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11 Phenomenal Summer Reads Chosen By Black Girls Book Club

·8-min read

Welcome to Hot Book Summer. From books about queer joy to snappy page turners you can read in a weekend, true crime books without the violence against women to Unbothered's picks of the best books written by Black women now, R29 has got your summer reading list sorted.

Hi, Melissa and Natalie from Black Girls Book Club here. For us, summer reading isn’t just a thing to do, it's the thing to do.

Reading hits the enjoyment spot in between the family barbecues, rooftop brunches, cocktail parties and those small gatherings in the park that turn into a full-blown party once someone’s uncle turns up with a jerk pan and a sound system. We may not be out of the pandemonium of lockdowns just yet but literary fiction written by Black women is really sweetening up summer. We've been blessed with debuts by phenomenal new writers as well as long-awaited releases from some of the best writers around.

So let's get into our Unbothered Summer Recommended Reads – or as we like to call it: "Black Girls Book Club presents: books to add to your TBR pile this summer and other stories."

Hailed as the modern day <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jun/12/assembly-by-natasha-brown-review-a-modern-mrs-dalloway" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Virginia Woolf by our friend Sara Collins" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Virginia Woolf by our friend Sara Collins</a>, Natasha Brown delicately shows us the vulnerable side of Black womanhood against the grind of everyday corporate life as her main character prepares to attend a party at her white in-laws' house. Imagine being shoes on the verge of finally getting everything you killed yourself for and then receiving a devastating blow? <em>Assembly</em> is raw, honest and frantic, and makes you question what life is really about.<br><br>–Natalie<br><br><em>Out now</em><br><br><strong>Penguin</strong> Assembly - Natasha Brown, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/assembly/9780241515709" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Hailed as the modern day Virginia Woolf by our friend Sara Collins, Natasha Brown delicately shows us the vulnerable side of Black womanhood against the grind of everyday corporate life as her main character prepares to attend a party at her white in-laws' house. Imagine being shoes on the verge of finally getting everything you killed yourself for and then receiving a devastating blow? Assembly is raw, honest and frantic, and makes you question what life is really about.

–Natalie

Out now

Penguin Assembly - Natasha Brown, $, available at bookshop.org
Can we really be asked to do a list of summer reads and not pay tribute to ourselves? <em>Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up</em> is our first official foray into the world of literature. Written in response to a need for more books that centre the growing experiences of young Black women, <em>Grown</em> is not only the book we needed when we were younger but our love letter to Black British girlhood. It's an an ode to friendship and sisterhood, a step-by-step guide to growing up and living your best life.<br><br>From fashion to featurism, <em>Grown </em>was created with one thing in mind: to help young girls glow up as they attempt to navigate a world where they are seen as too old to make mistakes but too young to be listened to and taken seriously. <br><br>We break down all the things you need to know, from the big things such as understanding your identity, the politics of hair, exploring your spirituality, breaking down stereotypes and giving you the tools you need to recognise red flags and microaggressions (it's not you sis, it's definitely them) to the small things that no one really talks about, like what's really going on between your legs and explaining what the ‘bag’ is and how you go about securing it.<br><br>Illustrated by Dorcas Magbadelo with words of wisdom and advice from inspiring Black women such as Diane Abbott MP, Sharmadean Reid, Kelechi Okafor, Candice Carty-Williams, Dorothy Koomson and everyone’s favourite Spice Girl, Melanie B, <em>Grown</em> is not only the ultimate read of the summer, it's the book you need to gift to all your friends.<br><br>–Melissa<br><br><em>Released 30 September on Bloomsbury</em><br><br><strong>Bloomsbury Publishing</strong> Grown: The Black Girls' Guide To Glowing Up, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/grown-the-black-girls-guide-to-glowing-up/9781526623713" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Can we really be asked to do a list of summer reads and not pay tribute to ourselves? Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up is our first official foray into the world of literature. Written in response to a need for more books that centre the growing experiences of young Black women, Grown is not only the book we needed when we were younger but our love letter to Black British girlhood. It's an an ode to friendship and sisterhood, a step-by-step guide to growing up and living your best life.

