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Our Top Picks
"For those interested in the complexities of post-colonial Africa, this is a wonderful read."
Best Biographical Fiction: What is the What at Amazon
"Based on the real lives of a generation of Sudanese boys who tried to escape war and poverty."
Best War Fiction: Life and Times of Michael K at Amazon
"Bleak, haunting and entirely captivating."
Best Trilogy: Palace Walk at Amazon
"A must-read for anyone interested in modern Egypt."
Best Literary Fiction: The Poisonwood Bible at Amazon
"An interesting read for anyone considering volunteering in Africa."
Best Rural Fiction: A Bend in the River at Amazon
"Perfectly captures the social confusion as well as the corruption of an African nation attempting to find its modern identity."
Best Contemporary: Half of a Yellow Sun at Amazon
"Offers readers an often harrowing insight into the violence and cruelty of Nigeria's civil war."
Best Political: The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe at Amazon
"Gives a first-hand account of the country's 2008 elections."
Best Humor: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency at Amazon
"It'll put a smile on your face from beginning to end."
Best Historical Biography: The House at Sugar Beach at Amazon
"This heart-wrenchingly honest account is a must-read for anyone interested in African history."
Our Top Picks
Best Memoir: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
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.
Best Biographical Fiction: What is the What
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.
Best War Fiction: Life and Times of Michael K
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.
Best Trilogy: Palace Walk
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.
Best Literary Fiction: The Poisonwood Bible
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.
Best Rural Fiction: A Bend in the River
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.
Best Contemporary: Half of a Yellow Sun
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.
Best Political: The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe
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.
Best Humor: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
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.
Best Historical Biography: The House at Sugar Beach
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.