Black History Month: Books

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

For Black History Month, we're highlighting staff-recommended books written by black authors or featuring black characters, for readers of all ages.

  • My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel

    2018 by Braithwaite, Oyinkan

    This book is dark but also funny. It’s a super quick read, so if you’re trying to jump-start your reading for 2020, this is a great place to start! Recommended by Becca.

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  • A Princess in Theory

    2018 by Cole, Alyssa

    Do you like: Steamy romance? Strong, intelligent heroines? Contemporary fairytale-esque romance? Check out Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals series. Recommended by Allyson.

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  • An Extraordinary Union

    2017 by Cole, Alyssa

    Prefer historical romance brimming with espionage? Give Alyssa Cole's Loyal League series a read. Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism

    2018 by Noble, Safiya Umoja

    Media scholar Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines are neutral. I found this book revelatory and a must for anyone curious about how contemporary politics are shaped. Recommended by Mimosa.

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  • Intercepted

    2018 by Martin, Alexa

    A football-centric romance series that is perfectly enjoyable if you are not a football fan and are looking for something to keep you occupied during "the big game." Written by the wife of a formal NFL player, so she has firsthand knowledge! There are currently three books available in the series. Recommended by Becca.

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  • Ghost

    2016 by Reynolds, Jason

    The first book in a four-part series. Reynolds was just named the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2020-2021. We had him here and he couldn’t have been more authentic! Recommended by Shelley.

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  • Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts


    Showcases an exhibition of quilts - arguably the most beautiful in the world - all made by black women, that are "the products of the brilliant originality that lived through the dark eras of slavery and Reconstruction." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Pet

    2019 by Emezi, Akwaeke

    This is an allegorical novel that defies genre. Jam lives in a world that refuses to acknowledge that monsters exist, but just because you don't acknowledge them doesn't mean they aren't there. A quick, powerful read. Recommended by Becca.

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  • American Spy: A Novel

    2018 by Wilkinson, Lauren

    A highly engaging spy novel and a beautiful character study of a woman navigating danger and political machinations. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Elijah of Buxton

    2007 by Curtis, Christopher Paul

    A beautifully written story told by Elijah, age eleven, who was the first free-born person in Buxton, a Canadian town in southwest Ontario that was a refuge for fleeing slaves. Elijah's voice is perfect, there's lots of humor, and one of the most poignant scenes at the end of the book (which actually still gives me chills) is when Elijah comes face to face with slavery. Just gorgeous. Recommended by Mary.

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  • Lagoon

    2015 by Okorafor, Nnedi

    This dystopian disaster story hits all the right notes with a biologist hero, a rapper, and a soldier on the run making waves - literally. Recommended by Mimosa.

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  • The Belles

    2018 by Clayton, Dhonielle

    The Selection meets Hunger Games. Marie Antoinette with magic - a world of darkness masked within a world of beauty. Recommended by Becca.

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  • A Hungry Heart: A Memoir

    2005 by Parks, Gordon

    About the life of a polymath and revolutionary. Recommended by Adam.

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  • The Fifth Season

    2015 by Jemisin, N. K.

    The first book in an amazing science fiction/fantasy trilogy that takes on issues of empathy, power, oppression, and resistance in a beautifully written dystopian world. Wow! Recommended by Shelley.

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  • Every Day Is for the Thief: Fiction

    2014 by Cole, Teju

    Part photo essay, part fictionalized memoir, and so much longing for what home could be when you're in between so many types of Black diaspora. Recommended by Mimosa.

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  • Dread Nation

    2018 by Ireland, Justina

    What if the Civil War never officially ended, because dead soldiers started rising up from the battlefields as zombies? Read it now! Recommended by Becca.

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  • Ninth Ward

    2010 by Rhodes, Jewell Parker

    Rhodes has written a lot, but this one is my favorite. The story of a young girl during and after Hurricane Katrina. Also a great audiobook. Recommended by Shelley.

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  • Girl, Woman, Other

    2019 by Evaristo, Bernardine

    A beautiful, intertwined, highly-readable story of 12 women and their black, British experience. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Collected Essays

    1998 by Baldwin, James

    In true Library of America style, you get the greatest hits, plus all the deep cuts. Every single page is packed with insight. Recommended by Adam.

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  • If You Plant A Seed

    2015 by Nelson, Kadir

    The pictures are stunning, and the message of sowing kindness, even when it is hard or feels unfair, is a big and important one for all of us. Recommended by Caitlin.

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  • Homegoing

    2016 by Gyasi, Yaa

    This book blew my mind. I know this is cheating, but I’m going to steal a quote from Marie Claire that is better at putting words to what I experienced: “[A] commanding debut… will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. When people talk about all the things fiction can teach its readers, they’re talking about books like this.” Recommended by Vanessa.

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  • New Kid

    2019 by Craft, Jerry

    Perfect for fans of Raina Telegemeier and Gen Luen Yang. This is the story of Jordan Banks, who is trying to find his place in his new school (which is NOT the art school he had hoped to attend.) My favorite parts of this book are the "peeks" into Jordan’s sketchbook where he draws comics based on all of the things that are happening in his life. Recommended by Becca.

