If your favorite isn’t included in this list, please include it in the comments! Descriptions in italics provided by the publishers.
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2013 National Book Critics Circle Award, 2014 Women’s Prize Finalist
Separated by differing ambitions after falling in love in occupied Nigeria, beautiful Ifemelu experiences triumph and defeat in America, while Obinze endures an undocumented status in London until the pair is reunited in their homeland fifteen years later.
by Samuel Delany
1967 Nebula Award for Best Novel
Rydra Wong, a poet and code expert, must break an enemy government's code, but discovers that the code is really a supersophisticated language.
Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
by Danielle Evans
2011 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction
Fearless, funny, and ultimately tender, Evans's stories offer a bold new perspective on the experience of being young and African-American or mixed-race in modern-day America.
by Toni Morrison
1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1988 American Book Award
Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993
Sethe, an escaped slave living in post-Civil War Ohio with her daughter and mother-in-law, is persistently haunted by the ghost of her dead baby girl.
by Alain Mabanckou
2018 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction
Three orphans in 1970s Africa escape their orphanage to the busy port town of Pointe-Noire where they form a gang of petty thieves and become part of the underworld.
A Brief History of Seven Killings
by Marlon James
2015 Booker Prize, 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, 2015 American Book Award
A novel framed as a fictional oral history that explores the events and characters surrounding the attempted assassination of Bob Marley during the political turmoil on Jamaica in the late 1970s
Brown Girl in the Ring
by Nalo Hopkinson
1999 Locus Award for Best First Novel, 1999 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
When the rich and privileged leave the city behind, barricaded behind roadblocks, the people of the inner city must adopt the old ways of farming, barter, and herb lore, but when the monied need a harvest of bodies, one girl bargains with the gods and gives birth to new legends.
by John A. Williams
1983 American Book Award
At lunch in a restaurant on the East Side, Cato Douglas, a Black novelist, learns that Paul Cummings, a white Jewish novelist and a friend for thirty years, has just committed suicide.
The Color Purple
by Alice Walker
1983 National Book Award, 1983 Pulitzer Prize
This is the story of two sisters-one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South-who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence.
by John Keene
2016 American Book Award
Summoning slavery and witchcraft, a beguiling collection of novellas and stories, spanning the 17th century to the present and crossing multiple continents, draws upon memoirs, detective stories, interrogation transcripts and more to create new and strange perspectives on our past and present.
Crossing the River
by Caryl Phillips
1993 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 1993 Booker Finalist
Follows the lives of three African siblings, beginning with their imprisonment on an English slave ship in 1753 and continuing through the struggles of their descendants.
by JJ Amaworo Wilson
2017 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction
Damnificados is loosely based on the real-life occupation of a half-completed skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, the Tower of David. In this fictional version, 600 "damnificados"-vagabonds and misfits-take over an abandoned urban tower and set up a community complete with schools, stores, beauty salons, bakeries, and a rag-tag defensive militia.
Devil in a Blue Dress
by Walter Mosley
1991 Shamus Award for Best First P. I. Novel
Easy Rawlins, a tough World War II veteran and detective is hired by a financier and gangster to locate Daphne Monet, a search that leads him from elegant board meetings to the raucous jazz joints of late forties Los Angeles.
by James Alan McPherson
1978 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Twelve stories explore the borders between black and white America as they are crossed and known by students and Peace Corps volunteers of the 1960s, failed preachers, young punks, jealous lovers, and others.
The Famished Road
by Ben Okri
1991 Booker Prize Winner
As his parents struggle to put food on the table, Azaro, a little boy living in the ghetto of an African city during British colonial rule, battles the evil spirits who are tempting him.
The Fifth Season
by N. K. Jemisin
2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel
Followed by sequels The Obelisk Gate (Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2017) and The Stone Sky (Hugo Award for Best Novel 2018), Jemisin is the only author to have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in three consecutive years.
After the empire Sanze collapses and the vast continent Stillness becomes ravaged by a red rift which darkens the sky, Essun, whose daughter has been kidnapped by her murderous husband, crosses Stillness in a desperate attempt to save her daughter.
