Black History Month Reading List
Outside reading is a key part of college prep, and in honor of Black History Month, we’re encouraging students to add to their outside reading list by exploring books written by black authors. From novels to memoirs, diversify your independent reading list by adding new genres to your selection of must-read books.
Independent reading is a win-win for students who are getting ready to apply to college: picking up a book will encourage you to remain academically engaged while exploring texts that will expand your worldview and expose you to a wide variety of voices and experiences. Reading in general can also help students find their own voice when it comes time to pen their own personal statements and essays. Here are some of our top picks written by black authors to add to your outside reading list this month and all year long.
If Maya Angelou is one of your favorite authors, you can’t miss her autobiography about her childhood. The first of seven books Angelou published about her own life, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings explores how strength of character and a love of books helped her survive racism and trauma. With a theme of self-empowerment against incredible odds, this unforgettable book will inspire audiences to dig deep and explore their fullest potential.
Heavy is a searing and honest memoir of growing up black in America that is both thought-provoking and poignant. Laymon talks about familial relationships, eating disorders, confusion, abuse, and his complicated and unconditional love for his mother. Memoirs and autobiographies can also be an excellent opportunity for students to explore the power that comes with telling their own story and finding their own voice.
If you’re a fan of complex love stories, An American Marriage should be at the top of your list. The novel tells the story of two newlyweds who are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. When one of the main characters is arrested and sentenced to twelve years in prison, his wife must pick up the pieces and cope with a separation that is entirely beyond her control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward into the future.
Author Angie Thomas tells the story of a fatal shooting of a black unarmed teenager, Khalil, at the hands of the police. The story is told in the voice of his best friend, Starr, and follows her experience before, during, and after the shooting. The Hate U Give explores how this event rocks the community and affects her family in unimaginable ways. It is a story of racism and fear, but also of childhood friendship and love.
Between the World and Me is a nonfiction book written as a letter to the author’s teenage son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the US. Coates draws from an abridged, autobiographical account of his youth in Baltimore, detailing the ways in which institutions like the school, the police, and even “the streets” discipline, endanger, and threaten to disembody black men and women. Between the World and Me is a New York Times bestseller, a National Book Award Winner, and one of Time’s Ten Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade.
Take time this month and all year long to expand your literary horizons by incorporating more black authors into your outside reading and seeking out other books that offer differing experiences and voices. For more outside reading suggestions, check out our other blog posts and additional KnowledgeBase Resources.