A STEM romance, Afrofuturistic fantasy, exciting thrillers and parenting non-fiction; check out the Melan Magazine books roundup of recommended reading for your summer hols.
The Melan Magazine team has been busy over the last few months, steadily making our way through quality novels and books from the likes of Shirlene Obuobi, Anietie Isong, Nadifa Mohamed, Ayana Gray and Tolá Okogwu.
If you are lucky enough to have a holiday booked for the summer and looking for captivating books to add to your reading list, we’ve got you.
Check out our latest list of 13 books by Black authors for you to read.
Wahala by Nikki May
Born in Bristol and raised in Lagos, Nikki May’s Wahala was inspired by a loud lunch with some of her friends in a Nigerian restaurant. She wanted to write a book that had people like her in it – lives that included jollof rice and roast dinner in the same breath. Wahala, which means ‘trouble’ in Nigerian Pidgin English, is about three sassy and successful friends living in London, Ronkie, Simi and Boo, who are struggling to balance work and life. Ronke wants a husband and her happily ever after. Boo has everything Ronke wants – a kind husband, gorgeous child, but she’s frustrated, unfulfilled, and plagued by a feeling that she doesn’t belong. Simi supposedly wants a child (well, her husband does…). Then glamourous, high-flying Isobel explodes into the friend group determined to fix their futures for them. The women find their lives starting to unravel, and they begin to see that not all is at it seems. Minor cracks in their friendship lead to moral dilemmas, white lies turn into betrayal…
You made a Fool of Death with your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
Author of the New York Times bestseller The Death of Vivek Oji and their debut novel Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi’s latest work ‘You made a Fool of Death with your Beauty’ has already been nabbed by Amazon Studios with Michael B. Jordan’s production company Outlier Society to develop it.
29-year-old artist Feyi Adekola has struggled to get over losing the love of her life five years ago. She shares a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who encourages a reluctant Feyi to get back into the dating scene. A steamy encounter at a rooftop party results in a whirlwind romance. But it’s not all plain sailing and happily ever after. Can Feyi release her past and honour her grief while still embracing her future? And most importantly, how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?
On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi
Shirlene Obuobi is a Ghanaian American Cardiology fellow and started writing this novel in her second year of medical school. The author is clearly writing about familiar territory; On Rotation is a brilliant slow burn women in STEM rom-com following Ghanaian-American Angie Appiah. The protagonist has checked off all the boxes for the ‘Perfect Immigrant Daughter’: enrol in an elite medical school; snag a suitable lawyer/doctor/engineer boyfriend, and surround herself with a gaggle of loyal friends. But when her boyfriend dumps her and she bombs the most important exam of her medical career, Angie finds herself in the middle of a quarter life crisis of epic proportions. Just when things couldn’t get any more complicated, enter Ricky Gutierrez – brilliant, thoughtful, sexy, and most importantly, seems to see Angie for who she is instead of what she can represent. Unfortunately, he’s also got ‘wasteman’ practically tattooed across his forehead, and Angie’s done chasing mirages of men. Or so she thinks…
News at Noon by Anietie Isong
When a sick man flies in from a neighbouring country, he becomes Nigeria’s first Ebola case, patient zero. As the cases rise and journalists across the country vie for the lead in reporting the news on the imminent pandemic, Ifiok and his colleagues must immediately tackle the spread of the virus by raising awareness, sharing information, and supporting the outreach efforts of health workers. Unfortunately, they also have to battle against hysteria, misinformation, corruption and denial. Ifiok’s love life could be a much-needed escape from the stresses of work, if not for his meddling mother and the outdated traditions of society.
Will Ifiok succeed in his quest to become the next president of the Society of Journalists, win the battle against misinformation and find love along the way?
The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
The 2021 Booker Prize and critically acclaimed novel tells the story of a murder, a British miscarriage of justice, and a man too innocent for his times. It is chilling and utterly compelling, shining a light on a much-neglected period of our national life. Full of complex, richly drawn characters, the novel combines pointed social observation with a deeply empathetic sensibility. The Fortune Men demonstrates what historical fiction can achieve at its best.
Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, petty criminal. He is a smooth talker with rakish charm and an eye for a good game. He is many things, but he is not a murderer. So, when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn’t too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in a country where, he thinks, justice is served. It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life – against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman’s noose, he begins to realise that the truth may not be enough to save him.
Black Sheep by Sabrina Pace-Humphreys
Black Sheep, published by Quercus, is a memoir charting the lived experience of 43-year-old award-winning businesswoman, ultrarunner and social activist Sabrina Pace-Humphreys.
Poignant and eye-opening, exploring themes of trauma, identity, mental health and addiction, Sabrina chronicles how running saved her life. This is a tale of triumph, of grit and determination, of hope over despair. Her experiences will chime with anyone who has felt like an outsider.
In Black Sheep, Sabrina reveals how she grew up in a home, a school and a town where no-one looked like her and her subsequent struggle to understand and find her identity; about her lived experience of rural racism; about becoming a teenage mother and her determination to break that stereotype; about her battle with alcoholism and her mental health; about how running saved her life; and ultimately about how someone can not only survive but thrive in spite of their past.
The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
From the author of the Folio Prize shortlisted Dust and winner of the Caine Prize for African writing, The Dragonfly Sea is a gorgeous, magical realist novel of love, exploration and finding home – which transports readers from a small Kenyan Island to China and Turkey.
