The best books about African Americans

Who picked these books? Meet our 735 experts.

735 authors created a book list connected to African Americans, and here are their favorite African Americans books.
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The Sweetest Sound

By Sherri Winston,

Book cover of The Sweetest Sound

Jennifer Gennari Author Of Muffled

From the list on middle-grade about kids making music.

Who am I?

In fifth grade, I chose to play the clarinet. After a lot of cracked reeds and squeaky notes, I switched to choir. I still love to sing! I love books that explore young people’s first experiences with music, whether it’s as a star or as a way to express one’s true self. Music takes many forms, and for me, that includes the arrangement of sounds in a sentence. When I write for young people, I look for the musicality of words, how they flow, and how variety can make a story pop. Try reading aloud your own work or a favorite book and listen to the rhythm of language.

Jennifer's book list on middle-grade about kids making music

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

Why did Jennifer love this book?

When you have a stunning gospel-singing voice that nobody expects, what would you do?

This is a sweet story about ten-year-old Cadence whose mother left her when she was little; as a result, her father and the whole community babies her and calls her Mouse.

She embodies that label by never speaking up for what she wants (like a small birthday party) and by never singing with her full voice. When a new church music director invites students to audition, Cadence uploads a video of herself singing to the wrong website—and it goes viral.

When her friend asks her to pretend that she’s the “gospel girl,” Cadence finally decides to claim her talent and sing.

By Sherri Winston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For ten-year-old Cadence Jolly, birthdays are a constant reminder of all that has changed since her mother skipped town with dreams of becoming a star. Cadence inherited that musical soul, she can't deny it, but otherwise she couldn't be more different - she's shy as can be.

She did make a promise last year that she would try to break out of her shell, just a little. And she prayed that she'd get the courage to do it. As her eleventh birthday draws near, she realizes time is running out. And when a secret recording of her singing leaks and…

I Think I Need Speech Therapy

By Nina M. Southern,

Book cover of I Think I Need Speech Therapy

Cynthia Sanders Author Of Mia, the Monster of Fear and the Fairy of Courage

From the list on Black education, dreams, and self-love.

Who am I?

I have always been passionate about Black authors and Black children being writers and writing about their experiences or their children’s experiences since I was a young adult. Ever since the Trayvon Martin incident years ago, these Black history stories and books have been so meaningful to the Black community. I used to read just Urban fiction AA books back in high school, but ever since I became a writer/author I have taken a liking to reading children's books about self-love, fear, and going to college, especially for young black children. I read these books to remind me that we are strong-minded people. That no one can take our light from us.

Cynthia's book list on Black education, dreams, and self-love

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

Why did Cynthia love this book?

This book is about her daughter's personal experience with her speech, and this was a way to help other parents with children how to help their children feel confident about their condition and let other children know that they are beautiful just the way they are. It shows them that nothing is wrong with them, even though they are a little different from the other children, they are still perfect in every way.

By Nina M. Southern,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Think I Need Speech Therapy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Niya, a seven-year-old with a problem that many kids face. Her struggle with speech makes her feel out of place. Read a story so short and so true. See if Niya will know what to do.

Marching Masters

By Colin Edward Woodward,

Book cover of Marching Masters: Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army During the Civil War

Kevin M. Levin Author Of Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War's Most Persistent Myth

From the list on slavery and the confederacy.

Who am I?

I am a historian and educator based in Boston. I have authored three books and numerous essays on the Civil War era. You can find my op-eds in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Daily Beast. Over the past few years, I have worked with students and teachers across the country to better understand the current controversy surrounding Confederate monuments.

Kevin's book list on slavery and the confederacy

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

Why did Kevin love this book?

Most Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders, but as historian Colin Woodward argues, all of them were products of a slaveholding culture and, as a result, fought to maintain the rigid racial hierarchy that had come to define their respective communities. Appreciating the central place that the defense of slavery occupied for most Confederates helps us to better understand why the war lasted as long as it did. Some of the most interesting chapters in this book explore the roles played by thousands of body servants that accompanied officers from the slaveholding class. Enslaved men performed a wide range of jobs, including cooking meals, washing clothes, and digging ditches. Their presence served as a constant reminder of the army’s reliance on enslaved labor and its broader significance as the Confederacy’s “cornerstone.”

