Summer Reading List
June 19, 2015 11:11 AM   Subscribe

22 Books by Black Authors to Add to Your Beach Bag this Summer In response to recently published summer reading lists from The New York Times and NPR that featured mostly White authors, Blavity shares a list of 22 summer reads from Black authors.

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward (2014), Memoir
Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow (2014), Memoir
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock (2014), Memoir
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014), Essays
‘Til the Well Runs Dry: A Novel by Lauren Francis-Sharma (2014), Fiction
Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of America’s Universities by Craig Steven Wilder (2014), Nonfiction
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014), Poetry
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon (2013), Nonfiction, Essays
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (2014), Fiction
Buck: A Memoir by M.K. Asante (2014), Memoir
All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu (2014), Fiction
Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland (2014), Memoir
Jam on the Vine: A Novel by LaShonda Katrice Barnett (2015), Historical Fiction
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (2014), Historical Fiction
Ruby by Cynthia Bond (2015), Fiction
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013), Fiction
Vintage Black Glamour by Nichelle Gainer (2014), Photography, Historical
God Help the Child: A Novel by Toni Morrison (2015), Fiction
Meaty: Essays by Samantha Irby (2013), Nonfiction Essays
Forty Acres: A Thriller by Dwayne Alexander Smith (2014), Fiction
The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by
Tamara Winfrey Harris (July 7, 2015), Nonfiction
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (September 8, 2015), Nonfiction, Memoir
posted by aka burlap (16 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
To add to that list: Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead (or anything by him really)
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:28 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Damnit, I was all excited about a new TNC book but it's from the future :(
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:58 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the last two are "coming soon" inclusions. More fall beach reading, really...
posted by aka burlap at 12:05 PM on June 19, 2015

To further add: Delicious Foods by James Hanahan is kind of amazing.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:35 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Big +1 for the inclusion of Dinaw Mengestu. As far as Adichie is concerned, I know Americanah is getting all the buzz, but Half of a Yellow Sun absolutely floored me.
posted by mykescipark at 12:42 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

The New Yorker's What We're Reading This Summer is deliciously pretentious, but also less monochromatic than one might expect.
posted by chavenet at 12:47 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

That's a great list! I just added Ebony and Ivy to my own reading list.

I'd add/recommend these 2015 releases from black authors:

The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Incisive, funny, tragic, and it packs such a punch in every sentence. I really loved his voice, and I wasn't surprised to find after reading it that Beatty's a poet.

Disgruntled by Asali Solomon. Emotionally rich and beautifully detailed. Her treatment of girlhood and adulthood and the mix of the two reminded me of Alice Munro.

The Abduction of Smith and Smith by Rashad Harrison. Adventure and plots and counterplots and survival on the high seas and revenge and freedom and asdfkjk I can't believe this book seems to be flying under the radar, when it's both fun and thoughtful. Definitely a good summer read.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 1:08 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had the opportunity to hear Bennett (Jam on the Vine) speak at the Tennessee Williams Writers' Festival in New Orleans and she was fabulous -- funny and soft-spoken but clearly very, very passionate about not just telling the story she wanted to write, but informing readers about the long and important history of the black press. It was a section of history I'd never even heard about before, and now I can't wait to read her novel.

She was there with another WoC writer of note: Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar, which also sounds excellent.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:09 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the span of four years, Jesmyn lost five beloved young men in her life, including her brother, to drugs, accidents, murder and suicide. Set in her hometown of DeLisle, Mississippi, Jesmyn’s memoir grapples with the harsh reality that these men died as a result of their identities and because their lives were rooted in a history that pitted them against racism and economic disadvantage.

I think Blavity and I have significantly different definitions of "summer beach reading."

Though to be fair, there was nothing at all on the NYT list that interested me, and I fully agree with the attempts to address it's white-centricness. Not so sure that the NPR list is as egregious ... this was just one episode on six books that were 'under the radar.' Their main book review page seems more inclusive (at least on first look).

I'm definitely enjoying the recs in this thread, at least!
posted by kanewai at 1:52 PM on June 19, 2015

An Untamed State is the best book I've read all year, in a year of great reading. Not for the faint of heart; the subject matter is terrifying and the narrator does not look away or pull punches. (As good as it was, I'm probably not going to go back and re-read it in a hurry.)
posted by duffell at 2:02 PM on June 19, 2015

Glad to see Janet Mock's Redefining Realness on here, it was so great.
posted by mr. manager at 2:52 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think Blavity and I have significantly different definitions of "summer beach reading."

Yeah. I would recommend Beverly Jenkins's historical romances if you're into that sort of thing. Sometimes I just want a happy ending (and in the event I go to the beach, that'd be one of those times.)

There are definitely some things in this thread that look like my thing, though, so thanks!
posted by asperity at 5:46 PM on June 19, 2015

No Paul Beatty? there should be Paul Beatty.
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:31 PM on June 19, 2015

Thanks for this - I'm trying to read more diversely this year but haven't got good sources for recommendations lined up efficiently yet.

In a more 'beach reading' vibe than 'serious literature' tip, I enjoyed Moonlight by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Vampire-hunter turned sufragette in 1920's New York, with good fight scenes and a bit of kissing. Fun but not dumb.
posted by harriet vane at 10:52 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]




Your purchase helps support Black Girl Dangerous, which "seeks to, in as many ways possible, amplify the voices, experiences and expressions of queer and trans* people of color." Also, it's an incredible book debut from writer Mia McKenzie, powerful and heartbreaking with enough redemption to give you hope for the future.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:51 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Walter Mosley writes great summer time reading: both his detective mysteries and his more philosophical/metaphysical novels. Enjoy!
posted by Mesaverdian at 5:07 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

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