Whether you’re still trying to find the perfect gift or you’re just looking for a new book to snuggle up with and forget about the cold, this guide has you covered. This year offered tons of alluring titles across a range of genres, from monographs that honor Black artists to graphic novels that show the horrors of gentrification. This year, opt to celebrate the last month of the decade by gifting these race-focused books to your loved ones—and yourself.
Photography & Film
“Black Is Beautiful” is a stunning collection of photographer Kwame Brathwaite’s work, which popularized the eponymous slogan in the ’60s and ’70s (Aperture). Witness 60 years of Roy DeCarava’s photographs of Black America in “Light Break” (David Zwirner). The “Moonlight Screenplay Book” revisits the Oscar-winning film with breathtaking stills and reflections by Frank Ocean and Hilton Als (A24). In her 504-page monograph, “The Rihanna Book,” the singer, songwriter and fashion designer shares her life via intimate photographs (Phaidon).
“Black Radical,” by Kerri K Greenidge, illuminates the life of Reconstruction-era journalist and Black liberationist William Monroe Trotter (Liveright/Norton). Eloisa Aquino’s “The Life & Times of Butch Dykes” presents illustrated narratives of trailblazing queer activists (Microcosm Publishing). Historian Nick Estes documents two centuries of Native resistance in “Our History is the Future” (Verso). “Race for Profit,” by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, unveils the exploitation of Black homeowners by the federal government and predatory lenders (The University of North Carolina Press).
Esmé Weijung Wang writes on the societal misconceptions and mistreatment of chronic mental illness in “The Collected Schizophrenias” (Graywolf Press). In her final book published before her death, “The Source of Self-Regard,” luminary writer Toni Morrison shares 40 of her essays, lectures and speeches on race, culture and art (Knopf). “Trick Mirror,” by Jia Tolentino, confronts defining cultural movements that shaped the 2010s (Random House). Dani McClain’s “We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood” reflects on parenting with love and dignity in a country filled with hostility (Bold Type Books).
Prince’s unfinished autobiography is pieced together in “The Beautiful Ones,” with handwritten pages, photographs and memorabilia from the late musician’s life (Spiegel & Grau). In “Ordinary Girls,” Queer Puerto Rican writer Jaquira Díaz shares her girlhood story of resilience in the face of racism, poverty, and violence, from Humacao to Miami (Algonquin Books). Albert Fox, the last of the Angola 3, narrates the four decades he lived in solitary confinement in “Solitary” (Grove). Author Sarah M. Broom probes the history of her family and New Orleans East over the course of several decades in “The Yellow House” (Grove).
In Ocean Vuong’s “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” a Vietnamese-American boy writes a letter to his illiterate mother as he attempts to understand his family trauma (Penguin Press). Through its 11 emotionally rich stories, Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s “Sabrina & Corina” paints the lives of Latina and Indigenous women in the American West (One World/Random House). “The Revisioners,” by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, explores the depth of intergenerational bonds by alternating between the stories of two Black women—a single mother in New Orleans and her ancestor—divided by a century (Counterpoint). “The World Doesn’t Require You,” by Rion Amilcar Scott, offers surreal stories about a fictional town founded by formerly enslaved people who rebelled (Liveright/Norton).
In “An American Sunrise” (W. W. Norton & Company), Joy Harjo, the first Native American U.S. poet laureate and member of the Mvskoke Nation, returns to the land her family was ousted from by the 1830 Indian Removal Act. In poet Carmen Giménez Smith’s “Be Recorder,” she creates her own queer Latinx poetics in the context of racism, White feminism and rising xenophobia (Graywolf Press). In “The Black Condition Ft. Narcissus,” poet jayy dodd documents her gender transition at the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency (Nightboat Books). Activist poet Staceyann Chin compiles decades of her “feminist-LGBTQ-Caribbean” poetry in her first collection, “Crossfire: A Litany for Survival” (Haymarket Books). “Feed” is a book-length poem that meditates on many forms of appetites—for nourishment, sex, culture, land, companionship—written by gay Kumeyaay poet Tommy Pico (Tin House).
Children & Young Adult
Kevin Noble Maillard’s “Fry Bread” depicts a Native American family as it prepares fry bread and includes an eight-page annotated author’s note that covers colonialism and tribal sovereignty (Roaring Book Press). In his ode to Black life, “The Undefeated,” author Kwame Alexander mixes poetry with oil paintings of Black leaders, including Malcolm X and Gwendolyn Brooks, and memorializes victims of police violence, like Sandra Bland and Michael Brown (HMH Books). A Black South Asian transgender boy prepares for the arrival of a new sibling in “When Aidan Became a Brother,” by Kyle Lukoff (Lee & Low Books). In the utopic future of Akwaeke Emezi’s teen novel “Pet,” a 15-year-old Black trans girl must convince her community that monsters exist after a close encounter with a cross-dimensional being (Make Me a World). After his cousin is killed by police in the Philippines as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, a 17-year-old travels there in search of the truth in Randy Ribay’s “Patron Saints of Nothing” (Kokila).
“I Was Their American Dream,” by Malaka Gharib, follows a half Filipina, half Egyptian girl as she grapples with the challenges of being a first-generation American daughter (Clarkson Potter). Ethnographer and cartoonist Ebony Flowers uses fiction, autobiography and humor to illustrate Black women’s relationship to their hair in “Hot Comb” (Drawn & Quarterly). “BTTM FDRS,” by Ben Passmore and Ezra Claytan Daniels, tackles gentrification in a fictional Chicago South Side community using satire and horror (Fantagraphics). In “They Called Us Enemy,” George Takei, best known for his role in the original “Star Trek” series, gives a firsthand account of his childhood as one of the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II (Top Shelf Productions).