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  • Patsy: A Novel

    2019 by Dennis-Benn, Nicole

    One of the best things I read in 2019 was this novel. I loved the juxtapositioning between Tru's life in Jamaica, wondering where her mother Patsy is, and Patsy's trials in New York City, keeping a light aloft for the loves never realized. Recommended by Mimosa.

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  • The Book of Delights

    2019 by Gay, Ross

    Charming, poetic, playful, and thoughtful, but mainly, an oh-so-delightful collection of short, inspirational essays. Recommended by Megan.

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  • From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America

    2016 by Hinton, Elizabeth Kai

    It isn’t a fun read, but it was extremely important, and surprising, and disturbing, for me to learn just how much racism was intentionally baked into our criminal justice system. The author covers the time from Johnson’s War on Poverty as setting the stage through Reagan’s War on Drugs, and she shows how this system gradually created the mass incarceration situation we are in today. Recommended by Christie.

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  • Blended

    2018 by Draper, Sharon M.

    Draper introduces Isabella, an eleven-year-old girl who feels pulled apart, straddling two worlds. Stuck between her well-to-do black father and struggling white mother, feeling ostracized by classmates and strangers who ask rude, insensitive questions, Isabella struggles with her own identity. Where, and to whom, does she belong? This book is at times devastating, relatable, funny, and thought-provoking, and ultimately gives us a main character to love and root for every step of the way. Recommended by Caitlin.

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  • The Parker Inheritance

    2018 by Johnson, Varian

    The Westing Game for modern times. A decades-old mystery with millions of dollars at stake and two kids determined to solve it before the summer’s end. Great for fans of Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Recommended by Becca.

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  • An American Marriage

    2018 by Jones, Tayari

    Engrossing, operatic, tragic, and fun: I found myself rooting for all three corners of this love triangle as they continued to be at odds with each other. Recommended by Mimosa.

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  • Their Eyes Were Watching God

    2000 by Hurston, Zora Neale

    It’s everything a literary masterpiece should be. And I think, at novel’s end, after Janie Crawford has told her life story, readers will share Phoeby Watson’s reaction, “’Lawd!’ Phoeby breathed out heavily, “Ah done growed ten feet higher from jus’ listenin’ tuh you, Janie.” Recommended by Mike.

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  • The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion


    I adored this bold, stunning look at the ways young black photographers are merging fashion and photography to create an entirely new language for what is considered beautiful and aesthetically vital. Recommended by Mimosa.

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  • The Underground Railroad: A Novel

    2016 by Whitehead, Colson

    Best use of magical realism ever, in my honest opinion. Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Recommended by Shelley.

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  • Kindred

    2003 by Butler, Octavia E.

    A classic science fiction time travel story taking its readers into the depths of the Antebellum South. Powerful! Recommended by Megan.

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  • Another

    2019 by Robinson, Christian

    A brave little girl awakens to see her cat escaping through a bright portal in the wall, so obviously she has to follow him. What follows is a whimsical journey, inside out, around, up, down, and through - her stoic cat always leading the way, until they are home again. And everything is as it should be. Probably. Recommended by Caitlin.

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  • The First Part Last

    2003 by Johnson, Angela

    This is a spare, beautiful book about Bobby, a sixteen-year-old father, living in New York City and the struggles he faces as he tries to be a good parent to his baby girl, Feather, while surviving high school. Recommended by Jarrett.

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  • Kara Walker: Narratives of A Negress

    2003 by Walker, Kara Elizabeth

    This book is a survey of one of the many compelling ways Walker presents visions of abject horror through accessible means. Recommended by Adam.

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  • Get A Life, Chloe Brown: A Novel

    2019 by Hibbert, Talia

    A sweet, realistic romance that had the most adorable, flirty relationship. I love Red and Chloe and loved how their past hurts influenced but didn’t derail their new relationship. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • The Proposal

    2018 by Guillory, Jasmine

    I love everything by Jasmine Guillory, although I think this is my favorite. From an incredibly memorable opening, to great sizzling chemistry between the main characters, to tremendous supporting characters, it’s just a great romance-forward read. Recommended by Amy.

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  • The Bluest Eye

    2000 by Morrison, Toni

    My favorite Morrison novel tells the story from the point of view of a young girl who wants blue eyes, which she believes will make her noticeable and beautiful. Touching and so very sweet, Morrison’s poignant words fill the pages with heart and soul. Recommended by Cecilia.

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  • The Beast

    2003 by Myers, Walter Dean

    The late Walter Dean Myers remains one of the greatest writers for youth in American history. This book - about addiction, privilege, racial identity, questions of home, and what we owe our friends in their darkest times - is Myers at his most openly vulnerable, meditative, and assured. Recommended by Jarrett.

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  • Angels Landing

    2012 by Alers, Rochelle

    Charming, sweet and sexy real estate love story set in a Lowcountry. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Parker Looks up: An Extraordinary Moment

    2019 by Curry, Parker

    Parker is truly an inspiration! In one extraordinary moment, she sees someone who reminds her of other important but familiar people, envisions a world of amazing possibilities for her future, and then shares her story with others so they can do the same. Recommended by Lori.

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  • Another Country

    2013 by Baldwin, James

    Baldwin had the uncanny ability to delve so deeply in the psyches of his characters that his fiction is often shocking to read. No American author, save for Toni Morrison in my opinion, has ever written so deeply from the unconscious where trauma lives and breathes its fire. Recommended by Jarrett.

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