Travel and Culture: Ten Amazing Books About Africa

From its stunning scenery to its fascinating people, Africa is full of inspiration for those with the talent to tell a story. It is a continent of extremes, with a rich and often violent history whose events provide the backdrop to tales of personal struggle and triumph. Unsurprisingly, there are countless novels, biographies, and autobiographies written about Africa, and many of them deserve a place on this list. Choosing just ten was exceptionally hard, and some of the most obvious and iconic examples - like Nelson Mandela's seminal Long Walk to Freedom - have intentionally been left out to make way for some lesser known reads. If you prefer online articles to books, check out our list of the best Africa-related blogs and websites

  • 01 of 10

    Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    Written by Alexandra Fuller, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood is a fascinating memoir about growing up in a white farming family during the Rhodesian Bush War of the 1960s and 70s. The book is poignantly written and Fuller's deep love of Africa permeates the narrative despite the violence she encountered in her young life. For those interested in the complexities of post-colonial Africa, this is a wonderful read.

  • 02 of 10

    What is the What

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    This exceptional novel by Dave Eggers tells the story of Valentino Achak Deng, one of Sudan's "Lost Boys". It's based on the real lives of a generation of Sudanese boys who tried to escape war and poverty by walking across deserts, dodging bullets and evading dangerous wildlife to make it to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Some of the lucky ones then went on to live in the United States, where they encountered a new set of obstacles.

  • 03 of 10

    Life and Times of Michael K

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    Life and Times of Michael K is written by South African novelist J.M. Coetzee, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003, and the Man Booker Prize for both this novel and another book of his, Disgrace. Bleak, haunting and entirely captivating, The Life and Times of Michael K is about the physical and spiritual journey of a man who travels throughout war-torn South Africa on a mission to return his ailing mother to her rural home. 

  • 04 of 10

    Palace Walk

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    Written by another Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Palace Walk is the first book in author Naguib Mahfouz's well-loved Cairo Trilogy. This is a must-read for anyone interested in modern Egypt, or simply for anyone who wants to sample the work of one of the world's finest novelists. ​Palace Walk is about a merchant living in Cairo, who makes his family follow strict religious and social rules while secretly breaking all of them himself.​​

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  • 05 of 10

    The Poisonwood Bible

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    The Poisonwood Bible is written by Barbara Kingsolver and set in the Belgian Congo in 1959. It follows the story of a missionary who travels with his wife and four daughters to a remote village in order to try and convert the natives. He doesn't have much luck, but never gives up (to the detriment of all those around him). This is an excellent work of fiction and an interesting read for anyone considering volunteering in Africa.

  • 06 of 10

    A Bend in the River

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    Written by Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River is set in Idi Amin's Uganda, and follows the story of an Indian merchant trying to survive the political and economic turbulence of a newly independent East African country. This is a brilliant novel that perfectly captures the social confusion as well as the corruption of an African nation attempting to find its modern identity after the collapse of colonialism.

  • 07 of 10

    Half of a Yellow Sun

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    Translated into a movie of the same name in 2014, this unforgettable novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells the story of the Biafran War through the eyes of several different (yet equally beautifully created) characters. It offers readers an often harrowing insight into the violence and cruelty of Nigeria's civil war, whilst effortlessly casting a spell created from the human stories of individuals involved on both sides of the struggle. 

  • 08 of 10

    The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    This gripping non-fiction book by journalist Peter Godwin relates his experiences after returning to his native Zimbabwe in 2008. It gives a first-hand account of the country's 2008 elections, and of the humanitarian atrocities sponsored by Robert Mugabe's government at that time. Being Zimbabwean, Godwin is able to weave a personal narrative throughout the book, making its stories of horror and resilience that much more powerful. 

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  • 09 of 10

    The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    Written by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is the first novel in a series of several books about Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's first lady detective. In this book, Precious solves several mysteries in her own unique and perennially cheerful way, before getting involved in a case about a missing boy. An Agatha Christie type novel set at an African pace, it'll put a smile on your face from beginning to end.

  • 10 of 10

    The House at Sugar Beach

    Travel and Culture Ten Amazing Books About Africa

    Written by award-winning New York Times journalist Helene Cooper, The House at Sugar Beach is a wonderfully written memoir of the Cooper family history. Going all the way back to the days when the first freed slaves decided to return to Africa, this heart-wrenchingly honest account is a must-read for anyone interested in African history, the political situation of modern-day Liberia and the United States' diverse African diaspora.