The Good Lord Bird
by James McBride
2013 National Book Award
Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.
by Esi Edugyan
2011 Giller Prize, Booker Finalist, 2012 Women’s Prize Finalist, 2013 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction
Sid, the only one to witness his bandmate's disappearance at the hands of the Gestapo, breaks his silence on the incident over fifty years later when the men are reunited at a documentary premiere.
The Heart of Redness
by Zakes Mda
2001 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction, 2001 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
In The Heart of Redness Zakes Mda sets a story of South African village life against a notorious episode from the country's past. The result is a novel of great scope and deep human feeling, of passion and reconciliation.
Here Comes the Sun
by Nicole Dennis-Benn
2017 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction
Working as a prostitute near the pristine beaches and turquoise seas of Jamaica to pay for a younger sister's education, Margot hopes that a new hotel that is reshaping her home will grant her financial independence and allow her to pursue a forbidden affair with another woman.
by Yaa Gyasi
2016 National Book Critics John Leonard Award for a best first book in any genre, 2017 American Book Award
Two half-sisters, unknown to each other, are born into different villages in 18th-century Ghana and experience profoundly different lives and legacies throughout subsequent generations marked by wealth, slavery, war, coal mining, the Great Migration and the realities of 20th-century Harlem.
I Am Not Sidney Poitier: A Novel
by Percival Everett
2010 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction
The novel follows the life of a young man named Not Sidney Poitier, after he was orphaned at age eleven and inherited a staggering number of shares in the Turner Broadcasting Corporation.
by Ralph Ellison
1953 National Book Award
An African-American man's search for success and the American dream leads him out of college to Harlem and a growing sense of personal rejection and social invisibility.
The Known World
by Edward P. Jones
2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award, 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
When a plantation proprietor and former slave--now possessing slaves of his own--dies, his household falls apart in the wake of a slave rebellion and corrupt underpaid patrollers who enable free black people to be sold into slavery.
A Lesson Before Dying
by Ernest J. Gaines
1993 National Book Critics Circle Award
In 1948 Louisiana, a young teacher is asked to impart some of his own pride and learning to a young Black man awaiting execution, only to come face to face with his own cynicism and hopelessness.
The Living Blood
by Tananarive Due
2002 American Book Award
Struggling to rebuild her life after the disappearance of her husband and the death of her oldest daughter, Jessica discovers that her other daughter has inherited her father's immortality, so she sets out for Africa in search of guidance.
Man Gone Down
by Michael Thomas
2009 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Approaching his thirty-fifth birthday estranged from his white Boston Brahmin wife and three children, an impoverished African-American construction worker evaluates his inner-city Boston childhood, the abuses he suffered at the hands of his parents, and the disparity between the promise of his intellectual potential and his real-world achievements.
The Memory of Love
by Aminatta Forna
2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best Book, 2011 Women’s Prize Finalist
While a gifted young surgeon is haunted by memories of the civil war that has decimated his Sierra Leone home, a patient relates disturbing stories about the post-colonial years and a well-intentioned British psychologist draws all of them into the path of an enigmatic woman.
by Charles Johnson
1990 National Book Award
In 1830, seeking to escape an unwanted marriage, Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave, becomes a stowaway aboard "The Republic," unaware that the ship is a slave clipper bound for West Africa.
The Moor's Account
by Laila Lalami
2015 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, 2015 American Book Award
In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America--a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record.
by Helen Oyeyemi
2012 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction
Fairy-tale romances end with a wedding, and the fairy tales don't get complicated. In this book, the celebrated writer Mr. Fox can't stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels, and neither can his wife, Daphne. It's not until Mary, his muse, comes to life and transforms him from author into subject that his story begins to unfold differently.
by Tsitsi Dangarembga
1989 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
Nervous Conditions brings to the politics of decolonization theory the energy of women's rights. By now a classic in African literature and Black women's literature internationally, Nervous Conditions is a must for anyone wanting to understand voice, memory, and coming of age for young Black women in Africa.
Parable of the Talents
by Octavia E. Butler
2000 Nebula Award for Best Novel
Laura Olamina's daughter, Larkin, describes the broken and alienated world of 2032, as war racks the North American continent and an ultra-conservative religious crusader becomes president.
