The best books about African-American men

Who picked these books? Meet our 55 experts.

55 authors created a book list connected to African-American men, and here are their favorite African-American men books.
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Chokehold

By Paul Butler,

Book cover of Chokehold: Policing Black Men

Clarence Taylor Author Of Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City

From the list on race and policing.

Who am I?

I am Professor Emeritus of History at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  I grew up in Brooklyn, New York during the turbulent decades of the 1950s and 1960s where there were numerous social protest movements against the War in Vietnam, school segregation, and police brutality.  My books explore the men and women who battled institutional racism.

Clarence's book list on race and policing

Discover why each book is one of Clarence's favorite books.

Why did Clarence love this book?

Butler argues that the large increase of police assaults and killings of black men is not a breakdown in law enforcement or the activities of a few rogue cops. The system is doing what it has been designed to do. Police hurt black men, according to the author because “that is what they are paid to do.” Butler maintains that the Chokehold “is a way of understanding how American inequality is imposed.” It is a tool of oppression. One outcome of the Chokehold is mass incarceration. The construction of the thug is a means of justifying the Chokehold. Butler traces the “Ape” or “dehumanization” thesis.

The book contains loads of data showing how in city after city black people are disproportionately targeted by police officers. Programs such as Obama’s My Brothers’ Keeper ignores women and plays into perpetuating stereotypes of black men as the primary victims of racism.

By Paul Butler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Finalist for the 2018 National Council on Crime & Delinquency's Media for a Just Society Awards

Nominated for the 49th NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Nonfiction)

A 2017 Washington Post Notable Book

A Kirkus Best Book of 2017

"Butler has hit his stride. This is a meditation, a sonnet, a legal brief, a poetry slam and a dissertation that represents the full bloom of his early thesis: The justice system does not work for blacks, particularly black men."
-The Washington Post

"The most readable and provocative account of the consequences of the war on drugs since Michelle Alexander's…


Native Son

By Richard Wright,

Book cover of Native Son

Kia Corthron Author Of The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter

From the list on the intersection of race, class, and justice in America.

Who am I?

I grew up as an African American in the Maryland Appalachian valley, a town that was ninety-five percent white. My father worked for the paper mill and would bring home reams of paper, pens, pencils. I began playing with the stuff—making up stories and stapling them into books, the raw beginnings of a future novelist. Separately, I created dialogue, using clothespins as people: a burgeoning playwright. (We were not destitute—my sister and I had toys! But those makeshift playthings worked best for my purposes.) So, given my working-class racial minority origins, it was rather inevitable that I would be drawn to stories addressing class and race. 

Kia's book list on the intersection of race, class, and justice in America

Discover why each book is one of Kia's favorite books.

Why did Kia love this book?

Unless your first reading has been spoiled by a movie or CliffsNotes, I don’t believe you can fail to be stunned by Wright’s 1940 eons-ahead-of-its-time pièce de résistance. While much has been written addressing racial bias in the courtroom (that is, if the defendant survives the initial encounter with police), the author took the outlandish step of providing head-spinning complexity: presenting a culpable protagonist, albeit one whose crime against an affluent young white woman came about unwittingly, having everything to do with his knowledge that he, a Black man, would invariably be perceived as guilty. Wright never lets us off the hook, forcing readers of all hues to consider the entanglements of race, class, and jurisprudence, beginning the day those of us who are not white and/or privileged are born.

By Richard Wright,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Native Son as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Reissued to mark the 80th anniversary of Native Son's publication - discover Richard Wright's brutal and gripping masterpiece this black history month.

'[Native Son] possesses an artistry, penetration of thought, and sheer emotional power that places it into the front rank of American fiction' Ralph Ellison

Reckless, angry and adrift, Bigger Thomas has grown up trapped in a life of poverty in the slums of Chicago. But a job with the affluent Dalton family provides the setting for a catastrophic collision between his world and theirs. Hunted by citizen and police alike, and baited by prejudiced officials, Bigger finds himself…


Bad Blood

By James H. Jones,

Book cover of Bad Blood

Allen M. Hornblum Author Of Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America

From the list on human experimentation.

Who am I?

