Africa is the second-largest continent by geographic area, and is also the second-largest population (1.2 billion people), after Asia in both cases. All too often in the Western world, we hear Africa described as if it is one homogenous place, and the “African people” described as if there are all part of a common group. It’s important to remember that Africa is, in fact, a huge, heterogeneous continent. There are 55 member countries of the African Union, more than 3,000 different ethnic groups, and more than 2000 languages spoken.
In addition to the diversity of its people and cultures, Africa is also rich in biodiversity. This continent is home to at least one-fifth of all known species of mammals, birds, and plants, as well as a wide variety of ecosystems, including deserts, drylands, savannahs, tropical forests, and mangrove forests. As a result of many factors, including population growth, agricultural practices, rapid urbanization, and illegal wildlife trafficking, Africa’s biodiversity is at serious risk, and it has been estimated that by 2100, as many as 50% of its mammal and bird species could disappear. This makes conservation-friendly development an important priority.
Due to the very large number of African countries and our desire to keep our list of recommended books to a manageable length, we have not included a book on the list for every African country. Instead, we have broken our reading into the five geographic regions as recognized by the African Union, and have curated a diverse list of books representing each region.
The following is a list of the African regions, and the countries that make up each region, as currently recognized by the African Union.
Northern Africa: Algeria*, Egypt*, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, and Tunisia
Western Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde (Cape Verde), Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo
Central Africa: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and São Tomé and Príncipe
Eastern Africa: Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda
Southern Africa: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
*Note that we previously included the African countries of Algeria and Egypt on the reading list for the Middle Eastern geopolitical region, and therefore have not included books from these two countries on the reading list below.
PS: You can read all about the Book Voyage challenge, find new book lists each month, and download your free printable map book tracker, with a color-coded map of each region here.
As always, you are welcome to choose any book set in Africa that you’d like. While no one book can possibly capture the diversity of an entire continent, we hope that our recommendations below will serve as a good starting point as you begin to explore the various regions and countries of Africa, and will pique your interest to learn more.
Our list of books set in Africa includes historical fiction, contemporary fiction, non-fiction, and memoirs that will illustrate the vast diversity and beauty of this continent.
Books Set in Africa
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BOOKS SET IN NORTHERN AFRICA
We previously included the Northern African countries of Algeria and Egypt on the reading list for the Middle Eastern geopolitical region, and therefore have not included books from these two countries on the reading list below.
Author Tahir Shah spent summer vacations in Morocco as a child and dreamed of escaping dreary London and moving his family to the sunny city of Casablanca. To put his plan into action, he purchases a crumbling mansion called Dar Khalifa, which was once home to the city's spiritual leader, the Caliph.
On the surface, the exotic home fills everything Tahir dreamed of before the big move. But his reality was full of both humorous incidents and scary moments. The book follows a year in his family's life, including their experiences in the home and in their new neighborhood. You'll also join them in travels throughout broader Morocco, including visits to Tangier, Marrakech, and the Sahara.
This modern parable was written by an award-winning Tunisian author. He weaves the story of a beekeeper, Sidi, into a tale about the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Sidi is heartbroken when he wakes up one morning to find that his beloved bees have been attacked by a swarm of hornets. The killer hornets aren't native to the area, and Sidi must figure out where they came from and how they can be stopped.
His journey takes him out of his village and into the city, where he encounters those impacted by the Arab Spring, uprisings that took place between 2010-2011 in Tunisia (and spread to other nations).
When seamstress Afi receives an opportunity to marry a wealthy man and move from her village to Accra, the capital of Ghana, she's shocked. She doesn't really know Elikem, but agrees to his family's proposal. However, when her wedding day arrives, Afi's new husband doesn't even attend the ceremony. Instead, he sends a stand-in groom.
While Afi is provided a nice apartment in Accra, it's weeks before she finally meets her husband. Soon she realizes that he's in love with someone else, but the family disapproves, so they've hand-picked Afi to lure Eliken away from his chosen partner and back to them.
