10 books like Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Zora Neale Hurston,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Their Eyes Were Watching God. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Crime and Punishment

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

Book cover of Crime and Punishment

This book may seem a little off-putting at first glance (a Russian novel, long and tedious!), but don’t be timid about taking this novel in hand and plowing headlong into it with the gusto of a James Cain crime thriller. To be clear, Crime and Punishment is mesmerizing and represents the prototype for nearly every crime novel that followed it. Some of my favorite scenes are the interrogations the chief magistrate conducts with the killer. The reader knows Raskolnikov is guilty but the cat-and-mouse dialogues between them are as fresh and intense as anything you’ll lay your eyes on. The quintessential crime novel and a must for fans of this or any other genre.

Crime and Punishment

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

Why should I read it?

6 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…


The Three Mothers

By Anna Malaika Tubbs,

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

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.

The Three Mothers

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,…


Passing

By Nella Larsen,

Book cover of Passing

Although Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield are only old childhood friends, their relationship has intense sister vibes. Each woman’s mix of jealousy and curiosity about the other’s life, the latent homoerotic desire that serves as an undercurrent for so much of the rising action, a suspected affair, and the explosive ending to Clare’s ruse all illustrate the kind of sibling rivalry I love to explore in my critical as well as my creative work. Not to mention, one of my favorite literary flexes of all time occurs near the end when Irene’s plucky friend Felise has to check a white man who has the audacity to yell the word “nigger” at a house party filled with Black people. It is a moment, as is the entire book. 

Passing

By Nella Larsen,

Why should I read it?

4 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…


Song of Solomon

By Toni Morrison,

Book cover of Song of Solomon

You don’t have to choose what you like most about reading when you read Morrison because she has it all. Stirring plots, elegant language, realistic and gorgeously full characters. Song of Solomon, set in a fictional Michigan town, begins with a death but tells the story of the life of Macon Dead III, from the 1930s to the 1960s. It’s been called “The Great American Novel” and it is. It’s hard sometimes for a writer or an avid reader to get the feeling of getting lost in a book because, being so familiar with the structure of a novel and some of the tropes, there’s so much that can take you "out of it." But I got lost in Song of Solomon. I just dove right in and didn’t come up for air until I was finished and I’m so grateful for that feeling.

Song of Solomon

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

3 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…


Salvage the Bones

By Jesmyn Ward,

Book cover of Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones is a deeply personal, heartbreaking story of Esch and her siblings navigating life as Hurricane Katrina approaches. But more than the chaos of nature’s fury, it is their interior lives—their day-to-day struggles absent any meaningful help from outsiders—that bring Ward’s pages to vivid life. She shows us just how complex growing up can be, especially for a child faced with bringing a new life into the world. And, yes, I’ll leave it there, exhorting you to read Salvage the Bones for more.

Salvage the Bones

By Jesmyn Ward,

Why should I read it?

4 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;…


Men We Reaped

By Jesmyn Ward,

Book cover of Men We Reaped: A Memoir

Three years ago, a close friend and I formed a two-person book club. We read a memoir per month for one year. Men We Reaped was my favorite. In the space of four years, the author loses five beloved boys/men in her life, including her own brother. Men we reaped. Like a crop that’s been over-harvested, “[t]hese young men died because of who they were and the place they were from, because certain disadvantages breed a certain kind of bad luck.” Ward brings each young man to life so successfully, that readers mourn when each is gone. In writing this memoir, she memorializes them: Roger Eric Daniels III, Demond Cook, Charles Joseph Martin, Ronald Wayne Lizana, Joshua Adam Dedeaux. Speak their names, so they’ll not be forgotten.

Men We Reaped

By Jesmyn Ward,

Why should I read it?

4 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…


Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

By Saidiya V. Hartman,

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

Hartman is one of those academic writers who write like novelists or poets; this is a good thing, because her material is the history of the marginalized, people pushed to the margins of history, so that often the only traces left of them are some entries in police or workhouse or hospital records. How to make those records speak and live again? Daringly, Hartman allows herself the poetic license to imagine in the gaps and silences. What results is a Black history/story that renders visible the unrecorded anarchic rebellions of Black women at the turn of the century, seeking out new and joyful possibilities for life. An incredible achievement.

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

By Saidiya V. Hartman,

Why should I read it?

8 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…


The Fifth Season

By N.K. Jemisin,

Book cover of The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1

N.K. Jemisin has created a classic in the making with The Fifth Season. We enter a world quite similar to ours today in terms of injustice, prejudice, stereotypes, and the foundations of hatred that have seeded their way into systemic power structures of society when it comes to race. The elements of high fantasy accompanied with Jemisin’s expressive writing are a guaranteed page-turner and will have you connected to characters like Damaya, Syenite, and Essun as they navigate, grow, and rise above the various obstacles in this story. It is dark, it is real, and it is phenomenal. 

The Fifth Season

By N.K. Jemisin,

Why should I read it?

19 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…


The Warmth of Other Suns

By Isabel Wilkerson,

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

Wilkerson embeds us with some of the millions of Black men and women who fled the Jim Crow South between 1915 and 1970, describing communities abandoned and hopes realized or disappointed. Robert Foster left his Louisiana town for Southern California, where he navigated new forms of racism to establish himself as a surgeon and prominent social figure. Ida Mae Gladney took her family from Mississippi to Chicago, where lodging, segregation, and “mind-numbing labor” scarcely improved on that of the South. But it was in Chicago that Ida Mae was first able to vote. Through the lives of people like these, Wilkerson paints a sweeping history of twentieth-century America that tells us as much about a country and an era as Tolstoy did in War and Peace.

The Warmth of Other Suns

By Isabel Wilkerson,

Why should I read it?

7 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…


Sonic Memories and other essays

By Cija Jefferson,

Book cover of Sonic Memories and other essays

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.

Sonic Memories and other essays

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…


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