By Colin Edward Woodward,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Confederate army went to war to defend a nation of slaveholding states, and although men rushed to recruiting stations for many reasons, they understood that the fundamental political issue at stake in the conflict was the future of slavery. Most Confederate soldiers were not slaveholders themselves, but they were products of the largest and most prosperous slaveholding civilization the world had ever seen, and they sought to maintain clear divisions between black and white, master and servant, free and slave.

In Marching Masters Colin Woodward explores not only the importance of slavery in the minds of Confederate soldiers but…

Book cover of The Anatomy of Racial Inequality: With a New Preface

Rajiv Sethi Author Of Shadows of Doubt: Stereotypes, Crime, and the Pursuit of Justice

From the list on human interactions and the complexity of social life.

Who am I?

Rajiv Sethi is an economist, currently a professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His research deals with information and beliefs, with particular focus on how stereotypes condition interactions among strangers. 

Rajiv's book list on human interactions and the complexity of social life

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

Why did Rajiv love this book?

This beautifully written and tightly argued book examines mechanisms that sustain inequality among social groups across generations, which Loury traces primarily to discrimination in contact rather than discrimination in contract.

Contractual discrimination can be addressed by law, but discrimination in contact—in such matters as friendship, marriage, adoption, and residential choice—lies largely outside the scope of state action. Through such channels historical inequality between groups can persist indefinitely, even under formal equality of opportunity.

By Glenn C. Loury,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Lifts and transforms the discourse on 'race' and racial justice to an entirely new level."
-Orlando Patterson

"Intellectually rigorous and deeply thoughtful...An incisive, erudite book by a major thinker."
-Gerald Early, New York Times Book Review

Why are black Americans so persistently confined to the margins of society? And why do they fail across so many metrics-wages, unemployment, income levels, test scores, incarceration rates, health outcomes? Known for his influential work on the economics of racial inequality and for pioneering the link between racism and social capital, Glenn Loury is not afraid of piercing orthodoxies and coming to controversial conclusions.…

Dispatches from Pluto

By Richard Grant,

Book cover of Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta

Jim Carrier Author Of A Traveler’s Guide to the Civil Rights Movement

From the list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement.

Who am I?

As a journalist who learned his craft on the job in the tumultuous 1960s, I happened to find myself living in states where racial history was being written. Reporting that story required me to understand why discrimination, poverty, and violence remained so deeply rooted in modern America. I wrote Ten Ways to Fight Hate, I made a movie about civil rights martyrs, and, after seeing people from around the world making a pilgrimage to the sites of the civil rights struggle, published my guidebook. Over the course of a 50-year career, I have written a million words. I am proudest of those that tried to right wrongs, and sometimes did.

Jim's book list on understanding the South’s Civil Rights Movement

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

Why did Jim love this book?

English journalist Richard Grant, known for adventure travelogues into Mexican deserts and African rivers, enters one of the most myth-laden spots in the U.S. – the Mississippi Delta. With his girlfriend, Grant moves into an old plantation house outside the village of Pluto, Miss. and begins a remarkable exploration of southern culture, with deep, honest, and revealing conversations and interactions about race. Three hundred years after the arrival of African-Caribbean slaves, Grant finds that racial bias remains deeply rooted in the Delta soil, but remarkably, produces not only cotton but generosity, grace, kindness, and tolerance. This author’s experience, like mine, living as a Yankee in the South, proves that nothing about race is black and white.

By Richard Grant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Adventure writer Richard Grant takes on "the most American place on Earth" the enigmatic, beautiful, often derided Mississippi Delta.
Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. This is their journey of discovery into this strange and wonderful American place. Imagine A Year In Provence with alligators and assassins, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining.
On a remote, isolated strip of land, three miles beyond the tiny community…

They All Fall Down

By Rachel Howzell Hall,

Book cover of They All Fall Down

Susan Bickford Author Of A Short Time To Die

From the list on great writing with crime writers of color.

Who am I?

When I was participating on a crime fiction panel in 2022, we were all asked to recommend books, and I was struck that none of us mentioned a book by a writer of color. Since I knew there were many excellent books by writers of color, I felt this was something I needed to fix. This past summer I decided to make a concerted effort to read more books by writers of color/#OwnVoices, and looked to members of Crime Writers of Color as a starting point. Encouraged by that very exciting read, I went to Bouchercon in Minneapolis where the association Crime Writers of Color was actively promoting the works of their members.

Susan's book list on great writing with crime writers of color

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

Why did Susan love this book?

