18 Essential Reads by Black Women

From literary stalwarts to emerging talents, The Helm team shares their favorite reads for Black History Month.

By Jiya Pinder

Book by Black Women Authors The Helm

When a book leaves an indelible mark on you, the first thing you want to do is share it. In that spirit, The Helm’s editors have put together a list of titles by black women that have inspired and impacted our team. From literary classics to contemporary reads, we honor the voices of black women and their unwavering commitment to telling their stories authentically.


The Bluest Eye book by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

In her powerful first novel, Morrison explores the devastating and lasting effects of incest and beauty standards.

Sing, Unburied, Sing book by Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

An intimate portrait of a family enduring threats of dissolution as they journey through the heart of the South.

Feel Free book by Zadie Smith

Feel Free by Zadie Smith

This powerful collection of essays explores everything from Brexit to Smith’s love of libraries.

This Will Be My Undoing book by Morgan Jerkins

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

This Will Be My Undoing is a sharp collection of essays that discuss how Black women are “doubly disenfranchised by race and gender” and are consistently excluded from the, mostly white, mainstream feminist movement. Delving into how Black women are “objectified, silenced, and marginalized,” Jerkins offers readers an honest and gripping assessment of the complexity of surviving as a black woman in modern American society.

The Wedding Date book by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

A swoon-worthy romantic comedy that will sweep you off your feet.

An American Marriage book by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

A stirring love story following newlyweds who are unexpectedly separated by forces beyond their control.

red poetry book bone by yrsa daley-ward

Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward

A raw collection of poetry exploring mental illness, sexuality, and matters of the heart.

Their Eyes Were Watching God book by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

An enduring classic centered around a woman’s path to spiritual fulfillment as she breaks free from dissatisfying relationships.

Unapologetic a black, queer, and feminist mandate for radical movements books by Charlene A Carruthers

Unapologetic : A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers

A comprehensive blueprint for intersectional activists working toward restorative justice.

I am enough book by Grace Byers

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

A collection of positive affirmations for the kids in your life.

Little Leaders- Bold Women in Black History book by Vashti Harrison

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Teach your kids about the trailblazing and lesser-known female figures of Black history with this picture book.

Full, Full, Full of Love book by Trish Cooke

Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke

Follow JayJay and his family as they come together for a Sunday dinner full of love, affection and tasty food.

Step Into Your Power: 23 lessons On How To Live Your Best Life book by Jamia Wilson

Step Into Your Power: 23 lessons On How To Live Your Best Life by Jamia Wilson

A motivational book for every young girl looking to step into her potential and make her dreams a reality.

Children of Blood and Bone book by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

A West-African inspired young adult novel about the gift of magic and a young girl’s fight to keep it in her life.

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth book by Warsan Shire

Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire

Experience a maze of emotions with Shire’s colorful verse about the bond between mother and daughter.

Redefining Realness by Janet-Mock.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity and provides insights into the challenges and vulnerabilities many trans youth face.

Aint I A woman book by bell hooks

Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

A classic feminist text that delves into the intersectional nature of racism and sexism in 20th century America.

Emergent Strategy Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown

A remarkably useful self-help manual for living and thriving in a world that’s constantly in flux.

Every product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase through one of our links, The Helm may earn a commission.

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