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African American Fiction (and non-fiction) – My Reading List

In the final semester of my undergraduate degree (in English), I took an African American Literature class. The theme was the African diaspora. It was one of the most memorable classes I took. Good discussions, engaging, grim material, and a wonderful professor.

But I had been a fan of writers like Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright for as long as I could remember. The only reason I did not read their work more often was because it was always devastating. And I understand why. A book like Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison or The Bluest Eye is not meant to be heartwarming. They explore heinous realities and the profoundest depths of human cruelty and ugliness.

So, I could see the importance of the books and the issues they explored and/or indicted, I just couldn’t make myself spend all my time in such dark literary places.

But in this post I want to start keeping a list of the great African American books I have read, both fiction and non-fiction. Feel free to add to the list or comment on any of the selections I list.

Whenever I have reviewed a book on World’s Strongest Librarian I will link to the review.


Books By Toni Morrison

Books by Alice Walker

  • The Color Purple
  • The Temple of My Familiar

by W.E.B. Dubois

  • The Souls of Black Folk

By Booker T. Washington

  • Up From Slavery

by Olaudah Equiano

  • The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

by Gayl Jones

  • Corregidora

By Nella Larsen

  • Passing
  • Quicksand

by James Baldwin

  • Go Tell It On The Mountain

by Jean Toomer

  • Cane

by Pauline Hopkins

  • Of One Blood: Or, The Hidden Self

by Richard Wright

  • Native Son
  • Black Boy

by Ralph Ellison

  • Invisible Man
  • Flying Home

by Sister Soulja

  • The Coldest Winter Ever

by Sapphire

  • Push

by Zora Neale Hurston

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Edward P. Jones

  • The Known World

by Langston Hughes

  • All the poetry I can find

by Frederick Douglass

  • Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass

by Lorraine Hansberry

  • A Raisin in The Sun

by Thomas Glave

  • Whose Song? and Other Stories

That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head. I’ll continue adding to the list as I go. I’m embarrassed that I’ve only reviewed on of these books on the blog! Will remedy the situation.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ami December 20, 2010, 5:28 pm

    Wow – that’s an impressive list. But no Maya Angelou? I remember her reading On the Pulse of Morning when Bill Clinton was inaugurated, and her poem made me realize how powerful poetry could be to capture a moment in history. She also wrote an amazing poem called “Phenomenal Woman” that makes me smile whenever I read it.

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is more dark in tone but still a good read.

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots are also worth a look.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 20, 2010, 6:44 pm

      Crap. I knew I was forgetting something. I’ve read a ton of Maya Angelou’s books. I have watched Roots but haven’t read it, and I still haven’t read X’s autobiography.

  • Mich December 20, 2010, 9:34 pm

    In sf, the books of Steven Barnes and Octavia Butler.
    In crime/mystery, Walter Mosley.

  • Heather December 21, 2010, 8:43 am

    Ibid on the Maya Angelou and Octavia Butler. Might I also suggest: Bertice Berry’s “The Haunting of Hip-Hop: A Novel.” and people can call me out all they want over this, but I simply adore Terry McMillan. Soujourner Truth. You also forgot Soujourner Truth. Just sayin’. . . Good list, though, and Song of Solomon is still my favorite Toni Morrison. Alice Walker also did a book of activist essays, “Anything We Love Can be Saved.” She’s brilliant.

  • Boris Bachmann December 22, 2010, 11:02 pm

    Autobiography Of Malcolm X
    Black No More (…can’t remember the author, but this book is AWESOME. IMHO, for me at the time, it was as amazing a read as Brave New World. It’s a story about an inventor creating a machine that can change a person’s race)
    Why We Can’t Wait (MLK)
    Black Power (Stokely Carmichael)

  • Alice February 23, 2011, 2:43 pm

    Here’s a book you might want to consider adding to your list: Once Upon A Time In Harlem: A Jitterbug Romance radio play by D.C. Copeland. It weaves a fictional storyline through nearly forgotten and legendary accounts of black entertainers during the Harlem Renaissance. It won the Jaz Dorsey Fusion Award from the African American Playwrights Exchange (AAPEX).