I began working in prisons 50 years ago. I was just out of grad school and I accepted the challenge of starting a literacy program in the Philadelphia Prison System. The shock of cellblock life was eye-opening, but the most unexpected revelation was the sight of scores of inmates wrapped in bandages and medical tape. Unknown to the general public, the three city prisons had become a lucrative appendage of the University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School. As I would discover years later, thousands of imprisoned Philadelphians had been used in a cross-section of unethical and dangerous scientific studies running the gamut from simple hair dye and athlete’s foot trials to radioactive isotope, dioxin, and US Army chemical warfare studies. My account of the prison experiments, Acres of Skin, helped instill in me an abiding faith in well-researched journalism as an antidote to societal indiscretions and crimes.

Allen's book list on human experimentation

Discover why each book is one of Allen's favorite books.

Why did Allen love this book?

This in-depth account of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study is considered a classic in the field of medical ethics. Though Greg Dober and I have recently discovered the true origins of the Public Health Service’s “non-treatment study” and former Surgeon General Thomas Parran’s critical role in the ugly saga, Jones’s book is still the best chronicle available, and lays out a devastating narrative of how a sophisticated but uncaring and racist scientific establishment could annually examine and not treat hundreds of unschooled Alabama sharecroppers suffering from a deadly disease. 

By James H. Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From 1932 to 1972, the United States Public Health Service conducted a non-therapeutic experiment involving over 400 black male sharecroppers infected with syphilis. The Tuskegee Study had nothing to do with treatment. It purpose was to trace the spontaneous evolution of the disease in order to learn how syphilis affected black subjects. The men were not told they had syphilis; they were not warned about what the disease might do to them; and, with the exception of a smattering of medication during the first few months, they were not given health care. Instead of the powerful drugs they required, they…


The Names of All the Flowers

By Melissa Valentine,

Book cover of The Names of All the Flowers: A Memoir

Cassandra Lane Author Of We Are Bridges: A Memoir

From the list on lyrical memoirs from the soul.

Who am I?

My writing background started in the newsroom where, as a reporter, my job was to interview and tell the stories of others. At one point in my career, my editors assigned me a bi-monthly column, and while I used this space to write about a variety of issues happening in the community, I also used it occasionally to write personal essays. I love this form because the personal story helps us drill down on an issue and, in essence, make deeper connections with the collective. When I left the newsroom, I continued to study and write in essay and memoir form. In my MFA program, I was able to focus on this form exclusively for two years, and I have spent many years crafting my first book-length memoir into form. 

Cassandra's book list on lyrical memoirs from the soul

Discover why each book is one of Cassandra's favorite books.

Why did Cassandra love this book?

I have not read a book like Melissa Valentine's The Names of All the Flowers, which is a beautiful, painful, and exquisitely written narrative about her brother Junior, who was gunned down on the streets of Oakland when he was 19. "Say his name, say her name," we chant when yet another one of our brothers or sisters is killed. In this memoir, Valentine gives us not only Junior's name but an intimate look into his head, his heart, his fears, his dreams, his joy.

By Melissa Valentine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Names of All the Flowers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in rapidly gentrifying 1990s Oakland, this memoir—"poignant, painful, and gorgeous" (Alicia Garza)—explores siblinghood, adolescence, and grief in a family shattered by loss.

Melissa and her older brother Junior grow up running around the disparate neighborhoods of 1990s Oakland, two of six children to a white Quaker father and a black Southern mother. But as Junior approaches adolescence, a bullying incident and later a violent attack in school leave him searching for power and a sense of self in all the wrong places; he develops a hard front and falls into drug dealing. Right before Junior’s twentieth birthday, the family…


Cinnamon Kiss

By Walter Mosley,

Book cover of Cinnamon Kiss

Paul Stoller Author Of Wisdom from the Edge: Writing Ethnography in Turbulent Times

From the list on writing about the wisdom of others.

Who am I?

I was passionate about anthropology in the 1970s when I was in my twenties and am still passionate about anthropology in the 2020s in my seventies. Throughout the years I have expressed my passion for anthropology in university classrooms, in public lectures, and in the 16 books I have published. As my mind has matured, I understand more and more fully just how important it is to write powerfully, cogently, and accessibly about the wisdom of others. In all my books I have attempted to convey to the public this fundamental wisdom, none more so than in my latest book, Wisdom from the Edge: Writing Ethnography in Turbulent Times.   

