#ReadingBlackout: 28 Days of Books By and About African Americans for Black History Month

By Gwen Glazer, Librarian
February 1, 2018
Reading Blackout

It’s Black History Month! To celebrate, many readers are declaring a #ReadingBlackout—reading only books by Black authors for the month. (The hashtag reportedly originated with BookTuber Denise D. Cooper, who's reading only Black authors for a full year.)

So we’ve picked out one book by and/or about African Americans to recommend for each day of February. Black authors wrote some of our favorite works in the literary canon, but we wanted to make this list contemporary—all books published within the last five years—and offer up some books for readers of every age. We also included a range of nonfiction, memoir, literary fiction, and genre fiction (with science-fiction, romance, graphic novels, and more) to properly showcase the diversity of African American authors writing today.

This list is just the beginning, and by no means comprehensive! Tell us some of your must-reads in the comments. And check out more of NYPL's posts on Black History Month: our online exhibitions, favorite podcast episodes, and ways to research with e-resources.


Back to Your Love by Kianna Alexander: A sweet romance about a successful doctor going back to her hometown for a wedding, and maybe finding love of her own.

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson: A readable, compelling history of African Americans written by an Emory professor. 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett: A critically acclaimed debut novel about secrets, friendship, love, and growing up.

Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due: Dark short stories about ghosts real and imagined.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones: Beautifully written, riveting fiction about a bigamist with two families, one secret and one public, set in 1980s Atlanta.

Pleasantville by Attica Locke: A fast-paced thriller about a lawyer fighting his last case, and becoming tangled in a web of politics and scandal.

The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation by Natalie Moore: Longform journalism at its personal best. 

Charcoal Joe (or any of the Easy Rawlins mysteries) by Walter Mosley: Easy Rawlins is an unforgettable detective, and Mosely is a master of the genre. 

Everfairby Nisi Shawl: Steampunk at its most creative. An alternate history about a utopia that's a safe haven for people from the Congo and escaped slaves.

The Noble Hustleby Colson Whitehead: You might have read his fiction, but have you read his brilliant half-memoir-half-investigative-exploration into the world of high-stakes competitive poker?

Bunk by Kevin Young: The subtitle says it all: "The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News."

Vengeance by Zane: Urban erotica with an unforgettable main character: a pop star hellbent on revenge.


The Blacktop series by LJ Alonge: Each installment in this basketball series features a different player. Easy to read and hard to put down.

The Black Panther series by Ta-Nehisi Coates (plus World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay): Who can resist this comic—in book or movie form?

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor: The second book in a beautifully creative fantasy series about a magical teen who's trying to save humanity.

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz: The story of Malcolm X's childhood, co-authored by his daughter.

Now or Never! 54th Massachusetts Infantry's War to End Slavery by Ray Anthony Shepard: The fascinating biography of two Black soldiers in the Civil War who fought against not only the Confederates, but also the Union Army that refused to compensate them fairly for their service.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone: The moving story of police brutality and coming of age as a young Black man. Perfect if you liked Long Way Down or The Hate U Give.

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani: Lyrical and poetic, this book is a series of vignettes pieced together to form a story of spirituality and self-discovery.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson:  A compelling story of privilege and friendship.


It All Comes Down to Thisby Karen English: Twelve-year-old Sophie is learning to navigate life in 1965 Los Angeles, and it's getting more complicated by the moment.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissanceby Nikki Grimes: Poetry that creates new remixes of some of the most famous African American poets.

Midnight without a Moonby Linda Williams Jackson: The story of a girl living with her grandparents on a cotton plantation in the 1950s. Powerful historical fiction for middle-graders.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson: A picture book that explains the history of Juneteenth via elegant text and watercolor illustrations.

Princess Hairby Sharee Miller: Every kind of hair is princess hair! This sweet picture book showcases girls with Afros, wraps, and more.

Calico Girl by Jerdine Nolen: Beautiful middle-grade fiction about a family of slaves during the Civil War. 

A Night Out with Mamaby Quvenzhané Wallis: What's it like to walk the red carpet? Wallis, who was nominated for an Academy Award, tells all.

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamondby Brenda Woods: Growing up biracial isn't easy, but Violet is determined to find out more about her father and her own identity.


Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!