The author is a strong advocate for women's rights and uses her brilliant writing to share what it's like to be a woman in present-day Ghana, where she was raised after being born in Liberia.
This book follows three generations of women over 55 years (1950-2000s) and covers their lives before, during, and after the independence of Ghana. While history plays into each woman's life experiences, the book is also a coming-of-age tale full of true love and heartbreak.
Harmattan Rain starts with Lizzie, who makes the bold decision to run away, searching for her missing lover. Lizzie's first daughter, Akua Afriyie, has her own challenges when she becomes a single parent in an era of political unrest and coups. Lizzie's granddaughter, Sugri uses her intelligence to earn a spot at Columbia University in New York, so her section is not entirely set in Ghana, however still connected to her culture.
The Book Girls Say... This author also has another highly rated book, The Hundred Wells of Salaga, set in her native Ghana in the late 19th century.
In 1967, a portion of southern Nigeria declared independence as the Republic of Biafra. However, peaceful talks soon turned into violence as the leader of Nigeria refused to recognize their status. This fictional book tells the story of three characters, spanning a decade around the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War.
The first character is Ugwa, a 13-year-old houseboy to a professor. The professor's mistress, Olanna, and Richard, who is in love with Olanna's twin sister, round out the core character who must run for their lives together as Nigerian troops advance. Will these characters with different ideals and social rankings stick together or abandon their loyalties to save themselves?
The Book Girls Say: With books translated into over 30 languages, we knew Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie would have a spot on our Africa list. Her novel, Purple Hibiscus, is also set in Nigeria. If you finish Half of a Yellow Sun and are interested in learning more about the year after the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War, the book Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta is set in 1971, the year after the war.
This book opens with a shock, as Vivek's mother opens her door to find her son's body. From that moment, you'll join his mother's journey to discover what happened to him. The story is told from multiple perspectives, sometimes from Vivek himself, sometimes from his cousin, Osita, and sometimes from a narrator.
Before his death, Vivek had been in crisis, leaving university and suffering from blackouts. Even with this trouble, his parents are shocked by his death, as they thought things had been going better. You'll see this theme throughout the book as his parents, unfortunately, miss seeing their son's identity.
While the book focuses on Vivek's coming of age, identity, and the mystery of his death, it's full of culture and includes a wide range of current issues. The language and prose will make you feel like you've stepped into southern Nigeria.
The Book Girls Say... The audiobook has multiple narrators, and listeners say their performances bring the story to life.
WARNING: There are some graphic adult scenes, including sexual assault.
Adunni is a young girl living in poverty in a Nigerian village. She loves school and knows that learning all she can is the key to achieving a better life. But, despite promising to allow Adunni's schooling to continue after her mother's death, Adunni's father makes a decision that ends her education in the village and changes the trajectory of her life.
You'll be moved to both tears and cheers as Adunni endures and overcomes heartbreaking challenges while keeping her focus on her dream of an education.
The Books Girls Say...PICK THIS ONE! We would both give this one more than 5 stars if we could, and really hope that Abi Daré writes a sequel so we can see the next phase in Adunni's life.
While we didn't experience this ourselves, some readers struggle with the dialect in either audio or written form, but find that the other form works well for them (ie: if the audio isn't working for you, try reading and vice versa). The main character, Adunni, tells the story using her limited English, and one of the beautiful parts of the writing is that you can see her improvements over time.
Author Chinua Achebe has been called the patriarch of African Literature. His 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart, gained worldwide attention with 8 million copies in print, spread among 50 languages.
There was a Country is his memoir, which was published 54 years later as he looks back on his life. Much of the memoir focuses on his experience in the Nigeria-Biafran War, which happened when he was already a renowned author.
After serving as a cultural ambassador for the Biafran side of the conflict, he took an academic post in the US as a refuge from the violence. While this book is not entirely objective, it is an excellent perspective from one man who lived through the events.
