Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Books for a young black man?

I got the following request from a blog reader to recommend books that "a young black man should read." Off the top of my head, I would suggest the YA novels of Walter Dean Myers, Coe Booth, Rita Williams-Garcia, Sharon Draper and Booker T. Mattison. More suggestions can be found at Reading in Color, the blog for black teen readers, on this great list compiled by author Zetta Elliott of middle grade and young adult novels by black authors released in 2011 and on this list of YA books by other minority writers put together by the Happy Nappy Bookseller.

But my additional advice would be to find out what the young man enjoys. Sports? Find sports books. Horror? Get him some scary books (Try Brandon Massey, L.A. Banks, Tananarive Due, Terrence Taylor). Maybe he would enjoy graphic novels and comics: let him read about some black superheroes. Fire up his imagination by introducing him to science fiction.

Too often I think people assume that if a book is about a kid about the same age in about the same situation as the young reader then the young reader will automatically like the book. Maybe, but maybe not. The writer I loved the most when I was in high school was Stephen King, and even today I'm a big Harry Potter fan. I don't think it's a good idea to only focus on the outside circumstances of a person's life when thinking about books he might actually enjoy. Part of the pleasure of reading for me is escaping from the circumstances of my situation, if only for a short time.

Enjoyment. Pleasure. Fun. Keep those words in mind when shopping for a book for anyone. Instead of thinking what he "should" read, think of what might blow his mind or tickle him.

Teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents, young readers, read below and then if you have recommendations for this person, let us know in the comments. Thanks! 


I would like to kindly ask if you had the time to suggest the top ten or twenty books, you feel, a young black man should read. I am looking to develop a list to find books for a young man, for the holidays and birthdays, who reads, slowly, with resistance and complaint, is struggling with his racial identity, his poverty, life with his mother and his sister, and without his absent father and extended family. Thank you very much for any thing you can suggest! I have posted this question, in greater detail, as the beginning of a new blog I have started on wordpress.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Good books for holiday gifts

It's that time of year again. In 2008 I launched a campaign to promote the idea of giving books by black authors to non-blacks for the holidays. In 2009 I offered a list of gifts for the 12 Days of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa--12 days, 12 books.

Three years later, it still seems like a good idea. But I fear I lack the energy to do it justice this year. Last year, I was able to pull off a big giveaway of books and guest posts by bloggers, but this year I'm feeling pretty wiped out. So I offer this round up of links for folks who like the idea and want to tell others. Please tweet your little hearts out. Book bloggers please link away.

My top 10 reasons you should read a book by a black author. And a few more for good measure.

Fall 2011 book releases and some cool books from this spring, which would make great gifts.

Over the last few years, I've run Q&As with 20 authors. You can learn about them and their books here.

I've run a bunch of reviews from guest authors of fiction and nonfiction.

I made a video welcoming everybody into the African American section of the bookstore (if your bookstore has one).

Here are Ernessa T. Carter's summer book suggestions and her list from last Christmas.

And some good books for kids, recommended by Denene Millner and by Heidi Durrow. The Happy Nappy Bookseller also offers a great list of great gift book ideas for children and young adults on her blog.

But wait, there's more! Fiction and poetry suggestions from Tara Betts.

What books are you buying this holiday season? If you have other suggestions for books that would make great gifts, let us know in the comments. Thanks!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

National Book Award

From left, National Book Award winners Stephen Greenblatt, nonfiction; Thanhha Lai, young people's literature; Nikky Finney, poetry; and Jesmyn Ward, fiction. (Tina Fineberg, Associated Press / November 16, 2011)

Hearty congratulations to Jesymn Ward, who just won the National Book Award for Fiction for her latest Salvage the Bones (reviewed in the Washington Post)!

Delighted for Nikky Finney won for her Poetry with Head Off & Split!! And apparently she gave a hell of a speech, which I'm watching here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dear TNT, more TV mysteries please

I saw a commercial for the new TNT Mystery Movie Night, a great idea: original movies based on mystery novels. I hope the ratings are good and I hope they do it again next year. If you do, TNT, here are some books you need to read:

Casanegra. The Tennyson Hardwick series has three books now, but this is the first in a contemporary series about an actor-gigolo turned detective. Already has a TV star attached! Or do what NBC is doing with Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins books and make it a series!

Black Orchid Blues. You say you "know drama"? This book is filled with it. And a great female protagonist (which you seem to like to) in society columnist Lanie Price.

Want something set out west? Try Robert Greer's CJ Floyd mysteries. The Devil's Hatband is the first in the series.

Or how about a teen detective? Check out Kimberly Reid's Chanti Evans, private school chick, daughter of a female cop in My Own Worst Frenemy.

Or, if you really want to make me happy (and why wouldn't a cable TV channel want to make this little blogger happy?), do a movie based on one of my favorite sleuth's: Barbara Neely's cleaning lady Blanche White would make an excellent movie heroine!

And those are only a few suggestions. This list of black mystery writers and the Myst Noir blog offers many more good ones. And bonus! one of them is also a TV writer! Just sayin'.

Readers, what mysteries would you like to see on TNT?