23rd October 2020

Bonnier Books UK team share some of their favourite books written by Black writers to celebrate Black History Month

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Bonnier Books UK team share some of their favourite books written by Black writers to celebrate Black History Month

Black History Month is celebrated in the UK every October – aiming to promote and recognise Black contributions to British society and to encourage and foster understanding and knowledge of Black history in general.

This month people from across Bonnier Books UK shared a selection of their favourite books written by Black writers, from vibrant verse novels, iconic science fiction and powerful autobiographical writing.

Emma Quick, senior marketing executive, recommends two stunning novels from award-winning poet Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land is a gorgeous story that explores the impact of the real-life tragic crash in American Airlines Flight 587 and celebrates family, grief and love. If you’ve never read a book in verse before this is the perfect introduction – beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down.

‘I also recommend the first novel we published with Elizabeth Acevedo, With the Fire on High. The characters in this book are so brilliantly complex and nuanced – it makes for an incredibly powerful story about teen parenting, making the right choice and being true to yourself. Plus it’ll make you incredibly hungry for all of the delicious food Emoni cooks!’

Carla Hutchinson, editor, recommends diving into two superb story collections – perfect for readers who prefer reading shorter-form writing.

A Phoenix First Must Burn, edited by the brilliant Patrice Caldwell, is a stunning YA collection of sixteen short stories by award-winning and bestselling authors, that centre, explore and celebrate the Black female experience through fantasy, science fiction and magic.

‘I also recommend How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Hurts. It’s a vibrant, lyrical, intimate short story collection that explores the lives of Jamaican immigrants in the US and their families back home. The stories paint a picture of a nation, a people and a way of life, that sizzles with new-found opportunities in the US and a yearning for the familiarity of home in Jamaica.’

Talya Baker, desk editor, recommends Rutendo Tavengerwei’s powerful second novel, The Colours That Blind and Jackie Kay’s compelling Trumpet.

Rutendo’s brilliant second novel intertwines two stories set forty years apart in Zimbabwe and shows the destruction that is caused by fear and lack of compassion.’

Trumpet is a revealing and empathetic story of a jazz musician’s multiple lives. Jackie Kay’s language has soul and music and humour and tragedy, and you feel every nuance of her character’s experience. Trumpet is one of my all-time favourites.’ 

Heather Blakey, brand and communications officer, recommends adding some non-fiction to your list. Namely, Tricky’s autobiography Hell is Round the Corner and Magid Magid’s manifesto for change The Art of Disruption. 

‘For me Tricky is one of the most creative and innovative musical artists of our time, and his vibrant, thoughtful and questioning sound and lyrics have had enormous impact in the UK and international music scenes. Being able to dive into his autobiography is a treasure and a rare, personal insight into Tricky’s life and artistry.’

‘I think everyone should read Magid Magid’s The Art of Disruption. This is a book about energetic action, about being focused on building a better future. Magid has such a galvanising energy and this is an incredibly empowering read.’

Sophie McDonnell, designer, recommends two novels from exceptional women, Bernadine Evaristo’s Man Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other and Jordan Ifueko’s epic fantasy debut Raybearer.

Girl, Woman, Other is a poignant, beautifully intricate web of interwoven characters, stories and experiences on what it is to grow up Black in Britain. It stays with you long after you’ve read it.’

‘Working on the team that published Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer this year was such an incredible moment. Raybearer is an epic fantasy that hooks you in from the first sentence and keeps you entranced until the very last.’

Clare Kelly, senior publicity manager, couldn’t put Kiley’s Reid’s Such a Fun Age down.  

‘Kiley’s novel is a fantastic thought-provoking novel exploring race, class, privilege and feminism in the social media age.’

Phoenix Curland, sales development assistant, loved Candice Carty-Williams beloved debut Queenie.

‘Not that Queenie really needs any sort of introduction – but I was particularly moved by the way Carty-Williams openly explores therapy and generational trauma within Caribbean families and the Black community in an honest and insightful way.’

Molly Holt, press officer, recommends Ade Adepitan’s Cyborg Cat series for younger readers.

‘Ade Adepitan is such a funny and inspiring individual – you can’t fail to notice when you meet him. His humour and motivational thinking shine through in his Cyborg Cat series. All three books are brilliantly funny adventures that are based on real events in his life and help show children you can do whatever you want to do if you put your mind to it. Don’t miss the based-on-real-life moment where his friends race him down the road in a shopping trolley – it’s very clear he’s always had a need for speed!’

Frankie Jones, senior commissioning editor, recommends Rochelle Humes’ The Mega Magic Hair Swap for the little ones in your life.

‘Rochelle’s debut book The Mega Magic Hair Swap is a joyful story about celebrating differences and loving yourself from head to toe.’

Lydia Watson, assistant editor, recommends Miles Davis compelling autobiography Miles, alongside Tricia Rose’s non-fiction study. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. 

Black Noise is a brilliant book for anyone who is interested in hip-hop. It’s an invaluable and insightful source of cultural history.’

Emma Matthweson, executive publisher, recommends Lemn Sissay’s autobiographical story My Name is Why.

‘Lemn Sissay’s book is an immensely sad but powerfully told story of his life in care.’

Jearl Boatswain, international sales assistant, recommends Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn.

Patsy is a really great read that explores the Black queer Caribbean experience across different generations.’

Karen Stretch, campaigns director, recommends Michael Fuller’s powerful, thought-provoking memoir “Kill the Black One First”.

‘Michael’s memoir is powerful from the get-go with a breath-taking opening chapter about an experience with racism, but it’s his relationships and search for belonging which is really moving and stays with you for a long time.’

Eloise Angeline, production assistant, recommends Yrsa Daley-Ward’s The Terrible.

The Terrible is a gripping story told through a collection of poems about a lonely girl looking for happiness.’

Jenna Petts, publicity assistant, recommends David Matthews’ collection Voices of the Windrush Generation.

‘David showcases the real stories of the Windrush Generation told by the people themselves. Voices of the Windrush Generation is not only a celebration of black British culture and history but also an incredibly moving, absorbing and important piece of writing.’

Marina Stavropoulou, editor – audio, recommends jumping into Octavia Butler’s classic Lillith’s Brood.

Lilith’s Brood is an amazingly touching read by one of the most influential science fiction authors of the 20th century. A true gender and race exploration that remains incredibly relevant.’