23 Great Books By Black Authors That Make You Think Differently
If you’re looking for thought-provoking books, these books will make you think about the world in a different way and challenge your preconceived notions about society, race, and more.
There’s nothing like reading a book that will challenge your perceptions and make you think about how we treat each other as human beings. Whether it’s tackling racism or exploring social issues, these thought-provoking books by black authors are sure to get you thinking.
When it comes to black authors, there is an ever-increasing list of books that make you think about race relations and social issues in the world. It’s not surprising since so many black authors write about what they know- their own experiences living in a world where racism is often at play, and with their stories, black authors challenge readers to see the world in a new light.
If you’re looking for books that make you think more deeply, you can’t go wrong with these thought-provoking books.
Best Fiction to Read During Black History Month
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
When military-ruled Nigeria closes to them, Ifemelu and Obinze are in their early twenties and in love. Ifemelu, a beautiful, self-assured woman, departs for the United States, where she must confront her identity as a black person for the first time. Quiet Obinze had wanted to travel with her but was unable to due to post 9/11 America being closed to him; instead, he plunged into a perilous, undocumented existence in London. They reconnect in a newly democratic Nigeria 15 years later, reigniting their love as well as their passion for each other and their country.
The Water Dancer
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Water Dancer tells the story of Hiram Walker, born into slavery on a Virginia plantation called Lockless in 1820. The son of an enslaved woman and her white master, Hiram is gifted with a mysterious power that makes him aware of the other slaves and their desperate yearning for freedom. The Water Dancer is an incredible, propulsive work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.
Such A Fun Age
by Kiley Reid
Such a Fun Age is an exceptional, fast-paced debut from an outstanding new voice about race and privilege set in the midst of a young black babysitter accused of kidnapping because out late with a white child, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.
Behold The Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue
A great novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy. Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende could hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please.
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
This novel tells the story of Cora, a runaway slave who is trying to escape from slavery in Alabama. She makes her way north on the Underground Railroad, a secret network of safe houses and abolitionists who helps slaves escape to freedom. The Underground Railroad is an amazing book that brings to life the harrowing journey of slaves seeking freedom.
by Tembi Locke
From Scratch is for anyone who has dared to reach for big love, fought for what mattered most, and those who needed a powerful reminder that life is…delicious. It was love at first sight when actress Tembi met professional chef, Saro, on a street in Florence. There was just one problem: Saro’s traditional Sicilian family did not approve of his marrying a black American woman. However, the couple, heartbroken but undeterred, forged on. They built a happy life in Los Angeles, with fulfilling careers, deep friendships, and the love of their lives: a baby girl they adopted at birth. Eventually, they reconciled with Saro’s family just as he faced a formidable cancer that would consume all their dreams.
The Girl with the Louding Voice
by Abi Daré
A captivating story of one remarkable girl’s quest for joy and freedom in a world that denies her both. When Adunni is sold by her negligent father as a third wife to a cruel man in her Nigerian village, she knows that her dreams of attending school are lost forever. But soon enough, Adunni learns that she will have to find the resilience and courage to endure her husband’s treacherous abuse and pave a path toward freedom and self-determination. Adunni embarks on an incredible journey from her small rural village to modern-day Lagos in search of a brighter future — determined to find joy, her loud voice, and protect other girls like herself. A powerful, moving, inspiring story of the strength of the human spirit and a celebration of what it means to be alive.
Books That Make You Think About Life
by Michelle Obama
In Becoming, former First Lady Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
Born A Crime
by Trevor Noah
This book chronicles Trevor’s life growing up in South Africa during apartheid. He talks about his experiences as an interracial child and the struggles he faced trying to fit into both black and white culture at school; this memoir explores racism around him while offering hope for a better future where everyone will be free from discrimination based on their skin color or race.
by Natasha Trethewey
At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.
by Viola Davis
An inspiring and deeply personal memoir of a girl searching for her identity. It offers insights into Viola’s formative years, from the crumbling apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to the stage in New York City and beyond. With thought-provoking reflections on how our stories are often misunderstood or reinvented to fit into a competitive, judgmental world, Davis encourages readers to shed their facades and find acceptance. Through her story of courage and determination, she encourages others to light up their lives with creative expression and reconnect with their true selves. Finding Me is an inspirational roadmap for anyone searching for self-discovery and purpose in life.
Great Books That Make You Think Differently
by Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman who lives in London and straddles two cultures. She’s forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers at a national newspaper where she works. After a messy breakup from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous males who do a good job of taking up brain space while doing nothing to affirm self-esteem. Queenie is a train wreck, but she’s also a reader’s dream. Queenie Jenkins’ compelling voice and flawed character make her story worth telling…and reading.
