While culturally rewarding, being a Black man in America comes with an understanding that there will always be a battle to explain and validate yourself in who you are and the codes by which you operate. Reading the experiences of Black men and being open to the vulnerabilities expressed though literature is a great entry way to bridging the gap and starting necessary conversations.
Here are 10 amazing books written by Black men that everyone should read:
1. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
James Baldwin uses this book to speak to his young nephew about the intricacies of Black manhood. He explains what may happen and suggests the application of grace in his nephews approach when dealing with racial intolerance.
2. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
In Giovanni’s room, James Baldwin speaks from the perspective if a gay man who has troubles coming to terms with his sexuality, even after tragedy. Baldwin takes us through the journey of what it’s like to be a person in search of answers to questions about himself that he already knows but doesn’t quite understand.
3. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiesse Laymon
This is a very modern, and vulnerable memoir of a writer and professor and his upbringing in the southern parts of the country in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. In Heavy, Laymon discusses his toxic relationship with is mother and his body and how that toxicity carried him into his adulthood. I LOVED this book.
4. Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates
In this very short book, Coates writes to his son following the Trayvon Martin case, right before the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. He’s explaining to his son what to expect growing up as a Black man and offers advice on how to handle difficult situations. This book is a must read for everyone—no matter what race or demographic.
Non- Fiction Essay
5. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
This book talks about a man’s migration to Harlem from the Deep South where he was made to fight other Black men for entertainment. This story is about a man regaining his freedom in a time where the rest of the world told him he was already free.
6. Native Son by Richard Wright
In Native Son, Richard Wright talks about a young Bigger Thomas who had grown up poor and disenfranchised. When given the job he needed to help his family, he finds himself in a very unfortunate situation. This is a classic. Read this book before you go see one of the 3 movies made about it (by the way, my favorite movie was the one with Oprah as co-star)
7. Yo Mama’s Disfunktional by Robin DG Kelley
In this book, Kelley discusses class and the implications of class in the Black community. This book is highly relevant in todays society and or common day-to-day interactions among ourselves and with the world.
8. Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover investigations of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth
This book details the true accounts of a detective who went undercover as a new member of the Ku Klux Klan. He goes into detail about his experience what he learned from it. This book was turned into a movie Directed by Spike Lee in 2018.
9. Friday Black By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
This book is, hands down, one of the best books I have read in a long time. This is a collection of short stories (some dystopian, some magical realism) that place the issues of society under some type of distorted, satirical microscope that forces the reader to look at society with much deserved skepticism. If you like the Netflix series Black Mirror, you will absolutely love this.
Fiction Short Story Collection
10. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
This is a classic must-own in everyone’s library. In this book, W.E.B Du Bois studies the sociological implications of slavery on the black community. Although this was written in 1903, this book’s analysis on black culture and its origins are still relevant today.
These are just a few among many. Have you read any of these? Any of these on you to-be-read list? What are your favorite books by Black men? Leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts!
As always—Indulge Endlessly.