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What Were Our Bestselling Books for 2021


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Our bestsellers list has been published continuously since 1998 and is the most visible list focused on Black Books in existence. You will learn about books selling well, in the Black community, that may never show up on lists published by larger corporate entities. Spread the word about our list, don’t let others determine which books are important.


Fiction: Voices of the Harlem Renaissance: Originally Published as The New Negro an Interpretation edited by Alain Locke and featuring a new introduction by AALBC’s Troy Johnson was the #1 fiction book for 2021. Voices, which was originally published almost 100 years ago, benefited from strong sales because it is an excellent treatment of The New Negro an Interpretation and we have focused on providing sales and distribution through independent channels.


Nonfiction: Sales of So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo surged immediately after the cruel murder of George Floyd. Readers, of all backgrounds, were anxious to understand the nature of racism how they could do something about it. More importantly, readers wanted to buy So You Want to Talk About Race, and similar title’s, from independent Black-owned booksellers. Sales have remained strong for these books more than a year later.


Children’s Books: Children’s books has been the top-selling category of books the past two years, which is really remarkable given the strength of nonfiction book sales (a close second). Born on the Water: The 1619 Project written by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, and wonderfully illustrated by Nikkolas Smith, enjoyed a tremendous amount of support from virtually the entire bookselling community.


Poetry: Vice: New and Selected Poems by Ai Ogawa won a National Book Award in 1999, the year it was first published. Given the strength of the sales of Amanda Gorman’s Call Us What We Carry, the 22-year-old Vice topping all other poetry book sales is impressive.

See all 95 Titles ▶


Fiction: The Zora Neale Hurston Boxed Set was an AALBC bestseller even before its publication date. The 10-book boxed set features the best of Hurston’s fiction and nonfiction in one impressive package.


Nonfiction: Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story was the #1 bestselling book across all genres this period. This does not include the many copies of the book sold as a result of our collaboration with Bookshop.org to support the New York based not-for-profit organization, The Literary Freedom Project.


Children’s Books: Born on the Water, which is also part of The 1619 Project was our top selling children’s book. Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith and written by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, Born on the Water was also one of our most popular books of the year.


Poetry: Amanda Gorman’s Call Us What We Carry: Poems helps make Gorman one of AALBC’s all-time bestselling authors.

See all 47 Titles ▶


Palmares by Gayl Jones

No less than the esteemed late novelist Toni Morrison, the chief editorial gatekeeper of Random House, was stunned by the narrative power of Gayl Jones’ first novel, Corregidora. The book of incest and topsy-turvy desire was published to critical acclaim in 1975. Jones was 26 at the time. Then Eva’s Man, a collection of painful flashbacks features the main character, Eva Medina Canada’s emotional unraveling into mental illness, which culminates in the castration of Davis, the man who imprisons her so he can repeatedly rape her. The book in 1976 totally hooked her readers who clamored for her next literary escapade.


Now, after more than two decades, Jones’ mammoth work, Palmeres, emerges on the bookshelves, seeking to enthrall old fans and snare new readers. The genesis of this hefty book was the spark of creation stemming from a volume-length poem, Song of Anninho, which was published by Detroit’s Lotus Press in 1981. It also was inspired by the church plays from her maternal grandmother, Amanda Wilson, and the childhood tales written by her mother, Lucille Jones. Jones, a keen observer of history, culture, and tradition, absorbed the concept of utopia — a place where oppression and intolerance would not be acceptable. More ▶


The 16th National Black Writers Conference (NBWC2022) Call For Papers Is Now Open! Scholars, Writers, Literary Activists, Cultural Critics, And Students Are Invited To Submit Proposals for the 16th National Black Writers Conference (March 2022)! Deadline: Monday, February 14, 2022

Download the Guidelines Here ▶


Alkebu-Lan Images, a cornerstone of the North Nashville community for more than 35 years, lost its founder. Yusef Harris — teacher, mentor, climber of Mount Kilimanjaro — has died.

Harris opened Alkebu-Lan in 1986 while pursuing his doctorate in psychology at Vanderbilt University and teaching part time at Tennessee State University. The Jefferson Street property went up for sale, and he made a down payment with a loan from Metro Development and Housing Agency. Since then, the shop has become a cultural mecca, selling books, art, apparel and other goods that reflect and celebrate African culture. Read the full article at nashvillescene.com ▶


Dear Reader


As 2022 begins I reflect on nearly two years of a global pandemic and it feels surreal, like something out of an Octavia Butler novel. Despite so many cancelled in-person events, restrictions, mandates, and heartache there is still good reason for hope. I trust the books shared in our newsletter and website continue to bring you joy, inform you, and help make your life better.


I know online discussions are not the same as in-person conversations, but consider joining our online discussion forums, you may find your enjoy the differences — especially if you are tired of being manipulated by algorithms and having your privacy mined for profit with other options. Feel free to discuss books or anything that interests you.


Always remember Troy, you are why we’ve been able to make AALBC the premier online platform for books by, or about, people of African descent. Your paid subscriptions, book purchases, suggestions, engagement on the site, commenting, social sharing, and advertisements helps support AALBC’s mission.


Peace and Love,
Troy Johnson
Founder & Webmaster, AALBC.com


Consider sponsoring our eNewsletter or a dedicated email.
★ AALBC.com eNewsletter – January 11, 2022 - Issue #345

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