Friday, July 27, 2012

100 (or more) Books Every Black (Insert You Here) Should Read.

I was originally going to put hipster in the place of (insert you here) as sarcasm, but for all those who crave to be oppositional to everything it's changed. Cool? Let's get started.

A few days ago, I saw my youthful self sit right in front of me on the train. She wore skinny jeans and combat boots, a vest adorned with conscious buttons and earrings shaped like Africa. I snickered when I remembered that my style used to combat itself this way, my outfit a clear display of goth, bohemia, skater and intellectual. 

I wanted to know and be everything. 

What really drew me to her was what she was reading: "Native Son" by Richard Wright. I was blown away. It was summer time and a teenager bereft of academic obligation is rarely seen riding the train with a book--or a book like "Native Son." I instantly tapped her, "Great read. How are you liking it so far?"

She smiled, "I love it. My friends and I are all reading it. We've started a book club."

(Add another gasp here.) 

Even when I was fifteen, I couldn't witness a girl, my age in my neighborhood, planting their reading eyes on anything that didn't start with "hood" or sound like "How To Get Your Man." 

Once you've witnessed someone/thing once, it becomes a reoccurrence.

For a week, I've peered at texts in the hands of girls, who would've been nerds in the 90's, but are cold cool in this day and age--of hispter-bohemia-vintage-fashionista grunge. I'm impressed. 

& considering I'm always asked what I'm reading...I've decided to scribe a list. For the poetry slam, open mic, jazz club, literary reading, writing major, cafe-latte, eclectic, painter/scriber/dancer/mathematician/business persons (did I cover enough?); these texts are ALL conversation starters. Get acquainted:

(Books are in no order of importance. Random listing.) 

1) Drown by Junot Diaz

2) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

3) The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

4) Assata by Assata Shakur

5) I Am The Darker Brother by Brown Poets & Edited by Arnold Adoff

6) Everything Langston Hughes ever Wrote

7) Anything Nikki Giovanni Scribed

8) A Quick Killing in Art by Pheobe Hoban (Basquiat & His Art Dealers)

9) Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough (Harlem Children's Zone's Story)

10) Ordinary Resurrections by Johnathan Kozol

11) There are no Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz

12) The Known World by Edward P. Jones

13) Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

14) The Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice Walker

15) The Color Purple by Alice Walker

16) Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

17) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

18) The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo 

19) All J. California Cooper's Short Story Compilations
 20) Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley

21) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

22) It's Bigger Than Hip-Hop by M.K. Asante

23) Never Drank the Kool-Aid by Toure

24) The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead 

25) I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde

26) Strivers Row by Kevin Baker

27) Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison

28) Race Matters by Cornel West

29) Creating Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat

30) Colored Girls... by Ntozake Shange

31) Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

32) The Other Side of Paradise by Stacey-Ann Chin

33) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

34) Big Machine by Victor Lavalle

35) Kindred by Octavia Butler

36) "Baby Brother's Blues" or "I Wish I had a Red Dress" by Pearl Cleage 

37) Sugar by Bernice McFadden

38) Milk in My Coffee by Eric Jerome Dickey

39) No Disrespect by Sistah Souljah 

40) The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois

41) Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas's Illmatic by Michael Eric Dyson

42) Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

43) The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano

44) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Linda Brent

45) The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake

46) A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

47) Black Girl Lost by Donald Goines

48) Roots by Alex Haley

49) A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

50) Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris

51) Ain't I a Women? Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

52) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

53) Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

54) In the Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant

55) Zami: A New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lorde

56) Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

57) Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan

58) Monster by Walter Dean Myers

59) Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton

60) The Street by Ann Petry

61) Asphalt by Carl Hancock Rux

62) Push by Sapphire

63) FlyyGirl by Omar Tyree

64) Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

65) Fences by August Wilson

66) Our Nig by Harriet Wilson 

67) The Autobiography of Malcolm X

68) Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

69) Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama

70) The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

71) Head Off and Split by Nikki Finney

72) The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

73) Small Island by Andrea Levy

74) Decoded by Jay-Z

75) The Autobiography of Medgar Evers

76) More Beautiful and More Terrible by Imani Perry

77) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

78) The Revisionist by Helen Schulman

79) After Theory by Terry Eagleton 

80) When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris 

81) Our Kind of People by Lawrence Otis Graham

82) White Teeth by Zadie Smith

83) The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson

84) The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

85) Jason & Kyra by Dana Davidson

86) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

87) No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe

88) 1984 by George Orwell

89) You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down by Alice Walker

90) The Black Rose by Tananarive Due

91) The Conversation by Hill Harper 

& some swag for the writers:

   92) The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

93) Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

94) Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul

95) The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates

96) Ready, Set, Novel by Baty, Grant, Stewart-Streit

97) Writing to Heal the Soul by Susan Zimmerman

98) Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

99) Thunder and Lightning by Natalie Goldberg

100) No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty

More authors you need to GET HIP TO, if you haven't: Amiri Baraka, Toni Cade Bambara, Gwendolyn Brooks, Countee Cullen, Rita Dove, Henry Dumas, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Marcus Garvey, Henry Louis Gates, June Jordan, Jamaica Kincaid,  Haki R. Madhubuti, Claude McKay, Ishmael Reed, Sonia Sanchez, Phillis Wheatley, Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

P.S.- I've read everything here and so much more...Some of the authors I mention have more than one notable, but I've only got one-hundred spots! Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!


Brittany Sims said...

great post erica! iv only read 20. pretty lame for an hu english major but *shrug* lol. now #85 jason and kyra really surprised me. i read it in HS and as much as i enjoyed reading a fun, love story abt contemporary teens who were actually like me, i thought the writing was terrible. re-read it recently and i still think she blows at capturing teen vernacular. we werent saying dynomite and fantastic in 03 lol. for teen fiction, angela johnsons the first part last was my absolute fave back then, u should check it out. still good even as an adult :)

Jazmine said...

Thanks so much. I was actually looking for another good read that actually had substance to it :)

Loren D. said...

`Currently reading "The Wretched of the Earth" by Frantz Fanon
`"There Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neal Hurston
`The Bible
`The author John Henrik Clarke has sparked my attention. I'm excited to read his works. Have you?

riva. said...

@Loren Zora was #52 woman! The Bible is a given, but I haven't read Fanon or Clarke yet. *adds to list*

Random Thoughts said...

I think the list is quite comprehensive. One suggestion that comes to mind is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Also,I love that Edwidge was included.All of her books are so good. Thanks for this..

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent list, someone invested in your nurturing and academic growth. Reading is knowledge and gives true power and insight, thanks my sister. I am going get stepping on this recommended list. Little Bee is a very good read. Thanks

riva. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
riva. said...

@RandomThoughts Ooooo, I'll have to check that out. & I love me some Edwidge! You're welcome.

@Anonymous Little Bee is an amazing book! How could I forget? *runs to add it*

Little Miss Knobody said...

Too much awesome on one list Riva! I've read sooo many of these books. I just finished "Kindred" and recently got into Octavia Butler. I'm mesmerized. I'm also glad to see "The Bluest Eye" near the top. Thanks for making this list. Now, whenever I need something new to read, I have something to refer to.

Christina said...

I've read a few of these authors, though not some of these particular books. Sadly I have some of your selections waiting on my Kindle app. I need to get a move on!

I have books that I could name that you should check out, but I think I am inspired to make my own list of books for my blog. I will definitely send that link when I get to write that post.

And I wanted to start a book club when I was a teenager, but no one I knew was as nerdy as me.

Unknown said...

You have some wonderful titles on the list! A lot of them I've read but I see some I need to get. Maybe once I finish this dissertation, I'll actually have time to read! I'll be sharing this list for sure!!