Back to top

African American Fiction

A selection of great fiction by African American authors, from page turners to prize-winners.

Looking for more great fiction? Get a new list every month with the Beyond Bestsellers Insider newsletter. Looking for more books by Black authors? Check out the African American Culture Insider newsletter.

Contemporary

Cover of Americanah
Chimananda Ngozi
Adichie

A story of love and race centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Friday Black
Nana Kwame
Adjei-Brenyah

A piercingly raw debut story collection from a young writer with an explosive voice; a treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it's like to be young and black in America. Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Sellout
Paul
Beatty

A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court. Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Mothers
Brit
Bennett

A surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community - and the things that ultimately haunt us most. It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor's son. They are young; it's not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance - and the subsequent cover-up - will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Everywhere You Don’t Bel
Gabriel
Bump

A darkly funny and heartfelt debut novel about what it means to grow up young and black on the south side of Chicago when it feels like your choices are slim to none. Available to download: eBook

Cover of What We Lose
Zinzi
Clemmons

Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother's childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor--someone, or something, to love. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Patsy
Nicole
Dennis-Benn

When Patsy gets her long-coveted visa to America, it comes after years of yearning to leave Pennyfield, the beautiful but impoverished Jamaican town where she was raised. More than anything, Patsy wishes to be reunited with her oldest friend, Cicely, whose letters arrive from New York steeped in the promise of a happier life and the possible rekindling of their young love. But Patsy's plans don't include her overzealous, evangelical mother-or even her five-year-old daughter, Tru. Beating with the pulse of a long-withheld confession, Patsy gives voice to a woman who looks to America for the opportunity to choose herself first-not to give a better life to her family back home. Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Turner House
Angela
Flournoy

The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone--and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit's East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts--and shapes--their family's future. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of An American Marriage
Tayari
Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy, the living embodiment of the New South, are settling into the routine of their life together when Roy is sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit. An insightful look into the lives of people who are bound and separated by forces beyond their control. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of It’s Not All Downhill fr
Terry
McMillan

Loretha Curry's life is full. A little crowded sometimes, but full indeed. On the eve of her sixty-eighth birthday, she has a booming beauty-supply empire, a gaggle of lifelong friends, and a husband whose moves still surprise. But when an unexpected loss turns her world upside down, Loretha will have to summon all her strength, resourcefulness, and determination to keep on thriving, pursue joy, heal old wounds, and chart new paths. With a little help from her friends, of course. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Such a Fun Age
Kiley
Reid

A page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Revisioners
Margaret Wilkerson
Sexton

This historically inspired story of two black women one hundred years apart tells of Josephine and her descendant, a single mother who moves in with her white grandmother, but soon must find escape. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Real Life
Brandon
Taylor

Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is studying for a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, he has kept a distance even from his own friends - some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Heads of the Colored Peopl
Nafissa
Thompson-Spires

A collection of moving, timely, and darkly funny stories that examines the concept of black identity in this so-called post-racial era. These stories are exquisitely rendered, satirical, and captivating in turn, engaging in the ongoing conversations about race and identity politics, as well as the vulnerability of the black body.

Cover of Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn
Ward

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie's children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of No One is Coming to Save U
Stephanie Powell
Watts

JJ Ferguson has returned home to Pinewood, North Carolina, to build his dream house and to pursue his high school sweetheart, Ava. But as he reenters his former world, where factories are in decline and the legacy of Jim Crow is still felt, he's startled to find that the people he once knew and loved have changed just as much as he has. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Red at the Bone
Jacqueline
Woodson

An unexpected teenage pregnancy pulls together two families from different social classes, and exposes the private hopes, disappointments, and longings that can bind or divide us from each other. Available to download: eBook Audio

Historical Fiction

Cover of Conjure Women
Afia
Atakora

Spanning eras and generations, this sweeping story brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. It tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother's footsteps as a midwife; and their master's daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Ruby
Cynthia
Bond

The epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Homegoing
Yaa
Gyasi

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Known World
Edward P.
Jones

Henry Townsend, a former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor--William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful white man in antebellum Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation as well as his own slaves, but tragically fails to understand the fundamental flaws in his thinking that he can be a better slave master than a white man. Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Twelve Tribes of Hatti
Ayana
Mathis

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented.  Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave.  She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother's monumental courage and the journey of a nation. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Good Lord Bird
James
McBride

Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Nickel Boys
Colson
Whitehead

Based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Underground Railroad
Colson
Whitehead

A Pulitzer Prize-winning tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of In West Mills
De’Shawn Charles
Winslow

Spanning decades in a rural North Carolina town where a canal acts as the color line, In West Mills is a magnificent, big-hearted small-town story about family, friendship, storytelling, and the redemptive power of love. Available to download: eBook
 

Cover of Another Brooklyn
Jacqueline
Woodson

Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything--until it wasn't. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant--a part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. Available to download: eBook Audio

Mystery

Cover of The Emperor of Ocean Park
Stephen L.
Carter

An extraordinary fiction debut: a large, stirring novel of suspense that is, at the same time, a work of brilliantly astute social observation. Set in two privileged worlds: the upper crust African American society of the eastern seaboard—old families who summer on Martha’s Vineyard—and the inner circle of an Ivy League law school, this novel tells the story of a complex family with a single, seductive link to the shadowlands of crime.

