Black History Month 2021: the best novels to read about black history, including fiction and non-fiction books

Black History Month is in October, and these are some of the best books you can buy to celebrate the annual celebration of black culture.

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The event was officially recognised by the US government in 1976, and first celebrated in the UK in 1987.

It exists to recognise the contribution and achievements of those with African or Caribbean heritage, and also provides chance for people to learn more about the effects of racism and how to challenge negative stereotypes in society themselves.

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Black History Month brings a range of celebrations in communities up and down the country, as well as overseas, and a wide range of topics are discussed - from Britain’s colonial past to music.

Reading a book is a great way to celebrate Black History Month because it’s something personal you can do at a time and in a place to suit you. Of course, books have always helped us to broaden our knowledge and understand different perspectives.

There are fiction and non-fiction books listed so there’s something for everyone too.

If these books have left you feeling inspired and wanting to read even more then take a look at these 16 best books about race.

Misfits: A Personal Manifesto - by the creator of 'I May Destroy You'

Misfits: A Personal Manifesto

The instant Sunday Times bestseller from the brilliant mind of the creator and star of I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel.

This is a passionate declaration against fitting in which immerses readers in Coel’s personal vision of about race, class and gender through powerful allegory and anecdotes - from her East London upbringing to her discovery of theatre and love for storytelling.

Coel writes of inclusivity and radical honesty with wit, and in telling her journey invites us to reflect on our own. By embracing our differences, she says, we can transform our lives.

This book is a call for honesty, empathy and inclusion dedicated to anyone who has ever worried about fitting in.

Was £9.99, now £8.19

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An American Marriage

An American Marriage

Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2019, and also longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, 2019, and shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award.

The book, by Tayari Jones, follows the story of newlyweds Celestial and Roy who are the embodiment of the American Dream.

He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until one day it all falls apart. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.

Devastated, Celestial finds herself struggling to hold on to the love and takes comfort in Andre, their closest friend. Then, when Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, he returns home ready to resume their life together.

Barack Obama A Book of the Year according the i, Guardian, Sunday Times, Sunday Mail Newlyweds.

Was £8.99, now £7.37

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A Promised Land

A Promised Land

Written by former president Barack Obama who tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to being elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

This book is an extraordinarily intimate and introspective story and Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation and meeting the challenges of high-stakes decision-making.

Was £35, now £17.49

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The Louder I Will Sing: A story of racism, riots and redemption

The Louder I Will Sing: A story of racism, riots and redemption

Winner of the 2020 Costa Biography Award.

In September 1985, when author Lee Lawrence was just 11-years-old, his mother Cherry Groce was wrongly shot by police during a raid on her Brixton home. The bullet shattered her spine and she never walked again.

The news falsely said Cherry had died. In Brixton, which was already struggling because of deep racism in the community, it was the spark needed to trigger two days of rioting that saw buildings brought down by petrol bombs, cars torched and shops looted.

Lee then fought for the next 30 years to get the police to recognise their wrongdoing.

This is a powerful, compelling and uplifting memoir about growing up in modern Britain as a young Black man.

Was £8.99, now £7.37

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Black History: More than Just a Month

Black History: More than Just a Month

This book pays tribute to a large number of African-Americans who helped build this country and their accomplishments.

Some of the people included are war heroes, inventors, celebrities and athletes. This book is a great read for anyone who has a passion for history.

This is the paperback version of the book.

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What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition

What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition

The author of this book, Emma Dabiri, delivers a poignant and upfront extended essay full of practical and constructive actions for white people to take to fight systemic racism.

Emma offers clear advice on how to transform demonstrations of support into real and meaningful change.

Was £7.99, now £6.99

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Black British Lives Matter

Black British Lives Matter

In response to the international outcry at George Floyd’s death, Lenny Henry and Marcus Ryder have commissioned this collection of essays to discuss how and why we need to fight for Black lives to matter - not just for Black people but for society as a whole.

Seventeen prominent Black figures explain why Black lives should be celebrated.

Drawing from personal experience, they stress how Black British people have unique perspectives and experiences that enrich British society and the world.

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Mixed/Other: Explorations of Multiraciality in Modern Britain

Mixed/Other: Explorations of Multiraciality in Modern Britain

In this book, author Natalie Morris explores various forms of societal pigeonholing and the unique challenges they pose to those of mixed heritage.

She takes a deep dive into what it really means to be mixed in Britain today and explores the ways in which various issues uniquely impact those of mixed heritage.

Drawing from a wealth of research, interviews and her own personal experiences, in this book, Natalie’s aims to dismantle stereotypes and amplify the voices of mixed Britons today, shining a light on the struggles and the joys that come with being mixed.

Was £16.99, now £14.99

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The Color Purple

The Color Purple

This is a classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that made author Alice Walker a household name.

Set in the deep American South between the wars, the book tells the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation.

Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage.

But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker who has taken charge of her own destiny.

Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

This is a book that transcends colour.

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Kindred

Kindred

When Dana first meets Rufus on a Maryland plantation, he’s drowning. She saves his life - and it will happen again and again.

Neither of them understands his power to summon her whenever his life is threatened, nor the significance of the ties that bind them.

Each time Dana saves him, the more aware she is that her own life might be over before it’s even begun.

Octavia E. Butler’s ground-breaking novel is the extraordinary story of two people bound by blood, separated by so much more than time.

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Girl, Woman, Other

Girl, Woman, Other

This book, written by Bernardine Evaristo, follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters.

Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.

This is a new kind of history and a novel of our times; celebratory and dynamic.

Was £8.99, now £6.99

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Black and British: An Illustrated History

Black and British: An Illustrated History

This hardback book is a stunning visual journey through Black British history for younger readers by award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga and illustrated by Jake Alexander and Melleny Taylor.

It is an essential starting place for anyone who wants to learn about Black British History.

A thought provoking book which charts the forgotten histories of Black people in Britain from Roman times right through to the present day.

Was £16.99, now £12.35

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Black Art : A Cultural History

Black Art : A Cultural History

This book, by Richard J. Powell, concentrates on how art works, often created during times of major social upheaval and transformation, use black culture both as a subject and as context.

Now updated, this new edition helps us understand better how the first two decades of the twenty-first century have been a transformative moment in which previous assumptions about race, difference, and identity have been dramatically changed, with art providing a useful lens through which to think about these important issues.

Was £16.99, now £12.35

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Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Featuring 40 trailblazing black women in the world’s history, this book educates and inspires as it relates true stories of women who broke boundaries and exceeded all expectations.

Debut author and illustrator Vashti Harrison pairs moving and informative text with stunning illustrations as she tells the stories of both iconic and lesser-known female figures of black history, including nurse Mary Seacole, politician Diane Abbott, m athematician Katherine Johnson and singer Shirley Bassey.

Was £7.99, now £6.65

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Twelve Years a Slave : The Black History Classic

Twelve Years a Slave : The Black History Classic

Solomon Northup was born free as the son of an emancipated slave, who lived and worked in New York.

In 1841, two con men offered him lucrative work playing fiddle in a circus, so he travelled with them to Washington, D.C., where he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold as a slave.

For the next twelve years he survived as the human property of several different slave masters, where most of his suffering was at the hands of plantation owner Edwin Epps.

Northup’s harrowing memoir and is recognised as the most reliable, accurate eyewitness account of the daily lives of slaves.

Was £9.99, now £8.75.

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