What We’re Reading | 2021 Staff Favorites

2021 is coming to a close. We laughed, we cried, and we read through the chaos of living through another year of the pandemic.

In honor of another amazing year of publishing for black authors around the diaspora, here is a list of our favorite books that were published this year and kept us going. Let us know what you think in the comments section below. Have you read any of these titles? What are some picks you read this past year that we didn’t include?


Kemba’s Pick

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

“This book reminded me why I love reading. Such a fresh romantic novel, super relatable and enjoyable to read!”
Kemba


AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

Seven days to fall in love, fifteen years to forget, and seven days to get it all back again…

When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their buried traumas, but the eyebrows of the Black literati. What no one knows is that fifteen years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. While they may be pretending not to know each other, they can’t deny their chemistry–or the fact that they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books through the years.

Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect–but Eva’s wary of the man who broke her heart, and wants him out of the city so her life can return to normal. Before Shane disappears though, she needs a few questions answered…

With its keen observations of creative life in America today, as well as the joys and complications of being a mother and a daughter, Seven Days in June is a hilarious, romantic, and sexy-as-hell story of two writers discovering their second chance at love.


Britton’s Pick

You Are Your Best Thing by Tanara Burke & Brené Brown

This book made me feel like i wasn’t alone in the world and reading that others have had similar stories as me.
– Britton


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – Tarana Burke and Dr. Brené Brown bring together a dynamic group of Black writers, organizers, artists, academics, and cultural figures to discuss the topics the two have dedicated their lives to understanding and teaching: vulnerability and shame resilience.

Contributions by Kiese Laymon, Imani Perry, Laverne Cox, Jason Reynolds, Austin Channing Brown, and more

Burke and Brown are the perfect pair to usher in this stark, potent collection of essays on Black shame and healing. Along with the anthology contributors, they create a space to recognize and process the trauma of white supremacy, a space to be vulnerable and affirm the fullness of Black love and Black life.


Ryan’s Pick

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray

“I loved this book I couldn’t put it down! Its a great story about navigating society as a white passing Black woman in America in the early 1900s.”
– Ryan


The remarkable story of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict, and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to–for the protection of her family and her legacy–to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.


Kittie’s Pick

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

“I was apprehensive about starting this book because I read the first book and I felt that reading her second book could be overkill but she showed growth, vulnerability and even more humor.
– Kittie


Remember when we hit it off so well that we decided We’re Going to Need More Wine? Well, this time you and I are going to turn to our friend the bartender and ask, You Got Anything Stronger? I promise to continue to make you laugh, but with this round, the stakes get higher as the conversation goes deeper.

When I released We’re Going to Need More Wine, the response was so great people asked when I would do a sequel. The New York Times even ran a headline reading “We’re Going to Need More Gabrielle Union.” Frankly, after being so open and honest in my writing, I wasn’t sure there was more of me I was ready to share. But life happens with all its plot twists. And new stories demand to be told. This time, I need to be more vulnerable–not so much for me, but anyone who feels alone in what they’re going through.

A lot has changed in four years–I became a mom and I’m raising two amazing girls. My husband retired. My career has expanded so that I have the opportunity to lift up other voices that need to be heard. But the world has also shown us that we have a lot we still have to fight for–as women, as black women, as mothers, as aging women, as human beings, as friends. In You Got Anything Stronger?, I show you how this ever-changing life presents challenges, even as it gives me moments of pure joy. I take you on a girl’s night at Chateau Marmont, and I also talk to Isis, my character from Bring It On. For the first time, I truly open up about my surrogacy journey and the birth of Kaavia James Union Wade. And I take on racist institutions and practices in the entertainment industry, asking for equality and real accountability.


