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The best books to read this February, according to Kwame Alexander

Including an "unusual love story" and a fictionalized account of the first Black Oscar winner.

In search of your next read — after you get through the latest "Read With Jenna" pick, of course? Kwame Alexander stopped by the 3rd Hour of TODAY with a few literary suggestions.

There's a lot to look forward to in 2024, at least on a literary level. Alexander spotlighted a few of them during his visit, including a pick for Black History Month.

Alexander is a literary force in his own right. His latest book, "This Is the Honey," marks the 40th book that he's released. The book is a 400-page compilation of poetry featuring the work of 150 poets.

Best read for Black History Month

Hattie McDaniel was the first Black person to win an Oscar. This book looks into life of the woman who played Mammy in "Gone with the Wind," including her "difficulty in finding her place in Hollywood during a time where the only roles made available to dark-skinned Black women were those that played on racial stereotypes," Alexander says.

"Reading this book gave me a crash course in Black Hollywood history. Ultimately I think this story will draw more attention to the work of actresses from this era like Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Fredi Washington, Ruby Dee, and Dorothy Dandridge, who deserve to be remembered as fondly as their white counterparts."

Best Romance

"The Mayor of Maxwell Street" by Avery Cunningham

This is an "unusual love story," according to Alexander. "This book is an unusual romance novel, but it is unusual in a good way. This book asks the question, 'What is it that you love when you love someone? Their soul, their persona, or some combination of both?'" It involves wealthy Black southerners, a 20-year-old debutant, a dead brother, a Mexican polo player, a forced marriage, a Mexican polo player and a shadowy gangster known as the Mayor of Maxwell Street, all coming together in one Chicago summer.?

Best Book to Screen

"The Expatriates" by Janice Y.K. Lee

Janice Y. K. Lee's "The Expatriates," which follows three American women living in Hong Kong, was recently turned into an Amazon Prime series starring Nicole Kidman.

"This is such a beautifully written, the prose flows like poetry," he says, calling it "an excellent depiction of how Americanness manifests itself most fervently outside of its homeland."

Best Sports Read

"Elevate and Dominate: 21 Ways to Win On and Off the Field" by Deion Sanders

Alexander says Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders is someone who "gets people to believe," calling him "one of the greatest motivators and inspirational leaders of all time."

"This book is an inspirational playbook that brings those same tips and tools to life," he says.

Best Thriller

"Front Sight" by Stephen Hunter

Alexander shouts out another installment in Stephen Hunter's series about a family of gunmen. "His novels are unputdownable hardboiled tales of law men hunting criminals but also men hunting for their salvation," he says, calling "Front Sight" a "page-turner." It's a collection of interconnected novellas, each featuring a different swagger in pursuit.?

"This Is the Honey" by Kwame Alexander

Alexander edited the anthology of Black poets featuring the work of ?Rita Dove, Jericho Brown, Warsan Shire, Ross Gay, Tracy K. Smith, Terrance Hayes, Morgan Parker and Nikki Giovanni and many, many more.


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