By Joi Marie McKenzie- With temperatures dropping, it’s the perfect time of year to pick up a good book.
After reviewing hundreds of books that swept their way into ESSENCE offices over the last few months, we’ve paired down the 24 books we’re really excited to read this winter.
In our winter round-up, we’ve included authors that every Black author should know—such as Walter Mosley, Terry McMillan and Jason Reynolds, who was just named by the Library of Congress as the seventh National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
We’ve also included books across genres—from young adult to science fiction to romantic novels—that will keep you turning the page. And since Black History Month and Women’s History Month all happen in winter, we’ve included some titles that are perfect to use to celebrate respectively.
Let’s get into it!
Such a Fun Age (December 31, 2019)
Kiley Reid’s debut novel became an instant bestseller. It centers on a young Black babysitter of a rich White family, who gets accused of kidnapping a toddler. When her employer, Alix Chamberlain, tries to make things right, the two find a surprising connection between them.
Bestselling author Nic Stone is back with another middle school-aged book about an 11-year-old boy who takes an unexpected tip with his grandma only to discover what life was like in the segregated south.
Echo Brown (not to be confused with the author’s name) is not your average teenage wizard. After growing up on the East Side, where she watches as parents struggle with addiction, she’s enrolled in a school on the West Side where a teacher she befriends proves invaluable. This mythical tale is heavily autobiographical, but it’s out of this world.
Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick (January 14)
Zora Neale Hurston reminds us why she’s a legendary scribe in Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick, a collection of works including eight recently unearthed short stories, with a foreword by author Tayari Jones. Among the selections are a beautifully narrated tale of a woman who steps into danger’s path to be with her lover and the melancholy story of a young man who sells candy in Harlem.
Tochi Onyebuchi makes his adult fiction debut in this novel centered on Ella who sees…things. But after her brother is locked up, she has to decide if she’ll use her powers that could literally bring Los Angeles to its knees.
When you think of tennis, you can’t help but think of Venus and Serena Williams, who have helped to revolutionize the game while backhanding racism and sexism. In Different Strokes: Serena, Venus, and the Unfinished Black Tennis Revolution, sports journalist Cecil Harris points out how far we’ve come in the game—and how far we still have to go.
Bring on more books about Black (and brown) women in silly situations. (We’re not all about slave narratives!!!!) Mia Sosa meets this demand with her fun romantic comedy that centers on a wedding planner who was left at the altar. Now she must team up with a man she hates for a golden opportunity.
After public schools legally desegregated, Harvard University recruited 18 Black men, including Kent Garrett, to enter its hallowed halls as students. In The Last Negroes at Harvard: The Class of 1963 and the 18 Young Men Who Changed Harvard Forever, Garrett recounts how they transformed the university just by showing up as themselves.
In James McBride’s latest, we find out why a Brooklyn deacon shoots the neighborhood drug dealer. Set in September 1969, the book delves deeper into the Black and brown residents, the White neighbors, police and so many other intersections that are unequivocally New York.
For years, Alberta has literally been the only Black girl in town. But when a bed and breakfast in her California town gets new owners, she’s excited that the family is Black and has a girl her age. The two team up for beachside adventures.
What happens when two best friends just aren’t friends anymore. It doesn’t help when one of those friends is assigned to tutor the other. There’s even more drama in this young adult book that we’ll be addicted to reading.
If you loved Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s award-winning book, Stamped from the Beginning released back in 2016, then you’ll love this “remix” as they’re calling it. Written by young adult author, Jason Reynolds, the book continues to break down how race is a construct and how it makes no damn sense to buy into.
For significant cash flow, a free place to live and no medical expenses, would you lie to everyone you love to participate in a secret government-run research project? In Megan Giddings’s debut novel, Lakewood, reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s terrifying film Get Out, the author shows us the depths to which a financially struggling Black college student is willing to go.
Meet a 68-year-old spitfire in Terry McMillan’s It’s Not All Downhill From Here. Still wearing three-inch heels and hot pink miniskirts, Loretha Curry must lean on her girlfriends when faced with an unexpected loss.
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