When I heard an interview on NPR with Rachel Howzell Hall, I knew she needed to be on my list. Rachel is very prolific, so the book was a tough choice. Since I tend to prefer standalones over series, I picked They All Fall Down, a novel of suspense and a delicious take on the locked room mystery—in this case a luxurious remote private island in Mexico. Each of the seven guests has a dark past they would like to hide, including the narrator, Miriam Macy. Soon, the stranded guests are being outed and dispatched. Who will be next? We’re rooting for Miriam as her tale gradually unrolls. 

By Rachel Howzell Hall,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked They All Fall Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seven strangers, each harboring a secret.

Odd accidents stir suspicion.

As one by one . . . . . They all fall down

The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers

By Scott Korb, Jean Fagan Yellin, Joseph M Thomas

Book cover of The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers

Chandra Manning Author Of What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War

From the list on accounts of the Civil War from people who were there.

Who am I?

Despite what my kids think, I am not actually old enough to have “been there” during the Civil War itself, but I have spent my entire professional career studying it. Years in archives reading other people’s mail, old newspaper accounts, dusty diaries, and handwritten testimonies, along with sifting through records books and ledgers of all descriptions have taught me exactly how intertwined slavery, Civil War, and emancipation all were, and I am dedicated to trying to explain the connections to anyone who reads my books, stumbles across my digital history work, or sits in my classroom at Georgetown University, where I teach history. Two good places to see the results of my efforts include What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War which won the Avery Craven Award for best book on the Civil War and was a finalist for the Lincoln Prize and Frederick Douglass Prize, and Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War, which won the Jefferson Davis Prize and was also a finalist for the Lincoln Prize.

Chandra's book list on accounts of the Civil War from people who were there

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

Why did Chandra love this book?

As the Union Army penetrated into Confederate territory, enslaved men, women, and children fled bondage to take refuge with the army. Roughly half a million formerly enslaved people exited slavery in this way, spending the war in encampments appended to the army or in Union occupied cities. They influenced the progress and outcome of the war as well as emancipation. They also encountered conditions that amounted to a humanitarian crisis, one that soldiers tasked with fighting a war were ill-equipped to meet. Civilians from the North made their way to camps and occupied cities to serve as relief workers. Harriet Jacobs headed South as just such a worker. Jacobs herself had been born a slave and made a harrowing escape decades earlier, but when war broke out, she braved the South again. She made her way to Alexandria, Virginia where she worked among the many freedom seekers who came to…

By Scott Korb, Jean Fagan Yellin, Joseph M Thomas

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the only collection of papers of an African American woman held in slavery.Although millions of African American women were held in bondage over the 250 years that slavery was legal in the United States, Harriet Jacobs (1813-97) is the only one known to have left papers testifying to her life. Her autobiography, ""Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl"", holds a central place in the canon of American literature as the most important slave narrative by an African American woman.Born in Edenton, North Carolina, Jacobs escaped from her owner in her mid-twenties and hid in the cramped…

Book cover of The Chosen Place, the Timeless People

Gwen Strauss Author Of Ruth and the Green Book

From the list on by African American and Caribbean female writers.

Who am I?

I was born and raised in Haiti where I was known as ti-blan—little white. And when we moved to central Florida, I remember the feeling of utter sadness and despair. I felt wrenched from the place I loved. The only person I could speak creole with was the janitor at the segregated white school. The teacher yelled at me for talking with him. Since then, I have been interested in this weird problem of race in America. I am drawn to women writers and Caribbean women writers. I love books that evoke place and language and tell me a story—but also deal with the specific urgent political questions of our times. 

Gwen's book list on by African American and Caribbean female writers

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

Why did Gwen love this book?

One of my all-time favorites. I think it is about Haiti, or it is a fictional island “Bourneville” that is based on Haiti. The novel describes a place linked to its history of enslavement and the battle for freedom. She is a beautiful deep-thinking writer. She carefully shows a group of white ethnographers going to this island, and how their attempts to "help" led to tragedy. It illustrates the pitfalls with international aid organizations. How often they damage, instead of help. And the novel is timely to this day. 

By Paule Marshall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Chosen Place, the Timeless People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The chosen place is Bourneville, a remote, devastated part of a Caribbean island; the timeless people are its inhabitants—black, poor, inextricably linked to their past enslavement. When the advance team for an ambitious American research project arrives, the tense, ambivalent relationships that evolve, between natives and foreigners, black and whites, haves and have-nots, keenly dramatize the vicissitudes of power.
“An important and moving book . . . Marshall is as wise as she is bold, for in compromising neither her politics nor her understanding of people, she makes better sense of both.”—Village Voice

Pursuit of the Truth

By K.D. Richards,

Book cover of Pursuit of the Truth

Delia C. Pitts Author Of Murder Take Two

From the list on featuring Black private eyes.

