100 Books for Black Boys/Teens of Color

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As a child, my mother brought home a bundle of books every Friday evening. The genres would vary; poetry, fiction, plays, and more. She always made sure I had an abundance of texts to choose from. I would sit in a nook of our home and devour them one by one, waiting for Friday to arrive so I could feel new spines against my palms.

One Friday, I said something to my mother that revolutionized our literary relationship. I looked through the bundle she’d brought home, frustrated, and pointed to the covers, “Mommy, I’m not in the book.”

She was confused and couldn’t comprehend what I meant. She went back to the store the next day to pick up some new books, ones that I might prefer. Upon entrance, she spotted Nikki Giovanni’s “Spin a Soft Black Song.” The blue cover had a little brown boy and girl on the front. The little girl had pigtails and a broad smile, just like me, and suddenly it hit my mother.

I could not find MYSELF in the book. She grabbed the book instantly and perused the shelves looking for book covers with similar images.

I recollect this story, whenever I watch my current students choose an independent reading book for the day. They glance over summaries, uninterested, and shruggingly decide to grab the book to fulfill their reading requirement. However, there’s a different look in their eyes as they come across book covers with images that they can relate to. Although I encourage them not to judge a book by its cover, I also understand their excitement when they’ve found a cover with a young man or woman of color on it.

They can see themselves “in the book.”

I often find myself curating selections for them and in doing so I realized how important it is for everyone to have these selections. Here are 100 books for boys/teens of color:

  1. Spin a Soft Black Song by Nikki Giovanni
  2. Black Boy by Richard Wright
  3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  4. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  5. When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds
  6. Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson
  7. After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
  8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  9. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
  10. Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Quick Tip: Hey parents! Have your child read this book alongside a documentary on basketball. The National Common Core expects students to be able to, “Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story (or stories) or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).” CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.3 Try Lebron James’ “More Than A Game” or the classic “Hoop Dreams.” Use the documentary/book in a discussion of comparing/contrasting. Have your child write a response to the film/book and feel free to give them a prompt that’ll call on their comprehension and their interest.

11. The Color of Water by James McBride

12. The Autobiography of Malcolm X

13. Anansi Stories

14. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

15. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

16. All-American Boys by Brandon Kiely and Jason Reynolds

17. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

18. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

19. Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers

20. Hoops by Walter Dean Myers

21. Buck by MK Asante

Quick Tip: Be sure to check the language/scenes/grade levels of books, before recommending them to your child. For intense texts, like “Buck” or Junot Diaz’s “Drown”, take into account the child/teen you’re giving the book to. Is this a child that uses profanity? Is this a child that’s seen/heard a lot of what’s happening in the text? Could they benefit from reading something harsh and true to life, considering they might be living through it?

22. The Chocolate War by Robert Comier

23. The Best of Simple by Langston Hughes

24. Makes Me Wanna Holler by Nathan McCall

25. The Pact by Sampson Davis

26. The Bond by Sampson Davis

27. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

28. X by Ilyasah Shabazz

Quick Tip: X can be used as a “connector text.” Get your child hype about Malcolm X’s story, through this adventure and then introduce them to the autobiography.

29. The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

30. The Watsons go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

31. Yolanda’s Genius, by Carol Fenner

32. Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Rising

33. The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson

34. March: Graphic Novels by John Lewis

35. Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story

36. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

37. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

38. Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes

39. Marvel’s New Black Panther Run by Ta-Nehisi Coates

39. 145th Street By Walter Dean Myers

40. Mexican White Boy By Matt De La Pena

41. Ball Don’t Lie By Matt De La Pena

42. Game By Walter Dean Myers

43. Bang By Sharon G. Flake

44. You Don’t Even Know Me by Sharon G. Flake

45. Tyrell By Coe Booth

46. Bronxwood By Coe Booth

47. Hip-Hop High School By Alan Larence Sitomer

48. Tears of a Tiger By Sharon M. Draper

49. Forged By Fire By Sharon M. Draper

50. Diary of Tears by Julius Lester

51. Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

52. Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

53. Sounder by William H. Armstrong

54. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

55. Drown by Junot Diaz

56. The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

57. The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

58. When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill

59. Black Boy, White School by Brian F. Walker

60. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor M. Rios

61. Letters to A Young Brother by Hill Harper

62. Barber Game Time Books by Tiki and Ronde Barber

63. Kid Caramel series by Dwayne Ferguson

64. The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill

65. STAT: Standing Tall and Talented series by Amare Stoudemire

66. Miami Jackson series by Patricia McKissack

67. Julian series by Ann Cameron

68. Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan

69. Be Boy Buzz by bell hooks

70. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

71. Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

72. 12 Years A Slave: Illustrated Edition

73. I Never Had It Made: an Autobiography of Jackie Robinson

74. Pull by Kevin Waltman

75. Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth

76. Dopesick by Walter Dean Myers

77. Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers

78. All The Right Stuff by Walter Dean Myers

79. Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers

80. How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

81. Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal

82. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri

83. Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

84. Boys Without Names by Kashmira Steth

85. Chess Rumble by G. Neri

86. Keeping the Night Watch by Hope Anita Smith

87. He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander

88. Turning 15 On the Road to Freedom by Elspeth Lealock

89. A Wreath for Emmit Till by Marilyn Johnson

90. Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe

91. The Battle of Jericho by Sharon M. Draper

92. We Beat The Street by Sampson Davis

93. Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali by Neal Adams/Dennis O’Neil

94. Spiderman: Miles Morales

95. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou & Jean-Michel Basquiat

96. It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop by MK Asante

97. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang

98. As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

99. Ghost by Jason Reynolds

100. Jaden Toussaint, The Greatest by Marti Dumas

We hope this list is helpful. Be sure to check the grade/reading level for each text to make sure it’s appropriate for the young man, in your life!

Erica Buddington is an author, avid reader, educator and creator of LangstonLeague/BookNoire.