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13 books to read during Black History Month and beyond

Whether you're looking for non-fiction, devotionals, theology or poetry, we have suggestions for year-round reading.

Black voices are worth listening to 365 days of the year, not just in February. However, the celebration of Black History Month may serve as a reminder to evaluate the narratives that surround us and with which we choose to engage. Whether you want to introduce new perspectives into your reading or celebrate a rich history, there are many books that center on the Black experience. It can be hard to pick just one. Below you will find some of the Outlook’s favorite books by African American authors from this past year.

The 272: The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church by Rachel Swarns

Catholic journalist Rachel Swarns digs deep into the shocking story of Georgetown University’s sale of 272 enslaved persons. Amy Pagliarella reviews the new book and recommends it for a spark of meaningful conversation.

What Makes You Come Alive: A Spiritual Walk with Howard Thurman by Lerita Coleman Brown

“In What Makes You Come Alive, … Brown walks with us through Thurman’s inimitable life and commitments as he summons us into centering down, encountering the natural world, paying attention to sacred synchronicity, unleashing inner authority, and recognizing the genius of the religion of Jesus.”

How Far to the Promised Land: One Black Family’s Story of Hope and Survival in the American South by Esau McCaulley

“All this leads McCaulley to ask: If there is a God, why has racism persisted for so long?” — Colin Farmer

The Book of (More) Delights by Ross Gay

In his new book of essays, New York Times best-selling author Ross Gay shows how delight and critical rage can coexist — and we are made better by attempting to hold both.

Walking Through the Valley: Womanist Explorations in the Spirit of Katie Geneva Cannon by Emilie M. Townes, Stacey M. floyd-Thomas, Alison P. Gise Johnson, and Angela D. Sims, editors

“I was prepared for this book to focus on Black pain and trauma but … The authors focus on liberation, redemption and transformation rather than the trauma.” — Quantisha Mason-Doll

The Gospel According to James Baldwin: What America’s Prophet Can Teach Us about Life, Love, and Identity by Greg Garrett

Greg Garrett agrees with Baldwin on the questions that lead from bad faith to one based on wisdom and truth: “Who is God, who am I, what is sacred community, how are we supposed to live, why exercise faith?”

Dear Revolutionaries: A Field Guide for a World Beyond the Church by Lenny Duncan

“Duncan writes for those who want to know they do not face their finite disappointment in the church alone, yet hold infinite hope for the world beyond the church.” — Nannette Banks

The Anarchy of Black Religion: A Mystic Song by J. Kameron Carter

“In many ways, [J. Kameron Carter’s] book is a prayer that brings about a childlike sense of imagination. It becomes more than an intellectual work and something I view as deeply pastoral,” writes Jordan Burton.

Purchase here.

Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times by Otis Moss III

“Dancing in the Darkness is a must-read for seminarians and those working to mediate social injustice.” — Sterling Morse

Hope is Here! Spiritual Practices for Pursuing Justice and Beloved Community by Luther E. Smith Jr.

Luther E. Smith Jr. proclaims that Hope is Here! as he invites us to practice and pursue justice in our churches and communities.

Sacred Self-Care: Daily Practices for Nurturing Our Whole Selves by Chanequa Walker-Barnes

Amy Pagliarella and Shani McIlwain review Chanequa Walker-Barnes’ new book where she writes: “We are our bodies. There can be no spiritual life that does not engage the body.”

Black Liturgies: Prayers, Poems and Meditations for Staying Human by Cole Arthur Riley

For anyone feeling hollowed out by the litany of grief that envelops our news cycles, family systems and church communities, there is plenty of grace to be gained from her bodily prayers … invitations to contemplation … and calls to an undivided life. — Emily McGinley

Before the Streetlights Come On: Black America’s Urgent Call for Climate Solutions by Heather McTeer Toney

“Put this book in the hands of Black America via churches, classrooms, Black environmentalist affinity groups and green teams! It is a gift to our community that will ignite a passion to address climate change.” — Veronica M. Johnson

Presbyterian Outlook supports local bookstores. Join us! Click on the links above to purchase our suggestions from BookShop, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. As an affiliate, Outlook will also earn a commission from your purchase. 

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