Black History Month: An essential Black British reading list

Black History Month: An essential Black British reading list
Book Club: Black History Month recognises the immense political, social and cultural achievement of Britain's black community. In celebration, The New Arab has compiled a list of books by Black British authors that need to be on your bookshelf.
7 min read
26 October, 2022
The Black British experience has become the predominant vessel for cultural change in post-war Britain

October is Black History Month in the UK, and, as is customary of today's internet-savvy book lovers, it is a month we get to share our intense reading of Black British literature.

Reading Black British books in October also serves as an introduction, for those unfamiliar with them. Black British authors continue to grow in number, and they explore many different genres.

This October, The New Arab has compiled a list of some of our favourite books by Black British authors that you need on your shelf. Emphasis is on the word “some”, because this list cannot possibly account for the plethora of books that Black British authors have written – and will write.

"Covering everything from education, politics, policing, education and identity, Natives speaks directly to the British denial when confronted with the reality of its race and class legacy"

Contemporary Fiction

Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli: This is a debut novel by British-Nigerian author, Onyi Nwabineli released earlier this month. Someday, Maybe is a novel that is strikingly honest in its exploration of grief.

It centres on a British-Nigerian woman named Eve, who tries to come to terms with the unexpected death of her husband. Someday, Maybe is rich in wit and humour, as it is in grief and heartbreak. Through Eve, Nwabineli introduces us to a resilient character and this unconventional love story.

We are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan: In this debut novel, Zayyan examines the long-term effects of Idi Amin’s brutal regime in Uganda.

Spanning several decades and continents, We are All Birds of Uganda introduces Sameera, a young Londoner lawyer who makes his way back to his family home due to an unexpected tragedy. During this visit, Sameer learns of events from a past he is unaware of. 

Hope and Glory by Jendella Benson: Hope and Glory is the story of a young woman, Glory, who goes back to Peckham – from her glamorous life in Los Angeles – after her father’s passing.

On arrival, Glory meets her family in a state far removed from the close-knit one she grew up with. In her bid to reunite her family, she unearths a huge family secret, which threatens the frail fabric that holds her family together. Hope and Glory received a barrage of praise from acclaimed British authors like Bolu Babalola, Candice Carty-Williams, and Musa Okwonga.


Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward: Bone is a poetry collection by Yrsa Daley-Ward, a British author of Nigerian and Jamaican descent. The poems in this collection exemplify what it means to be a first-generation Black British woman.

Daley-Ward’s words reflect on the heart, the vulnerability of falling in love (or experiencing loss in love), depression, coming of age, faith, and the inner self. Bone is a visceral body of work that many readers deserve to experience.

Locating Strongwoman by Tolu Agbelusi: This is a collection of poems that firmly reject the stereotypical narrative of “strong women”, especially “strong Black women”. Agbelusi embarks on this journey while validating the many complexities that define the Black British woman's identity. 

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Short Stories

Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi: The stories in Manchester Happened chart out, for readers, the many experiences that accompany migration for Ugandans living in the UK. Alongside her lyrical description of Manchester, Makumbi explores the harsh realities of racism, domestic and sexual abuse, the breakdown of the family unit, and the ever-lingering effects of European colonialism in Africa.

Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalola: In this debut short story collection, Babalola takes different stories from around the globe, and gives them a contemporary, swoony, and empowering retelling. The collection draws from West African folklore, Greek mythology, as well as ancient legends from the Middle East.

In many of the stories, Babalola chooses to give the women agencies (that are conveniently missing in the original stories) and this, along with Babalola’s witty writing style, gives these familiar stories a refreshing look. 


Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene: This is a compilation of interviews with dozens of empowering and successful Black women, sharing their experiences on everything. From work to internet dating, and education, this book is an essential book from which many generations of Black women will benefit.

Little Black Book: A Toolkit for Working Women by Otegha Uwagba: Little Black Book is indeed, a little book that packs a punch. Here, Uwagba takes readers through everything they need to become successful in their careers.

“Everything” ranges from how to build an enviable personal brand, tips for networking and overcoming creative block, and even negotiating a pay raise. Little Black Book does not forget the readers who are their own bosses, because it also contains tips on thriving as a freelance and how to navigate public speaking. 


Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga: The history of the British Empire, and indeed, the Black British identity is rooted in colonialism – and discussions around it are often avoided due to its troubled nature.

In Black and British, Olusoga invites readers to examine that history. Beginning in the Roman era, to the medieval imagination, Elizabethan ‘blackamoors’, and spanning the horror of the slave trade and colonialism, Olusoga examines this history unflinchingly – confronting taboos and revealing unknown scandals. 

A Quick Ting series: A Quick Ting series covers topics ranging from British business to power management, food, music and afrobeat, and even bamboo earrings. The series currently has eight titles published by Jacaranda Books between October 2020 and October 2021. 


This is Us: Black British Women and Girls edited by Kafayat Okanlawon: This is a collection of over 100 accounts from various Black British women and girls. The oldest contributor to this anthology is in their 80s and the youngest is only 4 years old. These entries cut across several themes including migration, love, violence, motherhood, womanhood, hair, health – every minutia of what it means to be a Black British woman/girl.

Feminism, Interrupted: Disrupting Power by Lola Olufemi: A book that received a glowing review from renowned activist and feminist, Angela Davis, Feminism, Interrupted – a small but revolutionary book – invites readers to re-examine feminism as we know it today. This book untangles feminism from present-day consumerism and examines reproductive justice, sex work, gendered Islamophobia, transmisogyny, state violence against women and much more.  

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala: Through his personal experiences, Akala examines the history of racism and classism in British society. Covering everything from education, politics, policing, education and identity, Natives speaks directly to the British denial when confronted with the reality of its race and class legacy.

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Young Adult

Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence: In this stunning debut, Lawrence examines one of the many layers of being a young Black British boy. Marlon, the main character, always swears to make the right decisions. However, when he is confronted with difficult moral choices, will he become the person he never wanted to be to protect his loved ones?

Ugly Dogs Don’t Cry by DD Armstrong: This is a retelling of the popular classic, Of Mice and Men. Ugly Dogs Don’t Cry tells the story of two boys, Kyle and Sideeq, in their first year of college in West London.

Sideeq is an aspiring artist who spends his time perfecting his art, while Kyle dreams of becoming a successful businessman and a rapper. The boys cultivate a much-needed, rich friendship in the face of teenage social politics, growing love interests and bullying.  

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Kid Literature

Jummy at the River School by Sabine Adeyinka: This witty story written by British-Nigerian author, Sabine Adeyinka, is set in 1990s Nigeria. The experiences detailed in the book are based on the Adeyinka’s own boarding school experience. 

Jummy, the main character, is a vibrant young girl that gains admission into one of Nigeria’s finest girls’ boarding schools – the River school. But before Jummy can settle into her new school, she finds her best friend, Caro – who couldn’t join attend the River school due to financial constraints – working there. Intent on emancipating Caro, Jummy and her new friends at the boarding school put their planning caps on.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe: In A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, British-Ghanian author, Yaba Badoe wields magical realism to examine child prostitution. Sante is orphaned after solely surviving a shipwreck. Her only companion is a golden eagle called Priss, that is, until she finds a new family with Mama Rose and her circus. When Sante turns 14, ghosts of the shipwreck are back to haunt her, demanding justice for their death.  

Aisha Yusuff is a book reviewer with a focus on African and Muslim literature. Her work can be found on @thatothernigeriangirl as well as in digital magazines like Rewrite London.

Follow her on Twitter: @allthingsaeesha