Paul's book list on writing about the wisdom of others

Discover why each book is one of Paul's favorite books.

Why did Paul love this book?

Walter Mosely is one of my favorite fiction writers. His Easy Rollins mysteries, of which Cinnamon Kiss is a prime example, describe with great skill the cultural texture of street life among African Americans in Los Angeles. 

He does so through sensuous descriptions of LA neighborhoods, gripping dialogue, and creative construction of character.  In so doing he evokes the practical wisdom of urban street life—a model for writing about contemporary wisdom.

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New York Times bestseller Walter Mosley's sizzling new novel pits Easy Rawlins against his greatest ever challenge.

It is the Summer of Love as CINNAMON KISS opens, and Easy Rawlins is contemplating robbing an armoured car. It's further outside the law than Easy has ever travelled, but his daughter Feather needs a medical treatment that costs far more than Easy can earn or borrow in time. And his friend Mouse tells him it's a cinch.

Then another friend, Saul Lynx, offers a job that might solve Easy's problem without jail time. He has to track the disappearance of an eccentric,…


Solitary

By Albert Woodfox,

Book cover of Solitary

Pat Libby Author Of The Empowered Citizens Guide: 10 Steps to Passing a Law that Matters to You

From the list on inspiring you to make a difference.

Who am I?

I’ve dedicated my life to repairing the world. This work has taken on many forms – helping low-income people grow community gardens for food and beauty, providing fuel subsidies that helped people combat frigid New England winters, and working on building affordable housing and economic development programs in rural and urban communities. Ultimately, these experiences brought me to create graduate programs where students could learn how to lead healthy nonprofit organizations. Part of their education involved learning how to pass laws based on my own successful experience. I realized then that I had a passion for providing everyday citizens with simple tools they too could use to make a difference.    

Pat's book list on inspiring you to make a difference

Discover why each book is one of Pat's favorite books.

Why did Pat love this book?

This book upended everything I thought I knew about the criminal justice and the penal system in the United States and shook me to the core. Albert Woodfox provides a raw, honest, and compelling narrative of his life which is centered largely upon the 44 years he spent in solitary confinement for crimes he did not commit. His strength is palpable which he attributes to friends who witnessed and shared his unwarranted punishment and others who fought for his freedom. Equally important is the context Woodfox provides that documents profound racial disparities in the criminal justice system throughout the country. Reading this book makes one wonder how we can change the entire system to become one that is more just and a better reflection of true American values.       

By Albert Woodfox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Praise for Solitary:

FINALIST FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE IN GENERAL NONFICTION
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION
Named One of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2019
Winner of the Stowe Prize
Named the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book of the Year
Named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, Publishers Weekly, BookBrowse, and Literary Hub
Winner of the BookBrowse Award for Best Debut of 2019
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

“An uncommonly powerful memoir about four decades in confinement . . . A profound book about…


I Am Not Sidney Poitier

By Percival L. Everett,

Book cover of I Am Not Sidney Poitier

Betsy Robinson Author Of The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg

From the list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness.

Who am I?

I write to learn what I don’t know about myself and our purpose as flawed beings in this Alice-in-Wonderland world. In the documentary about singer/poet Leonard Cohen, creator of the much-covered “Hallelujah” (title of the documentary), to explain the song, he says that life is so impenetrable that the only options are to shake your fist or exclaim “Hallelujah.” I think there is a third option: to laugh. And I prefer to do all three because that is what comes through me: confusion, pain, and hilarity. And hopefully a better understanding of the whole mess once I’ve written about it. And that is what I hope to share with readers.

Betsy's book list on laughing while squirming with new self-awareness

Discover why each book is one of Betsy's favorite books.

Why did Betsy love this book?

I’ve read this book twice and probably will read it a few more times before I die. It’s that good.

The story of a young Black man (named Not Sidney Poitier) traversing the U.S.A. is a picaresque, hilarious, heart-breaking tale about trying to find yourself.

Eighteen-year-old Not Sidney is surrounded by people who only see his race or his wealth, or conversely by geniuses who have succeeded despite themselves and, although they see Not Sidney without the cultural labels, are of little help in his quest to find his mission in life. 