Who am I?

I’m a nerd by temperament (raised by a psychologist and a librarian, what else could I be?) and by profession (decades working as a U.S. diplomat and an academic administrator honed my people-watching faculties to a fine edge). So, of course, I’ve always been drawn to my opposite: that cynical loner whose pursuit of justice requires hard fists and a bent moral compass. Private eye mysteries are my perfect place. In them, I can exercise my passion for intellectual puzzles and my love for thrilling action. I enjoy the combination of social commentary and sheer entertainment I find when I dive into reading (or writing) a private eye mystery.

Delia's book list on featuring Black private eyes

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

Why did Delia love this book?

This first-in-series thriller revved my engine with its fun combination of action and romance. New Yorker Ryan West is an expert in personal protection who runs his own security firm. But he wasn’t prepared for the personal fall-out from falling for the tough-minded hotel boss he’s hired to guard. She’s brainy and resourceful, the kind of modern-day princess who can save herself but doesn’t mind engaging with a dashing prince of a private eye.

By K.D. Richards,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Her secrets could get them killed...

After hotel CEO Nadia Shelton barely escapes an attack, security expert Ryan West realises someone will kill to find the brother Nadia thought was dead. And the only way Ryan can protect her as they uncover the truth, is to stay strictly professional. But the sparks igniting between them refuse to be ignored...

Jackie & Me

By Dan Gutman,

Book cover of Jackie & Me

Madelaine Healey

From the list on sport for 8-12 year olds.

Who am I?

I am an expat Australian freelance writer living in Silicon Valley, and also the mother of two boys aged ten and seven. My boys are avid readers and it is an accepted rule that no one in our family speaks at breakfast. I have a bad habit of reading books over their shoulders, but my boys are still willing helpers on some current writing projects on kids’ fiction and circumnavigating the horribly sad “decline at nine”. I also have a PhD in South Asian Studies and have worked in commercial research and marketing.

Madelaine's book list on sport for 8-12 year olds

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

Why did Madelaine love this book?

Kids who love the minutiae of sport - collecting the cards, following the stats, learning the teams and their star players - are often drawn to history as well. Dan Gutman gets this, and the Baseball Card Adventures is a brilliant series for giving young readers a way into a nuanced US history. In Jackie and Me, the hero, Stosh, is thrown out of Little League for attacking a pitcher who mocked his Polish heritage - “You know you can’t hit me, Stoshack. Because you’re a big, slow, ugly, dumb Polack!” Back at school, Stosh elects to write a book report on Jackie Robinson, and uses his magical baseball card to travel back in time. Stosh experiences Robinson’s first Major League game and the breaking of the color bar in baseball, finding a new perspective on difference and discrimination. Gutman writes colorful dialogue that kids really respond to, and…

By Dan Gutman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With more than 2 million books sold, the Baseball Card Adventures bring the greatest players in history to life! 

Like every other kid in his class, Joe Stoshack has to write a report on an African American who's made an important contribution to society. Unlike every other kid in his class, Joe has a special talent: with the help of old baseball cards, he can travel through time. So, for his report, Joe decides to go back to meet one of the greatest baseball players ever, Jackie Robinson, to find out what it was like to be the man who…

Book cover of Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell

Catherine Adel West Author Of The Two Lives of Sara

From the list on the strengths of found family.

Who am I?

Catherine Adel West was born and raised in Chicago, IL where she currently resides. She graduated with both her Bachelor and Master of Science in Journalism from the University of Illinois - Urbana. Her debut novel, Saving Ruby King, was published in June 2020. Her work is also published in Black Fox Literary Magazine, Five2One, Better than Starbucks, Doors Ajar, 805 Lit + Art, The Helix Magazine, Lunch Ticket, and Gay MagazineThe Two Lives of Sara is her sophomore novel.

Catherine's book list on the strengths of found family

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

Why did Catherine love this book?

A lighter examination of how your friends become family when your family isn’t always as supportive as you need them to be. Though Savvy’s relationship falls apart at the beginning of the book, she has the exact people in her life to help her see her worth isn’t defined by the man who loves her, but how she ultimately learns to love herself. And, not to mention, it’s a fun rom-com where Black love is at the center of the plot! We need so many more of these books on shelves.

