Back to school: 5 books about Africa you should be reading

For many people around the world, the summer break is coming to an end and children are heading back to school.  I can still remember that sinking feeling during the final few days of freedom, the thought of being back in a classroom all day only slightly offset by a cool new pencil case and shiny shoes.

Even if those days are long behind you, why not harness the back to school spirit and widen your global perspective with these five must-read books?

Whether you want a novel to entertain and inspire you, or get up to speed on the latest academic thinking on global poverty, these all come with a big ONE recommendation.  And next time someone asks you what you’re reading, or you find yourself pulled into a conversation about world affairs, you’ll have all kinds of interesting stuff to say.  You’re welcome.

To Repair the World by Paul Farmer, Bill Clinton 

A collection of short speeches by the charismatic doctor and social activist. One of the most passionate and influential voices for global health equity and social justice, Farmer encourages young people to tackle the greatest challenges of our times.

Engaging, often humorous, and always inspiring, these speeches bring to light the brilliance and force of Farmer’s vision in a single, accessible volume.  A must-read for graduates, students, and everyone seeking to help bend the arc of history toward justice.

Read more and buy online


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, a dazzling new novel: a story of love and race centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home.

Fearless, gripping, at once darkly funny and tender, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalised world.

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Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Billions of government dollars, and thousands of charitable organisations and NGOs, are dedicated to helping the world’s poor. But much of their work is based on assumptions that are untested generalisations at best, harmful misperceptions at worst.

Drawing on 15 years of research from Chile to India, Kenya to Indonesia, the book identifies wholly new aspects of the behaviour of poor people, their needs, and the way that aid can affect their lives. It illuminates how the poor live, and offers all of us an opportunity to think of a world beyond poverty.

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 Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

Kweku Sai is dead. A renowned surgeon and failed husband, he succumbs suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra.

The news of Kweku’s death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before. Ghana Must Go is their story. Electric, exhilarating, beautifully crafted, Ghana Must Go is a testament to the transformative power of unconditional love, from a debut novelist of extraordinary talent.

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Poor Numbers: How We Are Mislead by African Development Statistics by Morten Jerven

One of the most urgent challenges in African economic development is to devise a strategy for improving statistical capacity. Reliable statistics are basic to the operation of governments in developing countries and vital to nongovernmental organisations and other entities that provide financial aid to them.

Where do these statistics originate? How accurate are they? Poor Numbers is the first analysis of the production and use of African economic development statistics.

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