The first time I read this book, I was spitting coffee laughing. The second time, my heart broke. I am curious what my next read will evoke.

By Percival L. Everett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am Not Sidney Poitier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Not Sidney Poitier is an amiable young man in an absurd country. The sudden death of his mother orphans him at age eleven, leaving him with an unfortunate name, an uncanny resemblance to the famous actor and, perhaps more fortunate, a staggering number of shares in the Turner Broadcasting Corporation. Percival Everett's hilarious new novel follows Not Sidney's tumultuous life, as the social hierarchy scrambles to balance his skin color with his fabulous wealth.


Devil in a Blue Dress

By Walter Mosley,

Book cover of Devil in a Blue Dress

Ward Howarth Author Of River City Blues

From the list on WWII era reads no crime fiction fan should miss.

Who am I?

I’m an author, reader, and cinephile with a real appetite for all things crime. If it’s a mystery, if it’s a detective story, if there are questionable morals at play in a story with no easy answers and no clear way out, then count me in. I’m also fascinated by the WWII era and was spellbound by the stories my maternal grandfather told me about his time as an infantry soldier in Italy during the war. These passions moved me to write my own novels and continue to inspire me in my embrace of art. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I do!

Ward's book list on WWII era reads no crime fiction fan should miss

Discover why each book is one of Ward's favorite books.

Why did Ward love this book?

Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, the first of his novels to feature Black WWII-veteran-turned-detective Ezekiel ’Easy’ Rawlins, reads like a hard-boiled blues song.

The prose is both terse and descriptive, flowing easily on the page with Mosley’s fantastic ear for dialogue and the workings of Easy’s inner voice.

Again, we’re in postwar Los Angeles, in 1948, following Easy on a trail of misadventures as he runs afoul of both cops and crooks in his quest to track down a mysterious blonde.

And while Devil in a Blue Dress is most certainly a detective novel, Mosley’s wit and insight into the human condition elevate it into something more.

It’s tough, it’s sexy, and it’s not to be missed.

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Devil in a Blue Dress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Devil in a Blue Dress honors the tradition of the classic American detective novel by bestowing on it a vivid social canvas and the freshest new voice in crime writing in years, mixing the hard-boiled poetry of Raymond Chandler with the racial realism of Richard Wright to explosive effect.


Invisible Man

By Ralph Ellison,

Book cover of Invisible Man

Daryl Cumber Dance Author Of From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore

From the list on African American folklore.

Who am I?

I'm a devotee of the Word. I collect folklore. I teach literature. Generally I deal with everything from the Greek epics to Jamaican dub poetry, but my focus has been on African American folklore and culture. You might say that I'm something of a proselytizer, dedicated to seeking the Word, collecting and preserving the Word, interpreting the Word, spreading the Word. To paraphrase an old folk saying, "I've got the Word in me, and I can preach it, you know." My numerous collections of folklore have won awards and citations and enthusiastic praise from some impressive personalities and journals, but my greatest reward is witnessing the impact my collections have on ordinary, just plainlongso folk.

Daryl's book list on African American folklore

Discover why each book is one of Daryl's favorite books.

Why did Daryl love this book?

One of America’s greatest novels, Invisible Man is a veritable potpourri of African American Folklore. 

I, and most other professors, always have this novel at the head of our list of readings for courses in African American literature, culture, and/or folklore. There are probably more studies of this novel than of any other African American novel. 

By Ralph Ellison,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Invisible Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • In this deeply compelling novel and epic milestone of American literature, a nameless narrator tells his story from the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. 

He describes growing up in a Black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood," before retreating amid violence and confusion.

Originally published in 1952 as the first novel by a then unknown author, it remained on the bestseller list for…


The Legend of Bagger Vance

By Steven Pressfield,

Book cover of The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life

James Y. Bartlett Author Of The Majors Collection: Hacker Golf Mystery Box Set

From the list on golf fiction.

Who am I?

I started writing about golf years ago… I went from freelancing to working for Golfweek and pretty soon had a career! I thought I had a brilliant idea: a series of mysteries with a golf theme! Then I learned there were about 267 other golf mysteries already out there, starting with Dame Agatha’s Murder on the Links! Oops.  I eventually wrote seven Hacker novels, finally getting my golf-writer-turned-sleuth through all four majors. I also published a historical novel set in Scotland (sorry, no golf) and just launched the new Swamp Yankee Mystery series, set in a small Rhode Island town remarkably similar to the one I live in!

