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Maya Angelou’s 20 best books according to Goodreads, from her famous poetry to a cookbook filled with memories

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According to Goodreads members, the most popular Maya Angelou books are “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Letter to My Daughter.”

Amazon; Alyssa Powell/Insider

  • Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was an influential writer, poet, and activist.
  • We used Goodreads rankings and reviews to find the 20 most popular Maya Angelou works. 
  • Her most popular books are “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Letter to My Daughter.”

Maya Angelou was a prolific writer, poet, and activist perhaps best known for her first memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” She became one of the most influential voices of the late 1900s and early 2000s, living a full life between raising her child, traveling around the world, and working for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. 

Known for her deeply emotional and profound writing as well as her resounding wisdom, Maya Angelou wrote seven autobiographies as well as dozens of poems and essays that continue to showcase her memorable voice long after her passing in 2014. 

To rank her poetry, autobiographies, and essay collections, we turned to Goodreads members. Goodreads is the world’s largest platform for over 125 million users to rate and review books and share their favorites with friends. 

Whether you’re looking for a moving poem or to learn more about Angelou’s life through her memoirs, here are Maya Angelou’s 20 most popular works, as ranked by Goodreads members.

The 20 best books by Maya Angelou, ranked by Goodreads readers:

20. “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie”just give me a cool drink of water 'fore I diiie book cover

Amazon

“Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie,” available on Amazon, from $16.85

From 1971, this is Maya Angelou’s first published poetry collection, with many of the poems beginning as song lyrics from her early career as a performer. More abstract than her later works, these poems traverse oppression, rage, and forgiveness in this two-part collection. 

19. “On the Pulse of Morning”on the pulse of morning book cover

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“On the Pulse of Morning,” available on Amazon, from $27.20

“On the Pulse of Morning” was the poem Maya Angelou read at Bill Clinton’s 1993 presidential inauguration, a performance that boosted the recognition of her talent. The poem is a lyrical manifesto that reflects Clinton’s inaugural speech, calling on America to recognize its historical failings in order to create a more unified future. 

18. “Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou”rainbow in the cloud book cover

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“Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.45

This book is a 2014 collection of 200 Maya Angelou quotes that have resounded with readers since her first publication in 1969. With advice and wisdom on everything from equality to family, this book is sentimental and can provide a meaningful message for any reader. 

17. “Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem”amazing peace book cover

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“Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.95

In the 2005 poem, “Amazing Peace,” Maya Angelou speaks of Christmas as an opportunity for healing, halting hate, and embracing peace through the holidays and for the coming year. Read at the National Christmas Tree lighting of the same year, this poem is affirming as it presents a hopeful message alongside celebratory illustrations. 

16. “Hallelujah! the Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes”hallelujah book cover

Amazon

“Hallelujah! the Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $17.39

Maya Angelou shares memories and recipes in this cookbook of delicious food and memorable essays. Much different than the profoundly emotional work for which she’s best known, this cookbook allows readers to understand Maya Angelou in a new way as she tells the stories of her life through food.

15. “Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer”celebrations book cover

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“Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.17

This collection of Maya Angelou’s poetry was published in 2006 with five previously published classics and seven new poems. A compilation of both timely and timeless poetry, this book celebrates Maya Angelou’s graceful and wise voice.

14. “I Shall Not Be Moved”i shall not be moved book cover

Amazon

“I Shall Not Be Moved,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.04

This poetry collection is about the shared feelings of triumph and pain through experiences in love, womanhood, and oppression. This collection is praised by readers for Maya Angelou’s ability to convey such intimacy and raw emotion in her writing. 

13. “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me”life doesn't frighten me book cover

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“Life Doesn’t Frighten Me,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.79

“Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” is a 1993 picture book that combines illustration with a Maya Angelou poem to create a loveable children’s story that adults can enjoy as well. The poem is about being courageous as we face our deepest fears, a powerful message that’s heightened by the illustrations. 