By Taj McCoy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sexy romance about a plus-size sweetheart who gets a full-life makeover after a brutal breakup and falls for the incredibly hot contractor renovating her home.

Savvy Sheldon spends a lot of time tiptoeing around the cracks in her life: her high-stress and low-thanks job, her clueless boyfriend and the falling-apart kitchen she inherited from her beloved grandma—who taught her how to cook and how to love people by feeding them. But when Savvy’s world starts to crash down around her, she knows it’s time for some renovations.

Starting from the outside in, Savvy tackles her crumbling kitchen, her relationship…

If Your Back's Not Bent

By Dorothy F. Cotton,

Book cover of If Your Back's Not Bent: The Role of the Citizenship Education Program in the Civil Rights Movement

W. Jason Miller Author Of Origins of the Dream: Hughes's Poetry and King's Rhetoric

From the list on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his words.

Who am I?

Lost audio reels, archived poetry drafts, personal interviews, and undeveloped photograph negatives spark my compulsive curiosity to tell stories about language that people have never heard. Uncovering what is hidden has led to a digital project dedicated to Martin Luther King’s first “I Have a Dream” speech, a museum exhibit based on never-before-seen images of an 1,800 person KKK march staged in opposition to a King appearance in 1966, and an intimate interview with Dorothy Cotton about her memories of Dr. King. Of my three books, I have written a recent biography, Langston Hughes: Critical Lives. Part of my current research details the poet’s collaborative relationship with jazz singer Nina Simone.  

W.'s book list on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his words

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

Why did W. love this book?

Not scandalous like I Shared the Dream by Georgia Davis Powers, Cotton nonetheless enjoyed much greater access to King from 1963-68. While others may want to hear from the men who best knew King (such as Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, Wyatt T. Walker, or Clarence Jones) the woman closest to him offers an immediate account of both the tensions inside the Southern Leadership Conference and throughout the nation during the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. Cotton’s life models the fortitude it took for a woman to rise to the role of leadership within King’s inner circle, as she became the Director of the Citizenship Education Program run by King’s organization.

By Dorothy F. Cotton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If Your Back's Not Bent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unsung hero of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s inner circle reveals the true story behind the Citizenship Education Program—a little-known training program for disenfranchised citizens—reflecting on its huge importance to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and explaining its indisputable relevance to our nation today.

“Nobody can ride your back if your back’s not bent,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously proclaimed at the end of a Citizenship Education Program (CEP), an adult grassroots training program born of the work of the Tennessee Highlander Folk School, expanded by King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and directed by activist Dorothy…


By Paula J. Giddings,

Book cover of Ida: A Sword Among Lions

Nancy C. Unger Author Of Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer

From the list on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

Who am I?

I study the Gilded Age and Progressive Era because it has so many practical applications for the present.  As we face our own Gilded Age of enormous technological achievements paired with ongoing problems stemming from what Bob La Follette called “the encroachment of the powerful few upon the rights of the many,” why reinvent the wheel?  What worked for progressive reformers in their struggles to create a more equitable and just society?  What didn’t work, and why? To help answer those questions I wrote Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer and Belle La Follette: Progressive Era Reformer, and co-edited A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

Nancy's book list on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

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

Why did Nancy love this book?

To understand American race relations today, the history of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era is a vital starting point. In the wake of the Reconstruction, legalized segregation formalized institutional racism. With no federal lynch law, many states and municipalities refused to prosecute lynchings, striving instead to perpetuate myths of lynching as the only appropriate response to naturally lascivious Black men who desired inherently pure and virtuous white women. This exceptional biography traces the fascinating life of journalist and women’s suffrage advocate Ida Wells, who fearlessly fought against racism, segregation, and, especially, lynching. She was a leader in progressive era reform, despite the discrimination she endured even from many progressives due to her sex and her race.

By Paula J. Giddings,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize Board citation to Ida B. Wells, as an early pioneer of investigative journalism and civil rights icon

From a thinker who Maya Angelou has praised for shining “a brilliant light on the lives of women left in the shadow of history,” comes the definitive biography of Ida B. Wells—crusading journalist and pioneer in the fight for women’s suffrage and against segregation and lynchings

Ida B. Wells was born into slavery and raised in the Victorian age yet emerged—through her fierce political battles and progressive thinking—as the first “modern” black women in the nation’s history.

