In honor of Black History Month, here are 20 books by Black authors that everyone should be reading in 2022. Divided by genre, we compiled picks in new fiction, nonfiction and the classics that should have been taught in your high school English class if they weren’t already. We also invited owner Nyshell Lawrence of Lansing’s newest indie bookstore, the Socialight Society, to give us her current favorite in Black literature. Happy reading, and, as always, remember to patronize local and independent bookstores for your literary ventures!
“Honey Girl” by Morgan Rogers
“Real Life” by Brandon Taylor
“Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid
“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi
“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett
“What We Lose” by Zinzi Clemmons
“Long Division” by Kiese Laymon
“In Every Mirror She’s Black” by Lola Akinmade Akerström
Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
“Somebody’s Daughter” by Ashley C. Ford
“Hunger” by Roxane Gay
“So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
“How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi
“Between The World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“We Were Eight Years in Power” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
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“Beloved” by Toni Morrison
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
Miranda’s current favorite: “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett
“The Vanishing Half” was a page-turner the entire way through. This story follows two Black twin sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes, who grew up in a small, colorist southern town. Made up of light-skin Black people, the community believes that each generation should be born lighter than the last. When the twins escape the town together in their teens, Stella begins passing as a white woman testing the waters. Eventually, she disappears, completely covering her tracks.
The book spans multiple generations to show the lasting effects of Stella’s choices and explores several forms of identity: race, class, gender and sexuality. Weaving between each complex character’s storyline, the story strategically showcases the ties that hold the family together despite Stella’s attempt to vanish.
Lily’s current favorite: “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
I won’t lie — this book was assigned to me for a class last year, but it’s one of those books that should be required reading for just about everyone in 2022. Oluo blends theory with real-life scenarios to create perhaps the ultimate guide to not just acknowledging racial divides, but also to doing something about them.
This is the book we should all be picking up instead of asking our Black friends or coworkers heavy questions about racism — Google might be free, but Oluo deserves our purchase of her book. “So You Want to Talk About Race” has become part of the lexicon of antiracist books assigned to corporate workplaces and academic spheres alike as we all reckon with America’s history of systemic racism and inequity.
Nonfiction lovers will appreciate the book’s layout, with each chapter centering around a commonly asked question about race, and everyone else will walk away with a deeper understanding of the issues discussed on the news or around kitchen tables across the country.
Nyshell Lawrence’s current favourite: “Red Lip Theology” by Candice Marie Benbow
Lawrence is the owner of the Socialight Society, a Lansing bookstore that aims to celebrate Black women. She said that “Red Lip Theology” is a great read.
“The author, Candice Benbow, is a very plain spoken and ‘get in on a real life’ type person,” Lawrence said. “She (She is) bringing up some points that are important for Black women when it comes to spirituality and finding ourselves and growing up in church and ministry.”
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