James' book list on golf fiction

Discover why each book is one of James' favorite books.

Why did James love this book?

I suspect more people saw the movie (starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron and Jack Lemmon in his final role) than read the book by Steven Pressfield. Too bad, because the book’s pretty good.

It tells the entirely fictional tale of a 36-hole showdown match during the Depression between Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, and a local hero named Rannulph Junuh and his caddie, Bagger Vance. Grantland Rice and O.B. Keeler are there (famous sportswriters in the 1920s), and, of course, there is a femme fatale. But there is an underlying respect and honor for the game, which makes this novel a keeper.

By Steven Pressfield,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

___________________

'A marvellous, life-affirming book' Mark McCormack

'Golf and mysticism...a dazzler and a thought-provoker' Los Angeles Times

'Good stuff...a philosophical fantasy imagined on a golf course, heavy with fog, storm, fireworks and the howling winds of supernatural forces' New York Times Book Review
___________________

In the Depression year of 1931, on the golf links at Krewe Island off Savannah's windswept shore, two legends of the game - Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen - meet for a mesmerizing thirty-six hole showdown.

They are joined by another player, a troubled war hero called Rannulph Junah. But the key to the outcome lies…


Imperium in Imperio

By Sutton E. Griggs,

Book cover of Imperium in Imperio

Chuck Redman Author Of A Cottonwood Stand: A Novel of Nebraska

From the list on fiction that is more hysterical than historical.

Who am I?

I’m an old lawyer, a writer, and now I’ve stumbled into acting, but reading, just plain old sitting on the couch and reading, has always been my personal slice of heaven. I was a history major but not a history buff like those folks that can rattle off dates or win $287,000 on Jeopardy. These stories from history can be told realistically, romantically, impressionistically, philosophically, and lots of other ways. But satirically is how stories capture and move me the most. Nothing stirs me or grows goosebumps on me as effectively as a story of hard times and hard-hearted people who deserve a bit of exposure from some well-aimed wit.

Chuck's book list on fiction that is more hysterical than historical

Discover why each book is one of Chuck's favorite books.

Why did Chuck love this book?

I read Imperium in an Afro-American Literature course in college. The instructor was excellent. I was the only non-Afro-American male in the class. I sat in the back. As soon as I finished reading Imperium I said to myself “This would make a great movie.” About ten years later I adapted the book into a screenplay. I typed it myself on my old typewriter. There was gunk on some of the keys and they needed cleaning. I realized that around Scene Five. If you ever read my old manuscript, I apologize for the first twenty pages. You can tell Sutton Griggs I’m sorry, also.

By Sutton E. Griggs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Imperium in Imperio (1899) is a novel by Sutton E. Griggs. Written while Sutton was at the beginning of his career as a Baptist minister, Imperium in Imperio was sold door to door and earned modest praise upon publication. Although Griggs' novels were largely forgotten by the mid-twentieth century, scholars have recently sought to emphasize his role as an activist and author involved with the movement for Black nationalism in the United States. Critics since have recognized Griggs as a pioneering political figure and author whose utopian themes and engagement with contemporary crises constitute some of the era's most radical…


The New Jim Crow

By Michelle Alexander,

Book cover of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Raina Lipsitz Author Of The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics

From the list on American politics for open-minded readers.

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with politics and social justice since I was a kid, have been writing professionally for over a decade, and have twice interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I wrote The Rise of a New Left because I was covering a new generation of political candidates who were challenging old orthodoxies, and I was curious about the leftward shift in U.S. politics: where it came from, who was driving it, how deep it went, and how durable it might be. I try to convey a broader and more nuanced view of the American left and give young women and people of color the credit they deserve for reinvigorating it.

Raina's book list on American politics for open-minded readers

Discover why each book is one of Raina's favorite books.

Why did Raina love this book?

I thought I knew a decent amount about mass incarceration, but this book showed me just how much I didn’t know. It also deepened my commitment to fighting for anti-racist laws and enhanced my longstanding interest in defending the rights of incarcerated people. The New Jim Crow inspired me to read and write more about criminal justice issues and awakened my interest in prison abolition and restorative justice. I especially admire, and have sought to emulate, Alexander’s passion; it’s always impressive when an author’s justifiable anger spurs her to write a more extensive and rigorous book than someone who cared less would have produced.

