Scary Mommy's Black History Month Reading Challenge


Happy February, and happy Black History Month! In the last few years or so, and especially since the murder of George Floyd, I’ve struggled with how to approach this month in the most meaningful and appropriate way. As someone who’s mixed race but not Black, and I want to devote part of the month to getting myself educated by Black voices. And as someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I want to learn history that might not have been part of the curriculum at school back then. But I also want to simply celebrate Black culture and support Black artists and creators.

Last year, I decided to dedicate the month to reading all Black authors. It ended up being the most joyful month of reading out of my year, even if some of it was difficult and hard to process. I read five novels, but I also decided to make sure to read a wider variety of other selections. I read two books of poetry (by Brandon Leake and Morgan Hopper Nichols), a novella, two books of essays (by Clint Smith and Ta-Nehisi Coates), a YA novel (by Elizabeth Acevedo), and a classic piece of literature, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

This year, I’m also going to read all Black authors, but I’m going to go about it in a bit more of an organized way, by making a month-long reading challenge. It’s simple: to see how many of the following prompts I can hit in a month.

  1. A book written in the past year
  2. A book of poetry
  3. A book that centers Black joy
  4. A Black romance or rom-com
  5. A classic of Black literature
  6. A sci-fi or fantasy book
  7. A banned book
  8. A history book
  9. A mystery book
  10. A book of essays
  11. A funny book
  12. A book about race
  13. A graphic novel
  14. A historical fiction book
  15. A YA book
  16. An award-winning book
  17. A book with a queer, non-binary or trans Black author
  18. A book recommended by an indie bookseller
  19. A book that centers Black excellence
  20. A thriller or horror book

Obviously, it would be hard or impossible to read 20 books in 28 days (although we do have some super-readers in Scary Mommy Book Club), and many of our readers are juggling kids, jobs, and their own lives, too. Some people might only have time for a book or two. More might have time to read four to six. But hopefully, the list above will lead you to read something that you might not have otherwise found.

A few other questions:

Can a book fit into more than one category? Of course!

Can you just work on this reading challenge until the end of the year, or until you’re done? Absolutely!

Do we have a template that you can use to show off your reading challenge books at the end of the month? We sure do! Drop this in Canva or any other picture editor to add the covers of the books you read — and post it on Instagram stories or Facebook stories throughout the month to share your progress.

Use this template to track your reading during Black History Month.

Here are a few great picks for each prompt, if you’re looking for inspo:

  1. A book written in the past year: Come and Get It by Kiley Reid or Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward
  2. A book of poetry: Above Ground by Clint Smith or The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman
  3. A book that centers Black Joy: Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
  4. A Black romance or rom-com: Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan or The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
  5. A classic of Black literature: Beloved by Toni Morrison or The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  6. A sci-fi or fantasy book: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  7. A banned book: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  8. A history book: The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones
  9. A mystery book: When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
  10. A book of essays: Hunger by Roxane Gay
  11. A funny book: Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby or Congratulations, The Best Is Over! By R. Eric Thomas
  12. A book about race: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson or The World Record Book Of Racist Stories by Amber Ruffin
  13. A graphic novel: Yummy by Greg Neri
  14. A historical fiction book: Homeward by Angela Jackson-Brown, The American Queen by Vanessa Miller
  15. A YA book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas or Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  16. An award-winning book: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  17. A book with a queer, non-binary or trans Black author: Family Meal by Bryan Washington, You Made A Fool Of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
  18. A book recommended by an indie bookseller: Ask them!
  19. A book that centers Black excellence: Finding Me by Viola Davis, Becoming by Michelle Obama
  20. A thriller or horror book: The Reformatory by Tananarive Due

Happy reading and happy Black History Month!

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