5 Best Books By Black Authors, Ranked By Readers

Representation in fiction is improving as more authors of color publish their works and earn acclaim and financial success for their efforts. Representation matters a great deal to the underrepresented, and having stories from Black authors is important, not only for the Black community, but for all readers. The best books from Black authors don’t shy away from “uncomfortable” topics like racism or poverty but are not limited by it. Our list of the top five titles are achievements in literary excellence.

More than a third of children don’t feel represented in the books they read – because of their gender or ethnicity. A poll of 1,000 American children between six and 12 and their parents finds nearly three-quarters (74%) read regularly — but agree that characters always look the same and don’t represent different views. Of the 50 percent of girls who don’t feel represented, 39 percent say lead roles in stories always seem to belong to boys. Meanwhile, only 13 percent of parents have seen minority races represented in their children’s books. Sixty-two percent think their child would be more inclined to read more often if the main characters represented similarities to them.

As media and entertainment companies continue to place an onus on diversifying the faces their audiences see, a new study finds some groups still feel left out. Two-thirds of LGBTQ+ Americans believe their representation in media is “greatly lacking.” The new survey of 2,000 LGBTQ+ Americans finds that despite 62 percent believing the country is making progress with representation, there’s still a long way to go. Sweeping generalizations about underrepresented groups can often be harmful. As more consumers purchase or stream content from diverse writers, more opportunities are created for future writers to stand out.

Black authors have strong voices, and when their works achieve great success, it can have a positive impact on the overall publishing landscape. If not for the massive success of great Black authors like Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, and Octavia E. Butler; we might not have the works of writers like Jordan Peele and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Keep reading for the best books by Black authors to check out next. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

The Best Books by Black Authors are Must-Reads


stack of books on white table photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash
Stack of books (Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash)

“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison (1952)

“Invisible Man” (1952) by Ralph Ellison
“Invisible Man” (1952) by Ralph Ellison

“Invisible Man” is a deep dive into one man’s experience with racism in America. This brave text relates the story of an unnamed narrator’s struggle for survival in a nation that does not recognize his basic humanity. EveryDayEyeCandy.com says this classic novel tells the story of an unnamed Black man’s journey from a Southern childhood to college expulsion, Harlem activism, and ultimately, self-isolation as the “Invisible Man.”

“Invisible Man” is a hidden gem of American literature, according to Boston.com. It’s a dark and surreal masterpiece that captures the fear, horror, and exploitation faced by Black Americans in the early 20th century. It’s funny, disturbing, vivid, and intensely compelling. The ending is a mind-bending fever dream that asks questions rather than providing answers.

Published in 1952, “Invisible Man” is a landmark work of African American fiction. Medium explains how the nameless narrator recounts his life from a Southern HBCU to New York, joining a radical group (“the Brotherhood”), and finally, facing disillusionment and his own societal invisibility.

“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin (2015)

“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin (2015)
“The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin (2015)

In the genre of high fantasy, “The Fifth Season” is a wildly imaginative story with an unusual narrative structure. The resolution and anticlimax in this novel make a reread much richer as additional details can be found in the prose. According to Discovery, Jemisin’s acclaimed “Broken Earth” trilogy, set in a society constantly preparing for apocalyptic volcanic eruptions, kicks off with “The Fifth Season.” A massive earthquake plunges the world into a years-long nuclear winter, triggering war and forcing Essun on a perilous journey to find her lost daughter.

Ideas.Ted.com also recommends this book. Why? They say this award-winning first book in Jemisin’s trilogy explores a world prone to devastating earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, leading to cataclysmic “fifth seasons.” The story delves into a complex world mirroring our own in its treatment of marginalized groups, while offering a captivating and thought-provoking read.

If you are craving fresh fantasy characters and intricate world-building, Medium says to look no further than this book. Jemisin breathes life into a diverse cast and meticulously crafts a world unlike any other, making it a must-read for fantasy fans.

“Seven Days in June” by Tia Williams (2021)

“Seven Days in June” by Tia Williams (2021)
“Seven Days in June” by Tia Williams (2021)

“Seven Days in June” is a romantic drama that explores attraction and reconnecting with the “one that got away.” There are plenty of funny moments, but the overall emotion of this book makes the characters feel real and resonant. Cosmopolitan describes this book as a witty and insightful novel that explores whether old flames can rekindle, as two successful author exes reunite in the cutthroat world of literary circles. Expect sparks, laughter, and plenty of juicy drama.

This book blew Medium reviewers away! They say that Williams crafts a raw, passionate Black love story that’s both exhilarating and devastating. Get ready to be enthralled, devouring chapters while cherishing every page.

This laugh-out-loud romantic romp delves into the messy realities of motherhood, daughterhood, and navigating the American artistic scene. Fable says you will witness two writers rediscover love, with plenty of steamy passion and humor along the way.

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison (1987)

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison (1987)
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison (1987)

Winner of the Nobel Prize, Boston.com describes “Beloved” as a profound exploration of pain and loss, weaving cruelty, love, regret, and fear into a masterpiece. Quotes still haunt readers.

According to Good Housekeeping, if you are new to Toni Morrison, start with “Beloved.” This suspenseful tale of Sethe, an escaped enslaved woman haunted by memories, delivers heartbreaking beauty through love, loss, and the enduring presence of trauma.

Black Girl Incle describes the inspiration behind the book: The protagonist, inspired by Margaret Garner, an enslaved woman who escaped to freedom in 1856, confronts the shackles of the past in a story of power and consequence.

“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi (2016)

“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi (2016)
“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi (2016)

“Homegoing” at its heart is a book about the paths that lives can take. It is an unflinching look at history’s cruel fortunes for a family across eight generations. Penguin Random House recommends this book. Why? Just take a look at the plot: In 18th-century Ghana, two half-sisters born into different villages face contrasting fates. One enjoys comfort as an Englishman’s wife in Cape Coast Castle, while the other, captured in a raid, is imprisoned and enslaved within its walls.

According to Black Girl Incle, Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing” intertwines the destinies of two half-sisters in a historical tapestry. Their divergent paths – one sold into slavery, the other marrying an Englishman – lead their descendants through centuries of hardship and resilience, spanning continents from Ghana to America.

Cosmopolitan says to prepare for an emotional rollercoaster ride with “Homegoing.” Journey across generations and continents with two sisters and their descendants, from their Ghanaian roots to the Mississippi plantations, the Civil War, and the Jazz Age in New York City. The novel poignantly explores the impact of slavery on both the captured and those left behind.

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  1. Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan is tops.
    It’s an evocative masterpiece of positive black representation, mental health in the black community, black family dynamics, black parenting, grief and loss, and sisterhood among others.

  2. I question the correlation between the amount of reading one does and the ability to find books where the main characters match the reader in skin tone, sexual preference, etc. I read a lot now and I read a lot as a child and I’d estimate that at least 95% of the main characters aren’t at all similar to me. What matters to me is how interesting the story is. As a child, I never read a book which mirrored my own background. No one argued that I needed to have books available which had, as main characters, women who had fled certain death in an occupied, war-torn country, only to come to America and find their ethnicity was looked down upon. Their struggles are an important part of my background and I read about it in history books. But my fiction reading is devoted to entertainment
    If children have access to fun books, they are going to read. Go to the library often. Let them pick out books. Read to them or read your own books while they are reading theirs. Talk to them about their stories at dinner. You are likely to raise readers if the children have access to engrossing content.

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