Top Ten Best Books about Africa

The following list is 10 of the best books written in recent history about Africa. These titles were chosen based on their ability to give insight and tell a powerful story about what life is like on the African continent.

(N.B. click on the images to go to the product page at betterworld.com):

10. A Long Way Gone (Sierra Leone)


9. Unbowed (Kenya)


8. Ake: The Years of Childhood (Nigeria)


7. What is the What (Sudan)


6. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight (Zimbabwe)


5. King Leopold’s Ghost (Congo)


4. We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families (Rwanda)


3. Cry Beloved Country (South Africa)


2. Things Fall Apart (Nigeria)


1. Long Walk to Freedom (South Africa)

The empirical process – there was a rigorous selection process that I went through to arrive at this top ten which included moving to South Africa for a year and a half and reading a lot. What would you add?

Honorable mention:
Unheard, Heart of Darkness, The Power of One, I Write What I Like, Country of My Skull, Spud

[Bonus: If you're more interested in traditional
storytelling in Africa, rather than these great stories about Africa, read My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (the book from which David Byrne and Brian Eno got the name of their first record).  It's amazing.]

8 Comments

  1. Excellent choices! With a shared passion for African stories, I have a couple of others on my top 10 list as well:

    Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. A great look into Somalia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.

    The Leopard Only Hunts in Darkness by by Wilbur Smith (fiction). A adventure in the 70′s through the heart of Zimbabwe.

  2. Thanks Heidi – since the post, a few others have emailed with their favorites.

    These are:

    When a Crocodile Eats the Sun (Zimbabwe)
    Poisonwood Bible (Congo)
    A Bend in the River (Congo)
    A Primate’s Memoir (Kenya)
    The Caliph’s House (Morocco)
    Dark Star Safari
    My Traitor’s Heart (South Africa)
    Patrice Lumumba: Africa’s Lost Leader (Congo)
    The Coup
    The White Nile

  3. Helga Schwarten says:

    Thanks Geoff, it is an amazing list of books….I feel the sudden urge, and great need, to read more. It is an inspiration.

    By the way, Dave Eggers, author of “What is the What”, was a high school classmate of Courtney’s.

  4. Emma’s War, by Deborah Scroggins.

  5. Tom Norman says:

    My favorite written by Princess Zindaba

    Tears of Africa Talakata

    Excellent account of growing up sixth generation removed from Shaka Zulu, moving to Chicago and back to Africa.

    Gripping touching personal account.

  6. GuestUser001 says:

    Very intriguing list of books. Thanks to your post, I just ordered A Long Way Gone. And, I hope to read the rest in this list too.

  7. Wow, great lsit, exactley what i was looking for. Sadly with few exceptions many of them are not available in my local library:(

  8. Rozanna Kulumba says:

    I would like to add
    - Cry for Freedom (South Africa)
    - A man of peace in a world of war (Ghana)

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