When 6-year-old Ibrahimah is sent from his rural village to the busy city of Dakar, his parents are told he'll be studying the Koran under a highly respected teacher, along with his cousin, Etienne. Instead of learning, Ibrahimah and Etienne are forced to beg in the streets, turning the funds over to their teacher.
To survive, the cousins must work together and navigate endless dangers as they try to escape back to their homes. The story is fiction but based on real incidents from Senegal.
The author was born in Boston, but worked in Senegal before changing careers from finance to writing.
Author Ismael Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980. In 1991, when he was just 11, a violent civil war began. By the time he was 13, his parents and two brothers were killed, leaving him to be forcefully recruited as one of the child soldiers many of us were devastated to see in news reports about the war.
Two years later, he was successfully rescued by UNICEF. In 1996, at only 16 years old, he spoke to the UN about the war and its impact on children. At 27, he released this memoir to share his journey with the world. Since the release and acclaim of his memoir, Ismael Beah has published two fiction titles and continues to advocate for children in conflict zones around the world.
In this compelling YA novel, fifteen-year-old Amadou and his eight-year-old brother live as modern-day slaves on a chocolate plantation in Ivory Coast, which produces 40% of the world's chocolate. They left home two years earlier for a seasonal job, and have been held captive ever since, forced to meet quotas or go without food.
Everything changes when the first girl arrives at the plantation, Khadija is different. Instead of trying to just survive, she's determined to fight back and escape. While her bravery causes complications for the brothers, it also re-inspires their will to make it back home to Mali.
The Book Girls Say...Although this is a fictional story, it mirrors the horrific realities of many present-day chocolate plantations. Don't miss the author's note at the end of the book as she shares more information on this vital issue. The Bitter Side of Sweet contains some harrowing scenes, but they aren't overly graphic because the intended audience is 12+.
Set in 1992, this short, semi-autobiographical, novel is the coming of age story of Gabriel, aka Gabby. He is a ten-year-old living in Burundi with a French father and a Rwandan mother. Life is comfortable in their expatriate neighborhood. They even have household help.
Then, genocide in neighboring Rwanda begins. His mother is forever changed after seeing the devastation firsthand while checking on her family. Soon, the violence spills into Burundi, and Gabby is confronted by cruelness he couldn't imagine in his earlier idyllic life.
The Book Girls Say...Like Gabriel, Gaël Frye is also the son of a French father and Rwandan mother, who escaped to France in the 1990s after the outbreak of civil war in Burundi.
The author is also a hip-hop artist, which leads to a poetic writing style.
While this book is set in a fictional African village with a fictitious American oil company playing a prominent role, the story is based on the author's real experiences in her home country of Cameroon.
The book is told from multiple perspectives, which gives great insight into customs and daily life. As you read, you'll feel like you've been dropped into the village.
Village life is being ruined by the oil company and government that turns a blind eye to corruption and disregards the environmental impacts. In particular, you'll read the story of Thula, who wasn't content to let her ancestral lands be occupied and destroyed. Instead, she makes it her life mission to help others.
In 1959, a fiery evangelical Baptist preacher takes his family and mission to the Congo, intent on "enlightening" the savages. The story is narrated by his wife and four daughters, one of whom is disabled but more aware than anyone realizes. Spanning the following four decades, the book is both a portrait of a family and the Congo society eager to cast off its colonial chains. With beautifully descriptive writing and well-developed characters, this book examines issues of American Christianity's effect on the Africans and the effect of the African culture on the family.
The Book Girls Say... We've loved some of Barbara Kingsolver's novels, and this one set in Africa is high on our reading list after receiving unanimous five-star reviews from the friends we trust most.
Since 1996, Congo has been a place of war, where millions have died. Yet, despite Congo being as large as Western Europe, most of the world is unaware of the complex issues that have led to and continued this multi-decade conflict.