From fashion to featurism, Grown was created with one thing in mind: to help young girls glow up as they attempt to navigate a world where they are seen as too old to make mistakes but too young to be listened to and taken seriously.

We break down all the things you need to know, from the big things such as understanding your identity, the politics of hair, exploring your spirituality, breaking down stereotypes and giving you the tools you need to recognise red flags and microaggressions (it's not you sis, it's definitely them) to the small things that no one really talks about, like what's really going on between your legs and explaining what the ‘bag’ is and how you go about securing it.

Illustrated by Dorcas Magbadelo with words of wisdom and advice from inspiring Black women such as Diane Abbott MP, Sharmadean Reid, Kelechi Okafor, Candice Carty-Williams, Dorothy Koomson and everyone’s favourite Spice Girl, Melanie B, Grown is not only the ultimate read of the summer, it's the book you need to gift to all your friends.

–Melissa

Released 30 September on Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury Publishing Grown: The Black Girls' Guide To Glowing Up, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong><em>Asking for a Friend </em></strong><em>by Andi Osho</em><br><br>Summer isn’t much without a romance (or fling, if you wish) and <em>Asking for a Friend</em> will put you right in the space to take your own love life by force (if needs be). A funny and lighthearted story about three best friends trying to find love and secure new babes for each other who inevitably end up falling out, this debut by standup comedian Andi Osho promises to leave you feeling nice and ready to dansh away your pride and shoot your shot on finding the right one for you.<br><br>–Natalie<br><br><em>Out now</em><br><br><strong>Harper Collins Publishers</strong> Asking for a Friend - Andi Osho, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/asking-for-a-friend-9780008245795/9780008245795" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Asking for a Friend by Andi Osho

Summer isn’t much without a romance (or fling, if you wish) and Asking for a Friend will put you right in the space to take your own love life by force (if needs be). A funny and lighthearted story about three best friends trying to find love and secure new babes for each other who inevitably end up falling out, this debut by standup comedian Andi Osho promises to leave you feeling nice and ready to dansh away your pride and shoot your shot on finding the right one for you.

–Natalie

Out now

Harper Collins Publishers Asking for a Friend - Andi Osho, $, available at bookshop.org
Edited by author, publishing maven and one of the UK’s most prominent voices in romantic fiction, <em>Who’s Loving You</em> can only be described as a charcuterie board of love. Filled with stories that leave you wanting more, there truly is something for everyone as writers explore how we love and expect to be loved in so many wicked and wild ways. Featuring a who’s who of the best and brightest talents, including the UK’s bestselling Black author of adult fiction, Dorothy Koomson, Sara Collins, Kuchenga, Kelechi Okafor and many more, <em>Who’s Loving You</em> is one of the best collections of short stories I’ve ever read. <br><br>–Melissa<br><br><em>Out now</em><br><br><strong>Orion Publishing Co</strong> Who's Loving You - Sareeta Domingo, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/who-s-loving-you-love-stories-by-women-of-colour/9781409193722" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Edited by author, publishing maven and one of the UK’s most prominent voices in romantic fiction, Who’s Loving You can only be described as a charcuterie board of love. Filled with stories that leave you wanting more, there truly is something for everyone as writers explore how we love and expect to be loved in so many wicked and wild ways. Featuring a who’s who of the best and brightest talents, including the UK’s bestselling Black author of adult fiction, Dorothy Koomson, Sara Collins, Kuchenga, Kelechi Okafor and many more, Who’s Loving You is one of the best collections of short stories I’ve ever read.

