In the most difficult year in recent memory, our Black literati provided much-needed escapes in the form of the written word—from memoirs that made us feel seen to a best-selling romantic novel that reminds us love is never a wasted emotion. Here are our favorite books of 2020.
- Before his death in 2019, Elijah Cummings detailed how he became a man deeply committed to community in We’re Better Than This (Harper, $28.99).
- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson investigates America’s entrenched, race-based caste system in her deeply researched book, Caste (Random House, $32).
- Hugo Award recipient N.K. Jemisin kicks off a new fantasy trilogy with The City We Became (Orbit, $28), set in New York City as it braces to face an attack by an alien force.
- In James McBride’s latest work, Deacon King Kong (Riverhead, $28), an ornery old deacon ends up with a target on his back after he shoots a drug dealer.
- A woman on the verge of turning 68 is dealt a life-changing blow, and must lean on her sister circle to pull through, in Terry McMillan’s It’s Not All Downhill From Here (Ballantine, $28).
- After twin sisters run away from their Southern childhood home at 16, they assume two different racial identities in Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half (Riverhead , $27).
- For her sophomore effort, Transcendent Kingdom (Knopf, $27.95), Yaa Gyasi zeroes in on a neuroscience scholar who seeks to understand her family as she studies addiction and depression.
- What happens when you notice your Black neighbors disappearing and you don’t think the cause is gentrification? Find out in Alyssa Cole’s thriller When No One Is Watching (William Morrow, $16.99).
- Fresh off her Royal Holiday, Jasmine Guillory’s Party of Two (Berkley, $26) follows a Black lawyer about to start her own firm when she meets a handsome junior senator, who just so happens to be White.
- U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey recounts the heartbreaking 1985 murder of her mother by her ex-husband in Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir (Ecco, $27.99).
- The Death of Vivek Oji (Riverhead, $27), by Akwaeke Emezi, explores the life and death of a young Nigerian man who secretly identified as a girl during childhood.
- Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick (Amistad, $25.99), a collection of writings (some previously unpublished) by Zora Neale Hurston, centers mostly on characters in her hometown of Eatonville, Florida.
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