Wells began her activist…

Starting from Seneca Falls

By Karen Schwabach,

Book cover of Starting from Seneca Falls

Karen Meyer Author Of Secrets in the Sky Nest

From the list on a peek into the life of real historical figures.

Who am I?

I’ve been a history nut since junior high trips to prehistoric Indian Mounds in Ohio. I transcribed an early town settler’s diary as a high school project. Traveling with my Air Force hubby gave me a window into faraway places. Allan Eckert’s narrative history of pioneer times grabbed my imagination. My children would love these gripping tales of settler versus Shawnee, yet they’d never crack the two-inch thick volume. I tried writing historical fiction on their level by bringing a young protagonist into the story. I had no idea I’d follow that first book with eight more, delving into the history of various famous Ohioans. 

Karen's book list on a peek into the life of real historical figures

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

Why did Karen love this book?

I’m not a feminist and I don’t feel oppressed as a woman. But after reading this book, I’m glad that Elizabeth Cady Stanton hosted the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1858. The young protagonist, Bridie, has experienced some of the wrongs that Mrs. Stanton tries to put right. I enjoyed getting to know the famous activist through Bridie’s eyes. Bridie flees from a cruel master and finds work with “the strangest lady she’s ever met”. Mrs. Stanton comes across as a down-to-earth woman, not the crusader type at all. I laughed at the detail of the two young Stanton boys romping through the cabbages. Kudos to the author for including other events and issues for context—the Irish potato famine, poorhouses, the Free Soil Party, the Erie Canal, and the Underground Railroad. Young ladies will appreciate their privileges after reading this novel.

By Karen Schwabach,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Starting from Seneca Falls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrate the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment with another historical novel about women's suffrage from the author of The Hope Chest!

Bridie's life has been a series of wrongs. The potato famine in Ireland. Being sent to the poorhouse when her mother's new job in America didn't turn out the way they'd hoped. Becoming an orphan.

And then there's the latest wrong--having to work for a family so abusive that Bridie is afraid she won't survive. So she runs away to Seneca Falls, New York, which in 1848 is a bustling town full of possibility. There, she makes friends with…

A Time to Kill

By John Grisham,

Book cover of A Time to Kill

David Rohlfing Author Of Cold Consequences

From the list on murder mysteries to keep you entertained and guessing.

Who am I?

I have always been a voracious reader of murder mysteries and thrillers. My business career took me to all but one continent and countless countries, mostly living and working in large metropolitan areas. After retiring, I moved to a small Midwest city and found it an excellent setting for a murder mystery when I sat down to write. Since I started, I've written two books in the Detective Sasha Frank Mystery Series, and I'm currently writing the third. The first book, Deliberate Duplicity, won a 2021 American Fiction Award. The second book in the series is Cold Consequences. I've been pleased with the reviews on Goodreads and other platforms.

David's book list on murder mysteries to keep you entertained and guessing

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

Why did David love this book?

A Time to Kill is the first book of a four-book fiction series written by world-renowned author John Grisham featuring Clanton, Mississippi, lawyer Jake Brigance. Grisham is one of my favorite authors, and although the titles in this series may not be as well known as many of his other books, A Time to Kill is an exciting introduction to this young lawyer. Set in a  time in the South that endured blatant racial injustice, Jake fights tirelessly for his client accused of avenging the rape of his daughter. Grisham's extraordinary storytelling shines through and takes you on a journey that defines his main character in this first book, which you'll enjoy reading in his subsequent books. I highly recommend A Time to Kill.

By John Grisham,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked A Time to Kill as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


John Grisham's first and most shocking novel, adapted as a film starring Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey

When Carl Lee Hailey guns down the violent racists who raped his ten-year-old daughter, the people of the small town of Clanton, Mississippi see it as justice done, and call for his acquittal.

But when extremists outside Clanton - including the KKK - hear that a black man has killed two white men, they invade the town, determined to destroy anything and anyone that opposes their sense of justice. A national media circus descends on Clanton.


Calling My Name

By Liara Tamani,

Book cover of Calling My Name

Sasha Dawn Author Of Blink

From the list on realistic teen characters.

Who am I?

Human psychology has always fascinated me, and studying what drives human behavior is necessary in writing realistic characters. I bring psychological studies into every novel I write, and realistic characters, often flawed, always receive top billing. One of my hallmarks is presenting a story’s setting as a supporting character, as well—much like the books I’ve recommended. I have written and published seventeen titles, chock full of the many facets of the human condition, whether I’m writing for teens (as Sasha Dawn) or adults (as Brandi Reeds). The books on my list inspire, entertain, and perhaps most importantly feel. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sasha's book list on realistic teen characters

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

Why did Sasha love this book?

