The country is going through "a great racial reckoning," as Tomi Obaro writes, and a big part of that is contending with the overwhelming whiteness of the publishing world. As we're discussing pay disparity among Black and white writers — and sharing books about anti-racism, books by Black authors, and Black-owned bookstores where you can buy them — it's important to pay attention to the influencers, too. BuzzFeed Books chatted with 24 Black bookstagrammers about how they use Instagram to share their love of books, and what they're reading these days:
Nnenna Odeluga, @scsreads
About me: I'm Nigerian American — which you may have been able to guess from my name! I'm originally from California, but have lived in NYC for the past nine years. A few random things I love are: nail polish, handwritten notes, donuts, journaling, photography, and Milton, my cat.
What followers can expect: I read mostly fiction across a variety of genres, including romance, YA, fantasy, and more. I've also been working on reading more nonfiction and have discovered that I really enjoy memoirs. I'll post what I'm currently reading, books that I've recently added to my TBR, and reviews of books I've read. On my Stories, I also like to share bits of my life — what I'm making in the kitchen, spreads from my bullet journal, and more.
A recent book I loved: The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon was such an enjoyable read! I am so here for a romance book with representation (both of the main characters are people of color). I really loved the way that the author tackled topics such as the importance of female friendship and the difficulties of being a woman, and specifically a woman of color, in the tech industry.
About me: I'm a 26-year-old native New Yorker, currently residing in the beautiful city of Atlanta. My love for reading began at a very young age. Whether it was visiting my local library, browsing through the Barnes & Noble Jr. section, or participating in the annual Scholastic Book Fairs, I have always had a passion for reading and books.
What followers can expect: I mostly read young adult contemporary fiction and fantasy, contemporary fiction, and contemporary romance — but I also like to mix it up from time to time with a good memoir or adult fantasy. I mostly share books that I'm currently reading, anticipated reads, and mini reviews. Full reviews can be found on my blog Eat Travel Read.
A recent book I loved: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. I had no idea how much I needed this world and these characters in my life. If you’re a fan of YA fantasy, West African folklore, and a story dripping with women empowerment, then this is definitely the book for you. Unfortunately, the publication date has been pushed back to spring 2021 — but trust me, you’re going to want to read it! (Read Kim's full review here.)
Azadra Whitman, @whittyreads
About me: I am from Huntsville, Alabama, and I have been an avid reader since I was a little girl. I love getting lost in a novel where I am completely immersed in another story and setting that is different than my own.
What followers can expect: I am unapologetically and shamelessly in love with romance books. I love reading books about people who fall in love, and it gives me so much joy to know that the characters will ultimately have a happy ending. I started my Instagram page because I wanted to create a safe, creative space for myself and others to spark conversations over themes, plots, and our passion for novels. I’ve met so many inspiring people through the bookstagram community, and have the most amazing followers.
A recent book I loved: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is my fifth book by TJR and, per usual, she never disappoints. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, but this book was way more than that. This is a book about love: the beautiful, heartbreaking, and tragic things about love. It’s also about life, family, and finding yourself. I felt connected to these characters, this story, and every word on every page. I’m currently reading Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan and I’m truly enjoying it!
About me: I'm obsessed with books and travel. I'm the type of person who travels with at least three books on hand and buys copies of international versions of books that I love. I've always been a prolific reader and I was definitely one of those kids who rewatched Matilda an unhealthy amount of times and was best friends with my local librarian. (She would always save the latest Magic Tree House book for me, bless her soul.)
What followers can expect: I mainly read fantasy, young adult, and occasionally adult fiction. My posts usually consist of what I'm currently reading, books that I'm excited about, and my travel adventures. I frequently ask for book recommendations for myself because I'm constantly trying to find amazing books and evolve as a reader.
A recent book I loved: One of my goals as a Black bookstagrammer is to use my space to highlight more Black authors, because there are some incredible books out there by Black authors that just don't get enough love. One book that I've recently decided to reread is This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins, which is such a powerful and raw read about what it means to grow up as a Black woman in America. Highly recommend picking it up.