The author spent ten years working and living in Congo, conducting endless interviews to try and unravel the issues starting with the history long before the battles and genocide began. It's a challenging read, but a good choice if you're looking for a non-fiction book that sheds light on a topic most of us know very little about.
From the author of Dust, The Dragonfly Sea is a tale about a girl, Ayaana, and her mother, Munira, who live a solitary life as outsiders on an island off the coast of Kenya. When a sailor arrives, Ayaana finds a father figure for the first time. As she gets older, Ayaana's life is shaped by both island visitors and natural disasters. Then, she's taken on a dramatic journey on a ship to China with the promise of better education and life among "her own kind."
Through Ayaana's life, you'll also learn about the impacts of the war on terror on east Africa, along with China's reach into the land, water, and resources off Africa's coast.
The Book Girls Say…While the book takes place not only on the island of Pate, but also in Xiamen, Turkey, and the sea between them, we choose to include it for Africa as it's a rare look into the culture of the coastal communities often ignored.
Some critics of the book found the flowery, poetic writing distracting from Ayaana's story. However, others enjoyed that the descriptions of sights and sounds made you feel transported to the island and give great insight into the coastal communities of Kenya.
Starting in the 1950s and spanning five decades, The People of Ostrich Mountain tells the story of Wambũi. When she is fourteen, war breaks out in her village. Thankfully, she has the opportunity to attend a boarding school further from the violence. Her English teacher, Eileen Atwood, is a mathematical genius and after a rocky start, Wambũi and Eileen form a lifelong bond, and Wambũi also becomes a math prodigy.
The book follows the next fifty years of their lives, from the impact of Wambui's opportunity for education on her descendants to Eileen's return to England, a country she no longer recognizes after 40 years in Kenya.
While the author of this book is Israeli, she divides her time between Israel and Kenya and has formed a deep bond with the Massai ethnic group after living with them beginning in 2001. This memoir tells her story and how she became so engaged with the community that they gave her a Massai name, Nayolang, which means "One of Us."
Throughout the book, you'll be introduced to daily life, special ceremonies, and many Massai traditions. It's a rare, thought-provoking glimpse into the similarities and differences between Western and Massai culture.
Newlywed Shay, an American literature professor, is surprised when her husband, an Italian businessman, insists that they build a vacation villa in the island nation of Madagascar and she soon finds herself the lady of the house. As an African American, Shay feels caught between her privileged upbringing and education, and her connection to the continent of her ancestors. Despite the uncomfortableness that Shay feels being a “mistress” of a house with a Black staff, she finds a close friend and confidante in the head housekeeper, Bertine.
This novel reads more like a collection of short stories that span a twenty-year period, beginning in the late 1990s, although Shay's presence provides a consistent through-line and the vignettes follow a mostly linear timeline. Through its poetic prose, this book provides evocative descriptions of the Madagascar landscape and of the people who live there, while also exploring cultural collisions between the Indigenous population and the Europeans in this neo-colonial society.
Like her main character, the author also has a house in Madagascar where she spends part of each year. It is based on that personal experience that she has written this book. In an interview, Andrea Lee described her work as follows: "Like everything I ever write, this book is about cultural collisions, in this case extreme: how a very particular African/Asian country with an extraordinary culture is neo-colonized on the tracks of historical colonization–and how the Europeans and Americans who come to exploit Madagascar are themselves eventually invaded by the spirits of the place."
The Book Girls Say... Readers note that this book is a bit of a slower, more introspective read. You may want to keep your dictionary handy for this one, but it's also a relatively short novel and worth the effort.
As a child in London, Jane Goodall dreamed of a life spent working with animals. In 1957, at the age of 23, Jane traveled to Africa for the first time. During her visit to Kenya, she met the famous anthropologist and palaeontologist Dr Louis S B Leakey. Despite her lack of formal university education, Leakey was so impressed with her knowledge of Africa and its wildlife that he hired her as his assistant. She initially traveled with Leakey and his wife, archaeologist Mary Leakey, to Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania on a fossil-hunting expedition, and then the team later turned their attention to studying wild chimpanzees at the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in western Tanzania. And thus began her more than six-decade long career studying and conserving chimpanzees, work that she still continues today.
