Books set in Africa?

Sun and reading

In a little under two weeks Mr Whisperer and I are off to The Gambia in West Africa for a weeks holiday. I have only ever been to north Africa before now (Morocco and Egypt) and I am so excited about exploring a new country. As we are there for only a week I doubt we will get as much touring done as I would like but I’m sure I can content myself with days round the pool and on the beach with some good books πŸ™‚


This is where you come in

Can anyone recommend any books that I absoloutely must read that are set in Africa?

My Mum has been telling me for years to read Roots as it’s one of her favourite ever books and as it is actually set in The Gambia I think maybe I should. However, is it a holiday read?

I really fancy something like a big fat juicy African saga (I’m not fussed on which country in Africa) that really evokes a sense of place. I have also thought about books like The Poisonwood Bible or Things Fall Apart but what else can you recommend? Has anyone read any Wilbur Smith? I have read most of the Lady Detective series and loved those books (just to give you an idea of what I like).

Books that make me think of this please...



28 thoughts on “Books set in Africa?

  1. This is probably a bit of a Captain Obvious recommendation, but Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie really is a must-read author. Also, I’m currently reading The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner and finding it really interesting.


  2. When I read your post, I was thinking Wilbur Smith, but I haven’t read anything by him myself, so I have no idea really. I think they’re reasonably light reads, so perfect for a holiday.


  3. Oh I go over to kinna blog boof I ve few African novels written by various writers from round Africa non from Gambia thou on blog 20 or so I think maybe less Ben okri one my favourite writers Alain Mabanckou from Congo is another I like all best stu


  4. I’m thinking of Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Patton. It is a tear jerker. I also think of Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen and The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing. Loved all three books. I just finished Purple Hibiscus by Adichie. It’s wonderful. So is Half A Yellow Sun. Just for fun there are the mysteries by Alexander McCall Smith. Enjoy your trip.


  5. “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was part of my course in African literature in English and I loved it. It is set in modern times in Africa and it deals with pretty current issues.


  6. Seconding everyone recommending Adichie, all of her books are wonderful. If you want accessible non-fiction, try The State of Africa by Martin Meredith, it covers the period from decolonisation to now. Tim Butcher’s ‘Blood River’, a travel book about the Congo, is very good, as is The Shadow of the Sun, another travel book by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Happy reading πŸ™‚


  7. Hi Boof

    I’d recommend William Boyd’s Brazzaville Beach. A page-turner of a thriller.

    Here’s what Amazon says:

    ‘I live on Brazzaville Beach … I am here because two sets of strange and extraordinary events happened to me … One in England, first, and then one in Africa.’

    On Brazzaville Beach, on the edge of Africa, Hope Clearwater examines the complex circumstances that brought her there. Sifting the details for evidence of her own innocence or guilt, she tells her engrossing story with a blunt and beguiling honesty that not only intrigues and disturbs but is also completely enthralling.

    I was gripped and it’s been on my ‘to read again’ list ever since. Very atmospheric!


  8. Ooh, thanks for all the recommendations so far. I’ll be heading over to Amazon to have a look right now. Also, thanks for recommending Kinna’s blog, Stu, I had completely forgotten and also I must check out Amy Reads as they both review lots of African books – exciting! πŸ™‚


  9. Earlier this year I read Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron. It’s about Rwanda during the Tutsi/Hutu conflict so perhaps not relevant to your trip, but I thought it was a superb book. I have also loved Laurens van der Post’s books about the Kalahari, especially the fictional Story Like the Wind and A Far Off Place. The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith are fun – cosy mysteries set in Botswana. If you want to read books about the safari experience I recommend Don’t Run Whatever You Do by Peter Allison or Backseat Safari by Robyn Keene-Young. Both are very enjoyable. I also really liked A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve about a group’s plans to climb Kilamanjaro in Tanzania.


  10. I think you’d enjoy I Do Not Come to You by Chance which is about a group of people who send out the scam emails. I also recommend Cutting for Stone, The Book of Negroes and The Ghosts of Eden as books you should look at. Have a wonderful holiday!


  11. Chris Cleeve’s ‘Little Bee’ is set in Nigeria… Loved this book but stunned by its cruelty. Also, there is a very popular Australian author called Bryce Courtenay who was raised in Africa so sets a lot of books there. He writes big, sprawling sagas so definitely a book for your suitcase and not carry-on luggage!

    The African books:
    The Power of One (1989)
    The Power of One: Young Readers Edition (1999)
    Tandia (1992)
    The Night Country (1998)
    Whitethorn (2005)


  12. We just returned from visiting Senegal. I had just finished listening to the book Somebody Knows by Name by Lawrence Hill, set in West Africa, and the U.S.


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