By Michelle Alexander,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The New Jim Crow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists motivated by Michelle Alexander's unforgettable argument that 'we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.'


Men We Reaped

By Jesmyn Ward,

Book cover of Men We Reaped: A Memoir

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

From the 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

Discover why each book is one of Sarah's favorite books.

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…


The Human Stain

By Philip Roth,

Book cover of The Human Stain

Charlotte Fox Weber Author Of Tell Me What You Want: A Therapist and Her Clients Explore Our 12 Deepest Desires

From the list on self-help that aren’t about self-help.

Who am I?

I have always cringed to hear my book described as “self-help” because it sounds dry and instructive. I prefer to describe it as a series of therapy stories. Help comes from surprising sources and I love that we can find support in our own imaginative ways. A wonderful book will always be helpful emotionally, and great writers investigate our inner lives and motivations. It’s up to each of us to insist on living exciting lives and books remind us that it’s always possible to have a fresh experience. Self-help often means embracing the complexities. There is no magical solution for figuring out life but great books make living so much better. 

Charlotte's book list on self-help that aren’t about self-help

Discover why each book is one of Charlotte's favorite books.

Why did Charlotte love this book?

Roth’s intolerance of closure is brilliant. Even if it’s a character who loathes the concept of closure, and not Roth himself, this book is incredibly helpful for thinking about cancel culture, the reductive judgments about sex, the cultural purity binges that shame and destroy thinking.

Roth is bold and brave in his writing and the exquisite candor about sex is sometimes upsetting but also enlivening. Roth is not always nice in his writing but the cruelty he describes is an act of service to humanity and he stretches the psyche, 

The Human Stain will expand your attitudes towards race and sexual judgment. Helpful in myriad ways.

By Philip Roth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The American psyche is channelled into the gripping story of one man. This is the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Philip Roth at his very best.

It is 1998, the year America is plunged into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president. In a small New England town a distinguished professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues allege that he is a racist. The charge is unfounded, the persecution needless, but the truth about Silk would astonish even his most virulent accuser. Coleman Silk has a secret that he has kept for fifty years. This is…


Blood Grove

By Walter Mosley,

Book cover of Blood Grove

Michael R. Lane Author Of The Gem Connection

From the list on African American mysteries.

Who am I?

As an avid reader, I read a wide variety of books. Of the fiction genre mystery and suspense remain my favorite. From the classics to the gritty, a well-told mystery is a literary gem. As my mystery palette has aged—like my taste in wine—so are my demands of what makes a good mystery novel. The best mysteries for me contain more than a serpentine journey toward the hidden truth. They have intriguing characters, crisp dialogue, interesting settings, formidable foes, and of course indispensable heroes or anti-heroes. My writing goal is aimed at achieving the same level of literary penmanship of the mysteries I enjoy reading so much.

Michael's book list on African American mysteries

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

Easy Rawlins is an African American private detective in 1960s Los Angeles. Easy gets a visit from a troubled Vietnam veteran at his office. The vet tells an implausible story of him and his lover being attacked in a citrus grove outside the city. He may have killed the man. The woman and his dog are missing. Rawlins’ gut tells him the case is nothing but trouble. He takes the case anyway. The bond between veterans overriding all other concerns. Blood Grove is an exhilarating, mystery soup involving moguls, sociopaths, cops, hippies, extremists, and swindlers. Requiring Easy to call upon help from his friends. Friends who range from genius to lethal. I loved going along with Easy on this case. Admiring his resolve and intelligence in solving the mystery.

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ezekiel "Easy" Porterhouse Rawlins is an unlicensed private investigator turned hard-boiled detective always willing to do what it takes to get things done in the racially charged, dark underbelly of Los Angeles.

But when Easy is approached by a shell-shocked Vietnam War veteran- a young white man who claims to have gotten into a fight protecting a white woman from a black man- he knows he shouldn't take the case.