What can I say about Liara Tamani’s beautiful tale of coming of age? The novel carries Taja from middle school through high school, the span of time in which Taja learns her place in her family and the world around her. One of the things I love about this gem is the method in which the story unfolds—in short chapters, reminiscent of the ever-changing whims of the teenage mind. As such, Taja feels as real and breathing as any living soul. Perhaps even more pertinent is the setting of Houston, Texas. While some novels set in fictitious towns do their diligence in supporting realistic characters, Tamani’s decision to drop Taja into Houston only adds to the realism.

By Liara Tamani,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Calling My Name is a treasure.”—Nic Stone, New York Times–bestselling author of Dear Martin

Calling My Name is a striking, luminous, and literary exploration of family, spirituality, and self—ideal for readers of Jacqueline Woodson, Jandy Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Sandra Cisneros.

This unforgettable novel tells a universal coming-of-age story about Taja Brown, a young African American girl growing up in Houston, Texas, and deftly and beautifully explores the universal struggles of growing up, battling family expectations, discovering a sense of self, and finding a unique voice and purpose.

Told in fifty-three short, episodic, moving, and iridescent chapters, Calling My…

Troubled Refuge

By Chandra Manning,

Book cover of Troubled Refuge: Struggling for Freedom in the Civil War

John C. Rodrigue Author Of Freedom's Crescent: The Civil War and the Destruction of Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley

From the list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War.

Who am I?

I am a historian who has always been fascinated by the problem of slavery in American history. Although a “Yankee” by birth and upbringing, I have also always been drawn to the history of the American South—probably because it runs so counter to the dominant narrative of U.S. history. My childhood interest in history—especially in wars, and the Civil War in particular—was transformed in college into a serious engagement with the causes and consequences of the Civil War. I pursued this interest in undertaking graduate study, and I have devoted my entire scholarly career to the examination of slavery and emancipation—and their consequences for today.

John's book list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War

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

Why did John love this book?

Chandra Manning explores an essential but oddly overlooked aspect of wartime emancipation—the experiences of freed people in the “contraband” camps and other places of refuge that the federal military established in occupied Confederate territory. While this might seem like a narrow topic, Manning’s book addresses any number of larger issues surrounding the war and emancipation, and it brims with original insights. She provides an overview of life in these places of “troubled refuge,” but she also delves deeply into particular camps, showing the experiences of individual people. Manning also argues—persuasively, I think—that the camps served as training grounds in which the freed people came to stake a claim not only to freedom but also to equal citizenship guaranteed by the national government.

By Chandra Manning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of What This Cruel War Was Over, a vivid portrait of the Union army’s escaped-slave refugee camps and how they shaped the course of emancipation and citizenship in the United States.

Even before shots were fired at Fort Sumter, slaves recognized that their bondage was at the root of the war they knew was coming, and they began running to the Union army. By the war’s end, nearly half a million had taken refuge behind Union lines in improvised “contraband camps.” These were crowded and dangerous places, with conditions approaching those of a humanitarian crisis. Yet families…

Somebody's Daughter

By Ashley C. Ford,

Book cover of Somebody's Daughter: A Memoir

Jenny Jaeckel Author Of Eighteen

From the list on coming-of-age stories by diverse women.

Who am I?

Jenny Jaeckel is the award-winning author and illustrator of several books including her historical fiction companion novels House of Rougeaux and Boy, Falling, a collection of illustrated short fiction entitled For the Love of Meat, and the graphic novel memoir Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU. She has a special passion for coming-of-age stories for their power in capturing the stories of life that are the most specific and most vivid. When not writing, Jaeckel works as an editor and translator. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her family. Eighteen is her third novel. 

Jenny's book list on coming-of-age stories by diverse women

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

Why did Jenny love this book?

Like all the young girls in this shortlist of coming-of-age stories, Ashley C. Ford (one of Angelou’s literary children) is a survivor hell-bent on finding a life better than the one she was handed, and, like the others, she is remarkably sensitive, imaginative, and able to paint her world for us in the most tender and unique shapes and colors. How does a young girl weather such brutal realities, experience beauty, and splice together a space for her soul? Ford’s memoir is one such contemporary story. 

