In celebration of Black History Month, we reached out to two Scouted booksellers for their recommendations on must-read titles by Black authors we should be reading now—and always. Here, Julia McCrea Kudravetz, general manager at New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Cat Chapman, bookseller at Oxford Exchange Bookstore in Tampa, Florida, share a variety of titles portraying and celebrating Black figures and exploring the Black experience, from collections of poetry to fascinating nonfiction, thought-provoking fiction, page-turning Y.A., and more. While this list is especially applicable in February, these books promise to inspire, educate, and move readers every month of the year.
The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard // “The author of The Talented Ribkins, Ladee Hubbard, recently published The Rib King, a story about the questionable origins of Black iconography and portrayal in American media, and the opportunities and struggles of a cast of characters trying to find lives for themselves in a Jim Crow-era Midwest.” —Cat Chapman
Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark // “If you’re looking for more action-packed and fantastical, read this novella. In a reconstruction-era south, civil war veterans, fighters, emancipated slaves, hoodoo practitioners, and allies create a ragtag team to fight demonic monsters in the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror. This is a quick but suspenseful novella, and it’s already scheduled to be adapted to a TV series.” —Cat Chapman
Shirley Chisolm: The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Shirley Chisolm // “Shirley Chisolm was the first Black woman elected to Congress in 1968, and this is a fascinating collection of interviews from her first major profile to her final interview.” —Julia Kudravetz
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson // “This Oprah’s Book Club pick has won countless awards and accolades in 2020 for its in-depth and poignant analysis of American society, and how race and class have played a role to create a caste system unique to the United States.” —Cat Chapman
Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives by Dana Canedy, Darcy Eveleigh, Damien Cave, Rachel L. Swarns // “Consisting of 175 previously unpublished photographs, this collection from four New York Times photo editors who found and researched the images tells the stories behind them. From Frankie Crocker to Easter in Harlem, this is a beautiful celebration of Black America in the 20th century.” —Julia Kudravetz
Ebony: Covering Black America by Lavaille Lavette // “This lovely coffee table book, featuring Ebony magazine covers from the past 75 years, serves as a chronicle of Black American life. It’s packed with exclusive contributions from Venus Williams, Common, Gabrielle Union, and other luminaries.” —Julia Kudravetz
Hidden Figures signed adult edition and Hidden Figures signed children’s picture book edition by Margot Lee Shetterly // “Charlottesville, Virginia, resident and author Margot Lee Shetterly has graciously signed these editions of her nonfiction story of the Black women scientists at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program.” —Julia Kudravetz to order a signed copy, please call New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, Virginia, at 434.295.2552.
The Awakening of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz // “Written by Malcolm X’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, along with fellow author Tiffany D. Jackson, Shabazz has created a YA biographical fiction of her father’s life and call to activism. Based on real events, the book is a portrait of one of America’s most notable and most controversial civil rights leaders.” —Cat Chapman
Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith // “Former United States poet laureate Tracy K. Smith melds personal history with cultural heritage in her poetry collection. Drawing from spirituals, natural scenery, and reflections on identity, Smith’s poems evoke the at once intimate and familiar, yet fraught and searching experience of being Black in America.” —Cat Chapman
The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food by Marcus Samuelsson // “Chef, author, and television star Marcus Samuelsson curates this cookbook of 150 recipes with the stories behind them, gathering together a feast of food, culture, and history to highlight the deliciousness of Black cooking today. The accompanying photographs are a real treat.” —Julia Kudravetz
As always, we encourage you to shop from your local booksellers. You can also contact New Dominion Bookshop at 434.295.2552 and The Oxford Exchange Bookstore at 813.253.0222 to order the titles featured here. New Dominion Bookshop appears in The Scout Guide Charlottesville. The Oxford Exchange Bookstore appears in The Scout Guide Tampa & St. Petersburg.