Let’s Get Lit: ESSENCE’s Must-Read Books For Spring 2024

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Spring is here and remnants of growth and new beginnings are in the atmosphere. It is a time when we begin to indulge in Spring cleaning, and reorganizing our homes, as well as our wardrobes. In the spirit of renewal, it is equally as important to activate the mind with each new season that approaches. And, of course, an excellent way to restore and refresh one’s thinking is through books!

Our favorite must-read books for spring span the genres of Fantasy, Historical fiction, YA Literature, YA Romance, Southern Gothic, Magic Realism, and more. For those who love to see positive depictions of Black love, the list includes books such as The Kiss Countdown by Etta Easton. For others who prefer Historical Fantasy, there’s The Dangerous Ones by NY Times bestselling author, Lauren Blackwood. And, for others who may prefer suspenseful psycho-thrillers, there’s the gripping new novel by Alyssa Cole, One of Us Knows.

American Daughters by Piper Huguley (April 2nd, 2024)

In American Daughters, the very close relationship between Portia Washington and Alice Roosevelt, the daughters of Booker T. Washington and President Theodore Roosevelt. The 20th century was a time of great change. In many circumstances, racial and social constructs attempted to delineate on the premise of ethnicity and social status. But, in this beautiful historical fiction novel, the daughters of two powerful statesmen forged a genuine bond that transcended race and politics.

Something Kindred by Ciera Burch (April 2nd, 2024)

There’s a cliche and wise saying that what’s done in the dark, always comes to the light. And, this is the case in Ciera Burch’s brilliant YA novel. Set in a haunted small town drenched in secrets, where “echoes” from ancestral spirits flow through the atmosphere, family drama, racial trauma, and supernatural elements collide. If you love the Southern gothic genre coupled with magical realism, you’ll be enthralled by the pages of this nuanced and intriguing read. If you loved Kasi Lemmons “Eve’s Bayou”, you will enjoy Something Kindred.

The Kiss Countdown by Etta Easton (April 9th, 2024)

When Amerie Prince runs into her ex, and his new girlfriend, she panics and pretends to be dating a sexy guy that she has just met, and just happens to play along. However, this faux boyfriend is no ordinary man, he’s an astronaut! And, his gravitational pull on Amerie is strong. He only has three months until his next launch, and Amerie must decide if she wants to follow her heart or keep things safe. This book is perfect for lovers of positive representations of Black love. And, what’s cuter than an astronaut coupled with an event planner? Yes, opposites do attract in this fun read, indeed!

One of Us Knows by Alyssa Cole (April 16th, 2024)

Bestselling author Alyssa Cole has masterfully penned a thrilling and spellbinding book that intricately weaves together an extremely brilliant historic preservationist, Kenetria Nash, who happens to have dissociative identity disorder, a historical estate on an isolated Hudson River island, and a murder. Kenetria and her alter personalities are in for a surprise when a group of strangers show up and disturb her life on the island. One of Us Knows is an intriguing read from start to finish while shedding light on the often misunderstood diagnosis of having a dissociative identity disorder.

While We Were Burning (April 16th, 2024)

While We Were Burning is a dynamic read that quickly thrusts the reader into a well-curated tale that centers on class, race, female friendship, grief, social justice, and the notion that nothing is ever as it first appears. Elizabeth Smith has what appears to be the perfect life, but after her best friend’s death, her obsession with his murder begins to unravel her. So, she hires a personal assistant, the very composed Brianna, who soon proves herself to be a great asset. Though Brianna is hired to distract Elizabeth from her preoccupation with her friend’s death, she soon learns that Brianna has her own reasons for seeking to discover the truth behind the murder as well. Brianna wants to know who killed her Black son, who in Elizabeth’s neighborhood called the cops on him, and “why”. This suspenseful novel not only explores grief, but also examines justice, motives, and the deeply flawed nature of humans, despite often meaning well.

When I Think of You by Myah Ariel (April 16th, 2024)

Kaliya Wilson has always wanted to make movies, but after working for many years as a receptionist for a film studio, she feels jaded and as if her dreams are out of reach. Until Danny Prescott, an old flame and now a big-time director, gives her an offer she can’t refuse. If you love second chances, seeing positive representations of Black love, and reading well-written multidimensional characters, you will adore Myah Ariel’s debut novel When I Think of You. Ariel spent several years working in the entertainment industry, and this real-life experience lends itself to the succinct writing that is sure to make this book a hit! It reads like a cute rom-com that would surely make for a fun film.

Missing White Woman by Kellye Garrett (April 30th, 2024)

When Bree wakes up in a fancy Airbnb that her boyfriend rented for their nice getaway, she soon realizes that her boyfriend is no longer there. And, there’s the body of a dead white woman in the foyer. A page-turner and suspenseful, Black crime writer Kellye Garrett’s Missing White Woman candidly addresses Missing White Woman syndrome, how social media now impacts the judicial system, and the new reality that rushing to get information out first can negatively impact the integrity of journalism.

