AAccording to a 2021 Pew Research study, nearly one in four American adults admitted not having read in the past year. Worse still, this figure includes e-books and even audio books, which are often easier and more affordable reading options. But thankfully, black book clubs are helping to change that by focusing on the community.
Why reading is fundamental
Reading is important for several reasons. For example, it can help improve communication. Reading new words expands your vocabulary, which helps improve written and verbal communication. In turn, learning effective communication is beneficial for interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, and building leadership skills.
Reading is also beneficial for broadening your perspective on the world. It exposes you to new concepts and ideas. And depending on the genre, new different horizons too.
Not to mention that reading is fun! For many people, this is an escape from reality. From stories about flying dragons to those about dystopian futures, reading is a great way to spend your free time.
Why are black book clubs important?
For the many black people who love to read, black book clubs are a powerful learning tool. They create a safe space for black men and women to openly discuss reading material by and for the black community.
Additionally, black readers want to see themselves represented in their reading material. And books written by black authors are more likely to include black characters in a number of genres, from sci-fi to horror — a win for everyone involved.
8 Black Book Clubs for Black Literature Lovers
If you’re itching to discuss a Toni Morrison book or seek out a group of black bibliophiles, joining a black book club is the way to go. Here are eight black book clubs that showcase black authors:
Unnamed Book Club
Noname Book Club is an inclusive book club that highlights progressive reading material from queer and POC writers. Created by Chicago rapper and poet NoName, the club is on a mission to amplify the voices of those who are often unknown.
The club’s motto, “Reading Material for Peeps,” reflects community-chosen monthly picks on topics like capitalism, mass incarceration, revolution, and imperialism. And as part of its prison program, the Noname Book Club provides incarcerated men and women with copies of the readings.
Noname Book Club also hosts monthly chats for its 12 chapters located across the country. And for those who can’t attend the events in person, the book club hosts online discussions twice a month.
Well read black girl
Well-Read Black Girl is an online and IRL book club and podcast for black women. Its founder, Glory Edim, shared on the site that Well-Read Black Girl’s goal is to “address racial inequality in publishing and honor the literary legacy of black female writers like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou”.
Books like “Thick: And Other Essays” by Tressie McMillan Cottom and “You Should See Me In a Crown” by Leah Johnson are two of the books in their reading collection.
Additionally, the book club recently expanded to host an annual festival featuring a number of guest speakers and authors.
mocha girls read
Mocha Girls Read is a safe space for black women interested in meeting other like-minded women who are interested in conversations surrounding literature.
After noticing a lack of black women in book club discussions, its founder, Alysia, started the club to fill the gap. And since then, Mocha Girls Read has held monthly discussions in 14 cities across the United States and online.
From romance novels to black history books, Mocha Girls Read covers just about everything. The book club even encourages black authors to submit their reading material to be considered for a “Book of the Month” feature.
The Free Black Women’s Library
Located in Brooklyn, New York is the Black Women’s Free Library. The library is a sanctuary for avid readers.
Originally from Brooklyn, OlaRonke Akinmowo sought to create a free library of books written by black women. And as a result, the library houses more than 4,000 books, all of which are freely available to the public.
From young adult novels to black feminist fiction, The Free Black Women’s Library has a book for every female reader. And every month, the library hosts a book club discussion in its reading room to cover them all. The library also serves as a coworking space for creatives and other professionals to work and collaborate.
Smart brunette girl
Smart Brown Girl is another black book club launched by content creator Jouelzy. With a mission to empower black and brown women through literature, the group hosts monthly book readings “for black girls in forgotten spaces.”
Smart Brown Girl has an international reach so that black and brown girls around the world can be part of the community. But in addition to building a fellowship, the book club is dedicated to being accessible to everyone. For this reason, SBG offers free membership to readers.
Not to mention that Jouelzy makes the reading experience very interactive by creating lesson plans and stimulating questions to spark discussion about the readings.
OKHA is a queer and black book club providing a safe space to discuss topics about black ancestry and the queer community. Located in London, the book club focuses each month on literature by African, Caribbean and Afro-Latin authors.
The book club attracts many readers who attend its interactive discussions. In addition to reading, the OKHA hosts exhibits by queer and black artists, as well as a panel discussion, Q&A with a guest author, or screening.
The club covers a number of genres ranging from relationships to sexuality. Best of all, it shines a light on both best-selling AND up-and-coming authors. This allows more black authors to shine and readers to discover new talent.
Founded in 1987 as America’s oldest black book club, The Bibliophiles was started by a group of black women after taking inspiration from Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”
Each year, the group selects a handful of books that revolve around a specific theme, from social justice to slavery. The group is committed to not only reading black literature, but also studying it. As “products of the African Diaspora”, the group celebrates black people around the world.
And for that reason, The Bibliophiles curates reading lists that cover a wide range of diaspora authors, from Octavia Butler to Martha Moreno Vega.
black girls read
Black Girls Read is a Chicago-based book club started by owner Cynthia Okechukwu. Each month, members gather to read and discuss books written by black women in the diaspora. And while the meetings are held in Chicago, members from out of state can also get in on the action virtually.
In an interview with Love Black Chicago, Okechukwu shared that the Well-Read Black Girl founder’s passion for reading inspired her to organize her book club.
And it’s a good thing she did. Today, Black Girls Read hosts hundreds of club members who meet the group not only to chat, but also to connect and build friendships.
Editorial Note: This article on black book clubs was originally published on September 30, 2021 and updated to reflect current information.