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Books Every Black Teen Should Read

Source: Richard Bailey / Getty

UPDATED: 7:15 a.m. ET, Aug. 9, 2022

There aren’t many life skills more important to a child than learning how to read and our Black teens need to read more books.

MORE: 15 Acclaimed And Unapologetically Black Authors

Reading is like a gateway to your imagination and it allows you to learn and grow as a person.  

Reading exposes the mind to new words and ideas while building focus and concentration that ultimately make us better learners. 

“If there is a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

It’s also a critical foundation for developing logic and problem-solving skills.

Creating good reading habits as a child or young adult can lead to more productivity as an adult.

“Reading exposes us to other styles, other voices, other forms, and other genres of writing. Importantly, it exposes us to writing that’s better than our own and helps us to improve, said author Roz Morris in an interview with the University Of Rochester. 

The luxury of reading hasn’t always been afforded to Black people in America. (Slaves weren’t allowed to read, but I think you already knew that.) Although times have changed and Books are pretty much readily available to those who choose to read them, Black teens lag behind their white counterparts in literacy. 

According to a 2015 report by the American Council on Education, more than one-third of all Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native 12th graders fell in the below basic achievement level for reading, compared with one in five White and Asian 12th graders.

MORE: 8 Of The Most Empowering Toni Morrison Quotes To Get You Out Of Your Funk

At NewsOne, we believe that the child who reads is the child who leads. In keeping with that idea, we decided to take a look at the state of reading for Black youth.

Research has found that the proportion of young people who are daily readers drops has dropped dramatically in recent years. According to some studies, since 1984, the percentage of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers dropped from 70% to 53%. Even worse, the percentage of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers fell from 64% to a startling 40%. And the percentage of 17-year-olds who never or hardly read tripled during the same period, from 9% to 27%. It’s jarring news.

We tapped our brother and sister sites Hello Beautiful and The Urban Daily to get their reading recommendations.

Here are dozens of titles they said had an impact on them and that every Black teen should read.

1. “Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur

“Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur

2. “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison

“Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison

3. “Visions for Black Men” by Na’im Akbar

“Visions for Black Men” by Na’im Akbar

4. “The Coldest Winter Ever” by Sister Souljah

“The Coldest Winter Ever” by Sister Souljah

5. “Dreams from My Father” by Barack Obama

“Dreams from My Father” by Barack Obama

6. “Sag Harbor” by Colson Whitehead

“Sag Harbor” by Colson Whitehead

7. “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers

“Monster” by Walter Dean Myers

8. “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe

“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe

9. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

10. “When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost” by Joan Morgan

“When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost” by Joan Morgan

11. “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” as told to Alex Haley

“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” as told to Alex Haley

12. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

13. “Interiors: A Black Woman’s Healing…in Progress” by Iyanla Vanzant

“Interiors: A Black Woman’s Healing…in Progress” by Iyanla Vanzant

14. “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

15. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

16. “Blues People” by Amiri Baraka

“Blues People” by Amiri Baraka

17. “Our Kind of People” by Lawrence Otis Graham

“Our Kind of People” by Lawrence Otis Graham

18. “Picking Cotton” by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino

“Picking Cotton” by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino

19. “What is the What” by Dave Eggers

“What is the What” by Dave Eggers

20. “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” by bell hooks

“Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” by bell hooks

21. “Soledad Brother” by George Jackson

“Soledad Brother” by George Jackson

22. “Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America” by Nathan McCall

“Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America” by Nathan McCall

23. “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz

“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz

24. “Good To Great” by Jim Collins

“Good To Great” by Jim Collins

25. “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin

“Purple Cow” by Seth Godin

26. “Down These Mean Streets” by Piri Thomas

“Down These Mean Streets” by Piri Thomas

27. “Flyy Girl” by Omar Tyree

“Flyy Girl” by Omar Tyree

28. “Summer Of My German Soldier” by Bette Greene

“Summer Of My German Soldier” by Bette Greene

29. “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry

“A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry

30. “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn

“A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn

31. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

32. “Miles: The Autobiography” by Miles Davis

“Miles: The Autobiography” by Miles Davis

33. “Invisible Life” by E. Lynn Harris

“Invisible Life” by E. Lynn Harris

34. “Kaffir Boy” by Mark Mathabane

“Kaffir Boy” by Mark Mathabane

35. “Kindred” by Octavia Butler

“Kindred” by Octavia Butler

36. “Letter to My Daughter” by Maya Angelou

“Letter to My Daughter” by Maya Angelou

37. “Manchild in the Promised Land” by Claude Brown

“Manchild in the Promised Land” by Claude Brown

38. “Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodsen

“Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodsen

39. “If Beale Street Could Talk” by James Baldwin

“If Beale Street Could Talk” by James Baldwin

40. “Nile Valley Contributions To Civilization” by Tony Browder

“Nile Valley Contributions To Civilization” by Tony Browder

41. “I Am Not Sidney Poitier” by Percival Everett

“I Am Not Sidney Poitier” by Percival Everett

42. “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell

“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell

43. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki

“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki

44. “Roots” by Alex Haley

“Roots” by Alex Haley

45. “Sula” by Toni Morrison

“Sula” by Toni Morrison

46. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

47. “Who Am I Without Him?” by Sharon Flake

“Who Am I Without Him?” by Sharon Flake

48. “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup

“Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup

49. “Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine” by Bebe Moore Campbell

“Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine” by Bebe Moore Campbell

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