–Melissa

Out now

Orion Publishing Co Who's Loving You - Sareeta Domingo, $, available at bookshop.org
Picture this: you're cute, in your 20s and have a decent job in publishing. Life would be perfect if you could just stop sleeping with your colleagues, start painting again and figure out how not to make mistakes at work, right? So the perfect solution is to get involved with a fortysomething white man with an adopted daughter and a wife, just so you can feel something. Raw, explicit, tender and real, Raven Leilani gives you just what you're looking for with this take on modern love and life.<br><br>–Melissa<br><br><em>Out now</em><br><br><strong>Pan Macmillan</strong> Luster - Raven Leilani, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/luster-9781529053517/9781529035988" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
Picture this: you're cute, in your 20s and have a decent job in publishing. Life would be perfect if you could just stop sleeping with your colleagues, start painting again and figure out how not to make mistakes at work, right? So the perfect solution is to get involved with a fortysomething white man with an adopted daughter and a wife, just so you can feel something. Raw, explicit, tender and real, Raven Leilani gives you just what you're looking for with this take on modern love and life.

–Melissa

Out now

Pan Macmillan Luster - Raven Leilani, $, available at bookshop.org
This magical masterpiece by Leone Ross should be reserved for long, relaxing summer days. When a lyrical goddess such as Leone takes 15 years to create Popisho, a magical Caribbean island with separated lovers, corrupt politicians, a high society wedding, a national beauty pageant and runaway pum pums, you know this is a book to take your time with. It had me feeling like I was back home in the middle of nuff mixup. Leone mixes magical realism with everyday island life, giving each character their own unique special powers or 'Cors' while we follow two long-term separated lovers trying to reunite. This story is filled with heartbreak, guilt, love and hilarious moments.<br><br>–Natalie<br><br><em>Out now</em><br><br><strong>Faber & Faber</strong> This One Sky Day - Leone Ross, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/this-one-sky-day/9780571358007" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
This magical masterpiece by Leone Ross should be reserved for long, relaxing summer days. When a lyrical goddess such as Leone takes 15 years to create Popisho, a magical Caribbean island with separated lovers, corrupt politicians, a high society wedding, a national beauty pageant and runaway pum pums, you know this is a book to take your time with. It had me feeling like I was back home in the middle of nuff mixup. Leone mixes magical realism with everyday island life, giving each character their own unique special powers or 'Cors' while we follow two long-term separated lovers trying to reunite. This story is filled with heartbreak, guilt, love and hilarious moments.

–Natalie

Out now

Faber & Faber This One Sky Day - Leone Ross, $, available at bookshop.org
One of the most anticipated debuts of the year, this novel really deserves its place on the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 shortlist. Based in the visual paradise that is the island of Barbados in the year 1984, this book draws us into the life of Lala, a young woman trapped in her grief and her marriage to Adan, a local crook who one night takes a burglary too far and pays for it. Jones starts the story with a cautionary folk tale of the one-armed sister who was punished because of her curiosity – the perfect beginning to a harrowing thriller.<br><br>–Natalie<br><br><em>Out now</em><br><br><strong>Headline Publishing Group</strong> How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House Cherie Jones, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/how-the-one-armed-sister-sweeps-her-house-shortlisted-for-the-2021-women-s-prize-for-fiction/9781472268778" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
One of the most anticipated debuts of the year, this novel really deserves its place on the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 shortlist. Based in the visual paradise that is the island of Barbados in the year 1984, this book draws us into the life of Lala, a young woman trapped in her grief and her marriage to Adan, a local crook who one night takes a burglary too far and pays for it. Jones starts the story with a cautionary folk tale of the one-armed sister who was punished because of her curiosity – the perfect beginning to a harrowing thriller.

