40th Anniversary Portfolio: 40 Summer Books

Nothing complements the relaxing days of summer like a great book to entertain, educate and inspire. In honor of the 40th anniversary of ESSENCE magazine we've come up with 40 books that have captured and shaped the experiences of African-Americans. We look to selections that have helped guide us in examining the past and prepared us for the future.

Terry McMillan tells it like it is with four 30+ women who are desperately trying to find men to match their success, drive and love.

A collection of beautiful poems about some of life's most touching moments.

Chinua Achebe writes a story about a well respected Nigerian warrior with a temper, who looses everything during the colonization in Africa.

Stuck in a world where her beauty isn't valued, Pecola Breedlove, wants her brown eyes to turn blue so she can receive the same treatment as her White blue-eyed friends.

Gaining independence isn't easy for free-spirited Janie Crawford. She marries three different men through whom she learns about love and spiritual redemption.

A powerful autobiography about sexual abuse and triumphant.

A story of two southern sisters, Celie and Nettie, who share a deep bond that cannot be destroyed despite attempts by the novel's villain, Mister.

Smith steals the show in her first novel about a London family dealing with race, gender and culture.

A collection of short stories focusing on the experiences of several African-American characters dealing with betrayal and loss.

A collection of essays, often autobiographical, about race in America at the turn of the 20th century.

Sassy and bold, Winter Santiaga, the first born daughter of a prominent drug dealer in Brooklyn, is pushed to her limits and challenged in ways she never imagined.

Testing positive for HIV is never an easy pill to swallow, but Ava Johnson manages to do so with grace and poise. She quits her job in Atlanta and moves back to her hometown in Idlewild, Michigan.

A deep and thought-provoking analysis of the history of Black folks and where we stand today.

The transformation of Malcolm Little, prisoner to Malcolm Little, then icon Malcolm X.

A poignant children's book about Black culture set in Harlem.

This 1987 Pulitzer Prize book tells a beautiful narrative that can almost be mistaken for realistic.

An autobiography of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes as he worked in a Paris night club to walking the streets in Harlem, as a young poet during the roaring twenties.

A touching memoir about President Obama, growing up as a biracial child to his college days.

An edgy book about race in America.

A story of a nameless Black man who goes through several trials and tribulations as he searches for himself in a racially intolerant America.

A moving novel about the rural Mississippi to the present-day street gangs in Chicago's housing projects.

A great book tracing the strength of seven diverse Black women who live in a beaten-down rented house.

A Black war veteran looses his job and wonders how he will make ends meet and is later faced with a tough challenge.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. writes a memoir of his youth years in West Virginia in a time where everything was racially charged.

A story of a Black child, who's father is a White plantation owner and mother a Black mistress, set in the pre-civil war era.

A young teacher comes in contact with a young black man on death row for a crime he didn't commit.

A Maryland born slave, who taught himself to read and write among learning to free himself.

A power book that challenges all African-Americans to really "do for themselves."

A lyrical master piece that tells a story about a little Black girl growing up in St. Louis, Missouri.

A brilliant memoir that traces the successful life of a warrior committed to fighting racism.

A snapshot of a Black community in South Philadelphia in the 1940s.

A powerful tale about a young Black guy who recognizes he is trapped by poverty and his race.

A collection of powerful poems about Black families, relationships and life.

hooks bravely writes about how Black activism and criticizes certain areas in feminism.

This novel is about three Black sisters who reunite in their Georgia hometown to share their feelings while preparing for their mother's funeral.

A gentle novel about a Black beautician's long journey in the world.

This inspirational classic tells a powerful story of a spirited little girl coming to grips in depression era Harlem.

Gifted poet Sonia Sanchez presents a homage to Blacks, both past and present.

A brilliant portrait of the Harlem Renaissance.

A collection of twenty poems by Nikki Giovanni for young people about African American life.

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