Reading List: 2019’s Most Critically Acclaimed Books

View a more detailed description of the 2019 list.
View a list of all the critically acclaimed titles on our list from 1940 to 2020.


  1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  2. Heads of the Colored People: Stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
  3. The Nickel Boys: A Novel by Colson Whitehead
  4. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  5. New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent by Margaret Busby
  6. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  7. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
  8. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
  9. The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
  10. They All Fall Down: A Thriller by Rachel Howzell Hall
  11. The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
  12. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  13. Small Silent Things by Robin Page
  14. I Do Love You Still by Mary B. Morrison
  15. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  16. Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
  17. Speaking of Summer: A Novel by Kalisha Buckhanon
  18. Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington
  19. We Cast a Shadow: A Novel by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
  20. My Time in the Sun by Naleighna Kai
  21. Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury
  22. One Night in Georgia by Celeste O. Norfleet
  23. Crossroads by LaVerne Thompson, Angela Kay Austin, Naleighna Kai, Ursula Sinclair, and 16 more
  24. Evil Never Sleeps: Tales of Light and Darkness by Robert Fleming
  25. Good Man Gone Bad: An Aaron Gunner Mystery by Gar Anthony Haywood
  26. The Wolf Queen: The Promise of Aferi Book II by Cerece Rennie Murphy
  27. The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz
  28. Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi
  29. Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke
  30. The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
  31. The Farm by Joanne Ramos
  32. Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah
  33. Queen Bitch: Part 4 by Joy Deja King


  1. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  2. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
  3. The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom
  4. The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers by Bridgett M. Davis
  5. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  6. Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib
  7. Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel
  8. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  9. Self-Value: The Story of Me by Brandon Williams
  10. Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  11. Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry
  12. Life Is God’s Best Gift: Wisdom from the Ancestors on Finding Peace and Joy in Today’s World by Sam Chege
  13. After Life: My Journey from Incarceration to Freedom by Alice Marie Johnson
  14. Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People by Ben Crump
  15. Diamond Doris by Doris Payne
  16. My Name Is Prince by Prince Rogers Nelson and Randee St. Nicholas
  17. Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin
  18. How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones
  19. Solitary by Albert Woodfox
  20. Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
  21. Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  22. The Beautiful Ones by Prince Rogers Nelson
  23. In the Country of Women: A Memoir by Susan Straight
  24. Vegetables Unleashed: A Cookbook by Jose Andres and Matt Goulding
  25. Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System by Cyntoia Brown-Long
  26. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young
  27. More Than Pretty: Doing the Soul Work That Uncovers Your True Beauty by Erica Campbell
  28. I Am Dance: Words and Images of the Black Dancer by Hal Banfield
  29. Letters to the Finishers (who struggle to finish) by Candace E. Wilkins
  30. Inspire Your Home: Easy Affordable Ideas to Make Every Room Glamorous by Farah Merhi
  31. Your Next Level Life: 7 Rules of Power, Confidence, and Opportunity for Black Women in America by Karen Arrington
  32. Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward by Valerie Jarrett
  33. More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) by Elaine Welteroth


  1. The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
  2. New Kid by Jerry Craft
  3. Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
  4. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
  5. Black, White, Just Right! by Marguerite W. Davol
  6. Sounder by William H. Armstrong
  7. Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim
  8. Boonoonoonous Hair by Olive Senior
  9. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
  10. Layla’s Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie
  11. Whose Toes are Those? by Jabari Asim
  12. Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
  13. Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America by Ibi Zoboi, Tracey Baptiste, Coe Booth, Dhonielle Clayton, Brandy Colbert, Jay Coles, Lamar Giles, Leah Henderson, Justina Ireland, Varian Johnson, Kekla Magoon, Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Renée Watson, Rita Williams-Garcia, and others
  14. Jake the Fake Goes for Laughs by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach
  15. The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes
  16. Around Harvard Square by Christopher John Farley
  17. Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers
  18. Double Bass Blues by Andrea J. Loney
  19. Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof by Ivy Claire and Created by Kobe Bryant
  20. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
  21. A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan
  22. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
  23. Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan
  24. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
  25. Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons
  26. Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry and Jessica Curry
  27. Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
  28. A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein
  29. Her Own Two Feet: A Rwandan Girl’s Brave Fight to Walk by Meredith Davis and Rebeka Uwitonze
  30. The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown
  31. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones
  32. The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus


  1. The Tradition by Jericho Brown
  2. Felon: Poems by Reginald Dwayne Betts
  3. The Crazy Bunch by Willie Perdomo
  4. I: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte
  5. Build Yourself a Boat by Camonghne Felix
  6. A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland by Damaris B. Hill
  7. Honeyfish by Lauren K. Alleyne
  8. Mistress by Chet’la Sebree