–Natalie

Out now

Headline Publishing Group How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House Cherie Jones, $, available at bookshop.org
<strong><em>His Only Wife</em></strong><em> by Peace Adzo Medie</em><br><br>What do you get when you combine the Real Housewives of Accra with a sprinkling of <em>Pride and Prejudice</em>, a shot of Jeremy Kyle and a dash of gender politics, told through the interconnecting lives of three Black women? Personally, I call that mixup the award-winning, bestselling debut book by one of our generation's most talented writers. Peace Adzo Medie puts the lit in literature.<br><br>–Melissa<br><br><em>Out now</em><br><br><strong>One World</strong> His Only Wife - Peace Adzo Medie, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/his-only-wife-a-reese-s-book-club-pick-a-crazy-rich-asians-for-west-africa-with-a-healthy-splash-of-feminism/9780861540693" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

What do you get when you combine the Real Housewives of Accra with a sprinkling of Pride and Prejudice, a shot of Jeremy Kyle and a dash of gender politics, told through the interconnecting lives of three Black women? Personally, I call that mixup the award-winning, bestselling debut book by one of our generation's most talented writers. Peace Adzo Medie puts the lit in literature.

–Melissa

Out now

One World His Only Wife - Peace Adzo Medie, $, available at bookshop.org
This short story collection tells the stories of life-changing moments between friends, lovers, siblings, and mothers and daughters. <em>Milk Blood Heat</em> puts girlhood on display as Moniz intricately creates characters with beautiful souls who we see in moments of rebellion, grief and self-realisation. Sharp and to the point, these stories pass one to another, easily drawing you into the emotion of the situations these young women find themselves in.<br><br>–Natalie<br><br><em>Out now</em><br><br><strong>Atlantic</strong> Milk Blood Heat - Dantiel W. Moniz, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/milk-blood-heat/9781838950583" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
This short story collection tells the stories of life-changing moments between friends, lovers, siblings, and mothers and daughters. Milk Blood Heat puts girlhood on display as Moniz intricately creates characters with beautiful souls who we see in moments of rebellion, grief and self-realisation. Sharp and to the point, these stories pass one to another, easily drawing you into the emotion of the situations these young women find themselves in.

–Natalie

Out now

Atlantic Milk Blood Heat - Dantiel W. Moniz, $, available at bookshop.org
This one isn't for the fainthearted. Spoiler alert: <em>The Other Black Girl</em> had me scared to use my very expensive hair products for a hot minute. Centred around the experiences of the only Black girl employed at a top New York publishing house, Harris explores what happens when the <em>other</em> Black girl is more foe than friend. Page-turning, toe-curling, thrilling. You won't put this one down.<br><br>–Melissa<br><br><em>Out now</em><br><br><strong>Bloomsbury Publishing</strong> The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/the-other-black-girl-get-out-meets-the-devil-wears-prada-cosmopolitan/9781526630377" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
This one isn't for the fainthearted. Spoiler alert: The Other Black Girl had me scared to use my very expensive hair products for a hot minute. Centred around the experiences of the only Black girl employed at a top New York publishing house, Harris explores what happens when the other Black girl is more foe than friend. Page-turning, toe-curling, thrilling. You won't put this one down.

–Melissa

Out now

Bloomsbury Publishing The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, $, available at bookshop.org
There isn’t much we can say about Dorothy Koomson's new novel that hasn’t already been said. Koomson, the bestselling Queen of Big Reveals, never disappoints. This thriller will have you looking at your neighbours with the strongest side-eye. Koomson hooks us from the very first page with a book of secrets exposing the mad actions of neighbours living on the same street and a plot to murder one of them. This is another Koomson novel you won’t be able to put down.<br><br>–Natalie<br><br><em>Released 8 July on Headline Publishing</em><br><br><strong>Headline Publishing Group</strong> I Know What You've Done - Dorothy Koomson, $, available at <a href="https://uk.bookshop.org/books/i-know-what-you-ve-done/9781472277374" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:bookshop.org" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">bookshop.org</a>
There isn’t much we can say about Dorothy Koomson's new novel that hasn’t already been said. Koomson, the bestselling Queen of Big Reveals, never disappoints. This thriller will have you looking at your neighbours with the strongest side-eye. Koomson hooks us from the very first page with a book of secrets exposing the mad actions of neighbours living on the same street and a plot to murder one of them. This is another Koomson novel you won’t be able to put down.

–Natalie

Released 8 July on Headline Publishing

Headline Publishing Group I Know What You've Done - Dorothy Koomson, $, available at bookshop.org

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