Though he sees nothing but trouble in the brooding ex-soldier's eyes, Easy, a vet himself, feels a kinship form between them. Easy embarks on an investigation that takes him from…


Book cover of How Are You Going to Save Yourself

Diane Josefowicz Author Of Ready, Set, Oh

From the list on you’ve never heard of about Rhode Island.

Who am I?

As a Rhode Islander, I didn’t have to do too much research to write Ready, Set, Oh. I was born in Providence, and I grew up in Cranston, a suburb outside the city. After graduating from a local high school, I studied at Brown University and after years of living in different cities, fifteen years ago I settled in Providence with my family. I adore this place—we have vibrant neighborhoods, gorgeous beaches, plenty of history, and a surprisingly lively literary scene. I assembled this list to draw attention to some great but under-recognized books set in Rhode Island, either by Rhode Islanders or writers with significant connections to the Biggest Little. 

Diane's book list on you’ve never heard of about Rhode Island

Discover why each book is one of Diane's favorite books.

Why did Diane love this book?

This novel-in-stories follows a quartet of friends—Dub, Rollo, Rye, and Gio—as they party, fight, love, and occasionally even consider leaving Rhode Island. Gio, the group’s storyteller, observes, comments, and guides the reader through a hard-edged world of race and class oppression. Guns and drugs flood Gio’s world, but these forces are offset by bonds of family, friends, and friends who become family. Never has the overlooked town of Pawtucket been so lovingly portrayed, and I’ll not soon forget Holmes’ mouthwatering descriptions of Portuguese Catholic feast days in East Providence. A keen observer of toxic masculinity, Holmes shows how misogyny holds this group of young men together while it also holds them back.

By J.M. Holmes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Are You Going to Save Yourself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Four young men struggle to liberate themselves from the burden of being black and male in America in an assured debut "as up-to the-minute as a Kendrick Lamar track and as ruefully steeped in eternal truths as a Gogol tale" (Kirkus, starred review).

Bound together by shared experience but pulled apart by their changing fortunes, four young friends coming of age in the postindustrial enclave of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, struggle to liberate themselves from the legacies left to them as black men in America. With potent immediacy and bracing candor, this provocative debut follows a decade in the lives of…


A Little Yellow Dog

By Walter Mosley,

Book cover of A Little Yellow Dog

Dianne Pearce Author Of Simona's Son

From the list on making you want to write your own damn book.

Who am I?

I started reading voraciously at age 4, and read Camus by 6th grade, which is why it made sense that I was so into Pink Floyd, my favorite album of theirs being Animals, which is super depressing. I then studied writing extensively with some great writers, getting my MA and MFA, and teaching writing at colleges from 1991-2021. Along the way I became an editor, a writing coach, ran a writing workshop for 7 years, and started a publishing company. I know good writing when I see it versus crap, and I can tell for sure in about 300 words. I also fall hard for books, and do want to marry them

Dianne's book list on making you want to write your own damn book

Discover why each book is one of Dianne's favorite books.

Why did Dianne love this book?

I've met Mr. Mosely a few times, and he's a helluva guy.

This is my favorite of the Easy Rawlins series. Mosley writes in my favorite genre, hardboiled, and he's perfect Chandler, but with two important distinctions: his books teach us about being in a Black man's shoes in a white man's world, and we can never learn that well enough, and Easy is a genuinely good person, and there are not nearly enough of him.

He is good to his bones, to his soul, and we all want him to succeed: we're with him from the first line, and we all get religion praying for him to make it all the way, not to solving the crime, but to solving the mystery of living life well, and on his own terms.

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little Yellow Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With each succeeding mystery featuring his reluctant detective (and natural-born existentialist) Easy Rawlins, Walter Mosley gains new fans and builds on what is now recognized as a permanent addition to American crime writing. His current book is A Little Yellow Dog--another instant classic of suspense, style, and shrewd social observation.

It's 1964. Easy Rawlins has given up the street life that has brought him so much trouble and grief. He's taken on a job as supervising custodian of Sojourner Truth Junior High School in Watts. For two years he's been getting up early and going off to work. He wears…


Book cover of Go Tell It on the Mountain

Elisabeth Åsbrink Author Of 1947: Where Now Begins

From the list on memory and oblivion.

Who am I?

