Black History Month 2023 Book List

Tue 24/Oct/23

Black History Month 2023 Book List


This Black History Month, learn more about black history and culture with this recommended reading list of BHM inspired adult books, children's books and digital magazines.


Adult Books


Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Sutton Council staff member, Gizem, recommends ‘Open Water’: A beautifully written 160-page novella from a second person perspective, with a poetic tone in places. Caleb Azumah Nelson packs so much into this story about two unnamed South Londoners and to call this just a love story doesn't do it justice. Nelson uses the universal feeling of love as a starting point to dive into the experience of what it means to be a Black man in the UK, that sense of being stared at but not seen and what living in a world like that does to oneself and relationships. The book examines masculinity, vulnerability, mental health, racism, class and violence alongside art, music, and literature. There’s even a playlist on Spotify so you can listen along if you want for an even more immersive experience. This book made me consider the personal through the political lens and enabled me to learn and reflect throughout.


Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang

A history of hip-hop cites its origins in the post-civil rights Bronx and Jamaica, drawing on interviews with performers, activists, gang members, DJs, and others to document how the movement has influenced politics and culture.


Rosewater by Liv Little

Sutton Council staff member, Hilary, recommends ‘Rosewater’: Rosewater is a beautifully written debut novel covering the intersections of being Black, female and gay. The main theme of the book is love and struggle. Elsie is a poet struggling through generational trauma and tricky family relationships but finding solace in words, words which become the key to unlocking her heart and understanding herself more fully.
I would highly recommend the book to readers, it is well written and boasts a good plot. I missed the characters when I finished the book, which says a lot.


Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers - race and class have shaped Akala's life and outlook. In this book he takes his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical, and political factors that have left us where we are today. Covering everything from the police, education, and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, 'Natives' will speak directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.


CLR James: A Life Beyond the Boundaries by John L. Williams

A black polymath, historian and political philosopher at a time when black people were not expected to do any of those things, James's lifetime was shaped by a burning desire to move beyond the racial and social strictures that sought to limit him. 30 years after his death, his ideas on the leading roles of people of colour, women and young people in political struggle have never been more relevant. This title traces the numerous contextual threads of a remarkable life - Trinidadian, cricketer, Marxist, American activist, Brixton elder statesman - and weaves a vivid tapestry of his complex political thinking.


Children’s Books


All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir Manifesto by George M. Johnson

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys. Both a primer for teens eager to be allies, as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of colour, 'All Boys Aren't Blue' covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalisation, consent, and Black joy. Johnson's emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.


Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

The Mississippi of the 1930s is a hard place for a black child to grow up in. Cassie begins to reach a painful understanding of life when she witnesses the hatred and destruction around her, and learns when it is important to fight for principle.


The Rapping Princess by Hannah Lee

Here is a story that everyone should know. It's the tale of a princess named Shiloh. She lived in a kingdom, not far from yours, in a grand house with a swimming pool and 14 floors. I know that sounds too big but here's the thing: her mother and father were the Queen and King. Being a princess is a tough job for someone so small. It's even harder when you have a problem you can't solve at all. You see, every princess in the kingdom could sing. Yet Shiloh's voice could do no such thing. Shiloh might not be able to sing like her sisters, but she has other talents, and sometimes it's about embracing your differences and celebrating them!


Torn Apart: The Partition of India by Swapna Haddow

It's October 1947 and two young boys find themselves thrown together during the dramatic changes of Partition. As the new India and Pakistan are born, can the friendship between these two children rise above the tensions between the two countries?


All American Boys by Jason Reynolds

A bag of chips. That's all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad's pleadings that he's stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad's every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to stay still as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the pavement? There were witnesses: Quinn - a varsity basketball player and Rashad's classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan - and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his saviour could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again.


Digital Magazines


ELLE UK - November 2023



Men’s Health UK - October 2023


Poets & Writers - Nov/Dec 2023



Bicycling - Autumn 2023



Runner’s World UK - November 2023