Summer Reading Happened So Fast!

It’s summer! It’s time to kick back, and what better way to relax than with an entertaining novel—something that you have not been assigned to read for school? The Prairie State Library offers you many selections for summer reading, but this year, we showcase our small but growing collection of urban fiction.

Urban fiction goes by many other names: street lit, hip-hop fiction, ghetto or gangster lit. Whatever the name, these books depict the African American (and occasionally Latino) urban experience as characterized by crime, drugs, and prostitution. Urban fiction authors share a commitment to authenticity—to “tell it like it is” and to “keep it real”—never shying away from explicit sex and violence in their writing. “Gritty” seems to be the most commonly-used adjective used by book reviewers to describe street lit.

If street lit is not to your taste, however, there are many more reading options on the menu at PSC library this summer. Take a look at our Summer Reading List, which contains our recommendations of classics, contemporary classics, and books just for fun. Check out a book, kick back, relax, and enjoy!

You can also continue reading for some more information on Urban Fiction and for a full list of our Summer Reading selections.

Many authors in this genre have first-hand experience of street life and in fact began their writing careers in prison. While urban fiction does not moralize, many street lit authors see their books as cautionary tales, showing the consequences that ensue when young men and women fall prey to the lure of easy money through thug life.

Urban fiction has its roots in the late 1960s and 1970s with the autobiographical novels of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim and other black authors published by Holloway House. A large number of early urban fiction writers were self-published.

While street lit was once considered outside the mainstream and regarded with suspicion by major publishers and libraries, the rising popularity of hip-hop culture in the late 1990s and early 2000s brought this genre into the spotlight. Pivotal publications of this era included Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever (1999), Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl (1996), and Terri Woods’ True to the Game (1999). In the late 1990s, the publisher W.W. Norton began its Old School Books line, reprinting a number of the early street lit classics. Urban fiction publishers like Triple Crown Publications, Urban Books, and Melodrama Publishing then rose to prominence, and some major publishing houses started their own street lit imprints as well.


Patrick, D. (2003). Urban fiction. Publishers Weekly, 250(20), 20-31. Retrieved from

Wright, D. (2006). Lessons from the old school: Street lit pioneers. Library Journal, 131(2). Retrieved from

Wright, D. (2006). Streetwise urban fiction. Library Journal, 131(12), 42-45. Retrieved from

Urban Fiction:

A Girl Like Me by Ni-Ni Simone

Bad Girlz for Life by Shannon Holmes

Bedroom Gangsta by J. Tremble

Coca Kola: The Baddest Chick by Nisa Santiago

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah

Conception by Kalisha Buckhanon

Damaged by Kim Dupree

Dirty Old Men by Omar Tyree

Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers

Gunmetal Black by Daniel Serrano

Hood Rat by K’wan

Hustlin Divas by De’nesha Diamond

Natural Born Hustler by Nikki Turner

Never Go Home Again by Shannon Holmes

Streets of New York by Various Authors

True to the Game by Teri Woods


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Contemporary Classics:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Graceland by Chris Abani

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

Life of Pi by Yani Mantel

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Room by Emma Donoghue

The War of the End of the World by Mario Llosa Vargas

You Should Know Our Velocity by David Eggers


Big Machine by Victor LaValle

Everything is Eventual by Stephen King

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

House Rules by Jodi Piccoult

The Invention of Hugo Cabaret by Brian Selznick

John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Side Jobs by Jim Butcher

The Unbearable Lightness of Scone by Alexa

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami


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