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

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

In a article entitled "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 favorites.

  • Body and Soul Food

    2021 by Collette, Abby

    If you have a taste for culinary cozies, be sure to add this first installment in the "Books and Biscuits" series to your reading menu. Twins Keaton and Koby make a terrific sleuthing team, and their combined bookstore/soul food cafe is the ideal backdrop for a baffling whodunit. For more delights, try Abby Colette’s "Ice Cream Parlor" mysteries. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Dead Dead Girls

    2021 by Afia, Nekesa

    Put this promising debut historical mystery, set in 1926 Harlem, on your radar. I enjoyed the author's attention to details of the time and place, LGBTQIA themes, and a new brilliant female amateur detective. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Ace of Spades

    2021 by Àbíké-Íyímídé, Faridah

    This intense thriller captivated me right from the first page. With unexpected twists and turns, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The Get Out vibes are real, strong, and frankly disturbing. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Razorblade Tears

    2021 by Cosby, S. A.

    After reading two books by S.A. Cosby, I feel comfortable saying that he is one of the best pulp writers of his generation. His plot may hit the predictable story beats, but the unforced exploration of race, class, and masculinity, and the emotional punch of Cosby's writing, raise it far above the hardboiled pack. Recommended by Andrew.

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  • All Her Little Secrets

    2021 by Morris, Wanda M.

    I really liked this smart, page turning, legal thriller. Its sharp social commentary on racism and sexism adds a layer to an already gripping plot that fans of John Grisham and other legal thrillers would enjoy. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • The Conductors

    2021 by Glover, Nicole

    With a lot of cool magic at the center, taking place in post-Civil War Philadelphia, The Conductors is an ideal science fiction read for mystery-loving history buffs. Hetty Rhodes, who uses her unique skills to investigate mysterious incidents, is a very interesting character, and I can’t wait to see where this new series goes next. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • The City We Became

    2020 by Jemisin, N. K.

    I don't think anything else I read this year was as flat-out fun as this rollicking magical realist adventure story in which six random people learn that they now embody different aspects of New York City--which is about to "become". Jemisin slyly folds critiques of gentrification, institutional racism, and the toxic yet inevitable H.P. Lovecraft into the tale without ever feeling preachy. I'm eager to see what the rest of the trilogy brings. Recommended by Andrew.

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  • Beasts of Prey

    2021 by Gray, Ayana

    A refreshing fantasy quest that is steeped in rich Pan-African mythology. I loved getting lost in the Greater Jungle. I am looking forward to seeing how Koffi and Ekkon get out of danger as the stakes get higher and possibly fall in love. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Act Your Age, Eve Brown

    2021 by Hibbert, Talia

    We thought this book was absolutely adorable. It had all the things that we wanted in a romance: great characters, humor, heart, and steam. Recommended by Becca and Rummanah.

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  • The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes

    2021 by Axelrod, Xio

    Making a name for herself in Philadelphia's indie scene, musician Antonia "Toni" Bennett (yes she has heard all the jokes) auditions for the hottest new band in the country, The Lillys. Doing so brings her face-to-face with the boy, Seb, who broke her heart and nearly stole her dreams many years ago. If you like second-chance romances about former childhood friends, you will love this book as much as I did. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • The Dating Playbook

    2021 by Rochon, Farrah

    I love a good fake relationship story, and The Dating Playbook nails the trope. Both characters want the real thing, but realistic issues keep them apart--or do they? Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Bitter Root: Volume 3, Issue 11-15, Legacy

    2021 by Walker, David

    I absolutely loved the concept of this smart graphic novel series: Something is infecting people and making them into monsters. The source? Racism. I highly recommend reading the excellent essays found in the back matter to fully appreciate the brilliance of blending history, horror, and dark fantasy. Recommended by Rummanah.

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