In her famous book, In the Shadow of Man, Jane Goodall wrote of her first ten years at Gombe. In Through a Window (published in 1990), she updates the story to cover a thirty-year time span and she paints a much more complete and vivid portrait of the chimpanzees and her experiences in Tanzania.
The Book Girls Say... This book is about the chimpanzees of Tanzania, rather than a book about the country of Tanzania. However, because Africa is home to some of the world's most endangered species, we felt it was important to include works about animal research and conservation on this list. If this topic is of interest, you might also want to consider Gorillas in the Mist, by Dian Fossey, Born Free, by Joy Adamson, as well as the books by Lawrence Anthony, one of which is included on our Southern Africa list below.
This YA novel sheds light on a heartbreaking, real-life human rights tragedy. Habo is a 13-year-old Tanzanian boy with albinism, a condition which makes him an outsider in both his family and his community.
When Habo's family is forced to abandon their farm to seek refuge with an aunt in Mwanza, Tanzania, Habo learns that there is a name for people like him - he is a zeruzeru. Unfortunately, there is little comfort in learning that there are other people like him in the world, because in Mwanza albinos are in constant danger of being hunted, killed, and dismembered. Witch doctors will pay top dollar for body parts of albinos because they are thought to bring good luck. Soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete.
In order to survive, Habo must not only run but find a way to love and accept himself.
This is a middle-grade novel, but we've included it on this list because it is beautifully written and provides an eye-opening look at an important time in Uganda's history that few are aware of. Told through the eyes of two 12-year-olds, this book captures Uganda’s political unrest during three months in 1972, following President Idi Amin’s rapid expulsion of those of Indian descent from the country.
Asha and her best friend, Yesofu, never cared about the differences between them: Indian. African. Girl. Boy. But when Ugandan President Idi Amin announces that Indians have ninety days to leave the country, suddenly those differences are the only things that people in Entebbe can see — not the shared after-school samosas or Asha cheering for Yesofu at every cricket game.
Determined for her life to stay the same, Asha clings to her world tighter than ever before. But Yesofu is torn, pulled between his friends, his family, and a promise of a better future. Now, as neighbors leave and soldiers line the streets, the two friends find that nothing seems sure...not even their friendship.
This epic novel is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, one of thousands of Sudanese children — the so-called Lost Boys — who were forced to leave their villages in Sudan. At the age of seven, Valentino was separated from his family and trekked hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom. When Valentino ultimately immigrated to the United States under the Lost Boys of Sudan program, he found a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges.
Dave Eggers is an American author who has had many non-fiction, biographical successes. For this work, Eggers and Valentino spent many years collaborating to tell the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Valentino shared everything that he could remember, and from that material Eggers initially set out to write a conventional biography. Ultimately, however, he determined he could best tell the story by blending non-fictional and fictional elements. By classifying the book a novel, Eggers tells the Washington Post, it allowed him to "re-create conversations, streamline complex relationships, add relevant detail and manipulate time and space in helpful ways -- all while maintaining the essential truthfulness of the storytelling."
The Book Girls Say... If you are interested in a shorter and easier read about the Lost Boys of Sudan, consider Linda Sue Park's middle grade novel, A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park. This dual timeline novel follows the stories of two eleven-year-olds in Sudan - one in 1985 and one in 2008 - whose stories ultimately intersect in an astonishing and moving way.
From the author of Code Name Verity, this YA historical fiction is told in diary format from the point of view of two teenagers - Emilia and Teo. When a bird strike brings down the plane that their stunt pilot mothers were flying, Teo's mom is killed, but Emilia's mom survives. Em's mom, a white woman, takes Teo in, but she is concerned about the racism he will face in the American south because of the color of his skin.
