Reading List: Great African-American Authors & Figures


Each summer, I share a list of books and resources on various topics. Compiling the list has become a rewarding tradition that reconnects me with my love of books and my childhood. My mother was a public school English teacher for 34 years, so I had no choice but to be a voracious reader. Reading and the occasional road trip (often to pay homage to a writer) was the point of summer in our household.

This summer, I’ve been browsing my overflowing bookshelves to revisit some of my favorite books from African-American authors or about the African-American experience. The list is long.

If you’re a deal junkie like me or like business books, I highly recommend Reginald Lewis’ “Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun?.” It’s as close as you can get to an action thriller on Wall Street, telling the real story of Lewis, a Harvard JD whose love of the deal led him to create a billion-dollar business empire. It would be interesting to pair with Black Titan: A.G. Gaston And The Making Of A Black American Millionaire, a biography of Gaston, the grandson of slaves, who was born into poverty in 1892 and built sprawling businesses in Birmingham, Alabama.

To better understand the dynamics of racial justice being highlighted worldwide right now, I’d add to the many lists of recommended books on anti-racism Ellis Cose’s The Rage of A Privileged Class. I read it first in the mid-90’s, and it remains one of the best compilations to explain the daily personal and career challenges of very successful Black professionals. I also suggest Diahann Carroll’s The Legs Are The Last To Go, an autobiography that captures the grace and wit with which she has navigated racism and sexism in Hollywood for over half a century. She was the first Black woman to star in a non-stereotypical role on her own TV series (Julia in 1968). It wasn’t until over 40 years later that ABC’s Scandal would bring another television show starring a black actress to a major television network.

Finally, for those who need the escape of fiction or poetry, options abound. The Black Poets, an anthology by Dudley Randall, is my most dog-eared poetry recommendation, with works spanning two centuries. You also cannot go wrong with the fiction of Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones or Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison (including her first novel, the intense and tragic The Bluest Eye).


Precious Williams Owodunni | President & Founder of Mountaintop Consulting

This letter was originally published in Mountaintop Consulting’s monthly newsletter.

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