100 books like Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Zora Neale Hurston,

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

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Book cover of Crime and Punishment

Stephen Jackley Author Of Just Time: A Journey Through Britain's Fractured Justice System

From my list on the power of redemption.

Who am I?

Having spent a total of 7 years in 12 UK prisons (and 6 in the USA), I encountered so many people from all walks of life who found themselves in custody. What they all generally had in common was a desire to seek betterment – redemption – for even the repeat offenders never hoped to see the inside of another jail again. It can be a soul-destroying, depressing place, often ruthless, but also serves as a forge to draw out the perseverance and will to keep going. After leaving prison, I went on to set up a social enterprise, received a commendation from then Prince Charles, and support the daily operations of a charity (Arkbound). 

Stephen's book list on the power of redemption

Stephen Jackley Why did Stephen love this book?

A true classic with themes as equally relevant today as they were over 150 years ago.

I first read it when in HMP Dorchester, a Victorian-era prison that is now closed. Told from the perspective of a student who unintentionally becomes a murderer, it compels the reader to think deeply about how the routes into crime can be many and varied, along with the nature of power.

Whilst very little of the book covers time spent in custody, before the end it shows the main criminal protagonist, Raskalnikov, as achieving a level of redemption. The book also discusses elements of criminology theory, which are still pored over by real university students.

By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Crime and Punishment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed by Washington Post Book World as “the best [translation] currently available" when it was first published, this second edition has been updated in honor of the 200th anniversary of Dostoevsky’s birth.

With the same suppleness, energy, and range of voices that won their translation of The Brothers Karamazov the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky offer a brilliant translation of Dostoevsky's astounding pyschological thriller, newly revised for his bicentenniel. 

When Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in the St. Petersburg of the tsars, commits an act of murder and theft, he sets into motion a story that is…


Book cover of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

Brit Bennett Author Of The Vanishing Half

From my list on being Black in America.

Who am I?

Brit Bennett was born and raised in Southern California and graduated from Stanford University along with an MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan. Her debut novel The Mothers was a New York Times bestseller, and her second novel The Vanishing Half was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller. She is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and in 2021, she was chosen as one of Time’s Next 100 Influential People. Her essays have been featured in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel.

Brit's book list on being Black in America

Brit Bennett Why did Brit love this book?

A fascinating exploration into the lives of three women ignored by history, the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X. By tracing the intellectual, political, and emotional strands of each woman’s life, Anna Malaika Tubbs uncovers hidden complexities within black motherhood that illuminate our understanding of the past while also shedding light on the overlooked contributions of black women today.

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

'A fascinating exploration into the lives of three women ignored by history ... Eye-opening, engrossing'
Brit Bennett, bestselling author of The Vanishing Half

In her groundbreaking debut, Anna Malaika Tubbs tells the incredible storIES of three women who raised three world-changing men.

Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin's son James, about Alberta King's son Martin Luther and Louise Little's son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them, each fighting their own battles, born into the beginning of the twentieth century and a deadly landscape of racial prejudice,…


Book cover of Passing

Faith Knight Author Of As Grey As Black and White

From my list on exploring biracial identity in the 20th century.

Who am I?

I am the product of biracial parents, and the idea of passing or not has always fascinated me as well as disgusted me. The reasons one would want to pass in this era are much different than the survival aspect my ancestors who passed had to consider in the 19th century. In writing my YA historical novels, being biracial always enters in, no matter the topic, because it is who I am and, in the end, always rears its head for consideration.

Faith's book list on exploring biracial identity in the 20th century

Faith Knight Why did Faith love this book?

I’ve read this book several times and saw the 2021 film. This is the quintessential novel on how skin color can affect one's choices in life as well as the life one is relegated to.

It made me really contemplate how someone can move from one world to another with either no concern (as in the case of Clare) or major angst, as in the case of Irene.

I loved this book because the struggles were real, and the end was unexpected.

By Nella Larsen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A classic, brilliant and layered novel that has been at the heart of racial identity discourse in America for almost a century.

Clare Kendry leads a dangerous life. Fair, elegant, and ambitious, she is married to a white man unaware of her African American heritage and has severed all ties to her past. Clare's childhood friend, Irene Redfield, just as light-skinned, has chosen to remain within the African American community, but refuses to acknowledge the racism that continues to constrict her family's happiness. A chance encounter forces both women to confront the lies they have told others - and the…


I'll Tell My Story

By Sinmisola Ogunyinka,

Book cover of I'll Tell My Story

Sinmisola Ogunyinka Author Of I loved a slave

New book alert!