The novel follows Ayaana’s journey to adulthood after her small-island childhood is interrupted. On an island in the Lamu Archipelago lives a solitary, stubborn child called Ayaana and her mother, Munira. When a sailor, Muhidin, enters their lives, the child finds something she has never had before: a father. But as Ayaana grows into adulthood, forces of nature and history begin to reshape her life, leading her to distant countries and fraught choices. Selected as a descendant of long-ago Chinese shipwrecked sailors Ayaana is sent to study in China. Leaving her resourceful single mother, she is forced to grow up fast. Whether it’s the scarred captain of the Chinese shipping container that transports Ayaana or the son of Turkish shipping magnate who trades in refugees, Owuor never loses a profound sense of empathy for her characters. She evokes a fascinating kind of beauty in this dangerous, chaotic world and its ever-shifting oceans and trade.
Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
Beasts of Prey is the highly acclaimed debut from exciting new talent Ayana Gray which is soon to be adapted as a major film by Netflix.
Beasts of Prey is an extraordinary adventure inspired by Pan-African mythology and the first in a standout new fantasy trilogy weaving monsters, mythos and magic in one unforgettable adventure. In the broken city of Lkossa sixteen-year-old Koffi, a beast-keeper in a magical zoo, is kept against her will desperately seeking freedom. Ekon, son of a decorated hero, is a warrior in training desperately seeking honour. One night their paths cross in an unexpected way and they find themselves in the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers, the tentative alliance between them is tested to the extreme.
The hunt begins – but are they the hunters or the hunted?
Reclaiming by Yewande Biala
On her book, the author Yewande Biala says: “Reclaiming represents the liberation of my thoughts in all its many facets and intricacies. Reclaiming represents the validity of our collective experiences as Black Africans in the diaspora. Reclaiming represents anyone who is struggling or has struggled to find their voice in a world determined to always speak over them.”
Yewande rose to fame after appearing on Love Island in 2019 and has since written about her experiences of colourism. She is fast becoming an authoritative voice on some of society’s most pressing issues. In a series of interlinked essays, Reclaiming covers deeply personal topics from body image and mental health to colourism in careers and dating. Yewande speaks for the first time about family, religion, therapy, and the shock of overnight fame. Nuanced, sharp, and full of warmth and wit, Reclaiming is not your average celeb book and was written entirely by Yewande herself. She has poured her heart and soul into it.
Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu
Considered to be Black Panther meets Percy Jackson, this debut children’s novel by Tolá Okogwu is an action-packed middle-grade superhero series about a British-Nigerian girl who discovers her natural afro hair has psychokinetic abilities and the thrilling adventures she undertakes with her new-found superhero friends.
Onyeka has a lot of hair – the kind that makes strangers stop in the street. She’s always felt insecure about her vibrant curls, until she makes an important discovery: she can control her hair with her mind! Her mother quickly whisks her off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where Solari – children with superpowers – are trained. But Onyeka and her new friends at the Academy soon have to put their powers to the test as they find themselves embroiled in a momentous battle between truth and lies.
Excitingly, Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun has been picked up to be adapted into a film by the production companies owned by Will Smith (Westbrook Studios’) and David Oyelowo (Yoruba Saxon).
Fatherhood by Papa B – by Bodé Aboderin
Father of three, motivational speaker and husband of TV presenter Candice Brathwaite, Bodé Aboderin (AKA Papa B) is on a mission to show the world that Black fatherhood is not only compatible with ambition, but can inspire, nourish and amplify it too. Doing away with the negative stereotypes associated with being a Black dad in Britain, Bodé is using his natural flair for motivational speech to share the joyful and transformative journey of starting a family, including the challenges involved and the opportunities to grow along the way.
In Fatherhood by Papa B, Bodé reflects on how his own upbringing, alongside stigmas about fatherhood, race, and masculinity, have impacted his experiences of being a father, and talks candidly about how to overcome challenges commonly experienced by parents – from breaking generational cycles and adapting to modern-day family dynamics to communicating with your child and achieving a healthy work-life balance.
My Black Motherhood: Mental Health, Stigma, Race and the System by Sandra Igwe
This is the debut book from Sandra Igwe, founder of social enterprise The Motherhood Group and mother of two girls. A searing indictment of maternal mental health for Black women in the UK, Sandra has distilled her first-hand experience, knowledge of the system and the accounts of other Black mothers into this important book where she examines how culture, racism, stigma and a lack of trust in services prevent women getting the help they need. Breaking open the conversation on motherhood, race, and mental health, she demands that Black women are listened to, believed, and understood and sets out a series of recommendations for healthcare providers in the UK.
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
Nightcrawling is the debut novel by Leila Mottley. It is inspired by real events in Oakland, California, where a 17-year-old Black woman witnessed a police cover up. It’s tough and gritty and beautifully written.
Nightcrawling tells the story of Kiara Johnson who does not know what it is to live as a normal seventeen-year-old. With her mother in a rehab facility and an older brother who devotes his time and money to a recording studio, she fends for herself – and for nine-year-old Trevor, whose own mother is prone to disappearing for days at a time. As the landlord of their apartment block threatens to raise their rent, Kiara finds herself walking the streets after dark, determined to survive in a world that refuses to protect her.
Then one night Kiara is picked up by Officers 601 and 190, and the gruesome deal she is offered in exchange for her freedom lands her at the centre of a media storm. If she agrees to testify in a grand jury trial, she could help expose the sickening corruption of a police department. But honesty comes at a price – one that could leave her family vulnerable to their retaliation and endanger everyone she loves.