The Monday List: Books by Black Authors

the monday list

I’ve been having a fantastic time putting together my Curated Bookshelf every month, but there are some themes where I just can’t find 12 books for it (yet). So I’ve decided to share these shorter lists on Mondays (most Mondays, at least). I hope you enjoy!

February isn’t just all about Valentine’s Day; it’s also Black History Month, and I think I would be remiss if I didn’t do something to celebrate. Especially since my 3rd grader did a report on Barack Obama as part of his studies on Black History Month. It was kind of interesting to work with him on it considering his dad and I met just a few months before Obama was elected. So here is my list of books I’ve read by black authors in the past few years (or as close as I can get as I’ve read a number of indie books and can’t always be sure, so it’s likely I’ll miss some).

The Tenant’s Wrath by Gabriel Nombo

the tenant's wrath

Happy New Year 3309!
Make a tour to a strange planet. The Tenant’s Wrath is a funny research report on how wrathful aliens live on their planet. Tussled Platters, the researcher from Earth, familiarizes himself with the aliens’ techniques of conducting research. He performs thorough research on how aliens’ wrathful nature affects them when they live together in their buildings as landlords and tenants. He reports it to Earthlings.

This takes a sci-fi version of Africa and asks what the relationship between landlords and tenants might be like.

Scarlet Odyssey Trilogy by C.T. Rwizi

Book Review: Scarlet Odyssey by C. T. Rwizi - an amazing African-influenced fantasy

Magic is women’s work; war is men’s. But in the coming battle, none of that will matter.

Men do not become mystics. They become warriors. But eighteen-year-old Salo has never been good at conforming to his tribe’s expectations. For as long as he can remember, he has loved books and magic in a culture where such things are considered unmanly. Despite it being sacrilege, Salo has worked on a magical device in secret that will awaken his latent magical powers. And when his village is attacked by a cruel enchantress, Salo knows that it is time to take action.

Salo’s queen is surprisingly accepting of his desire to be a mystic, but she will not allow him to stay in the tribe. Instead, she sends Salo on a quest. The quest will take him thousands of miles north to the Jungle City, the political heart of the continent. There he must gather information on a growing threat to his tribe.

On the way to the city, he is joined by three fellow outcasts: a shunned female warrior, a mysterious nomad, and a deadly assassin. But they’re being hunted by the same enchantress who attacked Salo’s village. She may hold the key to Salo’s awakening—and his redemption.

This is an incredible SFF journey through a fantastical version of Africa and beyond with magic and science artfully woven in.

Gates’ Bookstore by Jamila A. Stone

Gates' Bookstore by Jamila A. Stone

Two break-ins. One body. Countless unanswered questions…

When Diane Gates’s father died, she opened a bookstore in his honor and left her criminology career behind. Her passion for literature earned Diane quick success, and Gates’ Bookstore fast became a popular stop for locals and visitors alike.

Arriving at work one day, Diane discovers a minor break-in has happened overnight. She believes it to be a petty, one-off occurrence, but days later it happens again.

And this time, there’s a body.

The circumstances are unmistakable: a young woman has been murdered, and suddenly the future of Diane’s bookstore hangs in the balance.

Joining forces with detective Eric Barnes, Diane can’t resist her forensics-filled past and decides to investigate the murder alongside him. What she couldn’t have predicted however, is that the more evidence they uncover, the more it all points to Diane herself.

As a damning case starts to back Diane into a corner, her partnership with Eric is put to the ultimate test as they race to piece together the clues.

Can Diane unravel this mystery before she lands behind bars?
Or will she just become another pawn in a serial-killer’s game?

I believe this is the first half of a mystery story considering it leaves off on a cliff hanger.

The Girl With Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod

The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod

Growing up in dive bars up and down the East Coast, Toni Bennette’s guitar was her only companion…until she met Sebastian Quick. Seb was a little older, a lot wiser, and before long he was Toni’s way out, promising they’d escape their stifling small town together. Then Seb turned eighteen and split without looking back.

