Africa: A Reading List

Conakry, Guinea, is the World Book Capital for 2017. What better way to celebrate World Book Day this Saturday than with a great list of books from and about Africa?

Scroll down to get some recommendations from Nat Geo staff and our great group of educators!

All animals all the time for me!
—Jeanethe, National Geographic


I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, set in Nigeria during the Biafran War. She speaks about human stories in a way that’s so universal, but still sheds so much light on the repercussions of that particular struggle. It’s captivating, heartbreaking, and inspirational all at once … I read it 8 years ago, and it’s powerful enough that I still find myself reflecting on it.
—Megan, educator


My contribution to the list is Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole. My brother lived in Nigeria for several years and wrote to me that I should read it since Cole paints such a clear picture of present-day Nigeria. He didn’t like that it focused so much on the negatives, but felt that it might help our family imagine his life there. I’d also say Things Fall Apart (by Chinua Achebe) and A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (by Ishmael Beah). Thinking on it now, none of these are particularly uplifting stories. I hope others contribute work that makes it clear not only depressing stories come out of West Africa.
—Alexandra, National Geographic


Written because the writer Marguerite Abouet “wanted to show an Africa without the … war and famine, an Africa that endures despite everything because, as we say back home, life goes on,” I’d recommend any of the Aya graphic novels. I’d also recommend Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. I know you [Caryl-Sue] have Americanah on your hope-to-read list. Half a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus are also excellent.
—Alison, National Geographic


Bulu: African Wonder Dog by Dick Houston. This is a shared reading we facilitate with rising 5th graders to kick off their global study focus on Africa. It has environmental conservation undertones with a focus on poaching in Zambia and how a group of activists set about solving the issue.
—Rebecca, educator


Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria is one of my hope-to-reads!
—Meghan, National Geographic


Facing The Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton is about a young man’s experiences growing up in his Maasai tribe and obtaining a Western-style education in Kenya. Mr. Lekuton has gone on from this book to do remarkable things for his country. I’ve used this book for at least 5-6 years in my world geography classes to support the Africa unit. I’ve developed tons of resources and video lists to help the students explore the concepts for Africa and mentioned in the book using Google Classroom.
—Judith, educator


The classic: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It’s timeless and helps me understand current events every time I read it.
—Ellen, National Geographic


Thinking of my elementary ed peeps, I would say Emmanuel’s Dream, by Laurie Ann Thompson (this guy rocks, he came to my school—from Ghana!) and Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski (set in … Mali … 3rd Grade Social Studies Standard in Virginia!). 🙂
—Jennifer, educator


Here’s a list within a list! Below are some recommendations from some of my colleagues in the French, English and Social Studies departments at the International School of Dakar, Senegal. The list below (in no particular order) includes novels, short stories, poems and nonfiction. Many on the list are incorporated into our classes, and some are personal favorites. So happy to share…


Do you have a favorite African book you’d like to revisit for World Book Day? Let us know at

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