Cover of Hollywood Homicide
Kellye
Garrett

Dayna Anderson doesn't set out to solve a murder. All the semifamous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money--she wants justice for the victim. First in a series.

Cover of Land of Shadows
Rachel Howzell
Hall

Along the ever-changing border of gentrifying Los Angeles, seventeen-year-old Monique Darson is found dead at a condominium construction site, hanging in the closet of an unfinished unit. Homicide detective Elouise "Lou" Norton's new partner, Colin Taggert, fresh from the comparatively bucolic Colorado Springs police department, assumes it's a teenage suicide. Lou isn't buying the easy explanation. First in a series.

Cover of Bluebird, Bluebird
Attica
Locke

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules -- a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders -- a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman -- have stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes -- and save himself in the process -- before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. First in a series. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Devil in a Blue Dress
Walter
Mosley

1948, Los Angeles: The mortgage payment's coming due, so Easy Rawlins accepts the assignment of finding Daphne Monet, a blonde torch singer with a penchant for jazz and criminal black consorts. In his search through a sleazy, fearful city, he is lucky to be under the protection of the murderous Mouse who wants a piece of the action. (Novelist) First in a series.

Cover of Blanche on the Lam
Barbara
Neely

It's hard enough making ends meet on the pittance Blanche White earns doing day work for the genteel Southern families of North Carolina. But when her fourth bad check lands her a jail sentence, Blanche goes on the lam. Inadvertently, she finds work at the summer home of a wealthy family, the members of which have plenty of their own secrets. And when a dead body is discovered, Blanche finds herself the prime suspect. Using her wit and intelligence -not to mention the remarkably efficient old-girl network among domestic workers -she gets to work uncovering the real killer before she lands in more hot water. First in a series.

Cover of American Spy
Lauren
Wilkinson

It's 1986, the heart of the Cold War. FBI agent Marie Mitchell is a brilliant young black woman in an old boys' club. Her career has stalled, so given the opportunity to join a task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic Communist revolutionary president of Burkina Faso, she says yes. Even though she secretly admires the work he is doing. Even though she's still grieving the mysterious death of her sister. Even though a furious part of her suspects she's being offered the job because of her appearance and not her talent. And doing so will change everything Marie believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister, and a good American. Available to download: eBook

Romance

Cover of Not the Girl You Marry
Andie J.
Christopher

Jack Nolan is a gentleman, a journalist, and unlucky in love. Fed up with his fluffy articles and the app-based dating scene as well, he strikes a deal with his boss to write a final piece de resistance- How to Lose a Girl. Easier said than done when the girl he meets is Hannah Mayfield, and he's not sure he wants her to dump him. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of A Princess in Theory: Relu
Alyssa
Cole

In this tale of a city Cinderella, former foster kid Naledi Smith doesn't believe she's Prince Thabiso's missing betrothed, but she falls for him when he's in disguise. Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Wedding Date
Jasmine
Guillory

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Real Men Knit
K.M.
Jackson

When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop - and their plans are complicated by a shop employee who volunteers to help the brothers learn the business. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Destiny’s Embrace
Beverly
Jenkins

Logan Yates, a self-important ranch owner, must confront his feelings for his beautiful, free spirited housekeeper, Mariah Cooper. While they bicker incessantly, their sexual tension is palpable, and only rises when Mariah's former lover arrives on the scene. Will she accept Logan's heart? First in a series. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Intercepted
Alexa
Martin

Marlee Harper is the perfect girlfriend. She's definitely had enough practice by dating her NFL-star boyfriend for the last ten years. But when she discovers he has been tackling other women on the sly, she vows to never date an athlete again. There's just one problem- Gavin Pope, the new hotshot quarterback and a fling from the past, has Marlee in his sights. First in a series. Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Boyfriend Project
Farrah
Rochon

After being catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend, Samiah is  making a pact to spend the next six months investing in herself. No men and no dating. For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she's always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy Daniel Collins at work. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Addicted
Zane

A smart, seductive, highly-charged sensual novel that depicts the escapades of a young art dealer. Available to download: eBook Audio

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Cover of Parable of the Sower
Octavia
Butler

In 2025 California, an eighteen-year-old African American woman, suffering from a hereditary trait that causes her to feel others' pain as well as her own, flees northward from her small community and its desperate savages.  Available to download: eBook 

Cover of The Water Dancer
Ta-Nehisi
Coates

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her, but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he's ever known. So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia's proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram's resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Dhalgren
Samuel R.
Delany

The sun has grown deadly, the world has gone mad, society has perished, savagery rules over all. All that was known is over. All that was familiar is strange and terrible. Today and yesterday collide with tomorrow. In these dying days of earth, a young drifter enters the city. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Good House
Tananarive
Due

A woman searches for the inherited power that can save her hometown from evil forces in this terrifying story of supernatural suspense.