The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
A powerful and heartbreaking novel that explores the tragic life of Pecola Breedlove. Pecola yearns for acceptance in an America that values whiteness and beauty above all else. She prays for blue eyes—not just to be seen but loved—but her wish is granted in a way that devastates her and her family. With its deep empathy and lyricism, The Bluest Eye offers an unflinching yet ultimately hopeful examination of race, class, gender, and belonging. It is a heartbreaking story of love, longing, and resilience that continues to resonate today.
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones
A stunningly thought-provoking exploration of the consequences of racism and the power of love. Newlyweds Celestial and Roy seem to have a bright future with promising careers, a comfortable home in Atlanta, and a deep love for one another. But when Roy is falsely accused and sentenced to twelve years in prison, the couple’s seemingly perfect life is suddenly upended. Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage is a heart-wrenching exploration of the cost of injustice, the beauty of redemption, and the strength it takes to continue loving despite tragedy. With stunning insight and exquisite prose, this book will leave readers simultaneously uplifted and haunted long after they reach the final page.
The Other Black Girl
by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Nella Rogers, a 26-year-old editing assistant, is frustrated with being the only Black employee, so when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle next to hers, she’s thrilled. When a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, Nella is left in the dust. Then, threatening notes start showing up on Nella’s desk. But as Nella spirals and obsesses over the nefarious forces at work, she understands that there’s a lot more at stake than simply her job.
On the Rooftop
by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
A novel about family, ambition, and music set in San Francisco during the Jazz Age. The Salvations are a jazz band made up of three sisters: Ruth, Esther, and Chloe. They are driven to success by their mother, Vivian, who is determined to make them famous. When they receive an offer from a talent manager, Vivian knows this is their big break. However, as the girls grow up and start to imagine a life beyond their mother’s reach, Vivian’s hold on her family begins to weaken. And with her own family falling apart, Vivian must confront the changes happening all around her.
by Brit Bennett
Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s debut novel is about teenage pregnancy and its impact on a close-knit community. Nadia Turner is a seventeen-year-old girl who becomes pregnant by the local pastor’s son, Luke Sheppard. The novel follows Nadia, Luke, and their friend Aubrey as they grapple with the consequences of their choices. With richly drawn characters and a compelling story, The Mothers is a novel that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Save for Later
These Ghosts Are Family
by Maisy Card
This novel explores the ways each character wrestles with their ghosts and struggles to forge independent identities outside of the family and their trauma. The result is an engrossing portrait of a family and individuals caught in the sweep of history, slavery, migration, and the more personal dramas of infidelity, lost love, and regret. This electric and luminous family saga announces the arrival of a new American talent. Stanford Solomon has a shocking, thirty-year-old secret. And it’s about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley, a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend.
by Rita Woods
A sweeping story of love, loss, and discovery. Follow Abigail, Margot, and their companions as they traverse the dangerous roads of revolution in Haiti to freedom in New Orleans, uncovering secrets of the past along the way. In vivid historical detail and unforgettable characters, Rita Woods creates a unique journey through time. With lush prose and intricate storytelling, “Remembrance” is a powerful saga that transports you to an era of slavery and revolution. From the fires of rebellion to the perils of freedom, these unforgettable characters will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.
YA Books That Make You Think
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give follows sixteen-year-old Starr Carter’s moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name.
With The Fire on High
by Elizabeth Acevedo
From the author of The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright. Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her Abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.
With The Fire on High
by Elizabeth Acevedo
In The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton has created a richly imagined world where beauty is currency and manipulation and power are the ultimate goals. Camelia is a Belle, a powerful woman gifted with the ability to manipulate beauty through her own means. When Camelia is chosen by the Queen of Orleans to attend her court, she finds herself immersed in an opulent world full of secrets and intrigue. As she strives to change her fate and the fate of the kingdom of Orleans, she uncovers secrets that make her question everything she knows and believes. Filled with assassins, court intrigue, and romance, The Belles is an atmospheric and thrilling read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
by Ibi Zoboi
American Street is an immersive and lyrical exploration of America, seen through the eyes of Haitian immigrant Fabiola Toussaint. Stranded on the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola must navigate her way through a dangerous new world filled with incredible magical realism and vodou culture. American Street is a powerful story about identity, family, and the difficult choices that come with pursuing the American dream. Ibi Zoboi’s debut novel is an unforgettable exploration of what it means to be young and a stranger in a strange land. Through Fabiola’s eyes, readers can experience her struggles and triumphs as she discovers what it takes to create her identity in America.
Do you have any other thought-provoking books to add? Let me know in the comments below!