Black History Month Book Picks
“My alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading just satisfying my curiosity.” - Malcom X.
In celebration of Black History Month, TopLine invites you to read through a list of just a few impactful and entertaining books by black authors.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption is a memoir by American attorney Bryan Stevenson that documents his career defending disadvantaged clients. The book, focusing on injustices in the United States judicial system, alternates chapters between documenting Stevenson's efforts to overturn the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian and his work on other cases, including children who receive life sentences, and other poor or marginalized clients.
Stevenson, a lawyer and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative graduated from Harvard Law School. He was inspired to become a lawyer in part by his grandfather's murder, which occurred when he was sixteen.
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Twelve Years a slave is an 1853 memoir and slave narrative by Solomon Northup as told to and written by David Wilson. Northup, a black man who was born free in New York, details himself being tricked to go to Washington D.C., where he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He was in bondage for 12 years in Louisiana before he was able to secretly get information to friends and family in New York, who in turn secured his release with the aid of the state. Northup's account provides extensive details on the slave markets in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, and describes at length cotton and sugar cultivation and slave treatment on major plantations in Louisiana.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Becoming is the memoir by former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, published on November 13, 2018. Described by the author as a deeply personal experience, the book talks about her roots and how she found her voice, as well as her time in the White House, her public health campaign, and her role as a mother.
It was the highest-selling book published in the United States in 2018, setting the record 15 days after its publication with over two million copies sold.
Mysteries & Thrillers
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Brooklyn native Sydney Green has been watching in dismay as her neighborhood starts rapidly changing: new condos are being built, for-sale signs are springing up on lawns practically overnight, and neighbors are moving away without so much as a goodbye. In a desperate attempt to hold on to her community, Sydney launches a walking tour to teach people about the neighborhood’s history, but as she digs into local history, she starts to suspect that her new neighbors may not be as friendly as they seem. What happened to her old neighbors? Where are all these new, and wealthy, people coming from? And can Sydney keep some secrets of her own as she tries to uncover the truth about her neighborhood?
Jackal by Erin E. Adams
Part thriller, part horror, this small-town suspense tale is a hypnotic, atmospheric novel that’s spellbinding from start to finish. Liz doesn’t have great memories of her hometown in Pennsylvania, but she reluctantly goes home to attend her best friend’s wedding. But when a young girl goes missing at the reception, Liz is the only one to recognize a pattern. Suddenly, she finds herself on the path to discovering what’s happening to the missing Black girls in the woods.
A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette
Set in the Midwest, Bronwyn Crewse, also known as Win, has just graduated from business school and is returning home to run her family’s ice cream parlor. She plans to make some much-needed changes to restore the family business to its former glory. But a series of delays put her plans on ice … literally. The opening day coincides with the first snowfall of the winter, and to make matters worse, Win finds a dead man in the snow! When the dead man turns out to be a long-time nemesis of the Crewse family, Win’s dad becomes the main suspect. Can Win run her business and clear her father’s name?
Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? By Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
This is a warm-hearted and moving romance about an Oxford-educated British Nigerian woman in her 30s who seems to have the ideal life: a well-paying career, great friends, independence. The only snag; her traditional mother and aunties constantly ask her, “Yinka, where is your huzband?” Her situation is apparently so desperate that her aunties have begun praying for her to be delivered from singledom. Yinka, however, prefers to wait for love to find her, but as her cousin’s wedding date approaches, she decides there’s no time like the present to meet her knight in shining armor. With the help of a spreadsheet and her loyal best friend, Yinka sets out to find what her mom and aunties want most: her future husband.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
In this romantic comedy, a sequel to Get a Life, Chloe Brown (don’t worry, you don’t have to have read the first book to enjoy this one), Chloe’s younger sister, Danika, takes the stage. Dani is not looking for love, deciding instead to pursue professional and academic success and the ideal no-strings-attached relationship. After praying for the perfect friend-with-benefits, the universe brings her Zafir Ansari, a grumpy security guard, ex–rugby player, and secret hopeless romantic. After a video of Zafir rescuing Dani from a workplace fire drill goes viral, he convinces her to keep up their romantic charade to help raise money for his sports charity for kids. Dani decides that supporting a good cause and snagging the perfect friends-with-benefits is a win-win situation, but as she and Zafir spend more time together, she discovers that not falling for him will be harder than she thought.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
How much does our past affect the future? In this science fiction novel by esteemed speculative fiction author Octavia Butler, a young Black woman writer finds herself suddenly transported to the South in the 1800s. Forced to work on a plantation as a slave, she is pushed and pulled between her present and the past and discovers that her connection to the plantation and its short-tempered master is closer than she initially thought.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison
In this first book of Jemison’s epic science fantasy series Broken Earth, Essun, a seemingly ordinary woman, comes home to find her son brutally murdered by her husband, who has run away with their daughter. Wanting to reunite with her daughter, Essun sets out to find them, but she must traverse a civilization in chaos after the fall of an empire and an arid land plagued by deadly earthquakes. First published in 2015, The Fifth Season couldn’t be more timely, with its focus on catastrophic climate change. It won a Hugo Award for best novel of the year.
Aye, and Gomorrah: And Other Stories by Samuel Delany
In this collection of science fiction short stories by award-winning author Samuel Delany, race, sexuality, gender, and colonization take the forefront. Through the lens of aliens, genetic mutations, and futuristic technology, Delany examines how these social constructs exist within our present, and what they could become in the future. The collection includes the title story, “Aye, and Gomorrah,” first published in 1967, about a group of astronauts known as “Spacers” who are neutered before puberty to avoid the effects of space radiation, becoming androgynous. The story earned Delany the Nebula Award, given annually by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Hair Love by Matthew Cherry and Vashti Harrison
Based on the Oscar-winning short film, this is the story of Zuri, her dad, and her hair. Zuri's hair is beautiful, but it can have a mind of its own. For a special occasion, Zuri and her daddy need to work together to style her hair, and show that natural is brilliant! A wonderful book that celebrates the love of fathers and daughters, as well as putting black hair front and centre.
Doc Like Mommy by Crystal Bowe
In this self-published picture book, a healthy mother-daughter relationship is the baseline narrative. A young girl looks up to her hardworking mother, who happens to be a doctor. With over 300 reviews on Amazon.com, Doc Like Mommy is kid-tested and parent-approved. The book is written with early readers in mind, and leaves a positive early impression that little girls of color can grow up to be successful women in STEM and medicine. This self-published book by Dr. Crystal Bowe also has a companion book for little boys entitled Doc Like Daddy.
A Boy, a Budget, and a Dream by Jasmine Paul
On the surface, this book teaches kids about money - how it works, what saving means, and how our own actions control spending. However, the storyline also shows us how siblings – rather than parents and other adults – can be the best teachers. Kass is the saver, and Joey is a spender. Kass successfully teaches her brother that a budget can help him reach his dreams.
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