We’re coming to the end of Black History Month and our tribute to books and authors. So what better way to wrap things up than to offer our picks for the top 10 Black authors you should be reading.
No, this is not a comprehensive list – we keep telling you 10 choices is not enough to quantify that – of the best of all-time or a guide to who sold the most books.
It’s a list of the authors who have contributed to the culture in meaningful ways or who’ve been particularly prolific (we’re looking at you, Walter Mosley) or have careers that have shown longevity and/or promise although they may not be as well-known as some of the classic household names.
Here’s our Top 10 Black authors:
Born: Baltimore, MD.
Books: 3 (and a stint writing the Black Panther comic books)
National Book Award for Non-Fiction for Between The World And Me, 2015
Recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, 2015
After years of struggle, Coates bloomed as a writer for The Atlantic. His article “The Case For Reparations” put him on the map and his book Between The World and Me cemented him as one of the young Black lions of writing. His latest, We Were Eight Years in Power:An American Tragedy is composed of essays about and written during the Obamas’ 8 years in the White House.
Born: DeLisle, Mississippi
National Book Award For Fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing 2017
National Book Award Winner For Fiction for Salvage The Bones 2011
Recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, 2017
Ward’s work frequently takes her back to her hometown and its people. Her book Men We Reaped about the deaths of five of the most important men in her life, is a favorite of Terry McMillan’s.
Born: Point Heron, Michigan
Books: 11, including the bestselling Waiting To Exhale
McMillan, now 66, spearheaded the Black book movement by making contemporary Black fiction marketable. Her 1992 book Waiting to Exhale and the 1995 film starring Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston, helped usher in a new era for both Black authors and the viability of Black women’s voices. Four of McMillan’s books have been turned into films.
Born: Memphis, Tennessee
Books: 33 (including anthologies)
Perhaps the most prolific of the contemporary Black fiction writers, in recent years, Dickey has focused mostly on noir thrillers.
Born: Atlanta, Georgia
Books: 4, including An American Marriage, the current selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club. Jones’ work focuses mostly on Black families and how they interact and impact each other and the larger world.
Born: Pasadena, California
Recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant 1995
Nebula Award For Best Novel Parable Of The Sower 1994
The preeminent writer of sci-fi where Black women are the central characters, Butler’s work may be revitalized as Ava DuVernay is adapting her novel, Dawn, for television.
Born: Ngugu State, Nigeria
Recipient of a McArthur “Genius” Grant 2008
National Book Critics Circle Award 2013 for Americanah
Best known outside of the literary world as providing the ‘feminist’ soundbite on the song “Flawless” as part of Beyonce’s self-titled album. Her book Americanah is being made into a movie starring Black Panther‘s Lupita Nyong’o and Selma’s David Oyelowo.
Born: Los Angeles, CA
Best known for the Easy Rawlins detective series, Mosley has joined the pantheon of hard-boiled mystery writers that up until his era, have mostly been white. His book Devil In A Blue Dress was made into a film starring Denzel Washington as Easy.
Books: 49, including a graphic novel with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby of Marvel fame, a young adult book, some non-fiction books and some erotica books.
Named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 2016
Born: Detroit, Michigan
Awards: 3 NAACP Image Awards For Outstanding Literary Work Non-Fiction (2004, 2006, 2007) one American Book Award 2007 for Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina And The Color of Disaster
Dyson is likely the nation’s best-known and most prolific African-American writer of non-fiction covering everything from Martin Luther King and Hurricane Katrina to the lives and works of Tupac and Nas. The verbose writer, scholar and reverend remains a television fixture as well.
Born: Oscar, Louisiana
Gaines is the reigning elder of American Black literature. At 85, he’s written three books now considered classics The Autobiography of Ms. Jane Pittman, A Gathering of Old Men and A Lesson Before Dying. All three books were adapted for TV. A winner of multiple fiction awards, there is now an award, The Ernest J. Gaines Award For Literary Excellence, named after him. There is also an Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
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