Black History Book List 2022 Edition: 17 Powerful Novels

Black History Book List 2021

February is Black History Month in the United States. Every year, we go through the books that we have read to create a Black History Month reading list. The Black History Book List 2022 Edition features National Book Award Winners, Pulitzer Prize Winners as well as a recipient of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. These are eye-opening, profound, and wonderful books that I feel should be compulsory reading in every high school across the country. The events depicted in these books are Bpertinent to today’s society and are a reminder of the brutal history of this country.

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Black History Book List 2022 Edition

Some of the books on this list address events of the past like slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, but others address the Black Lives Matter movement, voter repression, and injustices that Black people still experience today. Our hope in creating the Black History Book List for 2022 is that you will find a book that resonates with you and that in reading it, you will look at the role you can play in fighting systemic racism.

Best Black History Books for Adults

1619

The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones

I read the 1619 project during the banned book month of our 2022 reading challenge. Created at first for The New York Times Magazine, this collection of essays was expanded upon for the book.

I enjoyed listing to this full cast audiobook featuring many of the writers themselves doing the reading! With essays on sugar, capitalism, music, healthcare, and even traffic, I learned so much about how much of American society is built around racist ideals.

They come in all colors and more YA historical fiction

They Come in All Colors by Malcolm Hansen

The story alternates between Huey as a teenager grappling with his new life in the city at a prep school, and his childhood in the south during a summer in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement when he learned just how complicated it was to be a bi-racial child.⁣

I was so drawn into Huey’s story that I lost track of time. When it was over and I craved more. This is a ya historical fiction story for adults to enjoy as well.

Black History Month Reading List

the underground railroad by colson whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

August 2016 Oprah’s Book Club Pick

I loved this book and it was one of the first reviews we ever did on the blog. I love the way this book examined the underground railroad with a touch of magical realism. If you are looking for thought-provoking books, look no further.

The story is about Cora and Caesar, two run-away slaves in the South who run away to the underground railroad which, in this book, is an actual railroad.

Each stop along the way is reminiscent of a different place in history and it is interlaced with actual ads placed for runaway slaves. This book is profound and beautiful and a must-read.

546018

Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley

Although I read this family saga decades ago, it has stayed with me for all that time. It is the story of Kunta Kinte who is captured from his home, put on a boat, and sold into slavery. The story follows many generations of the family. 

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book is a powerful and unforgettable saga based on the author’s family. Alex Haley has traced his family roots back 200 years to tell the story of Kunta Kinte and 25,000,000 other Americans. This amazing and heart-breaking book is a must-read.

Someone Knows my Name by Lawrence Hill  and more great Canadian Novels by Canadian Authors

Someone Knows My Name: A Novel/ Book of Negroes (non-American Editions) by Lawrence Hill

This book was published in Canada and is the winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Aminata Diallo is abducted as a child in Africa and enslaved in South Carolina.

She escapes during the Revolutionary was and goes to Manhattan when she becomes a scribe- recording the names of the black slaves. This book captures a lesser-known aspect of history and is beautifully written which is such a contrast to the poignant story within. 

Americanah

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This contemporary fiction book tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze who are young and in love when they leave war-torn Nigeria. Ifemelu comes to the United States and despite plans to follow her, Obinze cannot come to post-9/11 America.  

The saga takes place over a 15-year period when Ifemelu and Obinze are reunited in Nigeria. It is intense and deeply emotional. I read this book with a very heavy heart as it seemed like tragedy after tragedy befell these two individuals. This is one of our books about Africa that you must read.

However, with that said, this book is amazingly written and a true work of art. If you are looking for one of the best book club books, this would be your choice.

beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison

HOW HAVE I NEVER READ TONI MORRISON BEFORE? I swear I thought I had read this book, but after reading The Toni Morrison Book Club, I realized I hadn’t. When my library hold finally came up for this one, I realized I was so excited to read it.

Morrison is easily one of the most gifted writers I’ve ever read. Beloved, which is based on the true story of a runaway slave, haunted me while I was reading it. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Find this book in Magical Realism Books / Best Classic Books / Books about Motherhood / Ghost Books

The Prophets

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.

Robert Jones Jr’s book is a powerful, emotional and lyrically written story about the love of two black men who are slaves and what happens when an older slave tries to admonish that love. Each chapter is centered on a new character and parts of this story recreate a mythical past in which the King is a woman and same-sex love is honored. The plot is character driven, and emotionally wrenching. At times I felt like some of the plot was lost in the lyrical language. Thank you to Putnam and Libro for my copies of this book. 

The Nickel Boys

Nickel Boys by Coleson Whitehead

The 213 pages of this book will haunt me for a long time. Mr. Whitehead brings characters to life and holy crap can this man write. There is a reason he has won the Pulitzer Prize two times. I have had this book since the day it was released and needed to find the courage to read it.  I’m so glad I did.

Elwood Curtis is a black boy who lives in Florida in the 1960’s. When he is unfairly sentenced to a crime, he is sentenced to live at the Nickel Boy Academy. This horror show is disguised as a school and based on a real school that existed for 111 years.

