Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success (Amistad $25.99) by Steve Harvey is a revealing self-help book. He uses himself as an example of how to be a success because he wasn’t always one. It’s a blueprint confession for anyone who needs (not wishes for) and wants more out of life. There are levels to it just the same: finding your own vehicle, identifying an endgame, listing what’s keeping you back, and, of course, figuring out your gift and using it! There are charts to fill out and hashtags to share your answers with others in this self-help/inspirational book. It’s like Harvey says inside: “If you answered no to any of the above questions, gift this book to a person willing to acknowledge his or her gift.” For more about this book go to

The Moor’s Account (Pantheon $26.95) by Laila Lalami is at the top of the list for 2014.  Set in Florida, it’s the first-person narrative of a Moor whose Spanish master is part of an ill-fated expedition to the New World. Lalami writes some excellent historical fiction. The story vacillates between the Moor’s life before slavery in Morocco through his New World adventure. Best book of the year so far, IMO. The way the Moor’s account differs from the Spaniards is amazing. It’s a play on perspective in more ways than one.

Into the Go-Slow (Feminist Press $16.95) by Bridgette M. Davis is a self-discovery adventure set between Detroit and Nigeria in the 1980s. The nostalgia is all there, from the Detroit that was to Fela-era Nigeria. The main character, Angie, has just graduated college and proceeds to backtrack her older sister’s life path in Nigeria through her letters back home up until the moment of her death via a car accident. The woman Angie was when first going to Nigeria is definitely not the one who comes back. Get into this tale of loss and understanding, and enjoy.

The Notion of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier (Aperture $60) is visually stunning, strong, engaging work that tells the tale of Frazier, her mother and grandmother, plus the in-some-ways forgotten and invisible residents of a small factory town in America. Frazier’s mom is often times co-creator of many images. As you turn the pages, you see how these people’s lives have progressed in classic black and white documentary photography.

The psychological effect of the environment’s decay is a strong undercurrent here. While in most instances, it’s the “other’s” view of people and place, in this style of photography, Frazier gives us the insider’s view as raw and as powerfully as she can. There’s a fantastic Q&A interview with photographer Dawoud Bey and essays by Laura Wexler and Dennis C. Dickerson in the final pages that frame the political and social impact of Frazier’s documentation of Braddock, Pennsylvania. In short, it’s a testament to her family’s life and struggle, and a condemnation of a nation’s failure to its citizens.

After Obama (MLPR Books  $17) by Marc Curtis Little is the fourth installment of his independently published Curt Felton Jr. series. This work begins after Felton’s succeeded in improving the quality of life in Forrestville, Florida as mayor, running on a non-partisan platform. Many are pushing for him to run for president of the United States off this momentum. While on the road for his nationally televised radio show, he begins to unravel a plot where the South tries to rise politically again by repealing the 22nd Amendment, having Obama run for a third term to his ultimate failure.

Filled with U.S. political history and Black perspective, it’s like a watered-down House of Cards meets popular African-American fiction (with less former and more of the latter). The jokes are good, the politics plausible, the plotters super evil and the heroes equally as good. What works is that you really watch the whole plot unfold after a nice amount of foreshadowing. For more about the man and the literature, go to

Brook Stephenson