She decides to raise Em and Teo in Ethiopia, the birthplace of Teo's father, and soon all three of them fall in love with the beautiful and peaceful country. But WWII shatters that peace when, in 1935, Italy invades Ethiopia, and Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict.
This is the moving memoir of Dr. Hawa Abdi, who has been called "the Mother Teresa of Somalia." When the Somali government collapsed in 1991, as famine struck and aid groups fled, Dr. Abdi turned her 1300 acres of farmland near war-torn Mogadishu into a camp for displaced people.
She was Somalia’s first female obstetrician, as well as a lawyer and humanitarian. She inspired her daughters to also become doctors. Together they kept 90,000 of their fellow citizens safe, healthy, and educated for over 20 years at the Dr. Hawa Abdi Hope Village - a community for displaced Somalis with a 400-bed hospital, primary and secondary schools, and an innovative community justice system.
In 2010, Dr. Abdi was kidnapped by radical insurgents, who also destroyed much of her hospital, simply because she was a woman. She, along with media pressure, convinced the rebels to let her go, and she demanded and received a written apology. Her worked garnered her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2012. This memoir was published in 2013, and Dr. Abdi passed away in 2020.
Set in the late 1980s, this novel tells the story of three different women's experiences in Somalia. Kawsar is a widow who is trapped in her home, confined to bed following a savage beating in the local police station. Filsan is a young female soldier fighting to suppress the rebellion growing in the north. And 9-year-old Dego has left the refugee camp where she was born, lured to the city by the promise of her first pair of shoes.
The three women meet briefly at the start of the book, and then, as the country is unraveled by a civil war, the fates of these three become twisted together. This book deals with difficult topics, including the fear, abuse, and poverty that Somalians face daily, but throughout it all, the three main characters continue to hold on to hope.
The Book Girls Say... The author also wrote Black Mamba Boy, a novel set in 1930s Somalia and tells of a decade of war and upheaval as seen through the eyes of a small boy. Nadifa Mohamed was born in Somalia, and Black Mamba Boy is based on her father's childhood memories of the country. The audiobook is free Black Mamba Boy is free with an Audible Membership.
This memoir, told in alternating timelines, is an incredible tale of resilience.
Clemantine was only six years old in 1994, when, in a span of just 100 days, more than 800,000 people would be murdered in Rwanda and millions more displaced. Clemantine and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, were forced to run. Together they spent the next six years making their way through refugee camps in seven African countries in search of safety. Throughout the entire time, they did not know whether their parents were alive. They witnessed unimaginable cruelty, but they also found unexpected kindness.
Six years later, at age twelve, Clemantine and her sister were both granted asylum in the United States. But this chance to build a new life in Chicago was not an easy road. She spoke five languages, but English was not one of them, and she had almost no previous experience attending school.
This is the first of 23 titles in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Meet Precious Ramotswe, who has set up shop as Botswana's No.1 (and only) lady detective. In her first case, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. However, the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witch doctors.
While this first book in the series is extremely popular, and the perfect introduction to the series, the subsequent books in the series (including Tears of the Giraffe) receive even better reviews.
Born and raised in what is now known as Zimbabwe, Alexander McCall Smith was a law professor at the University of Botswana before becoming a prolific author. Having written and contributed to more than 100 books, his titles also include some wonderful middle-grade novels that you'll find on our list of Children's Books Set in Africa.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, Peter Allison's safaris have been featured in National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, and on Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures, as well as other television shows. In this book, he gives us a guide's-eye-view of what it's like to live and work in Botswana's Kalahari Desert, confronting wild animals and managing herds of tourists on a daily basis (the later often proving to be the more dangerous).
Written in the humorous style of Bill Bryson, Allison's wry wit is exceeded only by his love and respect for the animals. His highly entertaining stories will keep you laughing, but you'll also have a much better appreciation for the wildlife of Africa at the end of the book.