Now, Toni’s all grown up and making a name for herself in Philadelphia’s indie scene. When a friend suggests she try out for a hot new up-and-coming band, Toni decides to take a chance. Strong, feminist, and fierce as fire, Toni B. and the Lillys are the perfect match…except Seb’s now moonlighting as their manager. Whatever. Toni can handle it. No problem. Or it wouldn’t be if Seb didn’t still hold a piece of her heart…not to mention the key to her future.

Music is the soul of this book as it throws two people with quite a history back together in an unexpected way.

Black Truffle & Spice by Mathis Bailey

black truffle and spice mathis bailey

Zola Washington and her gay roommate, Pierre Jackson, are cooking up to open a café after recovering from unsavory relationships. Tension flares when a French-fusion bistro catches smells of the upcoming restaurant.

Darshan Singh is a food critic for Gourmet magazine. His job jet-sets him to all corners of the world, tasting extravagant dishes at Michelin-starred restaurants. Then he meets Zola. Will his review send her knives packing or set their relationship simmering?

This is a delicious interracial relationship full of food and rival restaurants.

Six Feet Apart: Love in Quarantine by Elena Greyrock

six feet apart elena greyrock

A light and playful romance. Passion is contagious in this offbeat, humorous journey making life in the pandemic a little more bearable.

When Luna, a reluctant, wanna-be influencer meets Stryker, a mysterious undiscovered musician, everything changes in ways that keep you guessing. He is self absorbed, and thinks the world revolves around him. She is beautiful, yet shy, and struggles with attention.

A quirky character, Luna’s voice is fresh and bubbly. Some futuristic nuances in the book make it hard to put down as you follow the hilarity and complexities of Luna and Stryker’s relationship unfolding among uncertain times–who will find redemption? Featuring original songs!

It may be set during COVID, but it also has a sweet and lovely interracial relationship, even if they do spend a good portion of the book broken up and developing themselves professionally.

The Smilodon by E.K. Ndanguzi

The Smilodon by E. K. Ndanguzi

Jonathan wants to live his best life. He wants his heart calm, his vision clear, and his soul lit. But instead, he ends the only meaningful relationship he ever had and then continues to live in constant fear of everything else around him falling apart at any moment. His life seems completely out of his control despite his relentless efforts to attain order. Jonathan is unaware that there are forces he cannot see, influencing his every move and ultimately his life. His worst fears may also be about to be realized.
This is a story of a young man’s struggle with life as he lives with the burden of his childhood experiences on his shoulders until he eventually has to face the Smilodon that dictated his every decision.

This takes an ordinary man in Tanzania and puts him in the path of a well-to-do woman he’s destined to love.

Special by Chino Chakanga

Book Review: Special by Chino Chakanga - YA, Science Fiction, Superhero

From super speed to telekinesis, everyone in Hope’s world has special abilities. Through ill fortune, she is born without any. Her peculiar case is a medical mystery which warrants comprehensive research and countless visits to the hospital.

Hope undergoes painful tests and unorthodox treatments to cure her of her unique condition and make her normal while grappling with the pitfalls of being different at school and leaving in the shadow of her multi-gifted younger brother.

Will Hope ever gain abilities? Is there a place for her in a world where great emphasis is placed on special abilities?

Special is an abstract look at the pressures of meeting the societal mould.

This is a fun YA book about a world where everyone has a special power, except one girl.

Magic of the Lost Trilogy by C.L. Clark

The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

In an epic fantasy unlike any other, two women clash in a world full of rebellion, espionage, and military might on the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire.
 Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought. Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne. Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.

Only the first two books are out, but it’s an incredible fantasy that involves colonialism and the fight for a crown, so far, as well as an intense romance.

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

the ballad of perilous jones alex jennings

A fun and fantastical love letter to New Orleans unfolds when a battle for the city’s soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song in this wildly imaginative debut. Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women help keep the order. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.

Perry knows Nola’s rhythm as intimately as his own heartbeat. So when the city’s Great Magician starts appearing in odd places and essential songs are forgotten, Perry knows trouble is afoot.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the piano that maintains the city’s beat, and without them, Nola will fail. Unwilling to watch his home be destroyed, Perry will sacrifice everything to save it. But a storm is brewing, and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Nola’s time might be coming to an end.

