Must-Read Books By Black Authors

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Must-Read Books By Black Authors

Edited: Feb 10, 10:24am

For Black History Month, I've started a new community list: Must-Read Books by Black Authors. Please add your recommendations of fiction and non-fiction by Black authors. Use this thread to discuss your choices. Thanks!

Edited: Feb 10, 12:46pm

The Hemingses of Monticello to reinforce the truth about the perspectives of the founders of our country and the lack of consideration of slaves/black people as human beings.

Just curious, >1 megbmore:, what is the reason for limiting the number of added books to 3? Also, I can't seem to add the ones I have read to my own list. Perhaps that is a technical problem?

Thank you for starting this thread! k4k

Feb 10, 12:56pm

>2 krazy4katz: I want to do more of these lists, and so I thought I would experiment a little, sometimes limiting the number of titles, sometimes not, and seeing how that impacts what/how people add.

When are you having trouble adding books to your own list?

Edited: Feb 10, 1:23pm

>3 megbmore: Some of the books in the list have a check mark next to them, indicating that they are in my library. However, there is no button saying "add to your list". Perhaps that is because I have 3 on my personal list?

ETA: I was able to add my own choice (The Hemingses) to begin my list, then I added 2 more from the compiled list. I didn't notice if the button to add disappeared or wasn't there all along for the other books.

Feb 10, 1:46pm

>4 krazy4katz: Once you have three, you can't add more to your list, so I think that's probably what's going on.

Feb 10, 1:56pm

>5 megbmore: OK, thank you!

Edited: Feb 11, 9:14am

Having a limit of three on this list makes it almost unworkable. Why the limit?

Edited: Feb 11, 8:20pm

Yes, agreed. I realize now that the more people want to add books, the fewer will be able to, because of the limit. They might only be able to add one, as in my case, or perhaps none at all if three of their books are on the list. It's a technical problem caused by the limit.

ETA: Perhaps expand to at least the top 10? There are lots of Black writers with excellent books.

Feb 11, 10:14am

I found out about this list from LT's Facebook page. I clicked on the link, and was able to add 22 books to the list. However, when I tried to add more books using the link in this thread I ran up against the three book limit.

I agree with >7 Crypto-Willobie:; I see no reason to limit the number of books to three.

Feb 11, 2:37pm

>9 kidzdoc: If your three books are on the list, your addition serves as an extra vote, pushing the title up the list. Basically, it's like I said, "Tell me three books by Black authors that you think everyone should read." Then the list ranks them based on how many people agree (and other factors that I admit I haven't quite sussed out yet.)

>7 Crypto-Willobie: When I did the Top 5 Reads of 2020 list, people complained that the list was not limited and now complaints that this one is. Three is, admittedly, arbitrary, but if the goal is to get the best of the best, there should be some limit, right?

Feb 11, 2:59pm

I don't mind the limit, although I could have added a couple more titles to my three. I find it kind of irritating that people somehow manage to go over the limit.

What I love about THIS list is that there's no ability to "thumb down" any of the titles. I wish that had been the case with the Top Five of 2020 list, because the spirit of that was "these are my favourite books of 2020" not a debate on whether or not the books were actually worthy. There were definitely books on that list I disliked, but I didn't thumb them down, because they were SOMEONE'S best book and their opinion matters as much as mine.

Meg, what's the deal with the books at the very end of the list that don't have a person's name associated with them?

Feb 11, 3:08pm

>11 tardis:

A couple of those are mine. I think that when you do not create your own list, but are just adding to the general list, your name does not appear.

Feb 11, 3:47pm

>12 lilithcat: Interesting. I did not know you could do that. Must experiment next time :)

Edited: Apr 11, 3:53pm

Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Native Son, Invisible Man, The Color Purple. The titles known in Europe.
However, many of these books tell of problems. What about affluent blacks? I hear that many blacks earn quite good money in the US. I read The Moviegoer, and in one scene such a rich black man is presented, in front of his church, I guess. Even in the 19th century, there were rich black entrepreneurs.

