Share 14 Must-Read Books Set Under the African Sun

14 Must-Read Books Set Under the African Sun

Emma Volk is a summer intern at Touchstone, a imprint of Simon & Schuster. She studies English at Columbia University and is the Design Editor for the Columbia Daily Spectator. While classics like THE GREAT GATSBY and THE HOUSE OF MIRTH will always hold a special place in her heart and on her shelf, she also enjoys a range of modern and literary fiction.

Plane tickets are expensive, but that’s where the beauty of armchair adventuring comes in. If the lush African landscape described in Paula McClain’s Circling the Sun had you dreaming of savannahs while you were stuck in suburbia, these are the books for you.


We Need New Names
by NoViolet Bulawayo
At just ten years old, Darling escapes paramilitary controlled Zimbabwe to live with her aunt in America, in search of its famous abundance, only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few. Shortlisted for Man Booker Prize, NoViolet Bulawayo's debut is a powerful tale of a young girl's coming-of-age.
We Need New Names
NoViolet Bulawayo

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Little Bee
by Chris Cleave
This novel of a young Nigerian refugee seeking asylum in Great Britain is a story of uncertainty, courage, and profound humanity rendered in brutal yet gorgeous prose.
Little Bee
Chris Cleave

It was Little Bee’s voice that first knocked me out. It’s musical, it’s magical, and it’s joyful. And yet, this sixteen-year-old Nigerian girl has experienced unspeakable horrors. Chris Cleave’s novel is brutal and beautiful at the same time.

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Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
by Alexandra Fuller

In this candid memoir, Alexandra Fuller recounts her childhood spent on a series of farms in southern and central Africa while her father fought on the side of the colonial government in the Rhodesian civil war. Unsentimental, gritty, and often hilarious, it is a captivating portrait of continental and familial unrest.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
Alexandra Fuller

In this candid memoir, Alexandra Fuller recounts her childhood spent on a series of farms in southern and central Africa while her father fought on the side of the colonial government in the Rhodesian civil war. Unsentimental, gritty, and often hilarious, it is a captivating portrait of continental and familial unrest.

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The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver charts cultural clashes, political upheaval, and failed fundamentalism in this ambitious epic. When an evangelical Baptist preacher moves his wife and daughters to the Belgian Congo in 1959, the African soil proves to be the family’s undoing and salvation.
The Poisonwood Bible
Barbara Kingsolver

This family epic set in the Belgian Congo in 1959 is narrated by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, an evangelical Baptist missionary. Told over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa, it is the story of one family and one nation’s tragic undoing.

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Cutting for Stone
by Abraham Verghese
Set in Ethiopia and New York, this is the unforgettable story of twin brothers born of a secret union between an Indian nun and a British surgeon. As they come of age, passion and betrayal will tear them apart, but they can never truly escape their intertwined fates.
Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese

Born of a secret union between an Indian woman and a British surgeon and bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, twin brothers come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

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Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The futile struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria in the late 1960s is brought to life by celebrated Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Told through the voices of five vivid characters, this graceful novel is humorous, heartbreaking, and uncompromisingly honest.
Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Nigerian Civil War of the late 1960s is brought to life through the voices of five unforgettable characters. Among them is Ugwu, a houseboy who comes to his master a naive child and ends the novel a wary ex-soldier. As war drags on and the differences between Ugwu and the once-privileged family he serves shrink, their shared, raw humanity is all that remains.

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The Power of One
by Bryce Courtenay

In 1930s South Africa, a young boy experiences firsthand the brutality of racial hatred and comes to learn the hard way how to survive in an unforgiving environment. This fascinating and hopeful novel showcases the power of words to transform lives and the inspiring power of the individual.

The Power of One
Bryce Courtenay

In 1930s South Africa, a young boy experiences firsthand the brutality of racial hatred and comes to learn the hard way how to survive in an unforgiving environment. This fascinating and hopeful novel showcases the power of words to transform lives and the inspiring power of the individual.

