Black History Month: 55 Books By Black Authors On Business, Entrepreneurship, Parenting, and Culture
Every few weeks I see new lists of the best business books, the top business books, and other essential readings lists for entrepreneurs. Quite often, the lists are heavily populated with the same authors, and are often made up of a majority of one specific demographic and background.
The sneaky part about finding books within books is that your sources become increasingly narrowed to the lens of the people you’re currently reading. If you only read book by a certain demographic, and they only quote books by a certain demographic, you’ll get yourself into an echo chamber. It takes effort and attention to break out of reading ruts, which often means using Google to search for books the algorithms (and authors) wouldn’t have otherwise led you to. Staying educated requires actively seeking out new sources.
Don’t believe me? Take a popular book on the shelf and use sticky flags to go through it and mark down which authors are men and which are women, and which are white or people of color. It’s often astonishing. Cal Newport’s book on Deep Work references around 80% male sources, and even one of my favorite recent books, Time Management For Mortals, also has a bias towards male sources. Without paying attention, people might end up reading only a subset of the fascinating thinkers around the globe.
In fact, this happens by default—when people don’t pay attention, they create best-of lists that are overwhelmingly similar in demographic. There are only so many books I can read that are authored by rich, white, married men with ample support systems and buoyed by inter-generational wealth before I wonder if their advice could actually apply to me or other people.
So, if you’re looking for more amazing business books on entrepreneurship, productivity, investment, business, marketing, and life that are by Black authors and entrepreneurs, here’s a list of 55 books to start with. Perhaps one day we won’t need to specifically call out books by demographics, but because most book lists are so heavily dominated by white people and male authors, we still need lists that call attention to all of the amazing authors out there.
Sometimes people tell me, “but this isn’t a “business book.” Understanding history, how people live, and the true breadth of experience is sometimes known as “user research,” and “market analysis.” Reading a book out of the genre you’re used to can open up so much creative thinking—and beyond.
If you make it through this list, there are 34 bonus books at the end to add to your list.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP, BUSINESS, PRODUCTIVITY
It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated into Your Greatest Advantage by Arlan Hamilton
Arlan Hamilton went from living on food stamps and sleeping on the floor of the San Francisco airport, with no contacts and no degree, to becoming a successful venture capitalist and investing in people who are underrepresented like her. As a black, gay woman, she knows that being underrepresented often means being underestimated and in her book she explains why this can be a good thing.
After having her first child, Tiffany Dufu struggled to do everything she felt she had to do to succeed in both her career and her personal life. In Drop the Ball, she shares how she learned to expect less from herself and enlist the help of others at home, so she could flourish in both environments.
Display of Power by Daymond John
In his first book, self-made multimillionaire Daymond John explains what it takes to harness your inner power and get more from life. He shares his own life story, including his failures, successes, and secrets to success, and provides a blueprint to help you reach your potential too.
Beating The Odds is the inspiring autobiography of one of the nation’s most successful stock pickers – Eddie C. Brown. Learn how his choices led him from poverty through world-changing events like the collapse of the dot-com bubble and 9/11 to becoming one of Wall Street’s biggest success stories.
Black Entrepreneur Survival Guide: The complete guide to becoming a successful African American entrepreneur by Dunneille D. Anderson
Most Black-owned businesses fail within their first year. With the Black Entrepreneur Survival Guide, Anderson sets out to equip Black business owners with the knowledge, skills, and resources they will need to ensure their businesses succeed.
Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Survived Slavery and Became Millionaires by Shomari Wills
Black Fortunes tells the stories of six African Americans who were born into slavery but overcame all the odds to become millionaires.
Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District by Hannibal B. Johnson
This book tells the story of the Greenwood District – the black community in Tulsa dubbed “The Black Wall Street of America” for its entrepreneurial success – which was the location of the worst race riot in US history.
CEO OF MY SOUL: The Self-Love Journey of a Small Business Owner by Nic Cober Esquire
Nicole “Nic” Cober, Esquire’s first business – Soul…Day Spa and Salon – was so successful, she had everything she’d ever dreamt of. But ten years in, she had to close and file for bankruptcy. And it wasn’t just her business life that was affected; she also had to deal with divorce, eviction notices, and parenting her two children. In CEO OF MY SOUL, she shares both practical advice and personal stories to help other small business owners achieve success.
Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne marie brown
Change is the only constant and adrienne marie brown argues that, instead of steeling ourselves against it, we should study and learn from it, so that we can create the future we want.
How to Succeed in Business Without Being White: Straight Talk on Making It in America by Earl G. Graves
Born the son of a West Indian garment worker, Graves became a multimillionare entrepreneur and is now one of the most successful executives in the world. In his book, he draws on both his own experiences and those of other successful black entrepreneurs, to explain how aspiring black business owners can succeed in today’s predominantly white world of business.
Strategize To Win: The New Way to Start Out, Step Up, or Start Over in Your Career by Carla A. Harris
Wall Street veteran Carla A. Harris shares her advice on navigating the world of work. Whether your career is just getting started, you’re considering a career change, or you feel like you’ve stagnated, this book will help you to assess your position and get your career moving in the right direction.
