100 books like Cane

By Jean Toomer,

Here are 100 books that Cane fans have personally recommended if you like Cane. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America

David G. Nicholls Author Of Conjuring the Folk: Forms of Modernity in African America

From my list on understanding the Great Black Migration.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a lifelong reader and wanted to study literature from an early age. I grew up in Indianapolis, one of the cities reshaped by the Great Black Migration. I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago and found myself once again in the urban Midwest. My research for Conjuring the Folk led me to discover a trove of short stories by George Wylie Henderson, a Black writer from Alabama who migrated to Harlem. I edited the stories and published them as Harlem Calling: The Collected Stories of George Wylie Henderson. I'm a contributor to African American Review, the Journal of Modern Literature, and the Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration

David's book list on understanding the Great Black Migration

David G. Nicholls Why did David love this book?

The Promised Land is written in an engaging, eloquent style that makes it an excellent introduction to the history of the Great Black Migration. A noted journalist, Lemann interviewed dozens of migrants and their descendants to create a richly textured story of their experiences. Layered onto this story is description and analysis of the political contexts for the migration, including the civil rights movement and the Great Society programs. He follows a group of Black Americans from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago and, in some cases, back. He shows how the migration affected not just the migrants themselves, but America as a whole, for it shifted race relations from a regional to a national problem. Chicagoans like me will enjoy its wealth of local detail.

By Nicholas Lemann,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Promised Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller, the groundbreaking authoritative history of the migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. A definitive book on American history, The Promised Land is also essential reading for educators and policymakers at both national and local levels.


Book cover of 12 Million Black Voices

David G. Nicholls Author Of Conjuring the Folk: Forms of Modernity in African America

From my list on understanding the Great Black Migration.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a lifelong reader and wanted to study literature from an early age. I grew up in Indianapolis, one of the cities reshaped by the Great Black Migration. I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago and found myself once again in the urban Midwest. My research for Conjuring the Folk led me to discover a trove of short stories by George Wylie Henderson, a Black writer from Alabama who migrated to Harlem. I edited the stories and published them as Harlem Calling: The Collected Stories of George Wylie Henderson. I'm a contributor to African American Review, the Journal of Modern Literature, and the Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration

David's book list on understanding the Great Black Migration

David G. Nicholls Why did David love this book?

Richard Wright is perhaps best known for his acclaimed 1940 novel, Native Son. Following its publication, he was at work on a very different project: a photo-documentary history of the African American folk. Wright wrote the prose narrative, which describes in broad strokes the history of Black Americans from slavery to emancipation to the Jim Crow era and the Great Black Migration. The black and white photographs accompanying the narrative were selected by Edwin Rosskam from the archives of the Farm Security Administration. Taken during the Great Depression by such notable photographers as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, the photos provide visual documentation of the harsh conditions Blacks faced both south and north. My interpretation of 12 Million Black Voices is given in chapter six of my book

By Richard Wright,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked 12 Million Black Voices as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

12 Million Black Voices, first published in 1941, combines Wright's prose with startling photographs selected by Edwin Rosskam from the Security Farm Administration files compiled during the Great Depression. The photographs include works by such giants as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein. From crowded, rundown farm shacks to Harlem storefront churches, the photos depict the lives of black people in 1930s America--their misery and weariness under rural poverty, their spiritual strength, and their lives in northern ghettos. Wright's accompanying text eloquently narrates the story of these 90 pictures and delivers a powerful commentary on the origins and history…


Book cover of Jazz

Louise Hare Author Of Harlem After Midnight

From my list on capturing the magic of jazz.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved jazz ever since I learned to play the clarinet as a child. My two great loves in life have been music and books, so it made sense to combine the two things and write novels with a link to jazz. These books are some of my favourites with a jazz theme. I promise that even if you’re not a jazz fan, these are all excellent novels, to be enjoyed with or without music playing in the background!

Louise's book list on capturing the magic of jazz

Louise Hare Why did Louise love this book?

Set in 1920s Harlem, this book opens with a shock. A teenaged girl is dead, shot by the middle-aged man she was having an affair with.

The man’s wife takes a knife to the funeral, intending to cut the face of her dead rival. So how did it come to this? Morrison paints a picture of Jazz age Harlem, hopping between past and present to show not only the history of this ill-fated couple, but that of Black Harlem. 

