There are wide open savannas and dense woodlands. Independence and colonialism are two sides of the same coin. Conservationists and poachers. Two sides of the same coin There is no way a library of books could possibly contain the richness and diversity of this continent, but generations of authors have attempted just that.
These ten novels offer a diverse look at a region that has a long and varied history, and we hope you like them. In these books, you’ll find anything from genuine stories about growing up in South Africa during apartheid to fictionalized accounts of a female bush pilot’s life in the 1800s.
With it, we’ve reached a new country in our series called A Round the World in Books. We wish you a pleasant reading experience and a trip to Africa in the near future.
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller, 2001.
Fuller was born in Zimbabwe during the Rhodesian Bush War and grew up on a scruffy farm in Malawi before moving to Zambia with her family. Even though she grows up in an environment that is always shifting from sorrowful to joyful, Fuller manages to convey it all in a way that is both heartfelt and wry.
Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen, 1937.
Dinesen, who owned a coffee farm in Nairobi at the foot of the Ngong Hills, recalls his stay in the African highlands as “a time spent up in the air.” She documented East Africa’s transition from tradition to modernity, with its light rhythms and knotted loves.
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2013.
Obinze and Ifemelu, two Nigerian lovers who emigrate to the United States around the turn of the century, find themselves struggling with concerns of cultural identity and isolation. Adichie, a renowned Nigerian novelist, is known for her explorations of African history, but here she focuses more on the diaspora’s culture, with a humorous and romantic eye on Lagos, London, and the East Coast university towns.
Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah, 2016.
After growing up in Soweto township during the latter days of apartheid in South Africa, The Daily Show presenter recalls his boyhood. Noah was raised primarily inside by his Xhosa mother and Swiss–German father because their union was illegal at the time. It is a tribute to her and her strong-willed ambition to provide her son with the freedom and choices she never had.
In Arabian Nights, by Tahir Shah, 2007.
From the neroli-scented courtyards of Marrakech to the cafes of Fes to Shah’s own Casablanca fixer-upper, he collects tales inspired by One Thousand and One Nights. Retired surgeon in Casablanca, “The stories are what make us who we are,” he explains. “They transform us into Berbers.”
Down the Nile, by Rosemary Mahoney, 2007.
When Mahoney was captivated by the Sphinx, she rowed down the Nile by alone in a fisherman’s boat, perilously close to crocodiles, to learn about the cultures that dotted its banks, paying homage to the great explorers who had come before her (Gustave Flaubert and Florence Nightingale).
West With the Night, by Beryl Markham, 1942.
The author’s childhood in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley and her adventures as a bush pilot are recalled. Even though she was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west, that’s about the most interesting thing about her life.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba, 2009.
Uplifting in the literal sense, this account of life in a drought-stricken Malawian community is an inspiring read. By using leftover pieces, Little William builds a windmill to help pump water that supports his family’s farm. A Chiwetel Ejiofor-starring film adaptation was released on Netflix in 2019.
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi, 2016.
This vast tale explores the lives of two half-sisters and their descendants, moving from coastal African communities to southern American plantations, from Jazz Age Harlem to modern-day Accra. Gyasi, an immigrant herself, examines themes of optimism and sadness as she journeys through her homeland. “No one forgets that they were previously captive, even though they are now free,” a character remarks in the film.
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, 1998.
Georgian missionaries arrive in the Belgian Congo in 1959, bringing a Christian family with them. This collision of principles makes it more difficult than it seems to save souls.
The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, And The Origins Of Inequality, By Angus Deaton
A Nobel Prize-winning Princeton professor of economics and international affairs examines historical trends in newborn mortality, life expectancy, and income levels to learn more about inequality, both within and between countries. Since the Industrial Revolution, society has progressed to the point where large-scale inequality is now a problem for policymakers and reformers alike, he argues. International income inequality has been fueled by economic expansion, according to Deaton. As Thomas Piketty, a rising star in economics, points out, Deaton’s research supports his findings that inequality is rising.
The White Man’s Burden: Why The West’s Efforts To Aid The Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good, By William Easterly (2006)
To promote economic growth in poor countries, this is the best book available, and it usually appears on lists of best books about Africa. Easterly has a hard time with many of the usual ways. The author, a former economist at the World Bank who is now a professor of economics, emphasizes grassroots growth. People who will be affected by the change must be included in both the planning and implementation of it, beginning with what is to be changed. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for a major percentage of Easterly’s experience and the instances he mentions.
The Tyranny Of Experts: Economists, Dictators, And The Forgotten Rights Of The Poor, By William Easterly
Ten years after the publication of The White Man’s Burden, the author revisits the subject of economic development and discovers that the experts in the field were completely wrong. Even though they claim to be experts in their field, their technocratic solutions often backfire on those they claim to aid. In fact, he argues, democracy is the key to sustainable growth since it is founded in local history and practices. It’s a thought-provoking and enlightening piece of work. In my opinion, it is one of the most important books on African development. Nevertheless, I didn’t evaluate it because I read it before starting this blog.