Set in an alternate New Orleans, this has a group of kids saving their world while the music of New Orleans beats at its heart.

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

From Africanfuturist luminary Okorafor comes a new science fiction novel of intense action and thoughtful rumination on biotechnology, destiny, and humanity in a near-future Nigeria.

Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt…natural, and that’s putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was “wrong”. But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.

Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the “reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist” and the “saga of the wicked woman and mad man” unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn’t so predictable. Expect the unaccepted.

I can’t help but think this cautions against the dangers of giants like Amazon, but it’s an interesting sci-fi story set in Africa where our main character is partly bionic.

The Nameless Republic Trilogy by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

From city streets where secrets are bartered for gold to forests teeming with fabled beasts, a sweeping epic unfolds in this richly drawn fantasy inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa. 

In this world, there is no destiny but the one you make.

In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—except he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.

When Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders—and the chaos left in the wake of his discovery could bring down an empire. 

Only the first book is out, but the first book has so much in it and involves a journey and some local politics.

Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

far from the light of heaven tade thompson

The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years to bring one thousand sleeping souls to a new home among the stars. But when first mate Michelle Campion rouses, she discovers some of the sleepers will never wake.

Answering Campion’s distress call, investigator Rasheed Fin is tasked with finding out who is responsible for these deaths. Soon a sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel, one that will have repercussions for the entire system—from the scheming politicians of Lagos station, to the colony planet Bloodroot, to other far-flung systems, and indeed to Earth itself.

This is a locked room mystery set on a space ship stuck in orbit around a distant planet where weird things happen aboard the ship.

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory

by the book jasmine guillory

Sometimes to truly know a person, you have to read between the lines.

Isabelle is completely lost. When she first began her career in publishing after college, she did not expect to be twenty-five, still living at home, and one of the few Black employees at her publishing house. Overworked and underpaid, constantly torn between speaking up or stifling herself, Izzy thinks there must be more to this publishing life. So when she overhears her boss complaining about a beastly high-profile author who has failed to deliver his long-awaited manuscript, Isabelle sees an opportunity to prove her worth and finally get the recognition she deserves.

All she has to do is go to the author’s Santa Barbara mansion and give him a quick pep talk or three. How hard could it be?

But Izzy quickly finds out she is in over her head. Beau Towers is not some celebrity lightweight writing a tell-all memoir. He is jaded and withdrawn and—it turns out—just as lost as Izzy. But despite his standoffishness, Izzy needs Beau to deliver, and with her encouragement, his story begins to spill onto the page. They soon discover they have more in common than either of them expected, and as their deadline nears, Izzy and Beau begin to realize there may be something there that wasn’t there before.

This is a cute romance between an author and a book editor with some fun elements from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast strewn throughout.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

When becoming an adult means learning to love yourself first.

With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.

This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her parent’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.

In New York, she’s able to ignore all the constant questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

I think this is more accurately women’s fiction as it’s mostly about Grace trying to figure herself out after getting her Ph.D., but there’s also a romance as she wakes up married to some unknown woman in Vegas.

Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera

The Guerreros have lived in Nothar Park, a predominantly Dominican part of New York City, for twenty years. When demolition begins on a neighboring tenement, Eusebia, an elder of the community, takes matters into her own hands by devising an increasingly dangerous series of schemes to stop construction of the luxury condos. Meanwhile, Eusebia’s daughter, Luz, a rising associate at a top Manhattan law firm who strives to live the bougie lifestyle her parents worked hard to give her, becomes distracted by a sweltering romance with the handsome white developer at the company her mother so vehemently opposes.
As Luz’s father, Vladimir, secretly designs their retirement home in the Dominican Republic, mother and daughter collide, ramping up tensions in Nothar Park, racing toward a near-fatal climax.
A beautifully layered portrait of family, friendship, and ambition, Neruda on the Park weaves a rich and vivid tapestry of community as well as the sacrifices we make to protect what we love most, announcing Cleyvis Natera as an electrifying new voice.

Natera is a bit different as she’s also Latina, but her novel is about gentrification in the predominantly Dominican part of NYC and the woman who was raised there but who wants out.

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