Top 12 'Must Read' Books By Black Authors For 2019 - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

The following books by black authors (in alphabetical order by title) were published last year and fall under a wide range of genres. In addition to making great gifts, these must-reads should be added to your list of books to dive into if you have not yet had the pleasure of reading them yet.

1.  Becoming (Michelle Obama)

books by black authors

This book and author need very little introduction, but for the sake of formalities, let’s do this: Becoming is former first lady Michelle Obama’s blockbuster memoir that launched in November 2018—and is taking the world by storm. Mrs. 44, a powerhouse in her own right, shot up the charts at record speed, becoming an instant New York Times No. 1 best-seller. Becoming calls on all the feels; it is thought-provoking, inspiring, has refreshing humor, and in some parts, is outright heart-wrenching. Prepare to be moved at a soul level and have tissues nearby.

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

2.  Freshwater (Akwaeke Emezi)

books by black authors

Author Akwaeke Emezi is a talented millennial Nigerian fiction writer and artist with a graduate degree from New York University. Her debut novel, Fresh Water, released in February of this year has been described as, “A mesmerizing and poetic novel that cracks open notions of self-control, mental illness, and love.” It tells the story of a troubled Nigerian girl named Ada who over time develops multiple versions of herself as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.”

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

 

3.  How Not to Get Shot: And Other Advice From White People (D.L. Hughley)

books by black authors

D.L. Hughley is a famed American stand-up comedian, actor, political commentator, and radio host. In his hilarious yet soul-shaking truth-telling book, Hughley touches on politics, race, and life as a black American as only he can.

From the book:

White people are always giving out ‘helpful’ advice, such as: ‘Comply with the police and you won’t get shot.’ They’ve been doling out advice to black people ever since ‘I suggest you pick the cotton if you don’t like getting whipped.’ Not getting shot by the police has long been a problem for black people. Even when we had a black president! Now that we have a new set of overlords, with President Trump at the head, wouldn’t it be nice to get a little advice on how not to get shot?

Hughley uses wit and all-too-real jokes to bring the elephant of injustice to the forefront of the room, while also sharing some advice including: ‘If You Do Get Shot, Don’t Rush to Judgement,’ ‘How to Dress Less Threatening,’ ‘What To Name Your Kids,’ and ‘Don’t Drive Like a Suspect.’

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

 

4.  I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé (Michael Arceneaux)

books by black authors

Houston born and raised Howard University grad Michael Arceneaux’s debut memoir is a stimulating laugh out loud take on his life as a millennial, gay, black man in a world programmed to misunderstand him. His clever play on words, obsession with Beyoncé, and pop culture references make this book impossible to put down.

While you’re guaranteed to get multiple chuckles from reading I Can’t Date Jesus, you’re also likely to gain a new appreciation for the struggles of the LGBTQ community.

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

 

5. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Roxane Gay)

books by black authors

Roxane Gay is an award-winning American writer, professor, and commentator. Her book Not That Bad is an informative anthology filled with transparent original pieces and some that have been previously published, highlighting the undeniable rape culture that has been formed and addressing the major issue of women often being second-guessed and discredited when they speak out about their experiences. Some contributors to Not That Bad include, Gabrielle Union, Amy Jo Burns, and Ally Sheedy.

Gay challenges the world to stop forcing women to measure the level of sexual harassment endured, and makes the case that “Not that bad” can no longer be good enough.

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

 

 

6.  Poet X (Elizabeth Acevedo)

books by black authors

Afro-Dominican award-winning slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo’s YA novel-in-verse debuted in March of 2018 and is still a No.1 best-seller on Amazon. A collection of hard-hitting poems creates the story of Xiomara Batista. A teen girl who wishes for her voice to be heard, but all that is seen in the streets of her Harlem neighborhood are the curves she can no longer hide. She has a lot to say and scribbles her passionate frustrations down in her black leather notebook as she doesn’t want to disappoint her church-going mother.

The New York Times Book Review’s take on Acevedo’s narrative poetry book sums it up perfectly, “The force and intensity behind her words practically pushes them off the page, resulting in a verse novel that is felt as much as it is heard. This is a book from the heart, and for the heart.”

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

7. Rise and Grind (Daymond John)

books by black authors

Daymond John, best known for being a shark on ABC’s Shark Tank and co-founding the FUBU clothing line, brought us a gem earlier this year. In January, John released his nonfiction New York Times best-selling business book, Rise and Grind. In John’s much-anticipated follow-up to Power of Broke, Rise and Grind shares that there is no shortcut to success, encouraging readers to out-think and out-work those around them. He also shares helpful routines and success strategies to get ahead.