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Jazz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed Nobel Prize winner, a passionate, profound story of love and obsession that brings us back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of Black urban life. With a foreword by the author.

“As rich in themes and poetic images as her Pulitzer Prize–winning Beloved.... Morrison conjures up the hand of slavery on Harlem’s jazz generation. The more you listen, the more you crave to hear.” —Glamour

In the winter of 1926, when everybody everywhere sees nothing but good things ahead, Joe Trace, middle-aged door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra…


Book cover of Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series

David G. Nicholls Author Of Conjuring the Folk: Forms of Modernity in African America

From my list on understanding the Great Black Migration.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a lifelong reader and wanted to study literature from an early age. I grew up in Indianapolis, one of the cities reshaped by the Great Black Migration. I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago and found myself once again in the urban Midwest. My research for Conjuring the Folk led me to discover a trove of short stories by George Wylie Henderson, a Black writer from Alabama who migrated to Harlem. I edited the stories and published them as Harlem Calling: The Collected Stories of George Wylie Henderson. I'm a contributor to African American Review, the Journal of Modern Literature, and the Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration

David's book list on understanding the Great Black Migration

David G. Nicholls Why did David love this book?

Harlem painter Jacob Lawrence composed a series of sixty panels, applying tempera to composite board, to tell the story of the Great Black Migration; he numbered them sequentially and added captions to tie it all together. It opened to acclaim in 1941. You can see the entire work in the book Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series. Read it and you will discover the conditions African Americans faced in the South, the networks that migrants used to make the journey northward, and the lives they formed in the cities. Lawrence’s images are bold and geometric, using expressionistic brushstrokes and a consistent color palette from panel to panel. I saw the series exhibited in Chicago and was impressed by the intimate scale of the panels—they measure only 18 by 12 inches. 

By Leah Dickerman (editor), Elsa Smithgall (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jacob Lawrence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1941, Jacob Lawrence, then just twenty-three years old, completed a series of sixty small tempera paintings with text captions about the Great Migration. Within months of its making, Lawrence's Migration series was divided between The Museum of Modern Art (even numbered panels) and the Phillips Memorial Gallery (odd numbered panels). The work has since become a landmark in the history of African-American art, a monument in the collections of both institutions, and a crucial example of the way in which history painting was radically reimagined in the modern era. In 2015 and 2016, marking the centenary of the Great…


Book cover of The Portable Anna Julia Cooper

Sandrine Bergès Author Of Liberty in Their Names: The Women Philosophers of the French Revolution

From my list on by or about women philosophers you should know.

Why am I passionate about this?

At school I fell in love philosophy. But at university, as I grew older, I started to feel out of place: all the authors we read were men. I loved Plato, but there was something missing. It didn’t occur to me until I was in my thirties to look for women in the history of philosophy! I read Wollstonecraft first, then Olympe de Gouges, and the other women I wrote about in my book, and now I’m looking at women philosophers from the tenth to the nineteenth century. There is a wealth of work by women philosophers out there. Reading their works has made philosophy come alive for me, all over again. 

Sandrine's book list on by or about women philosophers you should know

Sandrine Bergès Why did Sandrine love this book?

Anna Julia Cooper is one of the nineteen and twentieth American philosophers I find most exciting.

Her book, A Voice from the South, is the first feminist book to introduce the idea of intersectionality! She spent her very long lifetime writing about education, women’s rights, racism, and she has a fascinating correspondence with the intellectuals of her time, including W.E.B Dubois.

But until recently getting hold of her writings wasn’t terribly easy, unless you were willing to read online, or had access to a good academic library.

This beautiful and cheap edition is a godsend and everyone should buy it. 

By Anna Julia Cooper, Shirley Moody-Turner (editor), Henry Louis Gates, Jr (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Portable Anna Julia Cooper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A collection of essential writings from the iconic foremother of Black intellectual history, feminism and activism

The Portable Anna Julia Cooper will introduce a new generation of readers to an educator, public intellectual and community activist whose prescient insights and eloquent prose underlie some of the most important developments in modern American intellectual thought and African-American social and political activism.