Edited: Apr 11, 11:49pm

>14 asurbanipal: Statistically speaking, the number of wealthy black businesses etc. is minuscule compared to white-owned businesses. I am basing this on relative population. I work at a University where we have a medical school, which of course turns out physicians who make good salaries. The percentage of black students is extremely low compared to the population. It is even worse for graduate students. There are people who defy the odds. For example I had a black friend in graduate school who is now very high up in the government, but I think that is an unusual situation. I hope I am wrong. Maybe some day I will be.

Edited: Apr 12, 4:11am

I thought so, until I saw the statistics:
I read about cities like Philadelphia, which are practically divided into the white part and the black part.
"In 2002, African American-owned businesses accounted for 1.2 million of the US's 23 million businesses. As of 2011 African American-owned businesses account for approximately 2 million US businesses."

Apr 12, 5:41am

>14 asurbanipal: Anyone who wants to read about middle-class Black people could read about middle class Africans.

Edited: Apr 12, 8:57am

I read 100 pages of Purple Hibiscus.
In Africa, all politicians, generals, businesspeople, officials and doctors, and journalists are black.

Apr 12, 9:50am

But these household income statistics are quite different.

Apr 12, 10:07am

>20 asurbanipal:

Different than what?

Edited: Apr 12, 10:29am

>16 asurbanipal: The information you presented is in line with my assumptions. For example, the median income is much lower for black people than white people in this country. Also, as >19 lilithcat: said, business does not equal wealth. These problems (in my opinion) do stem from barriers to high quality education, health care and other things that the majority (not all) white people take for granted, thus limiting opportunities. Of course many people overcome these obstacles and then are cited, like Oprah, to represent a false assumption that black and white people have the same access to opportunities. This is one of the problems we have in this country with overcoming systemic racism.

This does not mean, as you said in #14, that we should not read or value books about wealthy black people. In fact they may be quite inspirational, but it is important to put them in context.

Best wishes,


Apr 12, 12:06pm

Passing by Nella Larsen gives a vivid picture of life during the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century, focusing on two affluent black women, one of whom is "passing" as white and the other who is not. But if what you're after is to read books about wealthy black Americans uncomplicated by issues of race or racism, you won't find that here or possibly anywhere.

Apr 12, 12:18pm

My library here has Giovanni's Room, but it's a book about white people. What can I learn from this sort of book?

Apr 19, 12:18pm

>25 asurbanipal: It depends what you hope to get out of it, I should think. Fiction isn't necessarily intended to teach or expound theses; there's plenty of non-fiction that does that if you're mostly interested in information.

Regarding your question about Black Americans and class, you might read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, which does do a pretty good job taking apart the differences of what it means to be Black in Africa versus Black in America.

There has also been a spate of recent publications about systematic racism in the United States which ought to shed light on why problems and struggles play a big role in literature by Black Americans (well, and there's also the fact that happiness and harmony tends not to make for very interesting plots).

Edited: Apr 19, 12:36pm

>25 asurbanipal:

You might think about why a gay black male felt it necessary to make his protagonist white. Baldwin said "I certainly could not possibly have—not at that point in my life—handled the other great weight, the ‘Negro problem.’ The sexual-moral light was a hard thing to deal with. I could not handle both propositions in the same book. There was no room for it."

Good article here by Colm Tóibín:

Apr 19, 2:05pm

>10 megbmore: "When I did the Top 5 Reads of 2020 list, people complained that the list was not limited and now complaints that this one is. Three is, admittedly, arbitrary, but if the goal is to get the best of the best, there should be some limit, right?"

People expect a limit to additions when a number is in the name of the list-- for example, five each for the "Top 5" list.

"Must-Read" implies something different. We often see long lists an individual teacher, reviewer, or editor call "must-read" books. I'd expect we could add more works, especially for an identity-based category in which suppression is an industry concern. Instead, each LT member is limited to fewer than for the previous list.

Apr 19, 3:59pm

I would have been ok with 10 but 3 was too limiting

May 10, 11:28am

Giovanni's Room on this list of very famous novels, with some other Black authors: