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recommended reading about Africa

Africa in Literature

"There are as many Africas as there are books about Africa --
and as many books about it as you could read in a leisurely lifetime."

--Beryl Markham, West with the Night

This page contains a list of recommended fiction and non-fiction about Africa. The Congo Cookbook contains many excerpts pertaining to African cooking and food from a variety of published sources; The Excerpts page lists featured excerpts by author, along with a brief description of the excerpt and a link to the page containing it. The African Cookbook Review contains recommended African cookbooks.

Chinua Achebe

One of Nigeria's best known novelists.
Arrow of God, Things Fall Apart, and No Longer at Ease tell of African traditions clashing with European colonialism.
A Man of the People is a story of politics and corruption.

Ama Ata Aidoo

Ghanaian novelist.
Changes: A Love Story is a novel about the African woman's place in society.

Michael Allin

Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris the true story of the first giraffe in France.

Ayi Kwei Armah

Novelist from Ghana.
The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born is not for the faint of heart.

Mariama Ba

Novelist from Senegal.
Scarlet Song and So Long a Letter are novels about the lives of Senegalese women.

Ibn Battuta

The greatest traveler and travel writer of the medieval age.
Ibn Battuta in Black Africa (Said Hamdun and Noël King, translators and commentators)

Francis Bebey

African musician and writer.
An introduction to African Music: A People's Art

William Boyd

British novelist who lived in Africa.
The British and Germans fought World War I in Eastern Africa? An Ice-Cream War
A Good Man in Africa is a diplomatic comedy.
Brazzaville Beach is a love story set against primate reseach and civil war in Africa.

Richard Francis Burton

One of the greatest 19th century explorers, writers, and translators.
Wanderings in West Africa describes a trip along the Atlantic coast of Africa.
The Lake Regions of Central Africa: A Picture of Exploration covers Zanzibar and Tanzania
He also authored First Footsteps in East Africa Or, an Exploration of Harar,
and translated The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights.

Bruce Chatwin

British novelist and travel writer.
The Viceroy of Ouidah is Francisco Manoel de Silva, a Brazilian who makes his fortune in the Dahomey slave trade. A fascinating blend of African fact and fiction.

Maryse Condé

An epic history of a village in the middle of Africa, circa 1800. Segu

Joseph Conrad

Worked briefly on a steamship in the Congo Free State.
Conrad's masterpiece, Heart of Darkness, is often read in English literature classes. It should be read in history classes as well.

Basil Davidson

One of the 20th century's best historians.
Africa in History: Themes and Outlines, and The Black Man's Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State are two of the many books he authored.

Buchi Emecheta

Her novels deal with women's lives, loves, and place in society.
In The Joys of Motherhood Emecheta writes of what a Nigerian woman does for her children, and what they do for her.
Second-Class Citizen is an autobiographical novel.

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano, was born in 1745 in what is now Nigeria. He was captured by slave traders and taken to America and the Caribbean. He eventually bought his freedom and became an author and early anti-slavery activist.
The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African (various editions)

Peter Forbath

Time correspondent in Africa, wrote history and historical novels.
The Portuguese encounter the Kongo.
Lord of the Kongo: A Novel
Also recommended: The River Congo : The Discovery, Exploration and Exploitation of the World's Most Dramatic River

Kuki Gallmann

I Dreamed of Africa is a story of life and loss in Kenya. The book has its problems, but it is popular nonetheless.

Graham Greene

British novelist
A Burnt-Out Case, and The Heart of the Matter are novels set in Africa.
In Search of a Character: Two African Journals and Journey Without Maps are non-fiction books about Africa.

Joseph G. Healey

Towards an African Narrative Theology: traditional African proverbs in a Christian context.

Ernest Hemingway

Green Hills of Africa is a nonfiction account of his African safari. The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a short story set in Africa.

Katherine Hepburn

The Making of the African Queen: Or How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind is her memoir of making the classic movie.

Adam Hochschild

How the King of the Belgians created and controlled the Congo Free State. King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

Elspeth Huxley

The classic story of a British girl's childhood in Kenya. The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood

Jomo Kenyatta

First president of Kenya.
Facing Mount Kenya documents the culture and traditions of the Kikuyu people.

Mary Kingsley

Traveled through Africa in the 1890's between what is today Nigeria and Gabon.
Travels in West Africa is one of the books she wrote about her journeys.

Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a novel told from the perspective of the wife and daughters of a missionary who takes his family to the Belgian Congo on the eve of independence.

David Lamb

Los Angeles Times correspondent covered Africa in the 1980's.
Journalism, rough draft of history, dispatches from Africa.
The Africans

Francesca Marciano

Rules of the Wild A story of expats in Kenya in the 1990's. Definitely not Out of Africa

Beryl Markham

West with the Night Kenya in the era of Isak Dinesen, Bror Blixen, Denys Finch Hatton, written by Africa's first female pilot.

Peter Matthiessen

Descriptive essays on East Africa: The Tree Where Man Was Born

James A. Michener

South Africa as told by Michener, epic!, huge!, well-researched!: The Covenant

Shiva Naipaul

North of South: An African Journey documents a trip through Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia in the late 1970's.

V.S. Naipaul

A Bend in the River never mentions Kisangani (Zaire/Congo) by name, but it is a novel set there in the early days of Mobutu.

Ngugi Wa Thiongo

Kenyan novelist. Widely studied in schools in East Africa.
River Between, Matigari, and Devil on the Cross are his better known novels
Penpoints, Gunpoints, and Dreams: Towards a Critical Theory of the Arts and the State in Africa is literary criticism

Redmond O'Hanlon

British naturalist and travel writer.
Searching for mokele-mbembe, O'Hanlon describes Congo flora, fauna, and human condition. No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo

Ben Okri

Winner of the 1991 Booker Prize for fiction.
The Famished Road is a spirit-child story.

Christopher Ondaatje

Retraced the footsteps of 19th century explorers in East Africa.
Journey to the Source of the Nile

Sembene Ousmane

Author and film director from Senegal.
God's Bits of Wood is about a railway worker's strike in colonial French West Africa.

John Reader

Africa: A Biography of the Continent is an amazingly complete history of Africa.
Africa is an informative, illustrated companion to the PBS televison series.

Theodore Roosevelt

U.S. president took a year-long safari in Eastern Africa; his book was the first by an American to popularize the idea of recreational travel in Africa. African Game Trails: An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist

Robert Ruark

American writer who lived in Africa.
Horn of the Hunter: big game hunting safari in Eastern Africa.
Ruark's novel Something of Value is set during the Mau-Mau revolt in Kenya.

Tepilit Ole Saitoti

The Maasai as seen by a Maasai.
Maasai The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior: An Autobiography

Albert Schweitzer

The Primeval Forest, one of many books he authored, tells of his early years in Africa.

Lynn Sherr

Charming book about the world's tallest animal.
Tall Blondes: A Book About Giraffes

Wole Soyinka

Won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986.
Aké: The Years of Childhood is an autobiography of growing up in Nigeria in the 1930's and 40's.

John Hanning Speke

19th century explorer who finally discovered the source of the Nile.
Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile tells that story.

Paul Theroux

Returned Peace Corps volunteer, novelist and travel writer.
On the Edge of the Great Rift: Three Novels of Africa (Fong and the Indians; Girls at Play; Jungle Lovers) Stories of expatriates in Africa.

Colin M. Turnbull

Pioneering British anthropologist.
The Forest People is about the pygmies of the Congo rainforest.
A study of a small tribe in Uganda: The Mountain People
The Lonely African is also recommended.

Amos Tutuola

Stories that are a fantastic mix of folktale and fairytale.
Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle
The Palm-Wine Drinkard and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Laurens van der Post

lived and traveled in most of Africa (and the world) and wrote a variety of fiction and non-fiction, much of it concerning Africa.

Recipes: African Cooking (Foods of the World) and First Catch Your Eland: A taste of Africa are classics of African gastronomy.
He is also the author of the novels A Story Like the Wind and A Far-Off Place; and non-fiction The Heart of the Hunter, and The Lost World of the Kalahari

Philippe Wamba

Kinship: A Family's Journey in Africa and America explores cultural differences and similarities between Africans and African-Americans.

Evelyn Waugh

Wrote several novels set in Africa, as well as non-fiction books about Africa.
Scoop, the comic misadventures of a reporter in 1930's Africa.

Helen Winternitz

East Along the Equator: A Journey Up the Congo and into Zaire recounts her trip across Mobutu's Zaire, including a voyage on a river barge that's a floating village.

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