Toni Morrison Books: Where to Start

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Exploring the Work of Toni Morrison: Where to Start

Toni Morrison is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important American writers of the 20th century, having received numerous honors and awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Her work has focused on themes of identity, race, family, and love, often tackling difficult and complex topics with remarkable insight and grace. 

Her books are among the most widely read works of literature in the English language and considered essential reading for any reader interested in and inspired by African American culture and literature. Though any and all of Morrison’s works are worth exploring, here are a few titles worth adding to your list if you’re looking for the best places to start reading her works.


Beloved is Morrison’s best-known and arguably most highly praised work of fiction. Published in 1987 and conceived from the explosive history of slavery in the United States, the novel tells the story of Sethe, a runaway slave who is trying to rebuild her life after escaping from her master. Though it is a heartbreaking and often brutal tale, Beloved is a powerful meditation on freedom and the hardships faced by African Americans throughout history.

The Bluest Eye

Perhaps Morrison’s first breakthrough novel, The Bluest Eye, originally published in 1970, is another masterful work of fiction that serves as an unflinching examination of racism and the psychological toll it takes on its victims. It tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl growing up in Ohio in the 1940s, during the Great Depression. Through her eyes, Morrison examines the social messages that racial discrimination creates and the toll that it takes on the lives of those subject to such immense pressure.

Song of Solomon

Another of Morrison’s most acclaimed works, Song of Solomon was published in 1977 and is seen as a pivotal work in the development of contemporary literature. Written as a celebration of African American identity and culture, the novel follows Macon “Milkman” Dead III, a young man struggling to fit in to his predominantly black neighborhood, as his journey of self-discovery and exploration leads him to explore his family’s past.


Sula is a novel which deals with many of the same themes as Morrison’s other works, including racism, identity, and family. Published in 1973, this powerful novel tells the story of two childhood friends, Sula and Nel, who grow up together in a small community in Ohio. As they go through life, their paths diverge, leading each of them to explore their own identities and relationships, with ultimately heartbreaking results.

The Source of Self-Regard

The Source of Self-Regard is Morrison’s most recent work, first published in 2019. A collection of essays and speeches, this volume is an essential read for anyone interested in Morrison’s thoughts and ideas on personal, political, and global events from the past century. With this work, Morrison reminds us that our personal struggles can only be addressed if we look more deeply in to our society and challenge the status quo.

Other Notable Toni Morrison Books

For those looking to further explore the works of Toni Morrison, here are a few more books of hers worth reading.

  • A Mercy (2008): Set in the mid-17th century, this is a tale of America’s early colonial history, focusing on the struggles and hopes of one particular family.
  • Tar Baby (1981): This novel follows Jadine, a young woman with a difficult past, as she comes to understand her place in the world and her own identity.
  • Paradise (1997): Set in an all-black town in Oklahoma, this novel examines the dangerous effects of extremism and racism.
  • Love (2003): Through the course of this novel, a family of African American women grapple with the implications of a painful and hidden past.
  • God Help the Child (2015): Through this novel, Morrison traces the effects of trauma, abuse, and grief as it is passed down through the generations.

Toni Morrison is an extraordinary writer who has left a lasting and meaningful mark on American literature. Her works are compelling and often heart-wrenching examinations of modern life, and their relevance is particularly important today. For anyone looking to start reading her work, these titles are essential reading and will leave readers in no doubt as to why Morrison is considered one of the most influential writers of her time.

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