I have not yet been to Africa, but I have definitely read and listened to books that make it come to life for me. Because of these books, I now really, really want to get there!
This is not a list of travel books. Instead, I’m looking back on my reading list over the past eight or nine years to recall books I’ve read that bring the African continent and people to life in a way that makes me want to visit. I hope you enjoy this Africa-themed reading list and are inspired to try a few of these books out!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will make a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
To read my suggestions of books that take place in other parts of the world, you can look here.
I am including three different formats for each book:
I love reading my Kindle on vacation. At home I often find my attention span too short for digging into a book, so the Kindle is my go-to vacation book source. (See my link for the Kindle Unlimited free trial membership at the bottom of my post, if you are interested.)
If you haven’t caught on to the audiobook craze yet, I encourage you to hop on board! I have been a serious audiobook listener since 2010. Since then I’ve read over 600 audiobooks. Now that I have noise-canceling headphones, I can listen on the plane with an immersive experience, rather than trying to hear it over the hum of the engine and the screams of the children. A few things about audiobooks:
- You can use your smartphone, MP3 player, tablet or laptop as your listening device (though I highly recommend one of the first two more portable methods).
- The best part about audiobooks is that you can listen while doing other things, like driving, walking, or doing chores.
- AND, since Audible is owned by Amazon, they have an awesome Whispersync option for many of their books, so if you want to pick up where you left off on your e-book, your audiobook will sync with the Kindle e-book. I have found this a great option for longer books that I’d probably never finish on e-book alone.
This is the old school book, made with paper pages and a cover. I have included paperbacks, as they’re lighter and more economical.
Books that Make Me Want to Go To Africa
West With the Night, Beryl Markham (Kenya)
Born in Britain in 1902, Beryl was brought to Kenya by her father and is raised there. She goes on to become a horse trainer, a pilot, and the first person to cross the Atlantic from Europe to America. As she tells of her fascinating life, her descriptions of her native Africa are simply stunning.
Circling the Sun, Paula McLain (Kenya)
Paula McLain’s fictional account of Beryl Markham’s life (above) is also worth a read. It attempts to fill some of the strategic holes left in her memoir and is very well written. Again, the descriptions of Africa are exceptional.
The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay (South Africa)
Bryce Courtenay was one of Australia’s best selling authors before his passing, but this book is loosely based on his childhood in South Africa. Set in the WWII era in South Africa, during Apartheid, The Power of One captures the people and cultures of South Africa during that era – black and white – so beautifully. If you’re not into boxing, don’t let this aspect of the book deter you. It is beautifully written. The audiobook is especially well done. (Warning: There is some pretty graphic violence in this book. They have a Young Reader’s Edition that might be less disturbing.)
Kindle e-book (Young Reader’s Edition only available on Kindle)
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese (Ethiopia)
This is one of my all-time favorite books. Set primarily in Ethiopia on the brink of revolution, this is the story of two brothers and their journeys. The descriptions of Ethiopia were enlightening and saddening, as my sense is that the country has changed a lot since their revolution.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series (Ghana)
This is a little lighter book, the first in a series. The story is of a woman who forms a private investigation firm in Ghana. Again, the author’s descriptions of the community and the people where Mma Ramotswe live are completely brought to life by the author. There is depth to the cultural descriptions and interactions. Here are the links to the first book in the series.
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (Belgian Congo)
This book left me breathless back when I read it years ago. It’s the fictional story of a wife and four daughters who follow their patriarch to do mission work in the Belgian Congo back in the late 1950’s. The descriptions of their expectations going into the situation versus the stark realities they were unprepared to face has stayed with me all these years. It is one of my all-time favorite books.
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