Everything from memoirs to beach reads.

By Emily VanSchmus
Updated June 05, 2020
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Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Photos Courtesy of Amazon (2) and Target (3)

This summer I’ll be reading as many books as possible, and I'm making a conscious effort to expand my reading list to include more diverse voices. Whether you’re looking for a moving memoir or a thought-provoking beach read, I’ve put together a list to help you get started. These are some of my favorite books from strong black female authors and a few I've recently added to my "to read" list. Order a few to hold you over while you wait for this summer’s newest releases, or reserve them at your local library this week. All of these picks can be ordered online and shipped directly to your home, but you can also buy directly from local black-owned bookstores.

Courtesy of Target

When a white social media influencer asks her black nanny to take her toddler to the local market, chaos ensues when the nanny is accused of kidnapping the little child. What happens next in this New York Times bestseller is a powerful explanation of race and privilege in modern America.

Buy It: Such a Fun Age, $24

Courtesy of Amazon

Celestial and Roy are happily married newlyweds, until Roy is arrested and sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit. As she comes to terms with what has happened, Celestial turns to Andre, her childhood friend (and best man at their wedding). When Roy is suddenly released after serving 5 years in prison, will Celestial still be waiting for him? This moving pick from Oprah’s Book Club is the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the winner of the 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.

Buy It: An American Marriage, $16

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In this powerful memoir, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith highlights the importance race, faith, and family have had on her life. This book will help you learn about what it’s like to grow up as a black woman in America.

Buy It: Ordinary Light, $11

Courtesy of Target

Former First Lady Michelle Obama paints a vivid picture of life on the South side of Chicago and details her journey to the White House in a moving and impactful way. When you’re done reading this instant bestseller, stream the new Netflix documentary by the same name.

Buy It: Becoming, $12

Courtesy of Amazon

When Nikole walks into a Dodgers game with her relatively new boyfriend, the very last thing she expects is for him to propose. The next-to-last thing she expects is to fall for the stranger who saves her from the awkward public spectacle, but that’s exactly what happens in this classic summer romance. This is the first book in a series of novels featuring intertwined friend groups by the best-selling author.

Buy It: The Proposal, $15

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If you’ve already seen the film Hidden Figures, the New York Times bestseller is still worth a read. It highlights the previously untold story of three black female mathematicians who changed history with their contributions at NASA in the sixties.

Buy It: Hidden Figures, $10

Courtesy of Amazon

If you turn on the TV on Thursday nights, chances are you’ll see one of Shonda Rhimes’ shows. The creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder doesn’t shy away from social issues on her shows, and her book is a refreshingly frank and honest account of the struggles and triumphs she’s encountered as a black female creative.

Buy It: Year of Yes, $15

Courtesy of Target

In this award-winning novel, sixteen-year-old Starr Carter watches as her best friend Khalil is shot and killed by a police officer. When the incident makes national headlines, Starr must speak up to fight for what is right. This powerful book will make you think critically about the current racial inequality in America.

Buy It: The Hate U Give, $14

Courtesy of Amazon

When Natasha and Daniel have a chance encounter on a busy New York City street, neither of them expect the moment to turn into an epic love story—but it does. This bestseller was turned into a movie by the same name last fall.

Buy It: The Sun Is Also a Star, $17

Courtesy of Target

This New York Times bestseller tells the story of Adunni, a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who is determined to get an education, whatever the cost. When she is sold to a local man who buys her as his wife, she runs away to find a better life, but can't escape the knowledge that what happened to her was not an isolated incident. Adunni decides to use her "loudening voice" to tell her story in an attempt to make a powerful change.

Buy It: The Girl with the Louding Voice, $17

Courtesy of Amazon

When Georgia Young quits her job as an optometrist, her family and friends think she’s crazy to leave her successful career. But what Georgia finds on her journey toward happiness is far better than the life she left behind. If you're looking for an inspiring and uplifting story about making the most of your life, pick up a copy of this book.

Buy It: I Almost Forgot About You, $16

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