Top Ten Books to Read If your Book Club likes African Literature

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by  The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, bloggers get a topic which entails giving a list of ten things based on the topic.

Today’s instructions were as follows: Top Ten Books To Read If Your Book Club Likes _______________ (if your book club likes historical fiction, inspiring stories, YA books, non-fiction, controversial books to debate about, or pick a specific book)

I decided to write about African Literature. The books featured on this post are set in different African countries. However, not all of them are by African authors.


Unbowed by Wangari Maathai

uNBOWED.jpgBorn in a rural village in 1940, Wangari Maathai was already an iconoclast as a child, determined to get an education even though most girls were uneducated. We see her studying with Catholic missionaries, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States, and becoming the first woman both to earn a PhD in East and Central Africa and to head a university department in Kenya. We witness her numerous run-ins with the brutal Moi government. She makes clear the political and personal reasons that compelled her, in 1977, to establish the Green Belt Movement, which spread from Kenya across Africa and which helps restore indigenous forests while assisting rural women by paying them to plant trees in their villages. We see how Maathai’s extraordinary courage and determination helped transform Kenya’s government into the democracy in which she now serves as assistant minister for the environment and as a member of Parliament. And we are with her as she accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in recognition of her “contribution to sustainable development, human rights, and peace.”

Wangari Maathai was such an inspirational woman who did so much for Kenya. She died in 2011. Unbowed is her memoir.


white masai.jpgThe White Masai by Corrine Hoffman

The White Masai combines adventure and the pursuit of passion in a page-turning story of two star-crossed lovers from vastly different backgrounds. Corinne, a European entrepreneur, meets Lketinga, a Samburu warrior, while on vacation in Mombasa on Kenya’s glamorous coast. Despite language and cultural barriers, they embark on an impossible love affair. Corinne uproots her life to move to Africa—not the romantic Africa of popular culture, but the Africa of the Masai, in the middle of the isolated bush, where five-foot-tall huts made from cow dung serve as homes. Undaunted by wild animals, hunger, and bouts with tropical diseases, she tries to forge a life with Lketinga. But slowly the dream starts to crumble when she can no longer ignore the chasm between their two vastly different cultures.

I watched this movie a while ago. I didn’t even know that it was based on a true story until years later. Corrine did things that I don’t think I ever would do yet I am Kenyan. This is an incredible love story.


My book club read and reviewed these two wonderful books from Nigeria.

fishermenThe Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

In a Nigerian town in the mid 1990’s, four brothers encounter a madman whose mystic prophecy of violence threatens the core of their close-knit family. Told from the point of view of nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their strict father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the ominous, forbidden nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings. The Fishermen never leaves Akure but the story it tells has enormous universal appeal. Seen through the prism of one family’s destiny, this is an essential novel about Africa with all of its contradictions—economic, political, and religious—and the epic beauty of its own culture.

Click on the title for my review.

americanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi

As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.

You can read about Chimamanda’s books on my Diversity Thursday post here.



God’s Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembene, Francis Price (Translator)

In 1947-48 the workers on the Dakar-Niger railway staged a strike. In this vivid, timeless novel, Ousmane Sembène envinces the color, passion, and tragedy of those formative years in the history of West Africa.




memoThe Book of Memory by Pettina Gappah

Memory is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?

Click on the title to read my review.


South Africa

trevorBorn a Crime by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.



mapsMaps by Nurrudin Farah

This first novel in Nuruddin Farah’s Blood in the Sun trilogy tells the story of Askar, a man coming of age in the turmoil of modern Africa. With his father a victim of the bloody Ethiopian civil war and his mother dying the day of his birth, Askar is taken in and raised by a woman named Misra amid the scandal, gossip, and ritual of a small African village. As an adolescent, Askar goes to live in Somalia’s capital, where he strives to find himself just as Somalia struggles for national identity.


lions-gazeBeneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste

This memorable, heartbreaking story opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974, on the eve of a revolution. Yonas kneels in his mother’s prayer room, pleading to his god for an end to the violence that has wracked his family and country. His father, Hailu, a prominent doctor, has been ordered to report to jail after helping a victim of state-sanctioned torture to die. And Dawit, Hailu’s youngest son, has joined an underground resistance movement—a choice that will lead to more upheaval and bloodshed across a ravaged Ethiopia.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze tells a gripping story of family, of the bonds of love and friendship set in a time and place that has rarely been explored in fiction. It is a story about the lengths human beings will go in pursuit of freedom and the human price of a national revolution. Emotionally gripping, poetic, and indelibly tragic, Beneath The Lion’s Gaze is a transcendent and powerful debut.


Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Somalia

mamba-boyBlack Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed

Aden, Yemen, 1935; a city vibrant, alive, and full of hidden dangers. And home to Jama, a ten year-old boy. But then his mother dies unexpectedly and he finds himself alone in the world.

Jama is forced home to his native Somalia, the land of his nomadic ancestors. War is on the horizon and the fascist Italian forces who control parts of East Africa are preparing for battle. Yet Jama cannot rest until he discovers whether his father, who has been absent from his life since he was a baby, is alive somewhere.

And so begins an epic journey which will take Jama north through Djibouti, war-torn Eritrea and Sudan, to Egypt. And from there, aboard a ship transporting Jewish refugees just released from German concentration camps, across the seas to Britain and freedom. This story of one boy’s long walk to freedom is also the story of how the Second World War affected Africa and its people; a story of displacement and family.

You can find more recommendations from my post From Africa with love: African Literature

Have you read any of these books? What did you do for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? Feel free to leave me your links on the comment sections. Happy Tuesday!

34 thoughts on “Top Ten Books to Read If your Book Club likes African Literature

  1. Wow, how many great recommendations! Besides Americanah, I’m most interested in The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma 😀

  2. I found The Fishermen quite relatable complete with the sound effects in mind…too many Naija movies ooooo. Will definitely keep these books on my radar.

    1. hehehe I loved the book though it scared me so much. There is one incident involving a well that gave me nightmares. It was a deep book though. Thanks for visiting and commenting:-)

  3. The Trevor Noah book sounds interesting to me. I didn’t know that part of his history. I do know that people criticize his stand-up comedy, calling it, basically, insults against Americans. I’ve seen his stand-up. Yeah, it is insulting, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true, either.

    1. I used to watch his stand-up comedies before he went to America. He was in SA and so he used to talk a lot about his life and especially his mother. One of his earlier shows, The Day-walker has a lot about his childhood and what it was like growing up as a mixed-race child in apartheid.

      I have watched The Daily Show and can get why his jokes maybe criticized as being insulting especially his comments of late concerning Trump have sparked a lot of negative reactions on his fb page.He used to have the same kind of jokes when in SA too whereby he would criticize the government, in a way, pointing out what was wrong but using humor. I know some of the politicians and their supporters didn’t like that. Perhaps that is what he is doing now but it maybe coming off especially wrong since he is an outsider.I don’t know if that makes sense. Its like when someone criticizes your family, they maybe right but being an outsider, its never really acceptable unlike when you criticize your own family. As you said, it maybe true but perhaps its how its said and by who.

      The book in on my TBR though. Its being released on November 15th so I can’t wait to read it before then 🙂

      1. I totally get what you mean. In the Netflix special I saw he was making comments about Americans’ literacy, knowledge of geography, etc. He’s spot on, but people got defensive.

    1. Chimamanda’s books are great so I hope that you will enjoy the new additions. I definitely recommend The Fishermen. Thanks for visiting 🙂

  4. I love your list! Americanah and Born a Crime are the two I would start with. While I would love to teach Born a Crime to my students, I don’t think they are at the age where they can truly discuss it without there being recoil from parents.

    1. I guess Born a Crime maybe tricky especially for younger readers but I hope that you will enjoy the two titles when you get a chance to read them.

  5. I am sooooo glad you picked African literature, Diana! I recently have fallen in love with Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi’s writing, but I have struggled to find other books by African writers. Why? None of my friends seem to have read any, either! I get almost all of my books through recommendations. Where would you recommend I start first, if Americanah is the only book on this list I have already read?

    1. The Fisherman is also a great read and also set in West Africa like part of Americanah so I would recommend that. If you want a story that has the same themes as Americanah then I Recommend Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue or We need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. I hope that you will find some more African Lit that you will enjoy 🙂

  6. Oh interesting list! I love the cover for The Book of Memory. Do you know of any fantasy, magical realism etc type books set in Africa or by authors from Africa? Because this list makes me realize I have read none of those and that is a shame.

    1. The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma has magical realism.I have also heard about Akata Witch by Nnedi Okarfor which is fantasy.I’ll let you know if I find more books under the two genres 🙂

          1. Thanks for letting me know.I’ll look for The Salt Roads.I’m yet to read any books by Octavia but I hope to do so soon 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s