Update: I haven’t updated (nor did I ever really get started on) this list for a while. But I still recommend 100% of the titles below.
This list will grow over time. If you have any suggestions for me, feel free to get in touch on the contact page or contact me through twitter at @philinthe_. If you buy a book through one of the links below, I get a small commission, which is always appreciated.
The Marsh Arabs – I inherited this book from Chris from sahelsounds.com. It’s a great piece of travel writing. Wilfred Thesiger found peace in the marshes of southern Iraq. He doesn’t have much of an agenda, he doesn’t profess the virtues of poverty and he doesn’t embellish his experience. Simple narratives from a guy who found comfort in a wild landscape and a warm culture.
One Day I Will Write About This Place – This lived up to the hype (New York Times opened their review by saying “Harried reader, I’ll save you precious time: skip this review and head directly to the bookstore for Binyavanga Wainaina’s stand-up-and-cheer coming-of-age memoir.”)
Here is Nigerian author Teju Cole’s review:
Brilliant. What makes the book good is its impassioned account of the Africa we need to hear more about: the Africa of schools, weddings, television shows, jokes, politics, family gossip, and idiosyncratic dreams. What makes it great are Wainaina’s beautifully elastic sentences that fizz and crackle, pounce on their meanings, stretch and snap back into place, and evoke not only the self-replenishing wonders of childhood but the more complex wonders that follow. An outstanding book, bursting with life and full of love.
An Optimist’s Tour of the Future – Who knows how many of these ideas will become reality. Regardless, it’s a fun and astonishing (and sometimes, scary) read.
Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present – A must if you are trying to get a sense for what the colonial to post-colonial transition actually meant. Cooper does a great job avoiding one-dimensional answers. He embraces the complexity and that’s why this is great. It is particularly illuminating for the period of 1960-early 1970’s, a time when many African countries saw growth and more accessible public services. If you have questions about development in Africa, and if you want some insight into how so many African states became derailed, this needs to be on your reading list.