Five Must-Read Books by Black Authors

As a part of On the Record’s Black History Month coverage, Editor-in-Chief, Bella Tilford, shares her top five favorite books written by Black authors.


Words by Bella Tilford


The Book of Delights 

Ross Gay

The winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry, “The Book of Delights” is a series of essays, written daily over the span of a year. Each individual essay emphasizes a particular thing that brought author Ross Gay a sense of delight on the day he wrote the essay. This book, which is one of my all-time favorites, shines a spotlight on all the small joys that surround us daily and encourages its readers to look a little closer at the wondrous things, small and large, that happen in their lives.


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

Though this book may seem like a recommendation you would get from your English teacher, as a teen who read this book, Angelou is raved about for good reason. This book tells the story of Angelou’s early years; from her experience growing up Black in the South to her childhood sexual abuse, Angelou dives deep into plenty of difficult, yet engaging topics throughout this book. The book is full of rich prose and insightful commentary. If you have never read Angelou’s writing before, I highly encourage you to try it out.


Black Buck

Mateo Askaripour 

If nonfiction or memoir writing isn’t your style, “Black Buck” offers a funny and lighthearted alternative to the genre. This fictional story follows Darren, a black man from the Bronx, as he attempts to climb social ladders in the world of business. I was originally drawn towards this book simply from the cover. I decided to pick it up and read the first page to see if it was something I’d be interested in reading further. From the first page, I was hooked by Askaripour’s hilarious commentary and characterization. It brings important social issues to light, but in a very digestible way. At its core, the book comments on the American Dream in a new century and the obstacles that hold Black men back in the American workforce. But, on the surface, it is simply an entertaining story with witty commentary that keeps you wanting to read more.


Please Don’t Sit on my Bed in Your Inside Clothes

Phoebe Robinson

Another series of essays (I’ve been reading a ton of these recently), this book is slightly similar to the witty commentary style in “The Book of Delights,” but the humor is turned up ten-fold. Robinson is hilarious and thoughtful. This book explores a variety of topics from her life growing up, to the Black Lives Matter movement, and her struggles in loving her hair. I feel like the quote on the front cover sums it up perfectly: “Strikes the perfect balance of brutally honest and laugh-out-loud funny. I didn’t want it to end,” Mindy Kahling.


Ain’t Burned All the Bright

Jason Reynolds

This is less like a book and more like a gallery. “Ain’t Burned all the Bright” is a compilation of art, poetry, and a variety of other visuals that “viscerally captures what it is to be Black,” (Google Books). It’s sort of similar to a scrapbook, but includes bits and pieces of gripping commentary. Jason Reynolds, named the Library of Congress’s national ambassador for young people’s literature in January 2020, remains one of my favorite authors and speakers ever. He is so intelligent and mindful in all he says. This book is truly unlike anything else I’ve ever read and I would highly recommend it to anyone.