Welcome to our Ten Book Challenge where our favorite authors share their “Book-It List”—a book bucket list with 10 of their most beloved and memorable reads—from the books with their favorite covers and best opening lines, to the reads they gift and the bookstores they frequent. This is a peek into your favorite authors’ perfect bowl of literary comfort food. We hope you discover something delicious!

There are very few queer Black novelists writing own voices stories, and very few Black male novelists writing contemporary stories. Things We Couldn’t Say (Sept 2021) is a novel about a bisexual Black boy finding first love, and facing the return of the mother who abandoned his preacher family when he was nine. In honor of Pride Month (and our excitement on this title filling a huge gap in YA literature), we’re proud to feature Jay Coles as the June Guest Editor.

Coles is an acclaimed voice in YA fiction: 2018’s Black Lives Matter-inspired stand-alone, Tyler Johnson Was Here, received starred reviews from Booklist. and School Library Journal, and was an Entertainment Weekly Most Anticipated Book of the Year.

Now, in Things We Couldn’t Say, Coles shows us Gio, a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity—whether it’s family love, friend love or romantic love—hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be. Gio has always felt a hole in his life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls or because his father has some drinking issues. The hole takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her . . . and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure . . . especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.

The book ….

I last bought/am currently reading: Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

I recommend to everyone: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

That was my favorite read last year, because: A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow – it’s a book that affirms and celebrates Black womanhood while also highlighting some of the ways the world hurts Black girls. A truly important must-read.

Whose author I would love to have lunch with: Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala – Ryan would be so so so fun to have lunch with. Also we could talk about writing and other kinds of crafts!

That made me realize language had power: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. I’ll read anything by her. I’m sure even her grocery lists are poetry.

I’d like to see adapted to the screen: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

That made me laugh out loud—or cry—while reading it: Dear Justyce by Nic Stone. I definitely cried and laughed while reading this one.

I think has the most gorgeous cover: The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris. I’m obsessed with this cover! Ahhhh!

With the best opening line: On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. “I might have to kill somebody tonight.”

Bookstore that I frequent/is my favorite: White Rabbit (a small used bookstore in Muncie, Indiana).

Want more Jay Coles? Check out his interview as our June Guest Editor to highlight his September 2021 new release Things We Couldn’t Say