This list was curated by our Books Editor based on books she’s read or sampled and books that have great Goodreads reviews.
This year hasn’t gotten off to a perfect start, but it’s been a fantastic time for fiction releases, especially from Black authors. Below, we’ve rounded up the novels that are getting tons of reviews, blowing up book chats, and gathering 4-star (or higher!) ratings, so you can enjoy Black voices all year long.
And don’t worry — there’s a book for just about every reader. Let’s dig in.
What do you get when you blend Southern #BlackGirlMagic with a campus secret society and a fresh twist on Arthurian legend? The contemporary YA fantasy Legendborn, an unputdownable story that hits the ground running from the first page. This book explodes with power, self-discovery, and mysterious memories. It also explores the vulnerability and layers of grief through the lens of a fascinating heroine.
This book is set on a plantation in the Deep South — and structured by chapters named after books in the Bible. Two enslaved young men find refuge in each other, seeking intimacy and hope in a world ruled by cruel masters. But when a fellow slave seeks to gain favor by upending their happiness, folks begin to turn on each other.
One reviewer calls it “soul stirring, ambitious, and [a] stunning debut” and notes that “despite depicting the raging inhumanity, the horrors and terrors of being enslaved, all of which comes all too alive through the visceral and vibrant rich descriptions, it is hope, kindness and the miracle of love that captivates.”
This YA rom-com is pitched as “Jane the Virgin” meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
It’s an adorable story that follows 16-year-old Tessa, who leads the love life of a leading lady only in the stories she writes… until she enters her first writing workshop and gets a bad case of writer’s block. Her friend recommends that she might need some real-life inspiration, so she embarks on a checklist to find love off the page.
If you’ve got a fondness for historical fiction, then pick up this story that follows an enslaved woman who’s forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia, Devil’s Half-Acre.
Pheby is forced to become the mistress of the man who owns the jail. This is an intense, traumatic, and important story full of raw emotions. It’s inspired by Mary Lumpkin’s real-life experience in a jail in Richmond, Virginia.
In this book, the author revisits Garden Heights 17 years before the events of The Hate You Give, following 17-year-old Maverick Carter — son of a former gang legend.
It explores Black boyhood and manhood as Mav goes from providing for his mom by dealing for the King Lords to finding out he’s a father. With all the extra responsibility, when offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. But, of course, life is never so simple.
“The way she creates characters and atmosphere is something of beauty,” one reviewer writes.
This is the latest novella by Nebula and Hugo Award winner Nnedi Okorafor (you might know her series Binti). Her writing is as mesmerizing as ever in this new sci-fi story about an adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Though it’s only around 150 pages, they’re richly captivating pages that pack a punch.
It takes place in Ghana and follows Fatima, known as Sankofa after a heady transformation. With a touch or even a glance, Sankofa can bring destruction and death. She ventures out to find her greater purpose, with no one but her fox companion, as she searches for a mysterious object that was stolen from her.
In this debut urban fantasy, Rue, a Black teen from Houston, has her world turned upside down when she learns she has godly ancestry and must save not only the human world but the god worlds too.
With threads of sisterhood, family, and adventure, this one will keep you up reading into the late hours of the night. One reviewer (and fellow author) says of J. Elle’s writing, “Her worldbuilding is intriguing and layered, leaving you with the feeling that you absolutely MUST see more of this place.”
Those who love The Hunger Games and books by Tomi Adeyemi and Angie Thomas should pick this one up.
From a brilliant Caribbean writer comes this debut novel set in Barbados, about four interconnected lives — those eager to escape their legacy of violence in a rapidly changing resort town that is a supposed “paradise.”
Perfect for fans of Zadie Smith and Marlon James, it’s full of murder, mystery, heartbreaking loss, and a transportive narrative voice.
Sinking into these pages will take you back to 2008 during the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The story follows Ruth, a Black engineer in Chicago with an Ivy League education. Her husband wants to start a family, but she’s not so sure and still has thoughts of the baby she had to give up when she was a teenager.
Before she can move forward, she must face the past. She returns to her hometown in Indiana, where she must navigate racial tensions. Along the way, she makes an unexpected friend and uncovers a family secret. A must-read about race, class, and motherhood.
This YA fantasy (first in a new series) is a fierce West African feminist story in which girls are outcasts by blood but warriors by choice. Nothing and no one is quite what they seem to be — not even the main character.
Deka faces the blood ceremony in her village, praying her blood will run red, but it runs gold, and she must face the choice of a lifetime. We found it to be an incredibly inspiring story of inner strength and think Namina Forna is definitely a fresh voice in the fantasy genre.
Pick this up if you’re a fan of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther.
You know what they say happens when you’re making other plans. In this relatable debut novel, 28-year-old Grace has just completed her PhD in astronomy. She’s been on the straight and narrow path her whole life, driven by years of expectation and pressure.
But then all her carefully laid plans are scattered to the wind by a difficult job market and a trip to Vegas, where she unexpectedly wakes up with a ring on her finger. She doesn’t know the woman she married, but their love story — and Grace’s story as she deals with discrimination, burnout, overwhelm, and loneliness — is one that readers are raving about.
In this new novel by the author of Halsey Street, we glimpse a community in North Carolina that’s grappling with racial injustice and discrimination. It’s a sweeping tale that follows two main families, spanning many decades and multiple points of view as it examines identity, the American family, and the many ways race affects all kinds of relationships.
One early reviewer writes that it’s “steeped in duality for just the right amount of time to make an elegant tea. Delicate and hardening, Naima’s story seems to ricochet off its characters until the web of tension breaks (but doesn’t shatter) under its own weight.”
For fans of Daisy Jones & the Six and Queenie comes this emotional oral history of a fictional Afropunk rock ’n’ roll duo (that we wish were real) in the 1970s.
Opal is an anti-9-to-5, confident, independent young woman who launches a career in New York’s music scene with a record company that helps her find her niche. All the while she navigates the pitfalls of fame and the discrimination and violence from rival bands.
According to one early reviewer, it’s “ultimately a story about music, family, identity, fame, and race presented in mostly interviews. Walton’s journalistic background weaves together the intersecting stories of Sunny Shelton, an ambitious journalist, and the multiple figures who were part of the rise of Opal & Nev, Shelton’s musical idols.”
This Jamaican-inspired YA fantasy debut (first in a duology) is perfect for fans of Furyborn and An Ember in the Ashes. It offers a compelling dual POV from witches Iraya and Jazmyne. They’ve led very different lives and are actually sworn enemies, but they enter a shaky alliance in their mutual desire for vengeance.
One early reviewer calls it “an incredibly strong debut” with world-building and intricate lore you don’t want to miss. “[It’s] steeped in intense political intrigue and scheming. Smart has done a great job of writing morally gray characters and sending readers on a journey where they never know who to fully trust.”
This highly anticipated spin on the traditional “quest” fantasy story explores themes of colonialism, buried histories, forbidden magic, and war in a West African-inspired world.
We follow the story of a young scholar, Danso, who is desperate for adventure. Danso is clever, but his drive threatens to alter an entire empire. When he’s swept into a conspiracy, he has to set off on a journey that “reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.”
Perfect for fans of The City of Brass, The Rage of Dragons, and The Shadow of What Was Lost. Also, that cover is 🔥 🔥 🔥.
Naomi Farr is the books editor and a copy editor at Greatist. She loves focusing on all things books, beauty, wellness, and mental health. She’s also a YA fantasy writer and bookstagrammer. You can find her (and her cat) @avioletlife.