Reggie Bailey, @reggiereads
About me: I live and work in Delaware. I love books, basketball, and villains.
What followers can expect: The best in African American literature as well as literature from the African Diaspora. I've also created two challenges that ask readers to consider the backlist: #2BooksUnder50Reviews asks readers to read and review two books (or more) during the calendar year with less than 50 reviews on Goodreads, that were published in 2018 or earlier. #10Books10Decades asks ask readers to read books published in 10 different decades throughout the calendar year and review those. Both of these challenges are fun and are a great way to honor those authors who paved the way for the new authors we have the pleasure of reading now. Plus certain books qualify both challenges!
A recent book I loved: Stateway's Garden by Jasmon Drain. It's a debut short story collection that takes place in the (now gone) Chicago neighborhood of Stateway Gardens during the 1980s. I loved this book mainly for the characters that aren't trying to impress us — humans who are living life according to their ambitions who happen to be Black. The stories were authentic, relatable, understated, restrained, and impactful. It also helps that the stories are linked. Stateway's Garden is a great entry point for those wary of short stories, since the collection is "novelistic in scope" to quote its description. (Read Reggie's full review here.)
Richelle aka Shelly, @shellys_book_corner_
About me: I’m a born AND raised New Yorker. (Yes, there is a difference.) My love for books comes from my mom. When I was younger she would read to me every night before I went to sleep. Once I learned how to read and got my own library card, I was unstoppable! Growing up I read a lot of Fear Street books by R.L. Stine and I still have the books in a special bin for my future kids.
What followers can expect: A diverse reading experience. I’m a big advocate for diversity and inclusion, and do my best to feature BIPOC authors, stories, and marginalized groups. I consider myself to be a genre-hopper, and my posting style is very simple — nothing fancy, and that works for me. We all can’t be blessed in the elaborate photo-taking department!
A recent book I loved: I listened to the audiobook of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds over the weekend and it was very haunting. Several days have passed and I am still thinking about this book. I highly recommend that everyone reads or listens to this story.
Bree Hill, @falling4romance
About me: I'm a mother of three, and I think as mothers it’s important that we carve out time for ourselves when possible. Before self-isolation life, I’d spend my alone time in a local coffee shop with my current read. I highlight, underline, write in, dog ear, and draw hearts in my books — they’re mine and I love to love in them. I think anyone who thinks audiobooks don’t count as reading should kick rocks. I love my local library. The workers at my Barnes & Noble know my name because I’m there so much — even when I send my husband to pick up a book, they know it’s for me.
What followers can expect: Falling4romance is where I share my love for romance. I used to take most of my photos at my local coffee shop, but the pandemic forced me to switch it up, which I was nervous about; sometimes it feels as though Instagram wants you to figure out your style and stick with it. I love my at home posts, though! I love for my feed to reflect me. I also blog, post videos on YouTube, am part of the amazing Reading Women team, and contribute posts to my favorite romance website, Frolic Media.
A recent book I loved: I just finished The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel, and it’s a new favorite of the year. Liya’s story is the perfect example of the boundaries romance authors are knocking down — she's tough and maintains control of her situations. Enter Jay Shah and their enemies-to-lovers, forced-proximity, workplace-ish romance, and we see the barriers unravel, and the beauty of letting go a bit of that control. (Read Bree's full review here.)
About me: My name is Enobong, which means "God’s gift" in the Ibibio language of Nigeria. Both my parents are Nigerian but I was born and raised in the UK and now live in Chicago.
What followers can expect: I read widely and broadly, posting reviews and recommendations for fiction, nonfiction, literary, children's — whatever I'm in the mood for. I’ve always made it a point to read books by Nigerian authors and Black British authors, but I'm currently working my way through the works of prominent African American authors, and I plan to read from authors from throughout the African continent. While my page is mostly about books, it isn’t all about books: I used to be a professional dancer, so every now and then I see if my body will still contort into the shapes I used to bend it into several times a week, and take pictures of that. And of course, there are lots of cameos from my cat, Motley.
