theGrio’s Top 50 books to read: Summertime and the reading is sizzling

These picks highlight books focusing on one of seven culturally resonant themes. 

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It’s summertime, and nothing is easy, but the reading is hot, hot, hot.

Earlier this year, in a beautiful package for Time Magazine, Ibram X. Kendi declared that the United States is in the midst of a Black renaissance, recognizing a range of ascendant Black voices and talent across a variety of cultural forms.

That feature reaffirmed what we already knew: even as we continue to struggle with the precarious material realities of Black life in America, it’s clear that Black artistic and intellectual production is in full bloom. 

Stock photo by Element5 Digital via Pexels

In the long shadow of a devastating pandemic, that literary light shines bright. Both 2020 and 2021 have been fruitful years for Black authors, and there’s no better time than summer to discover a new Black author or pick up a favorite’s latest book. At the same time, with such abundance, it’s hard to know where to start. 

No problem, theGrio has you. Compiling this list of suggested summer reading was truly a labor of love. While these recs are by no means exhaustive—with such riches to choose from, that roll call would be more than 100 titles deep— I’ve tried to ensure that it’s varied in essential ways.

Black couple reading a book on the couch
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

From subject to genre to mood, these books were chosen with care: through research, reading and consultation, talking to readers and authors and reading some more. As a result, they include some of the best of the best, bar none. 

Whether you’re looking for connection, escape, or intellectual stimulation, I hope this list inspires your next great read:

Family Ties

Read ‘Family Ties’ booklist HERE.

American Art and Ideas

Read ‘American Art and Ideas’ booklist HERE.

LGBTQ+ Pride

Read ‘LGBTQ+ Pride’ booklist HERE.

Black Love and Black Glamour

Read ‘Black Love and Black Glamour’ booklist HERE.

Spreading Our Wings 

Read ‘Spreading Our Wings’ booklist HERE.

Crime and Consciousness

Read ‘Crime and Consciousness’ booklist HERE.

Historical Reckoning

Read ‘Historical Reckoning’ booklist HERE.


Read ‘Nonfiction’ booklist HERE.

Thrills and Chills: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Read ‘Thrills and Chills’ booklist HERE.

Love and Romance

Read ‘Love and Romance’ booklist HERE.

Historical Fiction

Read ‘Historical Fiction’ booklist HERE.

Fiction from the Diaspora

Read ‘Fiction from the Diaspora’ booklist HERE.

Contemporary Fiction

Read ‘Contemporary Fiction’ booklist HERE.

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