Jasmine’s Pick

How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

“A great read about a woman’s trials in beginning adulthood/womanhood. There are themes of love, death, community, parenting, domestic violence, and healing. Overall, it’s a great fictional read about everyday stressors that so many women in the African Diaspora experience.”
– Jasmine


In the tradition of Zadie Smith and Marlon James, a brilliant Caribbean writer delivers a powerful story about four people each desperate to escape their legacy of violence in a so-called “paradise.”In Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, Lala’s grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister. It’s a cautionary tale, about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers and go into the Baxter’s Tunnels. When she’s grown, Lala lives on the beach with her husband, Adan, a petty criminal with endless charisma whose thwarted burglary of one of the beach mansions sets off a chain of events with terrible consequences. A gunshot no one was meant to witness. A new mother whose baby is found lifeless on the beach. A woman torn between two worlds and incapacitated by grief. And two men driven into the Tunnels by desperation and greed who attempt a crime that will risk their freedom – and their lives.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is an intimate and visceral portrayal of interconnected lives, across race and class, in a rapidly changing resort town, told by an astonishing new author of literary fiction.


Briana’s Pick

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

“I loved this book so much! Gossip Girl meets Get Out is the most accurate description yet! Suspenseful and witty, Faridah makes it hard to put this book down!
– Briana


Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?


Ramunda’s Pick

The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less by Christine Platt

“I loved this book I couldn’t put it down! ”
– Ramunda


Forget the aesthetics of mainstream minimalism and discover a life of authenticity and intention with this practical guide to living with less…your way.

When Christine Platt set out on her journey to live with less, she never intended to become The Afrominimalist. She just wanted to tame the chaos in her closet! But after struggling with the austerity and whiteness of mainstream minimalism, Christine realized why minimalism often seems unattainable for so many: the emphasis on all-white, barren aesthetics distracts from the practice of living with intention. And so, she decided to do things her way by curating a life of less influenced by the African diaspora.

In The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less, Christine gets right to the heart of how childhood experiences and expectations manifest in adulthood, the delicate dance between needs and wants, and the complicated weight of familial and societal pressures. A far cry from Konmaried closets, capsule wardrobes, and conspicuous consumption, Christine’s brand of “living with less” is more than a decluttering regimen. Inspired by her personal journey, Christine presents a radical revisioning of minimalism, one that celebrates the importance of history and heritage, and gives you permission to make space for what really matters…your way.

Beautifully illustrated with original black-and-white prints and line drawings, The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less is a testament to the idea that anyone can be a minimalist and a warm invitation to a life curated with intention, perfect for readers of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists), Marie Kondo, Joshua Becker, and Courtney Carver.


Derricks’s Pick

Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America & Its Urgent Lessons by Eddie S. Glaude

“This book speaks directly to the rage I feel at times as a consequence of hypocritical political-partisans and apathetic white evangelicals who “condemn racism” yet refuse to confront the culture and systems of white supremacy. Eddie Glaude and James Baldwin gave me he words and space to confront my feelings as real and important.”
– Derrick


James Baldwin grew disillusioned by the failure of the civil rights movement to force America to confront its lies about race. What can we learn from his struggle in our own moment? Named one of the best books of the year by Time, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune – Winner of the Stowe Prize – Shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

“Not everything is lost. Responsibility cannot be lost, it can only be abdicated. If one refuses abdication, one begins again.” — James Baldwin

Begin Again is one of the great books on James Baldwin and a powerful reckoning with America’s ongoing failure to confront the lies it tells itself about race. Just as in Baldwin’s “after times,” argues Eddie S. Glaude Jr., when white Americans met the civil rights movement’s call for truth and justice with blind rage and the murders of movement leaders, so in our moment were the Obama presidency and the birth of Black Lives Matter answered with the ascendance of Trump and the violent resurgence of white nationalism.

In these brilliant and stirring pages, Glaude finds hope and guidance in Baldwin as he mixes biography–drawn partially from newly uncovered Baldwin interviews–with history, memoir, and poignant analysis of our current moment to reveal the painful cycle of Black resistance and white retrenchment. As Glaude bears witness to the difficult truth of racism’s continued grip on the national soul, Begin Again is a searing exploration of the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.

About MahoganyBooks 235 Articles
MahoganyBooks is an online bookstore that believes in social entrepreneurship. We take a leadership role in the African American community promoting reading, writing, and cultural awareness as tools to improve communities as well as enrich the lives of motivated individuals.

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