12. “Even the Stars Look Lonesome”even the stars look lonesome book cover

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“Even the Stars Look Lonesome,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $13

Published in 1977, this is Maya Angelou’s second book of essays, a collection of personal wisdom on a wide array of subjects from sexuality to fame to housework. Like much of her writing, this collection is loved for Maya Angelou’s warm and inspirational voice. 

11. “A Song Flung Up To Heaven”a song flung up to heaven book cover

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“A Song Flung Up To Heaven,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $10.99

Set between 1965-1968, the sixth of Maya Angelou’s memoirs begins as she returns to America from Ghana and experiences a life-changing historical event. Impactful and fascinating, this memoir concludes with the story of Maya beginning to write her first memoir: “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”

 

10. “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes”all god's children need traveling shoes book cover

Amazon

“All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.49

This is Maya Angelou’s fifth installment to her series of memoirs, covering 1962-1965 and beginning when Maya is 33 years old. An account of the years she lived in Ghana, this memoir explores her African American identity, motherhood, and her definition of home. 

9. “And Still I Rise”and still i rise book cover

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“And Still I Rise,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.60

“And Still I Rise” is Maya Angelou’s most famous poem, an ode to the strength of the human spirit. Deeply moving and profound, this poem has continued to inspire readers since its publication in 1978. For an even more powerful experience, check out the audiobook of this poem on Audible, read by Maya Angelou herself. 

8. “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas”singin' and swingin' book cover

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“Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.99

This is the third volume of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies, covering 1949-1955 when she was in her 20s, raising her son, and falling in and out of love. Maya’s journeys in this installment are exciting and memorable as they take her around the world. 

7. “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now”wouldn't take nothing for my journey now book cover

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“Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.43

Published in 1993, “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now” is Maya Angelou’s first published book of essays. Inspiring and real, these essays are about everything from the power of womanhood to the strength we can find through spirituality. 

6. “The Complete Collected Poems”complete collected poems book cover

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“The Complete Collected Poems,” available on Amazon, $20.13

Deeply emotional and brilliant, this collection of Maya Angelou’s poetry includes “I Shall Not Be Moved” and “Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well,” poems that speak for the oppressed as well as shared human experiences. This book was published after her poetry reading at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

5. “Gather Together in My Name”gather together in my name book cover

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“Gather Together in My Name,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.95

This second memoir covers Angelou’s life from 1944-1948, depicting her strength and resilience through her young adulthood as she worked to support herself and her child after the end of World War II. A reflection upon the world and herself, this memoir is honest as she writes about her struggles and mistakes during these years. 

4. “Mom & Me & Mom”mom and me and mom book cover

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“Mom & Me & Mom,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.93

“Mom & Me & Mom” is a memoir of Maya Angelou’s relationship with her mother. Sent to live with her grandmother at three years old, Maya was reunited with her mother as a teenager and faced a series of challenging emotions as the two worked to reconcile their relationship in this exploration of love and healing. 

3. “The Heart of a Woman”heart of a woman book cover

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“The Heart of a Woman,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.39

The fourth volume of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies, “The Heart of a Woman” spans 1957-1962, telling of her travels to New York City and working for Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement. This captivating memoir is filled with anecdotes of her meeting notable figures such as Malcolm X and James Baldwin.

2. “Letter to My Daughter”letter to my daughter book cover

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“Letter to My Daughter,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $11.90

This collection of essays is a compilation of Angelou’s poetry, advice, and autobiographical stories dedicated to her daughter but written for all women. Loved for her comforting voice, this book offers memorable stories and anecdotes that readers carry long after they’ve closed the book. 

1. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”i know why the caged bird sings book cover

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“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $7.35

With nearly half a million ratings, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is the most popular Maya Angelou book according to Goodreads members. The first in a series of autobiographies, this memoir shares Maya’s experience with being sent to live with her grandmother and the traumatic event that changed her life. It’s a powerful and memorable read, depicting some of the most joyous and painful moments of Maya’s young life. 

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