Black Wizards and Lovers and P.I.s, Oh My!

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

In a article titled "The Role Publishing Plays in the Commodification of Black Pain," L.L. McKinney writes, "We know that for every 'issue' book, we need at least five more where we can go on adventures, fall in love, solve mysteries, be heroes, do everyday things like everyone else. Black readers need to see themselves in narratives outside of racism, slavery, Jim Crow, police brutality. As do non-Black readers.” From cozy mysteries to thrillers, science fiction to fantasy, and romance to horror, here we celebrate some of our favorite Black-centered genre fiction.

  • A Deadly inside Scoop

    2020 by Collette, Abby

    Admittedly, deadly isn’t a term that sparks images of joy, but this cozy mystery about Bronwyn and her goal of restoring her family’s ice cream shop to its former glory is about family, friendship, and solving the crime. This novel is funny, full of quirky characters, and draws you in from the first page. Recommended by Mary.

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  • The Plot Is Murder

    2017 by Burns, V. M.

    This is the first book in the series for which the author received an Agatha Award nomination as well as a starred review from Library Journal. The characters are likable, fun, and often feisty. It has everything that fans of cozies love. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Hollywood Homicide

    2017 by Garrett, Kellye

    "A winning first novel and series launch…Garrett writes with humor and insight about the Hollywood scene. Readers will look forward to Day's further adventures." (Publishers Weekly) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • A Spy in the Struggle

    2021 by De León, Aya

    This is high-drama feminist espionage--"a thrilling and timely story of feminism, climate, and corporate justice--as one successful lawyer must decide whether to put everything on the line to right the deep inequities faced in one under-served Bay Area, California community." And there's a bit of romance in there, too. Recommended by Allyson.

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  • August Snow

    2017 by Jones, Stephen Mack

    CrimeReads says, “Detective fiction needs a shot in the arm every now and again. That was the feeling of reading Stephen Mack Jones....The August Snow series is as promising as any crime fiction to come around in a long while." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • And Now She's Gone

    2020 by Hall, Rachel Howzell

    Says Publishers Weekly, "Smart, razor-sharp....Full of wry, dark humor, this nuanced tale of two extraordinary women is un-put-downable." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • When No One Is Watching

    2020 by Cole, Alyssa

    Known for her historical espionage and contemporary royal romance series, Cole makes her first foray into the thriller genre with this twisty page-turner. It's very of-the-moment and will leave you with a lot to think about. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Catherine House

    2020 by Thomas, Elisabeth

    In this Gothic-infused debut of literary suspense, readers are introduced to the seductive world of Catherine House. Publishers Weekly said it best: "Surreal imagery, spare characterization, and artful, hypnotic prose lend Thomas's tale a delirious air, but at the book's core lies a profound portrait of depression and adolescent turmoil." Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • An Unkindness of Ghosts

    2017 by Solomon, Rivers

    This wonderfully imagined literary science fiction is imaginative, devastating, oppressive, and beautiful. AutoStraddle says, "This book is a clear descendent of Octavia Butler's Black science fiction legacy, but grounded in more explicit queerness and neuroatypicality." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • A Blade So Black

    2018 by McKinney, L. L.

    Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give, says, "with memorable characters and page-turning thrills, A Blade So Black is the fantasy book I've been waiting for my whole life. Alice is Black Girl Magic personified." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Children of Blood and Bone

    2018 by Adeyemi, Tomi

    This series opener is popular with critics and readers alike. In a review in The Atlantic, Vann R. Newkirk II said, “The creator of a mythical land called Orïsha, Adeyemi taps into a rich, imaginative lineage as she weaves West African mythology into a bespoke world that resonates with our own." Recommended by Mary.

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  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf

    2019 by James, Marlon

    If you're looking for epic fantasy, you'll enjoy this first of a trilogy (the second and third books are still pending release). It incorporates African mythology, history, and fantasy into an immersive world. Recommended by Louise.

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  • A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby

    2020 by Riley, Vanessa

    With a West Indian heiress in the starring role, "Riley loads her expertly crafted romance with intrigue, droll banter, and steadily building passion. Readers will be hard-pressed to find a flaw in this big-hearted Regency romance." (Publishers Weekly) Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Destiny's Embrace

    2013 by Jenkins, Beverly

    Beverly Jenkins is a pioneer in Black romance, with more than 50 titles. Destiny’s Embrace was the first I read, and I was in awe. I found myself lost in the Old West love story between Mariah, a jilted seamstress seeking escape from her mother’s thumb, and Logan, a cocky ranch owner. You will learn history you likely weren’t taught in school. Pick up Destiny’s Embrace or any other book by Beverly Jenkins. Recommended by Mary.

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  • Royal Holiday

    2019 by Guillory, Jasmine

    Guillory reliably writes such charming romances you can't go wrong with any of them. Of this particular title, Library Reads says, "An irresistible Christmas fantasy about a woman of a certain age who falls for the queen of England's private secretary on a visit to the U.K. Guillory describes Britain well, and it was great to read a popular romance novel starring an older protagonist." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • How to Fail at Flirting

    2020 by Williams, Denise

    This book is such a delight. Says Publishers Weekly, "Williams debuts with a quirky, delightful rom-com. ...Jam-packed with laugh-out-loud banter and heart-fluttering romance, this is a knockout." Recommended by Mary.

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  • Real Men Knit

    2020 by Jackson, K. M.

    Farrah Rochon, herself an author to check out, says, "Kwana Jackson combines everything I look for in a story: family, heart, romance; and knits it into the perfect reading experience." Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Ring Shout

    2020 by Clark, P. Djeli

    Horrifying, entertaining, original, and emotional, this book is even more impressive as an audiobook. Easily one of the best books of 2020 for me. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Lakewood

    2020 by Giddings, Megan

    Publishers Weekly calls this, "Chilling...Giddings is a writer with a vivid imagination and a fresh eye both of the body and of society. This eerie debut provides a deep character study spiked with a dose of horror.” Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Friday Black

    2018 by Adjei-Brenyah, Nana Kwame

    Roxane Gay calls this collection "Dark and captivating and essential...A call to arms and a condemnation...Read this book." Recommended by Allyson.

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