Young black woman sits on a yellow couch in living room reading a book
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The attacks on books by and about Black people’s past, present and future are reaching new heights. Moving in tandem with the demonization of the term “woke” (which literally meant at its origins Blackfolk being aware of our historical and contemporary realities – the good, the bad and the ugly) and the criminalization of the concept “critical race theory” (which, for the grossly uninformed has come to mean all things Black), these attacks on Black books have seen basic presentations on facts about the lives and experiences of Black people banned from use in countless schools.

Books by respected and revered authors and public figures, as well as books about the lives of some of the most iconic Americans in US history have been attacked, banned and even burned in some cities with a vitriolic fervor reminiscent of some of the world’s most notorious anti-peace, anti-justice, anti-freedom and anti-democracy regimes.

But in a classic example of making lemonade out of society’s lemons, there is a national movement afoot celebrating books that speak to our Pan-African history, current reality and future possibilities. The lion’s share of these books are written by Blacks. But all speak in some way to the Black condition and to Black people’s right to exercise our full humanity, bending our knee to no one but God, and sharing our voices in the bold, unapologetic spirit of the late South African freedom fighter Steve Biko whose iconic phrase was the title of one of his books—“I Write What I Like.”

One way to get involved in this movement and add to your Black knowledge set via the miracle of books is to check out the booklist provided below, courtesy of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church’s (Shrine of the Black Madonna) national ministry team.

The list below has a little something for everyone: history, contemporary reality, Afrofuturism, social commentary, non-fiction, fiction, environmental justice writings, theology pieces and more.

So, get in where you fit in, and find the book or books that jibe with your spirit, and flex your agency, your right, your power, your responsibility to ingest all the Blackness you damn well please.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Please know that this list is in no way exhaustive. There are a lot of must-read classics that aren’t on the PAOCC’s 2023 list because they’ve been on lists from years past. But moving forward, I will include those books – e.g., “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey,” “Introduction to African Civilizations,” “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” “Between the World and Me” and a gazillion other such classics – in future lists.)

PAOCC recommended reading list for 2023

  1. “101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think,” by Brianna Wiest
  2. “America’s Unholy Ghosts: The Racist Roots of Our Faith and Politics,” by Joel Edward Goza
  3. “Black Women Will Save The World: An Anthem,” by April Ryan
  4. “Born In Blackness,” by Howard French
  5. “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants,” by Robin Wall Kimmer
  6. “Community: Starting Well In Your Small Group,” by Andy Stanley
  7. “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America,” by Ibram X Kendi & Keisha N. Blain
  8. “Fugitive Pedagogy,” by Jarvis Givens
  9. “Harvard Business Review 10 Must Reads: On Change Management,” HBR
  10. “Harvard Business Review 10 Must Reads: On Mental Toughness,” HBR
  11. “How Beautiful We Were: A Novel,” by Imbolo Mbue
  12. “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness,” by Austin Channing Brown
  13. “Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope, In An American City,” by Andrea Elliott
  14. “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice & Redemption,” by Bryan Stevenson
  15. “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies,” by Resmaa Menakem
  16. “My Time Will Come: A Memoir of Crime, Punishment, Hope & Redemption,” by Ian Manuel & Bryan Stevenson
  17. “Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World,” by Gaia Vince
  18. “Power & Prediction: The Disruptive Economics of Artificial Intelligence,” by Agyei Agrawai, Joshua Gans, Avi Goldfarb
  19. “Reclaiming Stolen Earth: An Africana Ecotheology,” by Dr. Eric Jawanza Clark
  20. “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” by Yuval Noah Harari
  21. “Set The World On Fire (Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom),” by Keisha N. Blain
  22. “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story,” by Nikole Hannah-Jones
  23. “The Age of AI and our Human Future,” by Henry A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, Daniel Huttenlocher
  24. “The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma,” by Besser Van Der Kolk, M.D.
  25. “The End of the World Is Just The Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization,” by Peter Zeihan
  26. “The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times,” by Michelle Obama
  27. “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” by Jeanne Theoharis
  28. “The Warmth of Other Suns,” by Isabel Wilkerson
  29. “Significations,” by Charles Long
  30. “Under The Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and the Health of our Nation,” by Linda Villarosa
  31. “What The Bible Says to the Minister: The Minister’s Personal Handbook,” by Leadership Ministries Worldwide
  32. “White Fear: The Browning of America is What’s Making White Folks Lose Their Minds,” by Roland Martin & Leah Lakins
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Aswad WalkerAssociate Editor

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...