The Book Girls Say... We always look forward to reading Bill Bryson's travelogues and hoped to find that he'd written one about his experiences in Africa. He does have a book titled African Diary, but it's a very short (55ish pages) report of his brief visit to Kenya at the invitation of CARE International. We selected Peter Allison's book for this list because it brings the dry wit and humor that we usually seek from Bryson, in a more in-depth format. But loyal fans of Bill Bryson, or those looking to pick up a quick read, may also want to pick up African Diary.
Born a Crime is the true story of Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s childhood and into his early adulthood. His rise to success was unlikely based on his beginning. Trevor was born in South Africa in 1984 to a white father and black mother. His parents could have been imprisoned for five years - or worse - for conceiving him. He spent his early years largely hidden from life outside because his mother feared (with good reason) that he could be removed from her custody because of the apartheid rules of segregation.
In true Trevor Noah fashion, you'll be entertained while also receiving an education on life in apartheid South Africa. He manages to explain the extremely complex system of apartheid in accessible terms by drawing on examples and comparisons.
When the era of white rule officially ended in the early 1990s, it was far from the end of the family's troubles. From attempted kidnappings and domestic violence to the drama of high school dating, you’ll find a mixture of relatable and shocking stories that keep you engaged with every page.
The Book Girls Say... We highly recommend listening to the audiobook, which Trevor narrates himself. Trevor speaks eight languages and draws upon each of them throughout the book to explain how languages can divide people, but can also be used to build bridges. We found it much more impactful to hear him speak each language with the correct sounds and pronunciations, rather than attempting our own phonetic reading.
NOTE: Angela and her husband listened to the audiobook on a road trip with their 8 and 9-year-old sons. The boys were both fascinated by the stories and learned a lot, but mom and dad did have to sensor a few parts here and there. There is a young reader version available that is appropriate for kids to read on their own.
Set against the backdrop of life on a South African wild animal reserve, this memoir details conservationist Lawrence Anthony's experiences taking in a "rogue" herd of elephants (initially against his better judgment). The elephants had already earned a reputation as notorious escape artists (due in large part to their past negative encounters with humans), and Anthony was their last hope. As Lawrence battled to create a bond with the elephants and save them from execution, he came to realize that they had a lot to teach him about life, loyalty and freedom.
Although the elephants are the focus of this story, readers can also glean much more about life in the wilds of South Africa.
The Book Girls Say... Angela had the opportunity to visit and interact with a trio of similarly "rogue" elephants at another South African reserve. It was a truly moving and humbling experience, and she immediately started seeking out books that would help her understand more about the elephants and the emotional bonds they can form with the humans who protect them. If you've ever wanted to know more about elephants or conservation, the late Lawrence Anthony is the one to learn from. Anthony also authored another highly recommended book, The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World's Greatest Creatures.
Nelson Mandela is one of the great leaders of the 20th century whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him not only the Nobel Peace Prize, but also the presidency of his country. This autobiography is very broad in its scope, covering his upbringing in the traditional tribal culture of his ancestors, his early years as a poor student and a law clerk, his political awakening, his time spent in jail, and finally, his inauguration as South Africa’s first black president.
In addition to providing an in depth and personal look at the life of this incredible man - Long Walk to Freedom also provides a riveting account of South Africa's history and change from Apartheid to Democratic state.
The Book Girls Say... If you want to learn more about South Africa's political history, we also recommend the classic, Cry the Beloved Country. Originally published in 1948, this novel sheds light on the racial injustice in South Africa that predated Apartheid.
Vimbai has always been regarded as the best hairdresser in Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare - catering to all the woman of social standing. But when the charming young Dumisani shows up, he immediately becomes Vimbai's competition. As their relationship evolves, the story is one of jealousy, friendship and betrayal.
Unlike many books that deal with major issues, like war and disease, this book focuses more on the struggles of everyday life. It has lighter storytelling, but still complex topics. Complete with all of the gossip you'd expect in a hair salon, this novel paints a very vivid picture of what it's really like to live in Zimbabwe.