Nonfiction Black History Books For Adults

the immortal life of henrietta lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

I read this book a few years ago and I was absolutely stunned.  With each page, I kept thinking to myself “this can’t be true” and yet, somehow, it was.  

In the 1950s an African-American woman named Henrietta Lacks unknowingly had her cells taken.  These cells, known as HeLa,  were the first human cells to survive outside the human body and could reproduce indefinitely.  HeLa cells became the basis for medical breakthroughs from the creation of the Polio vaccine to cancer and Aids research.

However, Henrietta Lacks’s family was never compensated for her contribution to science and could not afford to pay medical bills despite the cells making billions for companies. if you have not read this non-fiction book about poverty and science, it should be at the top of your list.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Woman Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

This true and amazing story of the Black female mathematicians and their role in the space race is one of the nonfiction books that read like fiction. If you are looking for the best nonfiction books for beginners, this should be at the top of your list.

So many people know this story because of the movie but, the book gives so many more details- as is usually the case with adaptations. These women, who were originally sent to teach math in the South’s segregated schools, were called into service during WWII.

They were some of the most brilliant minds of their generation. They eventually helped in the race to space during the Cold War. This non-fiction pick from books like Lessons in Chemistry was captivating from start to finish.

Just Mercy

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Stevenson’s memoir about his early career is truly eye-opening. I had no idea about the scope of injustice towards black men in the criminal justice system. The stories of the inmates on death row who were falsely accused broke my heart.

I can’t believe our country doesn’t have more reform in this area. Stevenson’s career is truly incredible and one that should be commended. I’m very interested in seeing the movie now. If you are looking for a nonfiction that reads like a novel, this is the perfect pick. It is a perfect pick from nonfiction books for beginners.

The Color of Law and more books by Jewish writers

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

All I can say is wow.  This book is absolutely illuminating.  I cannot believe the laws in this country that were created to systematically segregate  America.  More than just redlining, banks, and the government created a system in which there were completely different sets of rules depending on the color of your skin. 

I did not know anything about these laws prior to reading the book and it left me flabbergasted. This is a must-read, non-fiction book about poverty and the history of our country. I think it should actually be required reading.

becoming

Author: Michele Obama

Year: 2018

Genre: Nonfiction

More info: November 2018 Oprah’s Book Club Pick

Age Range: 15+

I am so happy that I finally read this book. Michelle Obama is a brilliant woman who has such an incredible story to tell.  I was intrigued by her life and her upbringing.

I listened to this book and was so happy to hear the story read by Obama herself. Obama is a brilliant woman and it was a pleasure to hear her story told in her voice. There is something about her voice that is so calming and soothing.

This is one of my favorite non-fiction books about women in politics. As nonfiction books go, this one is a must.

I also listened to this one and I think the audio version is a must. I loved hearing this book read by the former first lady!

Find this book in: Ultimate List of Best NonFiction / Feel Good Nonfiction Books / Books about Women in Politics / Books by BIPOC Female Authors

stamped from the beginning

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X Kendi.

I am so happy that this National Book Award Winner is part of the curriculum in my school district for 8th-grade social studies.  Some Americans think that America is no longer a racist society but they do not realize that the country and its laws are founded on racist beliefs. This book uncovers the truth of our history in a way that is so clear, easy to read and understandable.  This is a must-read.

Young Adult Black History Month Reading List

The black kids and more YA historical ficiton

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

To compare this book to The Hate You Give is doing this book a disservice. The similarities exist in all the best ways, but I don’t want people to think they can read one or the other.

This book is set in 1992, in LA, during the Rodney King riots. Ashley is an affluent black girl at a private school, who is forced to reckon with what her blackness means to herself, her friends, and her family.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas soon to be a major motion picture.

Author: Angie Thomas

Year: 2017

Genre: YA fiction

More info: National Book Award Longlist · Printz Honor Book · Coretta Scott King Honor Book

Age Range: 15+

This fantastic and incredibly relevant young adult novel tackles the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr is straddling a line between two worlds. She attends a prestigious prep school where she is one of 2 black children in her grade but she lives in a poor neighborhood 40 minutes down the road.

She switches her personality so that she can fit in wherever she is, never truly being her whole self. When she witnesses her unarmed childhood best friend get killed by a policeman her entire life changes.

She needs to decide what to tell and to whom because her words can have dire consequences for her family and her community. It’s a truly wonderful coming-of-age story from thought-provoking books set in high school that all young adults should read.

racism, gun violence, police brutality

Find this book in: Thought Provoking Books / Best Audiobooks of all Time / Best Books Set in High School / Books by Female BIPOC Authors

THe Voting Booth

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

Thanks to Libro.FM and Disney for my review copy. All opinions are my own. I LOVE that Brandy Colbert wrote a book for YA readers about the importance of voting WITHOUT BEING POLITICAL. It was so impressive. Never did the characters bring up political affiliations, but instead they focused on the importance of the act of voting, as well as how prevalent voter suppression actually is. This would be a great gift to any new 18-year-old to convince them to register!

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