A recent book I loved: Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture by Emma Dabiri. In this debut, BBC presenter and Guardian contributor Emma Dabiri explores the underlying issues of racism tangled up in conversations surrounding Black hair. She situates her own personal hair story within the wider history of how African hair has been perceived from before the European invasion of Africa 'til now. Written in a style that will challenge you yet also create the illusion of a casual conversation with a friend, Twisted brings new perspective to the topic of Black hair. (Read Enobong's full review here, or on her blog.)
About me: I’m a lifelong reader who is super passionate about book collecting, independent bookstores, literacy, and sharing the joys of the reading life. I love talking about books on social media and via my weekly newsletter, BiblioLifestyle, because I don’t have friends in real life who love reading or who read as voraciously as us bookstagrammers do!
What followers can expect: Features of the books I’m currently reading, book reviews, book hauls, plus book collections and collectible editions I’ve recently acquired. You will also find my Summer Reading Guide, tips and articles about the reading life, book lists, gift guides, and lots of fun stuff.
A recent book I loved: It’s always so hard selecting one book — I tend to give at least three book recommendations at any given time. A recent read that I highly recommend is Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud. I literally read well over a hundred books in preparation for our 2020 Summer Reading Guide and this was a stand out novel for me. It was absolutely brilliant — the writing is beautiful, captivating and hilarious at times. This novel also made my Minimalist Reads list of six books I recommend if you’re only planning to pick up a few reads this summer! (Read Victoria's full review here.)
About me: I’m a book reviewer in Australia who loves a personal photo to go with what I’m reading.
What followers can expect: My Instagram is a space for Bla(c)k and African literature mostly. After 20 years of only being exposed to white authors, I’m spending the rest of my life reading the works I missed out on and what’s to come — and letting you know what they’re teaching me. Shout out to the Black Aussie bookstagrammers! We’re out here. 🙌🏾✨
A recent book I loved: Hitting A Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston. It's a collection of short stories written by Zora Neale Hurston in the 1920s, but only published this year, 60 years after she passed. These stories prove that Zora is a fantastic storyteller, a remarkable writer, and an author way ahead of her time. To say I loved everything about listening to this would be a lie, but I still recommend it — especially the audiobook because that 1920s southern accent sounds better when you hear it from a professional narrator. (Read Vuma's full review here.)
Alecia Leslie, @coffee.books.convo
About me: I'm a 28-year-old history teacher from North Carolina. I absolutely love reading and use it as a tool to engage with my students. I believe that you're never too old to fall in love with a book or a fandom, and I try to instill that in my students. Along with books, some of my favorite things are Korean dramas, Korean music, and coffee.
What followers can expect: I am completely obsessed with bookish merchandise, young adult books, fantasy novels, and all things Shadowhunters, so the majority of my posts will fall into one of those categories. I love engaging with my followers — I use bookstagram not only to get book recommendations, but also to connect and make friendships with other book lovers out there.
A recent book I loved: A Phoenix First Must Burn, the short story collection edited by Patrice Caldwell. There is no feeling like reading a book and seeing yourself in the story — being able to imagine that you could be this beautiful, mystical being, with radiant dark skin and curly natural hair. Many of the stories wove in different aspects of Black culture, things that I didn’t know, and things that I grew up with intimately. I loved all the stories in this book, some more than others, but overall they were all amazing. (Read Alecia's full review here.)
About me: I'm 25 years old, raised near Baltimore, and recently moved to the outskirts of Los Angeles. I drink a million cups of tea per day just because. And when I’m not reading, you can catch me watching Hercules (the most underrated Disney movie ever).
What followers can expect: My feed is bright and warm and welcoming to the eye, but if you look a little closer, it’s full of a lot of books that are actually pretty dark. I love unpredictable plot twists, sick villains, and books that make me want to sleep with the lights on — but on the other hand, I also love to consume stories that make me cry. My posts are a combination of books new to my collection, books I’m currently reading, and reviews.
A recent book I loved: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. I picked it up on a complete whim and fell in love. It includes adventure, mystery, and a pinch of magic. It’s beautiful and will definitely stand the test of time!