Success Never Smelled So Sweet: How I Followed My Nose and Found My Passion by Lisa Price and Hilary Beard
As a child, Lisa Price was obsessed with fragrance. In her memoir, she recounts how her love of scent took her from a life of debt to grossing over two million a year as the owner of her line of luxury bath and beauty products – Carol’s Daughter.
The Little Black Book Of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women by Elaine Meryl Brown, Marsha Haygood, and Rhonda Joy McLean
Three successful black female executives share what it takes to become a great leader in the face of stereotyping and self-victimization.
We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power by Rachel Rodgers
Just 10% of millionaires are women and Rachel Rodgers believes it’s time to change that. In her book, she explains why making money is a revolutionary act that helps to make the world a better place. Drawing on both her own journey to becoming a millionaire and the journeys of her coaching clients, she sets out a roadmap for achieving financial success.
9 Laws of Success: Attracting the Life, Love, Health & Success You Want! – The Ultimate Guide by Stormy Wellington
Within her first year of joining a network marketing company, Stormy Wellington made over a million dollars. Not long after that, she spiraled into a depression that left her at rock bottom. But by studying the principles that had led to her initial success, she was able to not only climb back to the top, but surpass her previous achievements. In this book, she shares the principles behind her success.
Self-Esteem is the New Black: How to become the confident woman you have always wanted to be! by Monique Mays
Motivational speaker Monique Mays recounts how she went from single mother to successful confidence coach. She shares practical tips to help you become the confident woman you’ve always wished you were.
Many of us are living in a constant state of time poverty, always feeling like there’s more to do than we have time for. In It’s About Time, Burton Valorie helps us understand where our time is going, evaluate how well our time expenditure aligns with our values, and then bring those two things into alignment.
Despite having done pretty well for herself financially, Tiffany Aliche found herself in real financial trouble during the early 2000s recession, but she was able to pull herself up from rock bottom and turn her life around. In her book, she teaches the ten-step formula she used to achieve financial security, to help you do the same.
HISTORY & CULTURE
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze – two teenagers who fall in love in Lagos at a time when Nigeria is under military rule and many are trying to escape. Ifemelu reaches America but, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Obinze isn’t allowed in and instead moves to London, where he lives undocumented. Over a decade later, having lived very different lives, they reunite in the newly democratic Nigeria.
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L Eberhardt
In Biased, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt points out the racial bias present in all areas of society and explains how we, as both a group and as individuals, can tackle it.
How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community by Mia Birdsong
In How We Show Up, Mia Birdsong argues that in striving for the American Dream, we have become lonely, disconnected, and unhappy. By focusing on our differences rather than on our interconnectedness, we have isolated ourselves. The solution? Community.
Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by adrienne maree brown
In Pleasure Activism, brown asks how we can make social justice work a pleasurable experience rather than yet another thing we have to do. Including essays on everything from sex work and climate change to drugs and race, this book challenges the reader to reimagine activism.
Stamped from the Beginning traces the history of racist ideas from the 15th century, showing that they were not the result of ignorance and hatred but of the deliberate planning of some of history’s most influential figures.
The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor
We are not born hating our bodies. Instead, we are taught to believe that they are not good enough, whether that means not skinny enough, not white enough, or not pretty enough. In this book, Taylor presents radical self-love as the solution to this system of oppression.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Based on her popular TEDx talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists explores what it means to be a woman in the 21st Century and why everyone should be a feminist.
NOVELS, FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Dana, a young African American writer, suddenly finds herself being transported back in time to a pre-Civil War plantation where she must save Rufus – the plantation owners’ white son and a distant ancestor of hers. Dana is transported back to the slave quarters over and over again, whenever Rufus needs saving. Each time she visits, she is in more danger but if she doesn’t save him, will she even exist?
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Effia and Esi are sisters by birth but their lives take them in very different directions; Effia is married to a slave trader while Esi is sold into slavery. Homegoing follows them and their descendants across three continents and seven generations.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
This post-apocalyptic novel is set in the US in the 2020s. In a world where climate change, inequality, and capitalism have all but destroyed society, can Lauren use her ability to feel other people’s pain to save humankind?
The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth by N. K. Jemisin
In this post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Essun discovers that her husband has murdered her son and kidnapped her daughter, while the empire has collapsed and a great red rift has been torn across the continent. She must search for her daughter in a dying land.
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
In his poetry, Gay studies everyday objects, such as spoons, feet, and ants, revealing their beauty and sharing with us his unique way of looking at the world.
Take This Stallion by Anaïs Duplan
Anaïs Duplan is a trans* poet, curator, and artist and Take This Stallion is their full-length collection of poetry. Jericho Brown describes the collection as balancing ‘the intellect, image, music, and emotion in ways so unfamiliar that a blurb couldn’t possible characterize the work.’
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In a letter to his teenage son, Ta-Nehisi Coates shares his personal revelations about what it means to be black and how to understand America’s relationship with race.
