20 must-read non-fiction books by black authors

20 must-read non-fiction books by black authors

Books, both fiction and non-fiction are an incredible tool for education as they can make us see life through someone else’s life. In this post I’m sharing some of the non-fiction books by black authors I have either read or that are on my reading list that I cannot recommend reading enough to educate yourself, to support the authors and just because they are all brilliantly written books.

Some books in this list might make you feel uncomfortable when you are reading them. But that is the point. Racism is not comfortable. And it is only be challenging white fragility and racial bias that anything is ever going to change.

Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

This book is an essential read for white people which discusses race and racism in Britain today. When it first came out I remember I couldn’t get on a tube without someone reading it on their commute. It is definitely a necessary read.

More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth

Written by the former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue magazine, this is a part-manifesto, part-memoir from the woman who made history by becoming youngest person and only the second African-American to hold this title.

Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim

Edim has compiled a collection of brilliant essays by some incredibly talented black American women writers about the importance of representation in literature.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

A memoir from the host of The Daily ShowBorn a Crime, this tells the story of Noah’s upbringing in South Africa as it comes to the end of apartheid. The book flits between dark times no child should have to experience and comic passages to make it an unforgettable read.

I am not your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite

Written by the founder of Make Motherhood Diverse, an online initiative that aims to encourage a more accurately representative and diverse depiction of motherhood in the media, this is a guide to life as a black mother that everyone would benefit from reading.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

The girl who smiled beads is the memoir of Clemantine Wamariya who was six years old when she escaped the Rwandan massacre. It is ‘a story of war and what comes after’ that challenges our idea of the label of victim.

We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This pocket-sized essay taken from Ngozi Adichie’s viral TED talk is anything but small in value. It is a powerful essay that explores feminism in the 21st century.

I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou

Published in 1969, the first of Maya Angelou‘s seven volumes of autobiography is a raw, true memoir of a life growing up as a black woman in 1930’s America.

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Winner of multiple awards, this is a coming-of-age memoir of a young, black, gay man from the South of U.S.A that is written by a man with such incredible talent it is like poetry.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

This is the inspirational autobiography of Michelle Obama, the first African-American woman to be First Lady of the United States and an advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world.

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

If you want to understand the black male experience in America, read this. This memoir that Laymon started writing when he was eleven is a powerful and beautifully written exploration of family, race and love.

Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad

Saad exposes how entrenched white supremacy is in our everyday lives. It challenges the unconscious racial bias that many, if not all, white people are guilty of and provides exercises you can do to dismantle your own racial bias.

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Through this book, Kendi shows that being quietly not-racist is not an option. It is not enough to be neutral, we must be actively anti-racist.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

If you want to educate yourself of race and racism this is a good place to start. This is a straightforward breakdown of race in modern America, covering everything from the Black Lives Matter movement to white privilege to police brutality and everything in between.

Diversify: An Award-Winning Guide to Why Inclusion is Better for Everyone by June Sarpong

Sarpong’s engaging handbook to inclusion puts a spotlight on marginalised groups and explains how important inclusion to everyone. It is straightforward and informative, giving six attainable steps to help you overcome unconscious bias.

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

Akala takes his experiences as a black male growing up in Britain and uses them to confront issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain’s racialised empire.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Dr. Brittney Cooper

An angry black woman has been caricatured far too often (even once is too often) into an ugly, destructive evil that is dangerous. In this book Cooper explores the value in rage. It is power, it is inspirational and it is a force for change.

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Khan-Cullors

This tells the personal story of Khan-Cullors who founded the Black Lives Matter movement which seeks to end the culture that declares Black life expendable. 

Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene

Billed as ‘the black girl’s bible’, this in an inspirational guide through dating, friendships and success in the workplace for black women. Even though it is aimed at black women I strongly feel that all women would benefit from reading this.

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

Olusoga breaks down the history of the relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean to show how intertwined black and white Britons have been for centuries.


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