Who am I?

I am a writer who loves to create stories across cultures and time periods. Writing a historical romance novel involves a lot of reading about the history and the times. After reading a few historical novels, I started toying with the idea of writing one. I loved a slave is my second historical romance novel and I have started work on two more. Being transported into the time period gives me a lot of excitement and I hope you enjoy the books on my list as much as I have! I have a master’s in liberal arts and an MFA in Creative Writing.

Sinmisola's book list on historical stories on love and slavery

What is my book about?

Bettina Jaja spent years of her life obeying a man everyone both revered and feared, a man she called her husband - a man of God who gave her a comfortable life by all external accounts. Why, then, was she so unhappy? Pouring her heart out in her uncensored life story, she delivers her true self to her children. Doing so means defying her powerful husband. Doing so means being damned.

Bettina takes a stand against her tyrannical husband, the man who nobody dared disobey without fear of retaliation. In this often heart-wrenching look into the life of one mother yearning for freedom and for her children's happiness, you'll find out just what a mother is willing to sacrifice for the sake of her children.

I'll Tell My Story

By Sinmisola Ogunyinka,

What is this book about?

Sometimes the secrets of the past are too painful to remain hidden in the shadows.

Bettina Jaja spent years of her life obeying a man everyone both revered and feared, a man she called her husband-a man of God who gave her a comfortable life by all external accounts. Why, then, was she so unhappy?

Mummy Jaja, as their congregation called her, knew she had failed as a mother for many reasons... but could she stop the generational curses caused by her years of silence from being passed on? Can she save her children from suffering her fate?

Adam, her…


Book cover of Song of Solomon

Hari Ziyad Author Of Black Boy Out of Time

From my list on loss and grief from a certified death doula.

Who am I?

As a journalist, author and screenwriter, my work has always pondered loss and grief. I think this has something to do with the fact that of my mother’s religion; she was a convert to Hinduism and started conversations about the inevitability of death and how the soul and the body aren’t the same when us children were at a very young age. It probably also has something to do with the constant presence of death within my family and communities as a Black and queer person in a violently anti-Black and queerantagonistic world. I currently volunteer at a hospice, and provide community-building programming to death workers from diverse communities.

Hari's book list on loss and grief from a certified death doula

Hari Ziyad Why did Hari love this book?

This list could be full of Toni Morrison novels and be no worse for it.

I’d argue that the late writer is the finest we’ve ever had on the topics of grief, loss, and ancestry—especially from the Black American perspective. One of my favorite examples is Song of Solomon, a mesmerizing journey through what it takes to craft an identity in the midst of racism and the ruptures it creates in our lives.

Morrison's singular prose is pure magic as it weaves a tale of the enduring power of love. A literary masterpiece.

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Song of Solomon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Song of Solomon...profoundly changed my life' Marlon James

Macon 'Milkman' Dead was born shortly after a neighbourhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly.

In 1930s America Macon learns about the tyranny of white society from his friend Guitar, though he is more concerned with escaping the familial tyranny of his own father. So while Guitar joins a terrorist group Macon goes home to the South, lured by tales of buried family treasure. But his odyssey back home and a deadly confrontation…


Book cover of Salvage the Bones

Amy Rowland Author Of Inside the Wolf

From my list on understanding the American South.

Who am I?

I’m from North Carolina, and Inside the Wolf is the first book I’ve written about the American South. For a long time, I resisted writing about my home state. I moved to New York and tried to write elegant New York stories. But writing is thinking for me, and I had to think through some of the stories and memories and hauntings of my youth. The books on this list have made me want to keep doing it

Amy's book list on understanding the American South

Amy Rowland Why did Amy love this book?

Salvage the Bones was the first Jesmyn Ward book I read, and I fell for 14-year-old Esch, who loves Greek myths and a boy named Manny. Set in the days before Hurricane Katrina, Esch and her beloved brothers live young lives full of – well, full lives, that’s the point. 

