Happy Black History Month! The month of February is an important annual celebration to remember and recognise Black folks’ accomplishments and contributions to history. What better way to celebrate than to decolonise our shelves and introduce ourselves to books that amplify and uplift Black voices. From literary classics to Black joy to contemporary memoirs, here is a list of books written by Black authors to enjoy and educate ourselves for Black History Month, as well as begin the process of decolonising our shelves!
- You Should See Me in a Crown (2020) by Leah Johnson
A fun young adult novel that has heartwarming friendships, realistic conflicts and celebrating the beauty of individuality. Not to mention the refreshing spin on a romance.
This novel is about Liz Lighty, an ambitious senior in high school who has a plan to escape Campbell, Indiana, forever. Her plan? Attend Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra and become a doctor. But what happens when that plan comes crashing down because of a financial crisis? Liz must do the unthinkable to win a scholarship and enter for prom queen – and of course, fall in love with the competition.
- The Stars and the Blackness Between Them (2019) by Junauda Petrus
Another lovely young adult novel that weaves a sweeping and heartfelt story of “two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both” (quote from Goodreads). The story follows two sixteen-year-old girls, Audre from Trinidad and Mabel from Minneapolis, as they navigate high school and face the world ahead of them, conjuring a love that’s stronger than any hatred, imprisonment and death.
- Felix Ever After (2020) by Kacen Callender
This contemporary young adult novel is a loving story about friendships, first loves and the continuity of self-discovery even after you thought you knew it all.
This story follows the journey of a Black, queer and transgender teen, Felix Love who has – ironically – never been in love. As Felix worries that he’ll never get his own happily-ever-after, he grapples with his identity as he navigates conflicting feelings of being one marginalisation too many. If that wasn’t complicated enough, an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages, leading Felix to come up with a revenge plot. But what he didn’t expect was his catfish scenario to land him in a quasi-love triangle.
- Parable of the Sower (1993) by Octavia E. Butler
A beautiful classic science fiction novel set in a distant future in which the world has descended into madness and anarchy. (It’s actually set four years from now, to be exact, but at the time the novel was published, 2025 was definitely still a distant horizon.) All seems lost until “one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future” (quote from Goodreads).
- Men We Reaped (2013) by Jesmyn Ward
Over the span of five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five men in her life to drugs, suicide and accidents. Having had to deal with loss after loss, Ward asked herself the question: why? It was only when she began to write about their deaths and about her experience living through it all that she realised the hard truth.
Men We Reaped is a memoir that brings light to the reason why her brother and her friends all died. It was “because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships” (quote from Goodreads). Ward’s memoir details what it’s like to be a Black man in the contemporary world.
- The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power (2020) by Desmond Cole
In this autobiography, Desmond Cole details his lived experience facing and struggling against racism in Canada during 2017. In The Skin We’re In, Cole punctures “the bubble of Canadian smugness and naïve assumptions of a post-racial nation” (quote from Goodreads) as his book chronicles his role as an anti-racist activist, revealing the true impacts and injustice of the systemic racism within Canadian society. Similar to Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped, Cole’s autobiography sheds light on the hard truth of what it’s really like for Black folks in contemporary times.
- Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) by James Baldwin
This classic, semi-autobiographical novel is about fourteen-year-old John Grimes, who grows up in Harlem during the 1930s, as he discovers the terms of his identity and faces complicated relationships with his family and Pentecostal church. Through this novel – along with his other works, such as The Fire Next Time – Baldwin established a strong voice as an activist in the civil rights era.
This is obviously by no means an exhaustive list of all the wonderful books written by Black authors out there! The main goal of this article was to provide a good starting point on either adding more to your shelf or decolonising it and diversifying your knowledge. Happy reading and Happy Black History Month!