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittany Cooper
The stereotype of the angry black woman presents black women’s anger as problematic but anger is powerful and black women have every right to be angry. In this book, Dr. Brittany Cooper celebrates eloquent rage and argues that feminism, friendship, and self-belief are the way forward.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Hunger is a personal memoir that explores what it means to be overweight. Gay writes about our collective anxiety regarding the way we look, what we put in our mouths, and our health.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Austin Channing Brown grew up in predominantly white communities and, when she was seven, she learned her parents had named her Austin, so that potential employers would think she was a white man. I’m Still Here is the memoir of her journey to loving Blackness.
Mom and Me and Mom by Dr Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou writes about her relationship with her mother, who she calls Lady, and how their relationship changed after her mother sent Maya and her brother away as children, and over the decades that followed.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
This autobiography tells the story of Malcom X’s life as a black Muslim leader of the civil rights movement, as well as his views on racism in America.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
Issa Rae is the creator of the Awkward Black Girl web series. In this collection of humorous essays, she writes about what it’s like to be both awkward and black in a world where introverts as seen as misfits and ‘black’ is synonymous with ‘cool’.
What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey
In What I Know for Sure, the USA’s only African-American billionaire shares the best of what she has learned about joy, resilience, power, and more. This book is chock-full of wisdom and insights that will help you become your best self.
At Thanksgiving in 2013, Shonda Rhimes’ sister said something that completely changed her life: “You never say yes to anything.” In Year of Yes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy shares how learning to say yes saved her life, and how it can change yours.
In The Work, Wes Moore shares the journey he went on to find his life’s purpose – a journey that began with a difficult childhood in the Bronx and took him to Afghanistan, the White House, and Wall Street. He shares the lessons he learned from the people he met along the way, plus the stories of other modern change-makers who have inspired him.
In this part-manifesto, part-memoir, the former editor of Teen Vogue discusses what it means to come into your own. She draws on her experiences as a biracial woman who worked her way to the top of the media and fashion industries, to share lessons on trusting yourself, recognizing your worth, and living life your way.
If you need more book recommendations, here are at least two dozen more
I came across so many fascinating stories and perspectives while researching the books in this list, that the phrase, “so many books, so little time,” has never rung truer. Whether you’re into memoir or poetry, fiction or non-fiction, there are so many great books out there written by Black authors, that there’s no excuse for a to-read pile to be dominated by just white voices. Take a look at your bookshelves, notice whose voices you’re letting in, and then use this list (and Google) as a starting point to make sure you’re listening to what Black people have to say.
Entrepreneurship, Business & Productivity
- Black and White: The Way I See It by Richard Williams
- Green Power: The Successful Way of A.G. Gaston by A.G. Gaston
- The Black Woman Millionaire: A Revolutionary Act that DEFIES Impossible by Dr. Venus Opal Reese
- When the Miracle Drops: How Instagram Helped Turn a Quick Fix Into a Million-Dollar Product by Jessica Dupart
- Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?: How Reginald Lewis Created a Billion-Dollar Business Empire by Blair S. Walker and Reginald Lewis
- by Herman J. Russell
- The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey
- Mental Detox: The Power and Guidance to Implement Peace, Joy, Balance, and Financial Abundance in Your Life by Cheyenne Bryant
- Quantum Leaps: 10 Steps to Help You Soar by Gloria Mayfield Banks
- Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace by Minda Harts
History & Culture
- Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
- Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History by Camille T. Dungy
- Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr.
- The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- The Race Whisperer: Barack Obama and the Political Uses of Race by Melanye Price
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
- Any of the other 30+ books by bell hooks
- Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
- Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston
- Charcoal Joe (part of the Easy Rawlins series) by Walter Mosley
- If I Stay Right Here by Chwayita Ngamlana
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
- Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America by Gregory Pardlo
- A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley
- Another Country by James Baldwin
- Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
- Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education Book by Mychal Denzel Smith
- Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption by Bryan Stevenson
- Lovesong: Becoming a Jew by Julius Lester
- Meaty: Essays by Samantha Irby
- Leader from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams
- Unbowed by Wangari Maathai
- Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison by Shaka Senghor
ABOUT THE STARTUP PARENT PODCAST
If you're growing a business, leading a team, or figuring out entrepreneurship and you have kids, this podcast is for you. We go in-depth with founders and entrepreneurial parents about what it really takes to have babies, grow businesses, and get a little bit of sleep. Sign up for the newsletter to get new episodes in your inbox. And leave us a review on iTunes.
Sarah K Peck
Founder, Startup Parent
Sarah Peck is a writer, startup advisor, and yoga teacher based in New York City. She’s the founder and executive director of Startup Parent, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Parent Podcast and Let's Talk, her second podcast. Previously, she worked at Y Combinator backed One Month, Inc, a company that teaches people to code in 30 days, and before that she was a writing and communications consultant.
She’s a 20-time All-American swimmer who successfully swam the Escape from Alcatraz nine separate times, once wearing only a swim cap and goggles to raise $33k for charity: water. She’s written for more than 75 different web publications and and has delivered speeches and workshops at Penn, UVA, Berkeley, Harvard, Craft & Commerce, WDS, and more.