About me: I'm a lifelong reader living in Northern Virginia trying to read as many amazing stories as I can. My bookstagram is a place to share that journey with other book lovers.
What followers can expect: I enjoy reading across multiple genres. One of the most exciting things about being a reader, besides reading all those shiny new book releases, is discovering "new to me" authors, and digging in the stacks reading books from the past 20 to 30 years. Followers can also expect a few book haul and book review IGTV videos every now and then. I LOVE talking about books. It never gets old.
A recent book I loved: I've read some really great books in 2020 thus far, but one of my most recent favorite reads was In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow. The main character, Knot, TOOK ME THROUGH IT! At times I felt like her best friend who just wanted to slap some sense into her, times when I felt like a nosy neighbor watching all the mess she stirs up or falls into; there were moments when I felt like a young girl who wanted to connect with Knot because in some strange way I admired her independence, spunk, and her "I'm gonna do things my way" attitude. That book took me on a ride and I'm still thinking about it. It's truly something special. (Read Naomi's full review here.)
About me: I'm a 30-something book lover born and raised in Brooklyn. Sipping whiskey while reading until the words blur is the perfect end to my night. I like my romance steamy, my thrillers heart-pounding, my fantasy epic, and my horror hair-raising.
What followers can expect: Honest book reviews, features of books on my radar, giveaways, books on sale, book events, and sometimes bookish confessions. My favorite is discovering a good backlist title and putting my followers on to hidden gems. I’ll read almost anything that pulls me in, but my favorites are fantasy, literary fiction, and thrillers. I have a strong focus on Black female authors — Black female authors are in all genres and so am I.
A recent book I loved: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. In a town called Mallard made up of only light-skin Black people, identical twins Desiree and Stella run away. Years later Stella is living life as a white woman on one side of the world while Desiree has returned to their small town with a dark-skinned daughter. This is one of those books with so much to unpack and explore I could be here all day. I love family drama and I love small towns. This is that and more. It’s fast-paced, emotional, and thought-provoking. (Read Keyona's full review here.)
About me: I just turned 25 and I’ve been on bookstagram since 2018. Besides books, I love Japanese idols, anime, manga, and movies. (Genki is actually the name of my favorite idol Iwahashi Genki from the group King & Prince, but it also means "happy" or "energetic" in Japanese.)
What followers can expect: I’m a romance reader through and through — just about every book I post about is a romance. I also read young adult, but only if I hear there is an epic romance for our main character. I mainly read books in the contemporary or historical genre, but I sometimes read light fantasy and have made it a goal to branch out of my comfort zone this year. You should expect to see a post from me every day with either a review of a book I recently loved, a book I’m excited about, a manga recommendation, or a fandom post about Japanese male idols.
Recent book I loved: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune was such a delight to read. The main character Linus is a chubby 40-year-old man who has been a caseworker for magical children for the last 17 years. He is then sent off on a special mission to observe a school with especially “dangerous” children. He has a very subtle but unbelievably sweet romance with the headmaster there — a lanky, tall, and handsome 45-year-old man. The children in this book captured my heart, and it felt like an instant classic once I finished it. It was everything I needed during quarantine and more! (Read De'Siree's full review here.)
About me: I'm a 27-year-old native Texan who just moved back to Dallas after spending the last five years in New York City! My mom is a teacher, so growing up I was always reading something — a short book, a store receipt, even the backs of cereal boxes — and my passion for reading has never gone away. I started my bookstagram simply to get people to read more. “More” can mean one book a year or 50, but I believe that books are an accessible way for people to experience different cultures, worlds, and ideals.
What followers can expect: My page has more of a lifestyle feel because I believe books can fit into multiple aspects of our lives, whether it be self-care, education, or pure enjoyment. I also understand that not everyone has time to research what books to read or maybe they don’t know where to start, so I keep short reviews by genre in the highlights section of my page. Although my favorite genres are thriller/mystery and sci-fi, I try to keep my reading well rounded so I also feature contemporary and non-fiction.