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The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith
The first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed series tells the story of Botswana’s best (and indeed, only) female detective, Precious Ramotswe, a good-hearted detective with a keen moral eye who specializes in everything from missing husbands and wayward daughters to con men and imposters.
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Alexander McCall Smith

Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the basis of the HBO TV show, and its proprietor Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma Ramotswe navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, and good humor—not to mention help from her loyal assistant, Grace Makutsi, and the occasional cup of tea.

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The Fishermen
by Chigozie Obioma

When their strict father has to travel for work, four brothers skip school and go fishing. At the ominous nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings. THE FISHERMEN is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria.

The Fishermen
Chigozie Obioma

When their strict father has to travel for work, four brothers skip school and go fishing. At the ominous nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings. THE FISHERMEN is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria.

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Disgrace
by J. M. Coetzee
Set in post-apartheid South Africa, Man Booker Prize–winning author J. M. Coetzee tells the story of a professor whose affair with a student leaves him jobless and friendless. His dramatic downfall symbolizes the chaotic aftermath of the overthrow of apartheid.
Disgrace
J. M. Coetzee

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, J. M. Coetzee’s searing novel tells the story of David Lurie, a twice divorced, 52-year-old professor of communications and Romantic Poetry at Cape Technical University. Lurie believes he has created a comfortable, if somewhat passionless, life for himself. He lives within his financial and emotional means. Though his position at the university has been reduced, he teaches his classes dutifully; and while age has diminished his attractiveness, weekly visits to a prostitute satisfy his sexual needs. He considers himself happy. But when Lurie seduces one of his students, he sets in motion a chain of events that will shatter his complacency and leave him utterly disgraced.

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What is the What
by Dave Eggers

The Sudanese civil war is poignantly rendered through the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee now living in the United States. This moving and expansively human novel reveals the determination of one man as his world collapses around him.

What is the What
Dave Eggers

The Sudanese civil war is poignantly rendered through the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee now living in the United States. This moving and expansively human novel reveals the determination of one man as his world collapses around him.

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The House at Sugar Beach
by Helene Cooper

Helene Cooper’s account of her affluent childhood that was suddenly torn apart by a brutal coup d’etat is both a revealing memoir and an examination of Liberian politics. When her family flees to the United States, she undertakes a journey of forgiveness and rediscovery—and finally finds her way back home.

The House at Sugar Beach
Helene Cooper

Helene Cooper’s account of her affluent childhood that was suddenly torn apart by a brutal coup d’etat is both a revealing memoir and an examination of Liberian politics. When her family flees to the United States, she undertakes a journey of forgiveness and rediscovery—and finally finds her way back home.

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Out of Africa
by Isak Dinesen

Isak Dinesen’s narrative of her years spent on a 4,000 acre coffee plantation in the hills near Nairobi, from 1914 to 1931, is that of a master storyteller. Written after she had lost her beloved farm and returned to her native Denmark, her account looks back with an unsentimental intelligence to portray a way of life that is now gone forever.

Out of Africa
Isak Dinesen

Isak Dinesen’s narrative of her years spent on a 4,000 acre coffee plantation in the hills near Nairobi, from 1914 to 1931, is that of a master storyteller. Written after she had lost her beloved farm and returned to her native Denmark, her account looks back with an unsentimental intelligence to portray a way of life that is now gone forever.

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Wizard of the Crow
by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

Fashioning the stories of the powerful and the ordinary into a dazzling mosaic, WIZARD OF THE CROW dramatizes with corrosive humor and keenness of observation a battle for control of the souls of the Aburirian people. This magnificent novel reveals humanity in all its endlessly surprising complexity.

Wizard of the Crow
Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

Fashioning the stories of the powerful and the ordinary into a dazzling mosaic, WIZARD OF THE CROW dramatizes with corrosive humor and keenness of observation a battle for control of the souls of the Aburirian people. This magnificent novel reveals humanity in all its endlessly surprising complexity.

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By Emma Volk | January 12, 2016

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