Five inspirational books to celebrate Black History Month

25 October 2021 by Grace Coleman
blog author

​This month honours the accomplishments of Black Britons as we celebrate their rich heritage, culture and achievements.

Black History Month, which was first celebrated in the UK in October 1987, gives the opportunity to champion those from the Black community who have contributed to the UK, and campaigned for a brighter future.

Putting pen to paper has given a platform to writers of all genres over the years, although historically black authors have been underrepresented. 

Now change is afoot in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests of the past 18 months, and The Guardian recently noted one in five shortlisted authors for top UK literary prizes in 2020 were black. This is a vast improvement as no Black authors were shortlisted in four of the years between 1996 and 2009. In 1996, there was not a single Black author in prize shortlists analysed by the Guardian, a figure which jumped to 21 per cent in 2020.

The theme for this year’s Black History Month is ‘Proud To Be’ and there isn’t a more appropriate time to flag up a few of the Black authors and showcase their latest achievements, so that you can cosy up during these colder months and enjoy a page turner.


1.     Manifesto; On Never Giving Up, Bernadine Evaristo

After thirty years of being a writer, teacher and activist, British-born Evaristo brings her first non-fiction book to the shelves.

Voted one of 100 Great Black Britons in 2020, her new book showcases creativity, vision and the importance of never giving up, regardless of circumstances.

In this intimate account, Evaristo reveals how she got where she wanted to be without letting anything stand in her way. 

She firmly believes the key is to stay true to yourself and to your vision, with her book discussing how to be unstoppable in everything you uphold, in your personal and working life.

Winner of the Booker Prize for Girl, Woman, Other in 2019 was even more of an accolade for Evaristo as it made her the first Black woman and Black British person to win the award in its 50-year history. 


2.     Notes on Grief, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The award-winning Nigerian author and self-proclaimed ‘Daddy’s Girl’ unleashes her feelings in the wake of losing her father to kidney failure complications last summer.

Losing a loved one during a pandemic meant Adichie was just one of millions of people grieving but she has used meditation, hope and remembrance to honour her father in this timeless novel which is a raw mixture of sorrow and love arranged into 30 short sections.

Named one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in Fortune Magazine in 2017, Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977 and her work has been translated into 30 languages.

She moved to the States aged 19 where she obtained a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Arts degree in African History from Yale University. 

Her writing career has led her to receive numerous awards and distinctions, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (2007) and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2008).


3.     Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson

This debut novel explores identity and tells the story of two black British artists living in London who fall in love and experience the pain that often goes with it, exposing their vulnerabilities.

Nelson, a 25-year-old British-Ghanaian writer and photographer living in South East London, is a Coventry University graduate who studied Sports and Exercise Science. He developed his writing skills through the creative writing society that he joined while at university.

Nelson provides an insight into race and masculinity in his poetic novel which is longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize and the Gordon Burn Prize 2021.

The author and photographer was also recently shortlisted for the Palm Photo Prize and won the People’s Choice prize.


4.     Misfits, Michaela Coel

There are many strings to Coel’s bow when you consider she is a British actress, screenwriter, director, producer and singer.

The award-winning creator of I May Destroy You and Chewing Gum, which she also starred in, has written Misfits which will resonate with those who fear about not fitting in.

Misfits is born from Coel’s MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival in 2018, where she spoke to an industry audience of 4,000, about everything from her experiences at school and drama school to parties held within the industry. She discusses racism and how thoughtless people can be.

The book, which embraces differences, is a manifesto asking for inclusion, respect and honesty – which shouldn’t be too much to ask for


5.     You are a Champion, Marcus Rashford

We didn’t want to leave this off our list. For those who have been living under a rock, Marcus Rashford MBE is the young international footballer who became a role model over night for his efforts off the pitch. 

Rashford was heroic in convincing the government to provide free meals for poorer students in the school holidays and was awarded an MBE for his efforts to end child hunger.

The motivational sportsman and activist swapped his football for a pen to write a book for children, in collaboration with journalist Carl Anka, to encourage and inspire younger people to focus on the power of positive thinking. Rashford draws on his own experiences to show that anyone can be successful, but you need the right mindset.

The book, aimed at younger readers but accessible for all ages, contains advice, illustrations and infographics to engage the reader, plus top tips from performance psychologist Katie Warriner.


If you have recently devoured a book written by a Black author that you couldn’t put down and would like to share the impact it had on you, please let us know via so we can add it to our reading list.