10 African novels you need on your bookshelf

10 African novels you need on your bookshelf

In honor of World Book Day on March 3, we’re sharing ten books—all by incredible African authors from all over the continent—that should definitely be on your reading list.

An Elegy for Easterly:

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The first short story collection by Zimbabwe-born Petina Gappah, An Elegy for Easterly is as likely to make you laugh as it will to make you cry. The complex, amusing, sometimes tragic lives of the many protagonists – from an oblivious bride to a dancing coffin carpenter – will seize your attention and hold your heart.

100 Days:

Day 31

Here: it is daytime now

We’re here

It is now twenty years after a hundred days that we did not plan on living through

We wanted to, prayed, yearned to make it

Not that those who didn’t didn’t”

100 Days

Poet Juliane Okot Bitek, of Uganda, crafted a poem each day of the 100 days marking the Rwandan Genocide’s 20th anniversary in 2014. Fierce in their grief but filled with tentative hope, they are not so much commemorative as they are insistent in their unwillingness to forget.

Bound to Secrecy:

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Photo credit: Amazon.com

The first novel in English by Vamba Sherif, a Liberian novelist, is a twisting mystery about power and transparency. The curious events in Bound to Secrecy speak to the sources of power and secrecy, as intertwined with corruption.


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Two half-sisters, separated from birth, weave tangled lives across an ocean and three centuries, from 18th century Ghana to 20th century Harlem. Homegoing, by Ghanaian author Yaa Gyasi, is heralded as a peak example of modern African literature.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze:

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Fulbright scholar Maaza Mengiste crafted a historical retelling of 20th century Ethiopian history in Beneath the Lion’s Gaze. Revolutions are depicted through the eyes of familial love and frustrations, and the struggle to determine rights from wrongs is captivating.

Parched Earth:

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A Tanzanian love story that also survives sexism – Parched Earth: A Love Story is about the obstacles facing women in their everyday lives. Set over the course of a lifetime, it’s hard to decide whether the main character’s love story is with those in her life, or with herself. Either answer is equally rewarding.

Love is Power, or Something Like That:

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Igoni Barrett’s second collection of short stories examines love as a form of power in modern-day Nigeria. Love of money, love of family, or love of oneself are some of the many subjects explored in Love is Power, or Something Like That: Stories.

Zoo City:

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Photo credit: Amazon.com

South African author Lauren Beukes draws readers in to a magical world of animal spirit guides and dystopian social rules in her fantasy thriller Zoo City. Set in an alternative Johannesburg, the main protagonist tries to make up for her past on a mysterious journey for a missing girl.

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth:

“It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful.

I’m not alive for that purpose.

My existence is not about how desirable you find me.”

Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth

Unapologetic self-ownership and emotional depth transform Kenyan-born Somali writer Warsan Shire’s first pamphlet of poetry. An international phenomenon and London’s first Young Poet Laureate, Shire’s raw verses on identity strike to the heart of her audiences.

The Belly of the Atlantic:

atlanticSiblings and soccer are at the center of Senegalese author Fatou Diome’s novel, The Belly of the Atlantic. A sister who moved to France hopes to be reunited with her younger brother, a soccer fanatic who dreams of becoming a sports celebrity in Europe. Diome expertly navigates the gap between expectations and reality, as well as the distance between our chosen homes and hometowns.

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