The Essential Toni Morrison Reading List

When Toni Morrison died on 5th August, 2019 the literary world paid tribute and as such there have been many mentions of her online via newspapers, blogs and here at For Reading Addicts. There’s a good chance you’ve read these blogs and thought yourself of the Toni Morrison books you have read, and the impact she had on the literary world, but if you haven’t yet read any of Morrison’s books then the coverage may have left you wanting to do so.

So today we’re talking about Toni Morrison’s brilliant and groundbreaking legacy, and the essential books you should read if you want to get started on introducing yourself to her works.

With all due respect to this wonderful woman, discovering dead authors is fantastic, because you know they’ll have a wonderful back catalogue, and you’ll never be left waiting for new releases, although it also means eventually you’ll have read your way through everything they wrote.

To get you started, here are six books by Toni Morrison, we think you’ll love! These are posted in the order they were originally released. They aren’t all she wrote and if you enjoy these, you can make your way through her other works.

The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye was released in 1970 and is considered to be a groundbreaking African American novel. The novel follows the life of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl who prays every day for beauty after being mocked by other children for her dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes.

The Bluest Eye is considered to be one of the first novels to examine our obsession with Western beauty, and conformity and asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender.

Sula

Sula was released in 1973 and tells the story of Nel Wright and Sula Peace, who met as children in a small town in Ohio. Their devotion to each other is strong as they withstand bullies, and the burden of a dreadful secret.

As they grow up Nel becomes the pillar of the black community, while Sula becomes a pariah. Can their friendship endure?

Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon is a brilliantly imagined coming of age novel, released in 1977. Audacious and bold, she follows Milman Dead from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins.

Bold and important for the time of release, Morrison’s world created here is unapologetically black, a fully realised world of the kind rarely seen in literature in the 1970s.

Tar Baby

Published in 1981 Tar Baby is brilliantly provocative. Tar Baby reinvents the love story following the affair between black fashion model Jadine Childs and her white boyfriend. Her son is a black fugitive and embodies everything she loathes, in this fantastic novel that plays out from the Caribbean to Manhattan and the Deep South.

A nuanced look at race, obligations and betrayals between blacks and whites, and masters and slaves.

Beloved

Beloved stares bravely and unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery in what is a painful and brilliant read. Sethe, the book’s protagonist may have escaped slavery but she is still not free, tied by her memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many terrible things happened.

Haunted by the ghost of her baby, Sethe is brought to live in bitter poetry and tight suspense, making Beloved a towering achievement for this now well established author by the time this was published in 1987.

Jazz

In 1992, hot on the heels of the Pulitzer-winning Beloved came Jazz, a seamless journey from the past to the present and into the future all spoken by a mysterious voice, illuminating the terrors of slavery and bringing to live history and legend like never captured before.

A keen look at slavery, black urban life and the complexities of humanity make Jazz a landmark American novel.



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