. For non-Black individuals the latter is especially vital. This can take the form of podcasts that specifically tackle racial issues, but it can also mean adding some books by Black authors to one's reading list.
That said, if cultivating more diversified reading material is the goal for improving awareness and support, there's a wealth to choose from — including both classic and contemporary Black authors. Some overtly tackle themes of race within their work and, for others, it's more underlying, but every book on the list of 10 ahead will surely enrich the mind in a number of ways, and therefore a step in the right direction. Also, be sure to check for some quintessential texts that aren't listed here — but otherwise would be — and try to be mindful about shopping indie/Black-owned bookstores when possible.
We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The prolific author's 1937 novel is largely considered her best. A lyrical coming-of-age story, it explores sexuality, love, family, independence — all colored by the inherent issues that affected young Black women during that time.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
You've likely seen the 1985 film adaptation, but renowned author Alice Walker's novel about a group of Black, impoverished women in the 1930s is deserving of its own deep dive.
The Collected Poems Of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes
A leader of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes has published a wealth of inspiring works, including a few novels — but it's his poetry that he's probably best known for, and you can read them all in order (868 of them, to be exact) in this comprehensive text.
Hunger: A Memoir Of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Gay is a contemporary cultural icon, and Hunger, her memoir, has landed in the top spot of so many lists because of the author's brutally honest, intimate exploration of the relationship she has with her own body.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Smith has produced a handful of bestsellers, but White Teeth is a great place to start if you're new to the author. Her debut novel follows two unlikely friends and their individual life paths — including the painful, funny, and mundane moments along the way.
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
Kincaid, a renowned novelist and professor of African American studies at Harvard University, has published many beloved books — nearly all of which depict some version of life that mirrored her own as a young Antiguan American. Annie John is often compared to Catcher In the Rye, as it similarly explores the loss of childhood innocence.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Ward, a contemporary author, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2017 (among other accolades) for this haunting novel about a fraught Black woman on a road trip through the deep South with her children to pick up their white father from prison.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Ellison's 1952 novel is not only a touchstone for Black culture, but for all of literary history. It deeply explores the struggles of growing up and attempting to find a place in the world — and his own true identity — as a young Black man.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Butler's time-hopping novel finds its Black female hero transported back and forth between the Antebellum south and modern day (1970s, when the book was published).
A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Winner of the Man Booker Prize, James' 2014 novel takes place in 1970s Jamaica and is his fictional account of the people behind the 1976 attack on Bob Marley, his wife, and others in his circle.