A recent book I loved: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. The novel follows two teenage sisters living on opposite ends of the world who only find out each other exists when their father dies in a plane crash. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any book written by Elizabeth Acevedo. Her stories cover relationships, self-image, and self-exploration within the Black and Latinx communities in a beautiful and extremely relatable way.
About me: I read EVERYTHING. I love all genres and don't necessarily have a favorite.
What followers can expect: I post when and how I feel, usually without props. I usually post real-life captions, including the current goings-on in my life, and what I'm currently reading and/or will be reading in the future. What you can expect from my account is love. I love and support my fellow readers as loud as I possibly can.
Recent book I loved: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams has just made it to one of my top reads this year. I related so much to Queenie. It's crazy how we pick up a book and it's just THE right time. This book features protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. By the ending, I'd shed more than my fair share of tears. (Read Lex's full review here.)
About me: I'm a dreamer in my twenties with a love of fairy tales. I'm currently on a hiatus from my photography business to work on my first novel — a young adult fantasy about a mixed raced girl discovering her magic. I'm writing this story for everyone who loved immersing themselves in books filled with magic growing up, but not a single main character looked like them. This is my personal guarantee that my daughter will have what I didn't!
What followers can expect: My little corner of the internet is filled with reviews on every book I read — usually fantasy, science fiction, and #ownvoices contemporary. I love to feature diverse authors and their underrated books the most, along with small, women-owned bookish companies. Plus, I sprinkle in my featured bookish merch that goes along with the stories I love. All of this is wrapped up in my very own cozy aesthetic of cups of coffee, twinkle lights, and lit candles.
A recent book I loved: A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy. I've been waiting for this book my whole life. Fae. Khimaera. Humans with magic. Bloodkin. There is so much diversity within this one book — not just diversity of color but also LGBT characters. I recommend this book to everyone. (Read Ana's full review here.)
About me: I'm a 28-year-old bookworm from the beautiful windy city of Chicago! If I'm not reading a book, I can be found taking pictures of books and making quite the mess in the process! Outside of books, I can be found dancing it out to my favorite tunes (Betty Who, anyone?), or watching action movies and classic films like Singin' in the Rain.
What followers can expect: I like to think that I have a wide variety of tastes in books (I dabble in the occasional historical fiction or fantasy novel), but followers can expect to see lots of YA contemporary (with a smattering of YA fantasy!) surrounded by bright colors and flowers on my page. Come for the flowery pics, stay for the fun book chats!
A recent book I loved: The Tales From Verania series by TJ Klune; I listened to three of the four books in less than a week! The whole series is hilarious and wonderful — though it's probably not for younger readers.
About me: I'm a 26-year-old book-loving millennial from the Bay Area in California. I have always loved reading since I was a little kid — and although I took a little bit of a break from reading when I had my first daughter just due to being busy, I have truly started being able to find my love for reading again, ever since I've found this amazing little corner on the internet known as bookstagram.
What followers can expect: Being a mom has taught me that I cannot completely control everything, not even my own social media schedule. I try to post at least a few times a week but anything can happen to throw off the schedule. What I can guarantee is my posts are completely real and unscripted. My favorite genre is definitely fantasy and science fiction, but a lot of other genres are sprinkled in there. One thing I am determined to do this year is read and promote a lot more Black authors — especially considering I aspire to be one myself.
A recent book I loved: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. I honestly don’t think I can fully give this book the credit it deserves with just words alone. This book was so amazing! And the fact that it’s a science fiction book written by a Black woman just makes it that much better. Jemisin does a great job of tying together the different plot lines; her writing style is so smooth and perfect and the plot itself is a masterpiece. I’m hoping I love the entire series as much as I love the first book. (Read Briana's full review here.)
Jaz Imani, @heythatsjaz
About me: I’m a West Indian/Indigenous American from New York. I’ve always been an avid writer and reader. Reading and telling stories through pictures has always been a passion of mine — it became a way for me to express my thoughts and feelings, and it has helped me to deal with life traumas. This quarantine has allowed me to get back to my love for reading, which has brought me back to me.