By Ashley C. Ford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Somebody's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NBCC John Leonard Prize Finalist
Indie Bestseller

“This is a book people will be talking about forever.” —Glennon Doyle, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Untamed

“Ford’s wrenchingly brilliant memoir is truly a classic in the making. The writing is so richly observed and so suffused with love and yearning that I kept forgetting to breathe while reading it.” —John Green, #1 New York Times bestselling author

One of the most prominent voices of her generation debuts with an extraordinarily powerful memoir: the story of a childhood defined by the looming absence of her…

Moral Contagion

By Michael A. Schoeppner,

Book cover of Moral Contagion: Black Atlantic Sailors, Citizenship, and Diplomacy in Antebellum America

Kevin Kenny Author Of The Problem of Immigration in a Slaveholding Republic: Policing Mobility in the Nineteenth-Century United States

From the list on US immigration in the nineteenth century.

Who am I?

I write and teach about nineteenth-century US history, and I am interested in immigration for both personal and professional reasons. A native of Dublin, Ireland, I did my undergraduate work in Edinburgh, Scotland, completed my graduate degree in New York City, moved to Austin, Texas for my first academic job and to Boston for my second job, and then returned to New City York to take up my current position at NYU, where I teach US immigration history and run Glucksman Ireland House. The key themes in my work—migration, diaspora, and empire—have been as central to my life journey as to my research and teaching. 

Kevin's book list on US immigration in the nineteenth century

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

Why did Kevin love this book?

Moral Contagion tells the shocking story of the Seamen Acts, under which free Black sailors were imprisoned during their stay in southern ports during the antebellum era.

At least 20,000 free Black maritime workers, mostly from Britain and northern US states, were confined—and an unknown number, abandoned by their captains, were sold into slavery. The presence of free Black people in the South—widely feared as a source of “moral contagion”—contradicted the logic of slavery and threatened the very survival of that institution.

Why do I include this book on a list about US immigration history in the nineteenth century? Because, as Michael Schoeppner powerfully demonstrates, that history cannot be understood without considering the laws and policies controlling the movement of Black people in a slaveholding republic.

By Michael A. Schoeppner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Between 1822 and 1857, eight Southern states barred the ingress of all free black maritime workers. According to lawmakers, they carried a 'moral contagion' of abolitionism and black autonomy that could be transmitted to local slaves. Those seamen who arrived in Southern ports in violation of the laws faced incarceration, corporal punishment, an incipient form of convict leasing, and even punitive enslavement. The sailors, their captains, abolitionists, and British diplomatic agents protested this treatment. They wrote letters, published tracts, cajoled elected officials, pleaded with Southern officials, and litigated in state and federal courts. By deploying a progressive and sweeping notion…

All That She Carried

By Tiya Miles,

Book cover of All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake

Benjamin Reiss Author Of The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum's America

From the list on making you rethink 19th-century America.

Who am I?

I am fascinated by historical figures who were deemed marginal, outcast, or eccentric and also by experiences (like sleep or madness) that usually fall beneath historical scrutiny. I am drawn to nineteenth-century literature and history because I find such a rich store of strange and poignant optimism and cultural experimentation dwelling alongside suffering, terror, and despair. As a writer, I feel a sense of responsibility when a great story falls into my hands. I try to be as respectful as I can to the life behind it, while seeking how it fits into a larger historical pattern. I am always on the lookout for books that do the same!   

Benjamin's book list on making you rethink 19th-century America

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

Why did Benjamin love this book?

The sack in question, currently exhibited at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, bears a haunting embroidered inscription that one scholar has called “the shortest slave narrative in history”:

My great grandmother Rose mother of Ashley gave her this sack when she was sold at age 9 in South Carolina it held a tattered dress 3 handfulls of pecans a braid of Roses hair.Told her It be filled with Love always she never saw her again Ashley is my grandmother. 

Who were Rose and Ashley? Why did Ashley give Rose this sack? What were the meanings of the items it held? And why did Ashley’s granddaughter memorialize them? Miles’ loving research conveys what can be passed down from generation to generation, even surviving the horrors of slavery.

By Tiya Miles,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked All That She Carried as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'A remarkable book' - Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
'A brilliant exercise in historical excavation and recovery' - Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello
'A history told with brilliance and tenderness and fearlessness' - Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States

In 1850s South Carolina, Rose, an enslaved woman, faced a crisis: the imminent sale of her daughter Ashley. Thinking quickly, she packed a cotton bag with a few items. Soon after, the nine-year-old girl was…