Africa offers a diverse landscape with a long and storied past, and books about Africa can help readers gain a greater appreciation of the forgotten continent. Although Africa is home to more than a billion people, many people only picture exotic animals and hot savannahs when they hear about Africa. Books about Africa can help dispel these preconceptions and give readers a more accurate view of the world’s second-largest continent.
In addition to the wonders of Africa, books about Africa can help readers to learn about tragedies on the continent. From civil wars to European colonization and exploitation, the people of Africa have suffered many hardships. These tragedies are not ancient history; apartheid ended in South Africa within recent history, and many countries currently struggle with civil strife, poverty and terrorism. Books about Africa help raise awareness to these causes.
#1 – Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
Civil strife has inspired many books about Africa; this book, for example, looks at life in Zimbabwe during the civil war in the 1970s. Alexandra Fuller, a white child of British parents, carefully details her life during that time.
#2 – Long Walk to Freedom
Nelson Mandela and Richard Stengel
Nelson Mandela, the famous leader of the anti-apartheid movement, tells his life story in this book about Africa. Much of this book was written while Mandela was imprisoned and contains stories of his early life that shaped him into an inspiring leader. The final chapters detail his rise through the political system in South Africa.
#3 – A Long Walk to Water
Linda Sue Park
This short novel about Africa tells the dramatic tale of a real Sudanese boy and a fictional Sudanese girl. In 1985, Salva, the young boy, was at school when his village was attacked, forcing him to leave behind his family. Years later, Salva was reunited with his family and began working to bring basic resources, including water, to the people back home.
#4 – Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In the late 1960s, the Igbo people attempted to secede from Nigeria, ultimately leading to bloodshed and famine that killed two million. This book about Africa sheds light on the conflict through the eyes of five fictional characters, including a university professor and a young servant boy. As with many books about Africa, the trials of the fictional characters hearken back to real-life events.
#5 – Out of Africa
In 1913, young Karen Blixen moved to present-day Kenya to marry her second cousin and begin her life running a coffee plantation. The memoir focuses on day-to-day life on the plantation, including living alongside amazing animals, hosting international guests and enjoying the natural beauty of the land. Like many books about Africa, the book also contains exhilarating vignettes about lion hunts and more.
#6 – The Poisonwood Bible
In this fictional book, set in the Congo in the 1950s, a Baptist family attempts to convert the local villagers. However, their attempts at missionary work go awry, starting with trying to baptize people in a crocodile-infested river. The family faces many challenges, including the death of one of their members and the utter failure of their missionary work.
#7 – What is the What
Like many nonfiction books about Africa set in the modern day, this book sheds light on one of the atrocities of the continent’s civil strife. When Valentino Achak Deng was a young boy, his village was attacked, eventually turning him in to one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Even after making his way to Ethopia and eventually the United States, Achak continued to face hardships.
#8 – Africa: A Biography of the Continent
Although many books about Africa focus on present-day stories, this book takes readers back to the very dawn of humanity. Readers will learn about the exodus of the people of Africa as they moved out across the world. This sweeping novel also explains recent upheavals and events in Africa.
#9 – The African Queen
Like many older books about Africa, the experiences of white Europeans in Africa form the backbone of this classic adventure novel. The African Queen, set in colonial Africa during World War I, follows the story of Charlie Allnutt and Rose Sayer. When Rose’s brother passes away, in part thanks to the actions of the German colonial forces, Rose feels inspired to take on the Germans in her own private war. When she meets Allnutt, she enlists him and his steam-powered launch in her plan.
#10 – Lonely Planet Africa
Aimed at readers planning a trip to Africa, this guidebook offers color maps and photographs to help travelers find their way around the continent. The book includes reviews on hotels, restaurants and shopping. Reading this and other travel books about Africa can help readers make the most of their time and their money while they travel.