What followers can expect: Re-creating my page and joining the bookstagram community has literally given me a sense of belonging that I’ve never experienced, from people who I don’t even know or know me, but love books just as much as I do. With my page, I give honest reviews on books that I’m reading, along with plus sized fashion wear because I want Black women, like me, to be seen and heard as confident, beautiful, creative, intelligent, fearless, unique and multidimensional. Followers will always see me advocate that Black authors, Black narratives, and Black readers aren’t a monolith.
A recent book I loved: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite was such a phenomenal read. I couldn’t put the book down and read it in less than 24 hours! It's a thriller about two sisters, Korede and Ayoola… and one happens to be a serial killer. The story takes place in Lagos, Nigeria and, while you’re reading it, you feel like you’re there. I also love the concept of Korede and Ayoola having a really F’d-up placement of “family loyalty.” They have a very twisted allegiance to one another, which results in a lot of enabling, manipulation, and unnecessary sacrifices. This dark, yet supposedly comedic, book was interesting because the comedy came from Korede’s younger sister Ayoola, who was oblivious to the consequences of her habit of her boyfriends. (Read Jaz's full review here.)
About me: I'm a book-loving mother of two in Florida. I can't say enough about how much I adore a good book. I'm fascinated by an author's magical ability to create so much with the written word. A good book has always been a safe haven for me, an escape when I can't truly escape.
What followers can expect: I equate the emotions I feel when reading a great book with light, happiness, and the color yellow — so my followers can expect a bright, very yellow, page. I typically read contemporary and women's fiction, and I have also found a love for YA and a good thriller. I regularly post quotes about reading, and I occasionally post children's books. I'm making bookworms over here, or at least I'm trying to.
A recent book I loved: I have read a lot of great books so far this year — 2020 has provided a ton of reasons to escape in a book. One favorite is With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. Emoni, a high school senior with adult responsibilities, is trying to manage her senior year, the dramas of motherhood, heartbreak, teenage frenemies, and her magical ability with food. Can she figure it all out? Can she have everything her heart desires, or have her past decisions determined her future choices? I read this book quickly — it was a breath of fresh air. (Read Tori's full review here.)
What followers can expect: I feature a variety of books on my bookstagram page, including backlist books and new releases, with a focus on books by Black authors. I do a #FridayReads IGTV video every Friday where I announce what I’m reading on Friday and the weekend. I also do a live book chat every three weeks with another Black bookstagrammer called christikhia. I host the #readsoullit photo challenge in February in honor of Black American authors and in October for Black UK authors; the rest of the year the hashtag is for Black authors from all over the diaspora. I also host two to three group read-alongs during the year — in July, I’ll be hosting a read-along of Kintu by Ugandan writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.
A recent book I loved: The Last Thing You Surrender by Leonard Pitts Jr., which was the book I chose for the #ReadSoulLit read-along in February. It deals with World War II from a Black experience, and it turned out to be the most fantastic read. It just blew me away. It will instruct you, and it will make you think about a lot of things that are seriously wrong with the US that we have not actually fixed. It talks about race in the military, our love for our country, what it means to fight for your country, who is considered to be white in America, what it is to be Black in America — it just covers so many bases that it is impossible to for you to read this book and not enjoy it and learn from it. (Watch Didi's full review here.)
Crystal Forte, @melanatedreader
About me: I am a Bookstagrammer, blogger, and PhD student at St. John's University with a concentration in literacy and at-risk youth — but most importantly, I'm a classroom teacher. I am here to share my love of books and to encourage others to fall in love with books, too!
What followers can expect: I cover all genres because I'm a high school teacher and full-time graduate student. I post reviews, giveaways, reading challenges, reading memes, quotes, and more.
A recent book I loved: My favorite recommendations for YA would be anything Tiffany Jackson and Nic Stone. My book of the year so far is These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card, because of the suspense! I could not help but be sucked in from the beginning, and wanted to reach back as far as I could into the lives of each family member. (Read Crystal's full review here.)
Some of these responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.