According to a 2021 Pew Research study, nearly one in four American adults admitted to not reading within the previous year. Even worse, this figure includes electronic and even audiobooks, which are often easier and more affordable reading options. But fortunately, Black book clubs are helping to change that through by focusing on the community.
Reading is important for many reasons. For example, it can help improve communication. Reading new words expands your vocabulary, which helps enhance written and verbal communication. In turn, learning effective communication is beneficial for interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, and boosting leadership skills.
Reading is also beneficial for expanding your perspective on the world. It exposes you to new concepts and ideas. And depending on the genre, new different walks of life, as well.
Not to mention, reading is fun! For many people, it provides an escape from reality. From stories about flying dragons to ones 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 DO enjoy reading, Black book clubs are a powerful tool for learning. They create a safe space for Black men and women to openly discuss reading material by and for the Black community.
They also help highlight talented Black authors who often aren’t represented in the industry. According to the New York Times, a mere 11 percent of books that were published in 2018 were written by Black and Brown authors. But fortunately, Black book clubs are breaking those barriers by amplifying POC authors one month at a time.
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 all involved.
8 Black Book Clubs For Black Literature Lovers
If you’ve been itching to discuss a Toni Morrison book or searching for a group of Black bibliophiles, joining a Black book club is the way to go. Here are eight Black book clubs that highlight Black authors:
NoName 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 unheard.
The club’s motto, “reading material for the homies,” reflects the community-chosen monthly picks on topics like capitalism, mass incarceration, revolution and imperialism. And as part of their Prison Program, 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 in-person events, the book club organizes online discussions twice monthly.
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 the purpose of Well-Read Black Girl is to “address racial inequity in publishing and pay homage to the literary legacies of Black women 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.
Mocha Girls Read
After noticing a lack of Black women present in book club discussions, its founder, Alysia, created the club to bridge the gap. And since then, Mocha Girls Read holds monthly discussions in 14 cities across the US and online.
From romance novels to Black history books, Mocha Girls Read pretty much covers it all. 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 Free Black Women’s Library. The library is a sanctuary for avid readers.
Brooklyn native 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 available to the public for free.
From young adult novels to Black feminist fiction, The Free Black Women’s Library has a book for every reader. And every month, the library hosts a book club discussion in their Reading Room to cover them all. The library also acts as a co-working space for creatives and other professionals to work and collaborate.
Smart Brown Girl
Smart Brown Girl is another Black book club started by content creator Jouelzy. With a mission to empower Black and Brown women through literature, the group hosts monthly book readings “for the Black girls in the forgotten spaces.”
Smart Brown Girl has an international reach so that Black and Brown girls across the world can be part of the community. But aside from building a sisterhood, the book club is dedicated to being accessible for all. Because of this, SBG offers free membership to readers.
Not to mention, Jouelzy makes the reading experience very interactive by creating syllabi and thought-provoking questions to incite discussion about the readings.
OKHA is a queer, Black book club providing a safe space to discuss topics on Black ancestry and the queer community. Located in London, the book club focuses on literature by African, Caribbean & Afro-Latinx authors every month.
The book club attracts many readers who attend its interactive discussions. In addition to the reading, OKHA hosts exhibitions by queer, Black artists, plus a panel discussion, guest author Q+A or screening.
The club covers a number of genres ranging from relationships to sexuality. Even better, it highlights both bestselling authors AND up-and-coming ones. This allows more Black authors to get some shine and readers the opportunity to discover new talent.
Founded in 1987 as the oldest Black book club in America, The Bibliophiles was created by a group of Black women after being inspired by Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”
Each year, the group chooses a handful of books that revolve around a specific theme, from social justice to slavery. The group is not only committed to reading Black literature, but studying it as well. As “products of the African Diaspora,” the group celebrates Black people from all over the world.
Black Girls Read
Black Girls Read is a Chicago-based book club created by owner Cynthia Okechukwu. Each month, members meet up to read and discuss books written by Black women across the Diaspora. And even though meetings take place in Chicago, out-of-state members can join in on the action virtually, too.
In an interview with Love Black Chicago, Okechukwu shared that the founder of Well-Read Black Girl’s passion for reading inspired her to organize her book club.
And it’s a good thing that she did. Today, Black Girls Read hosts hundreds of club members who meet with the group to not only discuss, but 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.