As we're sharing books about anti-racism and books by black authors, it's a good time to remember the black booksellers you can support with those purchases. Below are 12 stores currently taking online orders, along with great recommendations from their owners and staffers. You can find more bookstores here.
The Lit. Bar opened in the Bronx in 2019, and it is currently the borough's only bookstore. It also happens to be a wine bar! It's got a whole list of books about racism on Bookshop.
Founder Noëlle Santos recommends Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership by Ed Gordon. In a collection of interviews with prominent Black figures like Stacey Abrams, Killer Mike, Maxine Waters, Iyanla Vanzant, and more, journalist Ed Gordon examines the current state and future of Black leadership in the US.
The Key Bookstore is a Connecticut-based online and mobile Afrocentric bookstore. You can shop on its website, but you can also find its specially curated pop-ups at community events and in local businesses.
Key Bookstore creator Khamani Harrison recommends The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Coauthored with journalist Alex Haley, it recounts Malcolm X's life story — his troubled childhood in Michigan, his time in prison, his ministry in (and departure from) the Nation of Islam — and explores his ideas of Black pride and Pan-Africanism. For more recommendations, Key Bookstore also created a White Ally List.
Founder Isis Asare describes Sistah Scifi as a "cauldron of all things afro-futurism." The online-only shop specializes in science fiction, magical realism, speculative fiction, mysticism, fantasy, and horror written by Black women; it curates discounted book bundles, hosts virtual reading events, and sells a T-shirt that any self-respecting sci-fi reader should probably have.
Asare recommends Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. The YA fantasy novel follows Sunny Nwazue, a Nigerian American teen with albinism who doesn't seem to fit in anywhere — until she discovers she has latent magical powers. Asare also recommends Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson.
Café con Libros is an intersectional feminist bookstore, coffee shop, and community art gallery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It aims to "create a vibrant community space where everyone, specifically female-identified folx, feel centered, affirmed and celebrated."
Owner Kalima DeSuze recommends All About Love by bell hooks, which you can order here. All About Love asks the question "What is love?" with a vision of inspiring more compassion and care in a deeply fractured society. DeSuze included All About Love in a blog post about "all the books that sustain [her] as an activist."
Eso Won Books has been selling a vast selection of books on Black history and culture in South Los Angeles since 1990. Ta-Nehisi Coates called it his favorite bookstore, noting, "Its specific mission is to make sure black authors always have a home. This is important to me, not because it’s the world that I spring from but because it is the river I continue to drink from."
Co-owner James Fugate recommends Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley. The novel follows private investigator Leonid McGill as he takes on a case to help 92-year-old Mississippi blues singer Phillip "Catfish" Worry, who plans to reveal the black lineage of a wealthy heir and her corrupt father — but the case shifts when an assassin puts a hit on Catfish.
Semicolon opened in Chicago in 2019 and is currently the city's only bookstore owned by a black woman. It's also extremely invested in the community. On May 23, the store opened for students of Chicago Public Schools — and, with the help of a GoFundMe campaign, it was able to give out $30,000 worth of books for free.
Owner DL Mullen recommends Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. The collection of 15 beautifully written speeches and essays cover feminism, race, sex, ageism, anti-gay bias, and power. You can find more of Semicolon's current favorites here.
Hakim's is Philadelphia's oldest African American–owned bookstore, and it's been family-run since it opened in 1959. It specializes in African American history, religion, health, and children's books; it also sells candles, apparel, and decor.
Owner Yvonne Blake recommends The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison. The collection gathers four decades of texts, including Morrison's Nobel lecture on the power of language, her meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., and her eulogy for James Baldwin. Blake also recommends Kindred by Octavia Butler and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center opened in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 2013, specializing in African American and African books. It also sells incense, beauty products, and jewelry. The shop works with Black Men Read to provide books about the African diaspora to local children.
Owners Kip Johnson and Carlos Franklin recommend Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown. The 1965 autobiographical novel recounts Brown’s childhood in Harlem and has been called the definitive account of everyday life for black people raised in Harlem ghettos in the ’40s and ’50s.
Mahogany Books started in 2007 as an online bookstore specializing in books written for, by, or about people of the African diaspora — and 10 years later, it opened its first physical location in Washington, DC. It also hosts Books for the Block, an annual book drive for local kids.
The Mahogany Books team recommends What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young. Young's memoir in essays is a frank and funny exploration of Blackness and masculinity.
Harriett's Bookshop opened in Fishtown, Philadelphia, in January. Named for Harriet Tubman, it focuses on women authors, artists, and activists. Harriett's is currently working with Dr. Gina, a local ER doctor, on the Essentials for Essentials campaign, which allows customers to buy requested books for essential workers.
Owner Jeannine Cook recommends Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid — a Fishtown native who Cook calls "a hometown hero." Reid's highly praised debut novel examines the relationship between a wealthy white couple and their young and broke black babysitter, Emira. Read the first chapter of Such a Fun Age here.
Pyramid Books opened in Boynton Beach, Florida, in 1993, selling new Afrocentric fiction and nonfiction, with a focus on self-help, science fiction, mysteries, spiritual, and small press books.
Bookseller De'Vonte Watson recommends Blueprint for Black Power: A Moral, Political, and Economic Imperative for the Twenty-First Century by Amos N. Wilson. The late psychologist and social theorist's focus was on strengthening the economic and political power of Black Americans, and Blueprint for Black Power lays out the framework for doing so.
Source Booksellers is a nonfiction bookstore and community space in Detroit, specializing in history and culture, health and wellness, and spirituality. It's currently hosting virtual author events and readings.
The Source team recommends Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster by Stephen L. Carter. Carter's book tells the story of the prosecutor Eunice Hunton Carter — the author's grandmother — who devised the strategy that took down Lucky Luciano, one of the most powerful Mafia bosses in history. They also recommend The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood by Tommy J. Curry, and 50 Cent's book Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter — of which they're selling signed copies.