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

 

8.  Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad (Krystal Sital)

books by black authors

Author Krystal Sital, a Hunter College grad, was born and raised in Trinidad and moved with her family to the U.S. in the ’90s. Sital is a mix of the Africans brought to Trinidad as slaves and the Indians brought as indentured servants, and in her debut memoir, she shares a story of racism, abuse, and cruelty women endured in paradise.

The author grew up idolizing her wealthy Hindu grandfather until he became hospitalized and the women in her family finally found the courage to share their painful memories of his violent past. Amazon sums this must-read up with, “Violence, a rigid ethnic and racial caste system, and a tolerance of domestic abuse―the harsh legacies of plantation slavery―permeate the history of Trinidad. On the island’s plantations, in its growing cities, and in the family’s new home in America, Secrets We Kept tells a story of ambition and cruelty, endurance and love, and most of all, the bonds among women and between generations that help them find peace with the past.”

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

 

 

9.  Shook One (Charlamagne Tha God)

books by black authors

Celebrity radio personality of The Breakfast Club, Charlamagne released his second book Shook One in October 2018. Shook One shares Charlamagne’s secrets for overcoming fear and anxiety in everyday life.

The author gets transparent about his own battles with anxiety since childhood, along with the fears that still creep up for him today, all while providing a blueprint for readers to manage their own fears and anxiety to succeed.

With mental health finally starting to get the attention it deserves, and the increase of anxiety in the world today, this book could not have come at a better time.

Buy the book:

Buy the book signed by Charlamagne:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

 

 

10.  The Wedding Date (Jasmine Guillory)

books by black authors

Author Jasmine Guillory is a Bay Area native and Standford Law School grad who, outside of penning novels, has written for the likes of Shondaland, Cosmopolitan, and The Toast.

In this fictional story, Alexa Monroe agrees to accompany Drew Nichols (a random man with whom she gets stuck on an elevator with) to a wedding. If you’re looking for a fun, charming, stress-free easy read, this rom-com novel is it. The Wedding Date was released in January 2018. Guillory has released another (unrelated) rom-com novel The Proposal in October of this year and her next novel, The Wedding Party, is set to be released in 2019.

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

 

 

11.  This Mournable Body (Tsitsi Dangarembga)

books by black authors

Tsitsi Dangarembga is an author and filmmaker from Zimbabwe. She studied medicine at Cambridge, leaving to return home after experiencing racism and isolation. In her fiction story This Mournable Body, she shares a tale of a young girl from Zimbabwe whose hopes become bitter over time due to the combination of betrayal, colonialism, and capitalism.

Vanity Fair described the book noting, “The novel explores how race, gender, class, and age are at play in Zimbabwe, and the overwhelming strength of these forces in the face of even the most optimistic and ambitious women.”

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

 

 

12.  When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele)

books by black authors

Co-author Patrisse Khan-Cullors co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement following George Zimmerman’s acquittal after his shooting of Trayvon Martin. Having grown up in L.A. in an impoverished neighborhood and raised by a single mother, she witnessed the prejudice blacks suffered at the hands of law enforcement first-hand. When They Call You a Terrorist is the powerful memoir of the author’s life and how the entire Black Lives Matter movement began, triggering frustration, sorrow, and a fire to get involved.

Buy the book:

Buy the e-book:

Buy the audio version:

 

Upcoming Bonus Book – Confessions of Frannie Langton (Sara Collins)

books by black authors

This book will not be released until April 4, 2019, but the description alone makes it worthy of a mention as a book to look out for. The story is of a Jamaican slave given as a gift to England’s “finest mind” as a maid for his Mayfair mansion. Frannie has an affair and falls in love with her new master’s wife—who ends up dead, and fingers get pointed at her.

Historical novelist Sara Collins was born in Jamaica, raised in Grand Cayman, and studied law at London School of Economics.

Collins has shared that initially, she was reluctant to write a story about a black slave as a black woman. In an interview with Penguin publishing house Collins shares, “Slavery is one of those topics people expect to be written about in a certain way. Historically, slave narratives were written with an agenda: to inform white readers about the terrible suffering endured by slaves, and thereby persuade them to the abolitionist cause. It’s the kind of writing that tells you what happened to a person, but not much about who they were. One of history’s many failings is that those early black chroniclers were required to spend all their energy addressing the emergencies that had been made of their lives, instead of leaving behind a proper record of themselves.”

Pre-order the book (Available on Amazon May 21, 2019):

Pre-order the e-book:


Black Enterprise makes a small commission when you purchase one of these products via the embedded Amazon links.