My Hungarian father was 7 years old when he almost got deported to Polen by the Nazis, but was miraculously saved by his mother. He came to Sweden, where I´m born, and never looked back, completely focused on the future. So I, his only child, focus on memory and oblivion. It´s like we stand back to back—or like I´m a seamstress, trying to stitch the past with the present. In my British mother´s family history is Salonica, the magical Jewish city in the Ottoman Empire. My Spanish-Jewish grandfather spoke the same Castillian dialect that Cervantes used to write Don Quijote. And I´m born in Sweden. These are my universes and where my writing is born.  

Elisabeth's book list on memory and oblivion

Discover why each book is one of Elisabeth's favorite books.

Why did Elisabeth love this book?

I only recently started to read James Baldwin and am blown away by his intensity and poetic language. In this first novel he describes the world of his childhood in Harlem, NY. It is American identity, history, and passion, it´s a portrait of a young man as well of the wounds of slavery hurting in every individual born into the American system. And it’s a beautiful story.

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Go Tell It on the Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Go back to where you started, or as far back as you can, examine all of it, travel your road again and tell the truth about it. Sing or shout or testify or keep it to yourself: but know whence you came.'

Originally published in 1953, Go Tell it on the Mountain was James Baldwin's first major work, based in part on his own childhood in Harlem. With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy's discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson…


Waiting to Exhale

By Terry McMillan,

Book cover of Waiting to Exhale

Kalisha Buckhanon Author Of Solemn

From the list on Black women’s friendships.

Who am I?

I’m a Black woman novelist in America who has made it through life with three things: God, great books, and greater friends. Throughout my writing career, friends have encouraged and supported each and every book I could not have written without them. I am also a literary scholar of black women writers in America, a champion of their works, and a soul dedicated to preserving their names in the literary canon. I have two English literature and language degrees from University of Chicago with my M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School. No novel I write is complete without empowering and strengthening relationships between Black women and girls.

Kalisha's book list on Black women’s friendships

Discover why each book is one of Kalisha's favorite books.

Why did Kalisha love this book?

When this book premiered in the mid-nineties, I was fairly young but absolutely shook by these grown thirtysomething women’s stories of not just finding romance but finding themselves with a lot of help from their friends. You will be hard-pressed to pick a favorite character among Savannah, Robin, Bernadine, and Gloria but I will give you a tip: Don’t even try. They are all strong, exuberant, and self-determined professional women at the centers of their families and communities. The search for real, true, lasting love plays out across one year in Arizona that changes their lives. On nearly every page, McMillan will entertain you or break your heart but never let you forget the power of best girlfriends.

By Terry McMillan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Waiting to Exhale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of four vibrant black women in their thirties. They draw on each other for support as they struggle with careers, divorce, motherhood and their relationships with men.


Book cover of The Third Life of Grange Copeland

Lillah Lawson Author Of Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree

From the list on Southern Gothic with a heart.

Who am I?

I am the author of three novels (with two more set to release next year); Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree; The Dead Rockstar Trilogy; and I'm happiest when straddling literary genres. I have published works of historical fiction, as well as southern gothic, horror, speculative fiction, dark fantasy, and literary fiction. My debut, Monarchs Under the Sassafras Tree was nominated for Georgia Author of the Year in 2020. In addition to writing, I am a genealogist and recently went back to school to obtain my history degree. My love of writing, history, and family all intersect to inform my writing and I always set my characters in good old Georgia.

Lillah's book list on Southern Gothic with a heart

Discover why each book is one of Lillah's favorite books.

Why did Lillah love this book?

Alice Walker is one of my all-time favorite authors and inspirations, and not just because she’s from Georgia, like me. The Third Life of Grange Copeland is my favorite novel of hers; in it, she captures beautifully the fraught relationship between a hardened old man and his granddaughter, who he is determined to do right by after a lifetime of doing wrong. It is a heartbreaking, stark, beautiful novel. 

By Alice Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Third Life of Grange Copeland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alice Walker's powerful first novel.

Alice Walker's first book recounts the lives of three generations growing up in Georgia, where the author herself grew up. Grange Copeland is a black tenant farmer who is forced to leave his land and family in search of a better future. He heads North but discovers that the racism and poverty he experienced in the South are, in fact, everywhere. When he returns to Georgia years later he finds that his son Brownfield has been imprisoned for the murder of his wife. But hope comes in the form of the third generation as the…