List of African Literature Books: 10 Must-Reads
African literature is one of the most diverse and rich literary traditions in the world. From classic novels to contemporary fiction, African literature has produced some of the most stirring and poignant works in the literary canon. In this article, we’ll take a look at 10 must-read African literature books that you should add to your reading list.
1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Published in 1958, Things Fall Apart is one of the most famous African novels ever written. It tells the story of Okonkwo, a leader of the Igbo community in Nigeria, and explores themes of colonialism, tradition, and identity. Achebe’s novel is often considered a classic of world literature and a must-read for anyone interested in African literature.
2. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Another Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has become one of the most celebrated voices in contemporary African literature. Half of a Yellow Sun is her second novel and tells the story of the Biafran war through the eyes of five different characters. The novel explores themes of love, identity, and the horrors of war.
3. The Famished Road by Ben Okri
Winner of the 1991 Booker Prize, The Famished Road is a magical realist novel that tells the story of Azaro, a spirit-child who lives in the slums of Lagos. The novel explores the complexities of post-colonial Nigeria and the struggle for identity and meaning in a rapidly changing world.
4. Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
Blackass is a satirical novel that explores the themes of identity, race, and capitalism in modern Nigeria. The novel follows Furo Wariboko, a young Nigerian man who wakes up one day to discover that he has turned white from the waist up. The novel is a biting critique of modern Nigerian society and the legacy of colonialism.
5. Sozaboy by Ken Saro-Wiwa
Set during the Nigerian Civil War, Sozaboy tells the story of a young soldier named Mene who fights for the Biafran army. The unique feature of this novel is that the narrative is written in Pidgin English, a kind of creole language spoken widely across West Africa. The novel explores the absurdities of war and the challenges of post-colonial identity.
6. The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz
Although technically not African literature (Mahfouz was an Egyptian writer), The Cairo Trilogy is one of the most important works of Arab literature in the 20th century. The trilogy consists of three novels (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street) and follows the lives of a family in Cairo in the early 20th century. The novels explore themes of tradition, change, and the struggle for national identity.
7. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Another novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman who moves to the United States to study. The novel explores themes of race, immigration, and identity, and is a powerful critique of American society and its attitudes towards race.
8. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Set in colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Nervous Conditions tells the story of two young women who struggle to find their place in a patriarchal society. The novel explores themes of race, gender, and colonialism, and is a powerful indictment of the legacy of colonialism in Zimbabwe.
9. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
Winner of the 2014 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, We Need New Names is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Darling, a young girl growing up in Zimbabwe. The novel explores themes of identity, poverty, and the challenges of post-colonial life.
10. Dreams in a Time of War by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
Set against the backdrop of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, Dreams in a Time of War is a memoir that tells the story of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s childhood. The memoir explores themes of colonialism, resistance, and the power of storytelling in challenging oppressive systems.
In conclusion, African literature offers a rich and diverse literary tradition, and these 10 books are just a starting point. If you’re interested in exploring more African literature, there are countless other novels, poems, and plays waiting to be discovered. So why not pick up one of these books and start your journey into the world of African literature today?