Books by Black Authors to Read Based on Other Favorite Books
[Photo from BlackHistoryMonth.gov]
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Black History Month is back this February and with a little over two weeks left to celebrate, there’s no better time to revisit your TBR pile and slip in a few extra titles by Black authors. Better yet, bump them to the top of your TBR pile and dive right in.
Not sure which ones to start with? No worries! We’ve pulled select titles and paired them with readalikes to help you better judge which stories could be your cup of tea. And like we always say, whether you check the title out from your library or you purchase the book, e-book, or audiobook, every bit of support helps elevate Black creators and their individual stories, so keep on reading!
The Taking of Jake Livingston for Cemetery Boys fans
Looking for a spooky YA thriller similar to Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys? Ryan Douglass’s The Taking of Jake Livingston is a solid choice for your TBR. Douglass similarly features a queer medium who, though can’t summon ghosts like Yadriel, is regularly haunted by them. Jake explores his sexuality and interest in classmate Allister, uncovers a dark and paranormal mystery surrounding the death of local teens, has an awesome supportive best friend, and grows into his paranormal abilities as a medium. Note though that Jake’s story includes more horror elements than those of Yadriel’s, so keep your lights on!
Buy the book:
Supernatural Investigations series for Percy Jackson series fans
B.B. Alston’s Supernatural Investigations books include Amari and the Night Brothers, Amari and the Great Game, and a 3rd book planned for 2023, so you’ll want to jump into this one if you’ve read through all of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books and the Rick Riordan Presents series. This middle grade fantasy series has been compared to Men in Black and Artemis Fowl, and that's honestly a good summary. Really, if you enjoy any tried and true hero’s journey about a kid discovering a hidden magical world, proving themself to a secret just-as-magical organization, and overall fighting for the ones they love, you can’t go wrong with these books.
Buy book one:
The Deathless series for Shadow and Bone series fans
Apply a similar hero’s journey to YA fantasy and you've got: the unawares protagonist gains mystical powers that only they can harness to stop some impending, world-altering threat. Leigh Bardugo made her debut with this archetypal narrative in the Shadow and Bone series, and Namina Forna does something similar with The Gilded Ones, though it’s not as apparent from the beginning as it is in Bardugo’s trilogy. Both stories feature intricate magic systems, romance subplots that don't suffocate the main plot, and armies of trained magical warriors. The Deathless series can be quite violent though, so go in prepared.
Buy book one:
The Ballad of Black Tom for The Monster of Elendhaven fans
At a humble 160 pages, Jennifer Giesbrecht’s The Monster of Elendhaven is a dark, horror fantasy novella of magic, murder, and––you guessed it––monsters. Victor LaValle’s similar compact novella of 152 pages, The Ballad of Black Tom, also features magic (more of the Eldritch variety), murder (a bit gorey further in), and monsters (a tid less literal than Giesbrecht’s, but not really). Though Giesbrecht’s story is more fantastical in its fictional setting and LaValle’s more historically based in 1920s Harlem, both scratch that itch that concise speculative novellas can only reach.
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Ace of Spades for Pretty Little Liar series fans
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s Ace of Spades is marketed as Gossip Girl meets Get Out, which is pretty spot on, but this one's also for those who enjoyed Sara Sheperd’s Pretty Little Liar books. There’s the obvious connection between the Liars receiving threatening texts from the anonymous A and an equally anonymous Aces texting Chiamaka and Devon’s secrets throughout the school, but there’s equal amounts of high school drama from struggling to remain queen bee, figuring out one’s sexuality, and––oh, close encounters with the shady stalker who knows what happened to that one blonde girl.
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Bitter Root comics for The Umbrella Academy comic fans
In Bitter Root, David F. Walker and Chuck Brown work with illustrator Sanford Greene to bring a comic just as ambitious, colorful, and action-packed as Gerard Way and illustrator Gabriel Ba’s The Umbrella Academy. Bitter Root’s Sangerye family uses root magic to fight monsters in 1920s Harlem, but the concept of a once-famous, superpowered family reuniting to face one last battle and prevent the world from ending is reason enough for The Umbrella Academy fans to pick up this fifteen issue series. Greene’s art is similarly stylish and busy in a fun way, and the fast-paced narrative will jive with those who enjoyed Way’s page-turning issues.
Buy volume 1:
These are just a few titles penned by Black creators! If you like urban fantasies and Alice in Wonderland, try the action-packed YA Nightmare-Verse series by L.L. McKinney. More an adult urban fantasy fan? Give Cadwell Turnbull’s Caribbean-inspired No Gods, No Monsters a read, especially if you also enjoy literary fiction or horror. For those who lean toward alt history, jump into Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation duology for a YA zombie series set in 1776 America, or try Ring Shout by R. Djèllí Clark, a novella set in 1915 following a KKK member hunting team. DC superhero fans, especially readers of Superman, will want to try the recent Naomi comics from Brian Michael Bendis, (again) David F. Walker, and illustrator Jamal Campbell.
Want to peruse other book recs surrounding national months? Give these roundups a try:
A Book You May Enjoy
Gabrielle likes a lot of things and dislikes very little. Retired ice cream cake decorator, occasional farmhand, and reminiscing library worker, she spent her childhood dreaming of fighting fires and her college days writing about Bong Joon-ho before he was cool. Now, she preaches the importance of dental hygiene; chats up books, movies, and comics via the Quirk blog; and legally climbs silos. Whether the legality of the silo climbing makes her more or less interesting is up for debate. Email [email protected] if you want to review our titles or feature our authors.