Can't Get Enough Urban Fiction? Try These 20 Books.

By Gwen Glazer, Librarian
October 11, 2019

Urban fiction is flying off the shelves in many of our branches here at The New York Public Library. Named for its city settings, this genre often touches on themes of violence, crime, drugs, and sex, and it's usually written by and about African Americans and other people of color.

It's a well-established genre. Sistah Souljah's The Coldest Winter Ever, Gangsta by K'wan, The Cartel series by Ashley & JaQuavis, Addicted (or really anything) by Zane... many of urban fiction's foundational books remain popular multiple decades after they were first published. And some literary criticism argues that books widely considered classics and taught in schools today, like Oliver Twist or the work of Langston Hughes, fit beneath the umbrella of urban fiction. 

Because of the genre's fast pace and compulsive readability, many readers burn through urban fiction at a breakneck speed—meaning libraries are left with empty shelves and readers have to search other sections for books that have a similar subject matter, pace, and tone.

Here are a few books shelved as romance or fantasy or fiction that might satisfy the craving for similar kinds of stories.

If you like fast-paced, crime-centered thrillers...

dead on arrival
assume nothing
borrowed time

Dead on Arrival by Kiki Swinson

Assume Nothing by Gar Anthony Harwood

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Borrowed Time by Tracy P. Clark

If you like a crime-centered mystery series...

city of saviors
hollywood homicide
family business

Devil in a Blue Dress (and the rest of the Easy Rawlins series) by Walter Mosley

City of Saviors (and the rest of the Detective Eloise Norton series) by Rachel Howzell Hall

Hollywood Homicide (and the rest of the Detective by Day series) by Kellye Garrett

The Family Business series by Carl Weber

If you like steamy romance...

ceos pleasure
stone cold liar
engaging the enemy

The Blackbirds by Eric Jerome Dickey

At the CEO's Pleasure (and more Harlequin romances) by Yahrah St. John

Stone Cold Liar (and the rest of the Misadventures of Mink Larue series) by Noire

Engaging the Enemy (and more Harlequin romances) by Reese Ryan

If you like paranormal romance or suspenseful fantasy...

my soul to take
sycorax daughters
taste of honey
the root

My Soul to Take (and the rest of the African Immortals series) by Tananarive Due

Sycorax's Daughters, ed. by Kinitra D. Brooks, Linda D. Addison, and Susana M. Morris

Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

The Root by Na'amen Gobert Tilahun

If you like gritty stories set in the city...

true to the game
king divas
vigilante southland
lost treasures

The True to the Game by Teri Woods

King Divas (and the rest of the Divas series) by De'Nesha Diamond

Vigilante: Southland by Gary Phillips

The Lost Treasures of R&B by Nelson George


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!