The Book Girls Say... The Guardian named this book one of the ten best contemporary African books. This is one of those books where you may not "like" the main character, and some readers say that the ending is a bit easy to predict, but if you want an accurate portrayal of modern-day life in Zimbabwe, this book will hit the mark.
As a young boy growing up in Malawi - a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery - William was fascinated by electricity and dreamed of studying science at a top boarding school. When famine devastatess his family's farm and left them destitute, William's parents were no longer able to afford his tuition and he was forced to drop out of school. Nevertheless, William continued to pursue his passion with the help of books, and set out to bring electricity and water to his village by building a crude, but operable, windmill.
Soon, news of William's "electric wind" spread across the country and around the world, and the boy who was once called crazy became an inspirational example of human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity.
The Book Girls Guide... Some readers report that the writing style of this memoir makes it a bit difficult to immerse yourself in the story, but most agree that ultimately the important messages of the book make it worth the added effort.
Over the past two decades, Mozambique has experienced steeper economic growth than China, making it among the fastest-growing economies on the planet. Nonetheless, most Mozambicans have little to show for the nation's prosperity.
In this well-researched work of non-fiction, the author takes a journalistic approach and tells the recent history of Mozambique through a series of mini-biographies and vignettes. This book explores the efforts of ordinary people to provide for themselves where foreign aid, the formal economy, and the government have fallen short. You will meet individual Mozambicans living in cities, towns, and the countryside, and through their stories you'll gain a greater understanding of Mozambique's politics, economics, public health challenges, wildlife, and much more.
The Book Girls Say... Most readers find this book to be very well written and insightful, although some reviewers say the book ends a bit too abruptly and that they were hoping for more of a conclusion to tie things up.
This novel tells the story of two ex-pat wives (also known as "trailers" because they trail behind their husbands from post to post) living in Namibia. Amanda Evans gives up her Silicon Valley job to follow her husband Mark to Namibia where he'll be working on a Fulbright project. Persephone Wilder, a displaced genius and the wife of an American diplomat, takes Amanda under her wing.
In addition to the challenge of creating a life far from home, each woman is dealing with conflicts of their own. Persephone suspects her husband is not actually the ambassador’s legal counsel but a secret agent in the CIA. And Amanda begins to realize that her husband, who also lived in Namibia two decades earlier, may have had other motivations for returning, and their marriage no longer seems as solid as it did back in the US. Amanda's family situation grows even more fraught when their daughter becomes involved in an international conflict and the US government won’t stand up for her.
Set in present-day Namibia, this book explores the culture and history of this country, and provides a humorous look at the cultural differences and clashes that are bound to occur. Oprah Daily describes this novel as "one part social satire, one part travelogue . . . Comical and cool."
The Book Girls Say... This book is a lighter option with a good mix of satire and humor. The author was inspired to write this novel based on her first-hand experiences of living in Namibia, but she explains in an interview that she also did extensive research in an effort to create a work of authentic fiction. Additionally, she hired two Namibian writer/journalists to review the book for any mistakes and to help her ensure that she got all the details and the Namibian voices right.
Before she became the best-selling author of Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens and her husband Mark spent thirty years living in Africa. The couple are award-winning zoologists and pioneering conservationists who spent their first seven years in Africa living deep in Botswana's Kalahari Desert, and then spent another 23 years in Zambia. They have written three books about their experiences in Africa, including Cry of the Kalahari (published in 1984), The Eye of the Elephant: An Epic Adventure in the African Wilderness (published in 1992), and Secrets of the Savanna (published in 2006).
Secrets of the Savanna provides a portrait of life in Zambia and tells the story of the Owenses' final years in Africa. The book details their fight to save elephants in Zambia's northeastern Luangwa Valley, where the couple studied the mysteries of the elephant population’s recovery after poaching, and in doing so they discovered remarkable similarities between humans and elephants. A young elephant named Gift provided the clue to help them crack the animals’ secret of survival.