The Dangerous Ones by Lauren Blackwood (May 14th)

Dubbed as “one of the most anticipated books of the year” by SheReads, The Dangerous Ones is a historical fantasy novel set in 1863 Pennsylvania, and it’s a fresh take on the American Civil War. Jerusalem is a Saint working for the union who fought for her freedom, and she’s not easily moved. “War doesn’t scare Jerusalem. She’s a Saint. Thanks to powerful demigod-style reflexes, endurance, and strength, she’s fearless. And she has one goal – revenge.” If you love to read about demi-gods (think Percy Jackson & The Olympians), brooding vampires, and “star-crossed love, you’ll love the latest from this NY Times bestselling author.

Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris (May 14, 2024)

Long After We Are Gone delves into the timely topic of large corporations trying to buy off historically Black land. When King Solomon, the patriarch of the Solomon family, was on his deathbed, he only had one request. It’s, “Don’t let the white man take the house.” After the death of their father, the four Solomon siblings return home to North Carolina on a mission to save their family’s ancestral land, their worlds seem to unravel as intergenerational trauma, family secrets, and facades come tumbling down. This book is a force that delicately gives a glimpse at the ties that bind family together, history, and so much more.

Skin & Bones by Renee Watson (May 7th, 2024)

From Newberry Award and Coretta Scott King Award winner Renee Watson comes her new adult novel Skin & Bones, which centers on Lena Baker, 40, and she’s finally getting married. She’s thriving, has a great group of friends, and is about to get married in a couple of weeks. All is well until her fiance drops a bombshell that rocks her to the core, and changes the trajectory of her seemingly well-balanced life. In the aftermath of her fiance’s admission, Lena now has to teach her daughter about self-love, while navigating her self-worth and life. Skin & Bone skillfully examines sisterhood, motherhood, faith, and love.

Archangels of Funk by Andrea Hairston (May 7th, 2024)

Andrea Hairston’s Archangels of Funk is out of this world, fantastical, and geniusly written. This book epitomizes the fantasy genre and beyond. The book description reads, “The Water Wars have scrambled the world. Flood refugees are on the run. Disrupters and the nostalgia militia roam the roads wreaking havoc. Invisible Darknet Lords troll the internet, solidifying their power, while Cinnamon, her three Circus-Bots, and two dogs work with a community of farmers, Motor Fairies, and Wheel-Wizards to provide housing, health care, and education for flood refugees.” Hairston who has also written the books: Mindscape, Redwood and Wildfire, Will Do Magic For Small Change, Master of Poisons has an extensive background in playwriting and theater, as well as in teaching African and African-American literature. All these elements converge in Archangels of Funk, and this book is a definite must-read for spring!

A Gamble at Sunset by Vanessa Riley (May 21st, 2024)

From the bestselling author of The Island Queen, comes A Gamble at Sunset, a masterfully written historical romance novel that is high stakes, defies convention, and is full of drama. After a Duke finds out that the woman he loves was tricked into marrying another man, he vows to help her sisters marry and do whatever it takes to win her back. In this luscious Regency-era book, the inner workings of the Ton are explored, and this page-turner will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

Looking For Love In All The Haunted Places by Claire Kann (May 21st, 2024)

Looking For Love In All The Haunted Places centers on a Black heroine and is set in an old Victorian mansion that seemingly has a mind of its own. In this supernatural romance, Lucy Hart falls in love on the set of a paranormal investigation show. And, what sets this book apart from others is its eclectic mix of genres which includes romance, horror, suspense, and more. From the author of The Romantic Agenda, comes a unique and suspenseful romance read.

Four Eids and a Funeral by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé & Adiba Jaigirdar (June 4th)

In Four Eids and a Funeral, Muslim American former friends, Said and Tiwa reconnect to prevent their hometown Islamic center from being destroyed. This YA novel is perfect for tweens, teens, and young adults of all backgrounds, but those who embrace different cultures will especially appreciate this book. While this book is sweet, it gently weaves a narrative around faith, and protecting the things we believe in most. This book is also good for encouraging teens and young adults to fight for what they believe in, and in this case, Tiwa desires to save the Islamic Center. This book is a quick and light-hearted read.

A Love Like The Sun by Riss M. Neilson (June 11th, 2024)

A Love Like The Sun beautifully depicts that in many cases, the richest, deepest love is formed in authentic friendships, first. Laniah is a homebody who loves her privacy. Isaac is internet famous and has lots of influence. When Isaac returns to his hometown and realizes that his childhood best friend, Laniah, and her mom, are struggling to maintain their natural hair store, he announces on social media that they’re dating. Though this is not the truth, Isaac knows the power of social media. In turn, not only does business begin to boom for Laniah, but she soon starts to realize that the strong feelings she had for Isaac in her childhood, are still there. A Love Like The Sun is an ideal read for those who love books that center the friends-to-lovers theme.

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