World Book Day: Black British Books to Add to Your Collection

tricia_black_book_newsI was browsing through my twitter timeline and noticed a link to the 100 African-American must read books. I was incredibly impressed, but not in the least bit surprised at the breadth of the list, many of which I’d read myself over the years, such has been the power of African-American literature in the UK.

I began to wonder what a must read Black British book list would look like. I assumed I probably couldn’t get to 100, but with the help of friends, I was sure that we’d certainly be able to get to 50.

My idea for inclusion to the list was: one book – one author, published by a UK-based publishing company. No anthologies or compilations.  It did not have to be literary fiction, but it had to be the written word, so plays, poetry, biographies, even academic publications are included, but no photography books, for example. (The African American list that I had seen was primarily literary fiction.)

I started with Jacquie who runs the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club, we shared our lists and we found that we’d already arrived at over 40 books – albeit with duplications.  A few months later, over dinner with Angela, the founder of the Black Reading Group (the 12-year old reading group I now co-ordinate with a friend Sasha), we fine-tuned the list and found that we had indeed arrived at 50 published books. Finally, I sent the list to the author, Fiona Joseph (Fiona’s biography of the philanthropist Beatrice Cadbury is now available), and with her contributions, the project moved forward.

Here’s the list…

  1. Sade ADENDRINE: Imagine This
  2. Diran ADEBAYO: Some Kind of Black
  3. Bola AGBAJE: Not Black & White 
  4. Patrick AUGUSTUS: Baby Father
  5. Nii AYIKIWEI PARKES: Tail of the Blue Bird 
  6. James BERRY: When I Dance
  7. Jean BINTA BREEZE: Riddim Ravings & Other Poems 
  8. Malorie BLACKMAN: Noughts & Crosses
  9. E.R. BRAITHWAITE: To Sir With Love
  10. Constance BRISCOE: Ugly
  11. David DABYDEEN: Black British History
  12. Fred D’AGUIAR: Bill of Rights
  13. Yvvette EDWARDS: A Cupboard Full of Coats
  14. Buchi EMECHETA: The Joys of Motherhood
  15. Olaudah EQUIANO: The Interesting Narrative & Other Stories
  16. Diana EVANS: 26a
  17. Bernadine EVARISTO: Blonde Roots 
  18. Aminatta FORNA: The Devil That Danced on Water
  19. Mike GAYLE: Brand New Friend
  20. Beryl GILROY: Black Teacher 
  21. Paul GILROY: There Ain’t No Black in The Union Jack
  22. Colin GRANT: Negro with a Hat: Marcus Garvey
  23. Victor HEADLEY: Yardie
  24. C.L.R. JAMES: The Black Jacobins 
  25. Jackie KAY: Trumpet
  26. Oona KING: Oona King Diaries: House Music 
  27. Dorothy KOOMSON:  The Cupid Effect
  28. Kwame KWEI-ARMAH: Statement of Regret/Elmina’s Kitchen
  29. Linton KWESI JOHNSON: Tings an’ Times
  30. George LAMMING: The Emigrants
  31. Doreen LAWRENCE: And Still I Rise
  32. Andrea LEVY: Small Island
  33. E.A. MARKHAM: Hinterland
  34. Nadifa MOHAMED: Black Mamba Boy
  35. Courttia NEWLAND: The Scholar: A West Side Story
  36. Ben OKRI: The Famished Road 
  37. Helen OYEYEMI: The Icarus Girl 
  38. Caryl PHILLIPS: A Distant Shore
  39. Trevor & Mike PHILLIPS: Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain
  40. Hannah POOL: My Father’s Daughter 
  41. Dreda SAY MITCHELL: Running Hot
  42. Zadie SMITH: White Teeth
  43. Debbie TUCKER GREEN: Random
  44. Alex WHEATLE: Brenton Brown
  45. Precious WILLIAMS: Precious
  46. Roy WILLIAMS: Starstruck
  47. Gary YOUNGE: No Place Like Home 
  48. Benjamin ZEPHANIAH: Refugee Boy 

If you don’t see your favourite book here blame me, I have opted for the prize winning book, for example Andrea Levy’s Small Island, (32) rather than my favourite – Every Light in the House Burnin’; Dreda Say Mitchell’s celebrated first book Running Hot, (42), won the top crime writers fiction award,  and Ben Okri’s Booker prize winning The Famished Road 36, even though in both the latter cases their more recent work would be considered the much more admired of their work.

In other instances, my co-workers on the project, made such strong cases, and so I have I stuck with that selection, which is why, for example, Aminatta Forna’s first book (18), the memoir about her father appears here, rather than the more recent, Commonwealth prize winning, Memory of Love.


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Tricia is a lover of literature and the blogger behind the fantastic Black Book News Blog which covers the latest  releases from black authors across the globe. She also co-hosts a number of literature events in London.  


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