The Perfect Nanny
by Leïla Slimani
2016 Prix Goncourt
After a French couple finds a too-good-to-be-true nanny to care for their two children, the relationship between the couple and the nanny soon becomes full of jealousy, resentment, and suspicion.
by John Edgar Wideman
1991 American Book Award, 1991 PEN/Faulkner Award
At once personal and political, this novel about being Black and male in white America depicts an unyielding core of individual resistance and demonstrates with tragic immediacy how America's mixed signals foster false hopes.
The Salt Eaters
by Toni Cade Bambara
1981 American Book Award
As she sits in an infirmary and is questioned by a faith healer, Velma Henry probes her reasons for attempting to commit suicide, and the healing that takes place affects the lives of her town's Black inhabitants.
Say You're One of Them
by Uwem Akpan
2009 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction
Each story in this jubilantly acclaimed collection pays testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing circumstances.
by Paul Beatty
2016 Booker Prize, 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award
After his down-trodden hometown is removed from the map of California to save the state further embarrassment, a young man undertakes a course of action to draw attention to the town, resulting in a racially charged trial that sends him to the Supreme Court.
Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward
2017 National Book Award for Fiction, 2018 Women’s Prize Finalist
Living with his grandparents and sister on a Gulf Coast farm, Jojo navigates the challenges of his mother's addictions and his grandmother's cancer before the release of his father from prison prompts a road trip of danger and hope.
by Andrea Levy
2004 Women’s Prize, 2004 Whitbread Book of the Year, 2005 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
At the end of World War II the Joseph family arrives in London from Jamaica and Queenie, their white landlady, befriends them, until her racist husband, Bernard, arrives home from the front.
The Summer We Got Free
by Mia McKenzie
2012 Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Debut Fiction
At one time a wild young girl and a brilliant artist, Ava Delaney changes dramatically after a violent event that rocks her entire family. Once loved and respected in their community and in their church, the Delaneys are ostracized by their neighbors, led by their church leader, and a seventeen-year feud ensues.
The Talented Ribkins
by Ladee Hubbard
2018 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction
In a family gifted with superpowers, patriarch Johnny Ribkins, who can make precise maps of any space, finds himself racing the clock to dig up the loot he's stashed across Florida in order to repay his mobster boss for what he stole.
Three Strong Women
by Marie Ndiaye
2009 Prix Goncourt
Follows the stories of three women who discover the power of saying no, including a lawyer who must save a victim of her tyrannical father, a Dakar teacher whose happiness is thwarted by a depressed boyfriend, and a penniless widow desperate to escape homelessness.
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
2016 National Book Award, 2017 Pulitzer Prize, Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction
After Cora, a slave in pre-Civil War Georgia, escapes with another slave, Caesar, they seek the help of the Underground Railroad as they flee from state to state and try to evade a slave catcher, Ridgeway, who is determined to return them to the South.
Under the Tongue
by Yvonne Vera
1997 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
Adolescent Zhizha has lost the will to speak. In lyrical fragments, Vera relates the story of Zhizha's parents, and the horrifying events that led to her mother's imprisonment and her father's death.
Under the Udala Trees
by Chinelo Okparanta
2016 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction
A young Nigerian girl, displaced during their civil war, begins a powerful love affair with another refugee girl from a different ethnic community until the pair are discovered and must learn the cost of living a lie amidst taboos and prejudices.
We Need New Names
by NoViolet Bulawayo
2013 Booker Finalist, 2014 Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for Fiction
Follows ten-year-old Zimbabwe native Darling as she escapes the closed schools and paramilitary police control of her homeland in search of opportunity and freedom with an aunt in America.
by Zadie Smith
2000 Whitbread First Novel Award, 2000 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 2000 Commonwealth Writers’ First Book Award
Set in post-war London, this novel of the racial, political, and social upheaval of the last half-century follows two families--the Joneses and the Iqbals, both outsiders from within the former British empire--as they make their way in modern England.
Who Fears Death
by Nnedi Okorafor
2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel
Born into post-apocalyptic Africa to a mother who was raped after the slaughter of her entire tribe, Onyesonwu is tutored by a shaman and discovers that her magical destiny is to end the genocide of her people.
by Alexis De Veaux
2015 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction
Alexis De Veaux's work is defined by two critical concerns: making the racial and sexual experiences of black female characters central, and disrupting boundaries between forms.