This volume brings together, for the first time, Anna Julia Cooper's major collection of essays, A Voice from the South, along with several previously unpublished poems, plays, journalism and selected correspondences, including over thirty previously unpublished letters between Anna Julia…


Book cover of Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South

Jillian Hishaw Author Of Systematic Land Theft

From my list on the history of land dispossession.

Why am I passionate about this?

My family’s farm was lost due to a dishonest lawyer that my great-grandmother entrusted. Because of that, I have devoted the past 20 years of my career to providing low-cost legal services to aging rural farmers around estate planning and civil rights. As an attorney, I have worked for the US Department of Agriculture and the Office of Civil Rights in Washington DC. I also founded the non-profit organization F.A.R.M.S., which provides services to aging rural farmers such as preventing farm foreclosures, executing wills, and securing purchase contracts. After drafting Systematic Land Theft over the span of several years, I am happy to release this historic synopsis documenting the land theft of Indigenous and Black communities. I have written extensively on the topics of agriculture, environmental, and land injustice in a variety of legal, trade, and other publications.

Jillian's book list on the history of land dispossession

Jillian Hishaw Why did Jillian love this book?

This book uses census data and other historical facts to highlight the 250,000 free blacks who were in the south post-Civil War. It shows the struggles black people faced in regards to their community, liberty, education, and economic independence inside an oppressive society. Berlin does a good job at depicting the interaction between Blacks and Whites both free and enslaved. He offers a better understanding of the complex race relations that existed in the south. He gives one of the best accounts on record, of the wealth black people accumulated during slavery and 20 years after despite the pushback they faced.

By Ira Belin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slaves Without Masters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The prize-winning classic volume by acclaimed historian Ira Berlin is now available in a handsome new edition, with a new preface by the author. It is a moving portrait of the quarter of a million free black men and women who lived in the South before the Civil War and describes the social and economic struggles that were part of life within this oppressive society. It is an essential work for both educators and general readers. Berlin's books have won many prizes and he is widely recognized as one of the leading scholars on slavery and African American life.


Book cover of Mrs. Wiggins

Suzette Harrison Author Of My Name Is Ona Judge

From my list on portraying African-American historical heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a youthful spirit, but an old soul. Perhaps, that’s why I love African American history and gravitated to Black Studies as my undergraduate degree. My reverence for my ancestors sends me time and again to African-American historical fiction in an effort to connect with our past. Growing up, I was that kid who liked being around my elders and eavesdropping on grown-ups' conversations. Now, I listen to my ancestors as they guide my creativity. I’m an award-winning hybrid author writing contemporary and historical novels, and I value each. Still, it’s those historical characters and tales that snatch me by the hand and passionately urge me to do their bidding. 

Suzette's book list on portraying African-American historical heroines

Suzette Harrison Why did Suzette love this book?

Clearly, I’m a fan of small, southern town tales depicting amazing African American females who make magic out of the injustices stacked against them. Well, meet Maggie Wiggins. She and her best friend, Hubert, turn life tragedies and situations into a “perfectly suited” marriage of deception. Outwardly, they live an enviable existence; but only they know the cost of their happiness. I love Mary Monroe’s ability to infuse humor into the most chilling situations, as well as her small town cosmoses and complicated, “countrified” characters. They frustrate me to no end, yet I find myself rooting for them, just as I rooted for Maggie to win. She does in the end but at such a horrific cost that I’ll never look at a bowl of gumbo the same way again. 

By Mary Monroe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mrs. Wiggins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of the classic, captivating, and scandalous Mama Ruby series, comes a church-going matriarch’s rags to riches Depression era story set in the Deep South. The respectable family she has built means everything to her, and she’ll do anything to keep them.
 
The daughter of a prostitute mother and an alcoholic father, Maggie Franklin knew her only way out was to marry someone upstanding and church-going. Someone like Hubert Wiggins, the most eligible man in Lexington, Alabama—and the son of its most revered preacher. Proper and prosperous, Hubert is glad to finally…


Book cover of The Hidden Wound

Neta Jackson Author Of The Yada Yada Prayer Group

From my list on friendship across racial and cultural barriers.

Why am I passionate about this?

During college, I attended an inner-city black church during the years of the civil rights movement—and it changed the course of my life. My husband and I have lived in diverse neighborhoods and attended multicultural churches for most of our 56 years of marriage, realizing we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters of color. But the biggest influence that caused me to write the Yada Yada Prayer Group novels was/is the prayer group of sisters of color that I’ve been part of for over 25 years. As we spent time together every week for years (!), these sisters helped turn my life and my faith upside down—or maybe “right side up.”