Cover of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Marlon
James

In the stunning first novel in Marlon James's Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Fifth Season
N.K.
Jemisin

This is the way the world ends...for the last time. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy. First in the Broken Earth Trilogy. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Changeling
Victor D.
LaValle

The wildly imaginative story of one man's thrilling odyssey through an enchanted world to find his wife, who has disappeared after having seemingly committed an unforgivable act of violence. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Who Fears Death
Nnedi
Okorafor

Born into post-apocalyptic Africa to a mother who was raped after the slaughter of her entire tribe, Onyesonwu is tutored by a shaman and discovers that her magical destiny is to end the genocide of her people. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Everfair
Nisi
Shawl

A brilliant alternate-history novel set in the Belgian Congo that manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Available to download: Audio

Cover of The Deep
Rivers
Solomon

The water-breathing descendants of African slave women tossed overboard have built their own underwater society--and must reclaim the memories of their past to shape their future in this brilliantly imaginative novella inspired by the Hugo Award-nominated song "The Deep" from Daveed Diggs's rap group clipping. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Lesson
Cadwell
Turnbull

After the death of a boy at the hands of an Ynaa, three families in the U.S. Virgin Islands  find themselves in conflict with the superadvanced alien race, witnesses and victims to events that will teach a terrible lesson. Available to download: Audio

Cover of Underground Airlines
Ben H.
Winters

It is the present-day, and the world is as we know it: smartphones, social networking and Happy Meals. Save for one thing: the Civil War never occurred. Underground Airlines is a ground-breaking novel, a wickedly imaginative thriller, and a story of an America that is more like our own than we'd like to believe. Available to download: eBook

Classics

Cover of Go Tell It On the Mountain
James
Baldwin

With lyrical precision, psychological directness, resonating symbolic power, and a rage that is at once unrelenting and compassionate, Baldwin, in his first major work, chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy's discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of the minister of a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem one Saturday in March of 1935. Baldwin's rendering of his protagonist's spiritual, sexual, and moral struggle of self-invention opened new possibilities in the American language and in the way Americans understand themselves. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Invisible Man
Ralph
Ellison

A first novel by an unknown writer that remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of A Lesson Before Dying
Ernest J.
Gaines

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, this deep and compassionate novel is about a young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to visit a black youth on death row for a crime he didn't commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Their Eyes Were Watching G
Zora Neale
Hurston

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, this novel brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years--due largely to initial audiences' rejection of its strong black female protagonist--Hurston's classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Passing
Nella
Larsen

Married to a successful physician and prominently ensconced in Harlem's vibrant society of the 1920s, Irene Redfield leads a charmed existence-until she is shaken out of it by a chance encounter with a childhood friend who has been "passing for white." Available to download: eBook

Cover of Beloved
Toni
Morrison

After Paul D. finds his old slave friend Sethe in Ohio and moves in with her and her daughter Denver, a strange girl comes along by the name of "Beloved." Sethe and Denver take her in and then strange things begin to happen. Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize. Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of The Women of Brewster Plac
Gloria
Naylor

Once the home of poor Irish and Italian immigrants, Brewster Place, a rotting tenement on a dead-end street, now shelters black families. This novel portrays the courage, the fear, and the anguish of some of the women there who hold their families together, trying to make a home. 

Cover of The Street
Ann
Petry

The poignant, often heartbreaking story of Lutie Johnson, a young black woman, and her spirited struggle to raise her son amid the violence, poverty, and racial dissonance of Harlem in the late 1940s. Originally published in 1946 and hailed by critics as a masterwork, The Street was Ann Petry's first novel, a beloved bestseller with more than a million copies in print. Its haunting tale still resonates today.

Cover of Cane
Jean
Toomer

First published in 1923, this innovative literary work--part drama, part poetry, part fiction--powerfully evokes black life in the South. Rich in imagery, Toomer's impressionistic, sometimes surrealistic sketches of Southern rural and urban life are permeated by visions of smoke, sugarcane, dusk, and fire; the northern world is pictured as a harsher reality of asphalt streets. 

Cover of The Color Purple
Alice
Walker

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, as a young, black woman living in 1930s Georgia, Celie faces constant violence and oppression. She survives the brutality of incest before being married off to "Mr.," who routinely abuses her both physically and emotionally. Eventually, Celie develops a deep bond with her husband's mistress Shug, and it is through this relationship that she understands she is a woman capable of being loved and respected. Available to download: eBook

Cover of Native Son
Richard
Wright

Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America. Available to download: eBook Audio