Books·Black History Month

10 must-read books by black authors from around the world

As Black History Month 2019 draws to a close, check out these books by writers from the African diaspora.

As Black History Month 2019 draws to a close, check out these 10 books by writers from the African diaspora. 


Children of the Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi is the author of Children of Blood and Bone. (Larry D. Moore, Henry Holt and Co.)

Children of Blood and Bone tells the story of Zélie, a young girl from a fantasy kingdom known as Orïsha where magic has been banned. ​Zélie's white hair is a sign that she possesses latent magical powers, but they can only be activated by a scroll that disappeared long ago. With the help of Princess AmariZélie embarks on an epic quest to bring magic back to her home and defy the genocidal monarchy that rules OrïshaChildren of Blood and Bone is a smart and riveting adventure novel, targeted to readers 14 and up, that deftly explores themes of power, race and colourism.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Oyinkan Braithwaite is the author of My Sister, The Serial Killer. (Penguin Random House, Studio 24)

Oyinkan Braithwaite's debut novel My Sister, The Serial Killeris about a woman named Korede and her younger sister Ayoola, who has an unfortunate habit of murdering her boyfriends. Every time Ayoola takes another life, Korede is there to clean things up. It's a very dark, but funny story that's already been optioned for a film by the producers of Baby Driver.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a novel by Marlon James. (Bond Street Books, Jeffrey Skemp)

In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Tracker, a well-respected hunter who always works alone, is hired to find a boy who has been missing for three years. He ends up joining a band of unusual characters, including a "shape-shifting man-animal" called Leopard, all engaged in the hunt. As they traverse ancient cities and forests and face deadly beasts, Tracker wonders why this boy is so special and finds himself caught in a web of lies. Marlon James won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma

An Orchestra of Minorities is a novel by Chigozie Obioma. (

Narrated by a guardian spirit known as chi, An Orchestra of Minorities is a contemporary retelling of Homer's epic poem Odyssey. The novel tells the story of a poor poultry farmer named Chinonso, who saves the life of a young woman named Ndali by throwing two of his prized chickens into the river she is about to jump into. Ndali falls in love with Chinonso, but her wealthy family disapproves of his lack of education. An Orchestra of Minorities is Chigozie Obioma's follow-up to his critically acclaimed novel The Fishermanwhich was a finalist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

On the Come Up is a YA novel by Angie Thomas. (Anissa Hidouk, Balzer + Bray )

As the daughter of an underground hip hop icon who died too young, 16-year-old Bri has aspirations to become the greatest rap artist of all time. But at school, she's considered a "hoodlum" and when her mom loses her job, Bri hits a breaking point. She releases a track that goes viral — but not in the way Bri might have hoped. On the Come Up is writer Angie Thomas's second novel after the runaway success of The Hate U Give.


Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib

Go Ahead in the Rain is a nonfiction book by Hanif Abdurraqib. (Getty, University of Texas Press)

American poet, essayist and culture critic Hanif Abdurraqib's third nonfiction book, Go Ahead in the Rain is a love letter to an era of hip-hop. Using critical essays and poetic language, Abdurraqib pays homage to A Tribe Called Quest and outlines what the rap quartet means to music as a whole. 

Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Thick is a nonfiction book by Tressie McMillan Cottom. (Tressie McMillan Cottom, New Press)

In the essay collection Thick, American author and academic Tressie McMillan Cottom looks at social media, feminism, violence, body positivity and more through the lens of being a black woman. Cottom has her finger on the pulse of pop culture, politics and race relations. 

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

Heavy is a memoir by American writer, editor and University of Mississippi professor Kiese Laymon. (Simon and Schuster)

Heavy is a collection of autobiographical essays that draws on Kiese Laymon's life growing up in the American South. Among many subjects, Laymon tackles what it was like to be a black teenager who struggled with obesity, describing with great honesty the cruelty he endured as a young man. Dedicated to his mother, who rose from poverty to become a political science professor, Laymon's book looks at his life through the lens of society's flawed value systems.

The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is an American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher and professor emeritus at Princeton University. (Penguin, Getty)

Toni Morrison is back with the nonfiction collection The Source of Self-Regard. The book's first part features a prayer for the dead of 9/11; the second is a meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., and the last offers a eulogy for James Baldwin. Morrison's commentary on today's social issues — including female empowerment, human rights and the black presence in American literature — holds relevance today more than ever. 

Feel Free by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is a British novelist, short story writer and essayist. (Hamish Hamilton, Dominique Nabokov)

Acclaimed novelist Zadie Smith writes an essay collection of cultural criticism that addresses the impact of past and present artists, from pop culture giants like Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire and Beyoncé to writers J.G. Ballard and Karl Ove Knausgaard. Written and published during the presidency of Barack Obama, Smith's essays connect popular culture with themes of freedom, identity, race and class.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?