Neta's book list on friendship across racial and cultural barriers

Neta Jackson Why did Neta love this book?

Two people who worked for Wendell Berry’s family when he was a child had a profound effect on his life—“Aunt Georgie” Ashby and Nick Watkins. With the simplicity of their lives birthing profound wisdom, Berry credits them for helping to expose the hidden wound of racism and putting his feet on a path to reject the deeply ingrained racism of his youth. The result is a deeply thoughtful book of reflections and wisdom on the cancer that infects our society and what we must do to lance and heal it—if we will. A “must read” on your bookshelf.

By Wendell Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hidden Wound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An impassioned, thoughtful, and fearless essay on the effects of racism on the American identity by one of our country’s most humane literary voices.

Acclaimed as “one of the most humane, honest, liberating works of our time” (The Village Voice), The Hidden Wound is a book-length essay about racism and the damage it has done to the identity of our country. Through Berry’s personal experience, he explains how remaining passive in the face of the struggle of racism further corrodes America’s great potential. In a quiet and observant manner, Berry opens up about how his attempt to discuss racism is…


Book cover of Jubilee

Faye Snowden Author Of A Killing Rain

From my list on making you fall in love with reading.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer who loves to read. In fact when aspiring writers ask me for advice about getting started, I tell them to read widely, and more importantly, to fall in love with reading. So much about craft can be learned from deconstructing good books to see how they work. Each of the five books I’ve selected have influenced the way I tell my stories. They have taught me to examine past works for inspiration and compelling beginnings.

Faye's book list on making you fall in love with reading

Faye Snowden Why did Faye love this book?

Walker’s Jubilee extends the slave narrative, a popular weapon used by abolitionists to fight slavery. Instead of ending when the main character escapes their cruel master, Walker tells the story of a woman’s journey from emancipation to reconstruction and beyond.

I included this book not only because of a great beginning, but also because I wanted to give an example of how important story is to the success of a book, and in some cases more important than the language.

Besides, how can you not read on after a first chapter with the title, “Death is a mystery that only the squinch owl knows”? 

By Margaret Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jubilee as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jubilee tells the true story of Vyry, the child of a white plantation owner and his black mistress. Vyry bears witness to the South's antebellum opulence and to its brutality, its wartime ruin, and the promises of Reconstruction. Weaving her own family's oral history with thirty years of research, Margaret Walker's novel brings the everyday experiences of slaves to light. Jubilee churns with the hunger, the hymns, the struggles, and the very breath of American history.


Book cover of Kindred

Hajar Yazdiha Author Of The Struggle for the People's King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement

From my list on understanding revisionist history politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied forty years of the political misuses of the memory of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement as a sociologist at USC and the daughter of Iranian immigrants who has always been interested in questions of identity and belonging. My interest in civil rights struggles started early, growing up in Virginia, a state that celebrated the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday alongside Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I wanted to understand how revisionist histories could become the mainstream account of the past and how they mattered for the future of democracy.

Hajar's book list on understanding revisionist history politics

Hajar Yazdiha Why did Hajar love this book?

I am, to put it lightly, obsessed with the way Octavia Butler revolutionizes the timescape and invites us to speculate about worlds that could be. In this and so many of her books, her vision of Afrofuturism is one that reminds us that our ancestral pasts and our imagined futures are always connected. 

I thought a lot about the future when I wrote my book, and I share Butler’s conviction that there is collective healing and liberation in revisiting and reimagining the past.

I also love that my neighborhood library in Pasadena is the one Octavia Butler used to frequent!

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Kindred as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Parable of the Sower and MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Nebula, and Hugo award winner

The visionary time-travel classic whose Black female hero is pulled through time to face the horrors of American slavery and explores the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.

“I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”

Dana’s torment begins when she suddenly vanishes on her 26th birthday from California, 1976, and is dragged through time to antebellum Maryland to rescue a boy named Rufus, heir to a slaveowner’s plantation. She soon…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the South, African Americans, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the South, African Americans, and presidential biography.

The South Explore 177 books about the South
African Americans Explore 726 books about African Americans
Presidential Biography Explore 18 books about presidential biography