Ward told the Paris Review about living through Hurricane Katrina, “I saw an entire town demolished, people fighting over water, breaking open caskets searching for something that could help them survive. I realized that if I was going to assume the responsibility of writing about my home, I needed narrative ruthlessness. I couldn’t dull the edges and fall in love with my characters and spare them. Life does not spare us.”

Ward is an electrifying writer, and Salvage the Bones is an American classic. 

By Jesmyn Ward,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Salvage the Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ 'A brilliantly pacy adventure story ... Ward writes like a dream' - The Times 'Fresh and urgent' - New York Times 'There's something of Faulkner to Ward's grand diction' - Guardian _______________ WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD Hurricane Katrina is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. He's a hard drinker, largely absent, and it isn't often he worries about the family. Esch and her three brothers are stockpiling food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets;…


Book cover of Men We Reaped: A Memoir

Sarah L. Sanderson Author Of The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

From my list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Who am I?

I chose to study creative nonfiction during my MFA program so I could learn what makes great memoirs work, but I first fell in love with the genre as a teenager, when I picked up Angela’s Ashes off my mom’s bedside table. I’m grateful for the way memoir gives me a window into the lives of people of other races, religions, abilities, experiences, and even other centuries. While my book The Place We Make isn’t only a memoir—it’s a blend of memoir and historical biography—it was my desire to both understand the view through my research subject’s eyes, and analyze how I was seeing the world myself, that drove me to write it.

Sarah's book list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes

Sarah L. Sanderson Why did Sarah love this book?

Men We Reaped blew me away.

Not only does Ward provide an incredibly personal and achingly beautiful glimpse of a culture I was unfamiliar with—a rural, impoverished Black community in the Deep South—but she does so with an innovative structure that simply dazzled me.

One strand of the book opens at the beginning of Ward’s life, while the other strand picks up at the end of her tale, with the most recent of five harrowing deaths due to gun violence that she and her community have endured. Each part of the story then alternately proceeds toward the same point, forwards along her childhood and backwards through each death, until both strands wind up in the middle of the story. It’s brilliantly executed. 

By Jesmyn Ward,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Men We Reaped as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ 'A brutal, moving memoir ... Anyone who emerges from America's black working-class youth with words as fine as Ward's deserves a hearing' - Guardian 'Raw, beautiful and dangerous' - New York Times Book Review 'Lavishly endowed with literary craft and hard-earned wisdom' - Time _______________ The beautiful, haunting memoir from Jesmyn Ward, the first woman to win the National Book Award twice 'And then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped' - Harriet Tubman Jesmyn Ward's acclaimed memoir shines…


Book cover of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals

Jo Scott-Coe Author Of Unheard Witness: The Life and Death of Kathy Leissner Whitman

From my list on nonfiction that reclaim lost history or silenced voices.

Who am I?

As a book lover and as a nonfiction writer and researcher, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that a book is truly a portal that can connect people across time and space. I’m a Catholic (stray) by education and tradition, and for me this interconnectivity resonates with the familiar theology of the communion of saints. Whether you are religious or not, if you love words, there is something rather miraculous about how language, past and present, from authors living and dead, can connect and surprise us and spark new conversations even with those yet to be born. You never know who may need to hear what you are putting on the page. 

Jo's book list on nonfiction that reclaim lost history or silenced voices

Jo Scott-Coe Why did Jo love this book?

This book made me reflect deeply on whom we praise as trailblazing “rebels” and who we ignore, erase, or brand with criminal status in the stories we inherit and then repeat thoughtlessly.

Hartman reimagines “transgression” through the lenses of race, gender, sexuality, and class in early 20th-century New York and Philadelphia. She immerses us in up-close and poignant stories of women’s nonconformity, showing how their choices were flexes not only for survival but for thriving, a refusal to be defined by the ugliest social denigrations of their time (as well as our own).

Wayward Lives is richly sourced, including recovered photographs with the evocative literary portraits. It is a moving, haunting, unforgettable book.

By Saidiya V. Hartman,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beautifully written and deeply researched, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. In wrestling with the question of what a free life is, many young black women created forms of intimacy and kinship indifferent to the dictates of respectability and outside the bounds of law. They cleaved to and cast off lovers, exchanged sex to subsist, and revised the meaning of marriage. Longing and desire fueled their experiments in how to live. They refused to labor like slaves or to accept degrading…


Book cover of The Fifth Season

Diana Fedorak Author Of Children of Alpheios

From my list on sci-fi and fantasy featuring incredible mothers.

Who am I?

I’m a mother of two children and was raised in a noisy family of four. It was my kids who reawakened my instinct to write again and follow through on my projects. Motherhood is such a fundamental part of my life and for most women I know. It’s mundane yet transformative in the sense it brings out your inner lioness in a way you don’t anticipate. When I think about some of my favorite literary characters, they would be unrecognizable if they weren’t mothers. With that in mind, I hope readers find a lovely story for their moms on Mother’s Day.

Diana's book list on sci-fi and fantasy featuring incredible mothers

Diana Fedorak Why did Diana love this book?

This Hugo Award-winning novel has one of the most original stories I’ve read that revolves around a remarkable mother, Essun.

While Essun pretends to be ordinary, she is an orogene, a race of humans with the ability to significantly alter her environment. As a result, the orogenes are wretched exiles, feared by society and trapped in a governing system that seeks to control them.

I was immediately taken with Essun’s emotional journey as the story opens with the loss of her child. She wants to live a quiet life with her family but is pursued by officials who cannot allow her to go free.

The story really tapped into the most primal aspects of motherhood. Ultimately, it’s motherhood that strengthens Essun’s power as she unleashes it with devastating effectiveness. 

By N. K. Jemisin,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked The Fifth Season as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this "intricate and extraordinary" Hugo Award winning novel of power, oppression, and revolution. (The New York Times)

This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land…


Book cover of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

Dannagal Goldthwaite Young Author Of Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation

From my list on understanding identity-driven wrongness in the United States.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of communication and political science who’s been researching and publishing on the effects of political media on democratic health for 25 years. More recently, I’ve been trying to understand the roots of inter-party hostility, the drop in trust in institutions, and the rise in Americans’ belief in breathtakingly false information. My hope is that through this selection of books, you’ll start to understand the synergistic dynamics between America’s complicated history with race, changes in America’s parties, media, and culture, and various social psychological processes, and maybe even start to see a way out of this mess.

Dannagal's book list on understanding identity-driven wrongness in the United States

Dannagal Goldthwaite Young Why did Dannagal love this book?

I cannot count the number of times I let out an audible, “My god,” reading this richly detailed account of the lives of three complicated and infinitely brave Black Americans who dared leave the Jim Crow South for cities North and West in the early-mid 1900s.

In school (in New England, not the South), I didn’t get an intimate sense of how routine and oppressive the violence and injustice were against southern Blacks during Jim Crow. And I certainly didn’t learn how, even in the “free” Northern cities, the subjugation continued, just in quieter ways.

Since reading the book, when I see references to people celebrating “simpler times from a bygone era,” I increasingly wonder if part of that simplicity involves them not having to share cultural or political power. 

By Isabel Wilkerson,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Warmth of Other Suns as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this beautifully written masterwork, the Pulitzer Prize–winnner and bestselling author of Caste chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official…


Book cover of Sonic Memories and other essays

Athena Dixon Author Of The Incredible Shrinking Woman

From my list on for growing up and finding your voice.

Who am I?

Finding a voice is something I struggled with since childhood. Always afraid of being invisible or silent, finding common ground with writers who excelled at relating the human condition became a safe haven. I made a choice to focus on creative work that explores what is means to be simply human--to examine the hopes, needs, wants, and energies that make our daily lives move.

Athena's book list on for growing up and finding your voice

Athena Dixon Why did Athena love this book?

Sonic Memories makes the best use of a compact space without losing any of the narrative depth and emotional impact. This small collection of essays uses sound and music as its top note all the while using the silence in between to showcase a rich memoir-like exploration of Black girlhood growing into Black womanhood.

By Cija Jefferson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sonic Memories and other essays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sonic Memories is a debut collection of personal essays written and designed by the author.

These true stories begin in Utah in the late seventies. The author is two and her parents are hopeful newlyweds in their early twenties. We follow the family back to Maryland where her father's dream to practice law disintegrates when he doesn’t pass the bar after several attempts. His upwardly mobile hopes for his family are dashed, and the fallout from that—a fear of being trapped in a life of poverty and dreams deferred—dogs the author through most of her young adult/adult life. In these…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in African Americans, Florida, and the Harlem Renaissance?

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

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