6 Books Obama Recommends for Summer Reading

July 18 2018

Former President Barack Obama is traveling to Africa for the first time since leaving office. In preparation for his trip, Obama shared a list of books he recommends for summer reading—including many by African writers and thinkers.

In his Facebook post, Obama wrote: “I was proud to visit sub-Saharan Africa more times than any other sitting President, and I’ll return this week to visit Kenya and South Africa. In South Africa, the Obama Foundation will convene 200 extraordinary young leaders from across the continent and I’ll deliver a speech to mark the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Kenya, of course, is the Obama ancestral home. I visited for the first time when I was in my twenties and I was profoundly influenced by my experiences—a journey I wrote about in my first book, Dreams from My Father.”

“Over the years since, I’ve often drawn inspiration from Africa’s extraordinary literary tradition. As I prepare for this trip, I wanted to share a list of books that I’d recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa’s best writers and thinkers—each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways.”

Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe

A true classic of world literature, this novel paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism. A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.

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Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe’s legendary novel encompasses the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul. It is an illuminating monument to modern Africa as seen from within.

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A Grain of Wheat
by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

A chronicle of the events leading up to Kenya’s independence, and a compelling story of how the transformative events of history weigh on individual lives and relationships.

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A Grain of Wheat
Ngugi wa Thiong'o

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Long Walk to Freedom
by Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the twentieth century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history—and then go out and change it.

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Long Walk to Freedom
Nelson Mandela

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Americanah
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the US and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.

Read the full review of AMERICANAH.

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Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This powerful story of race and gender is centered on Ifemelu, a brilliant and self-assured young woman who departs military-ruled Nigeria for an American university where, for the first time, she is forced to grapple with her identity as a black woman. Ifemelu faces difficult choices and challenges, suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, and eventually achieves success as the writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. Fearless and gripping, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world.

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The Return
by Hisham Matar

A beautifully-written memoir that skillfully balances a graceful guide through Libya’s recent history with the author’s dogged quest to find his father who disappeared in Gaddafi’s prisons.

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The Return
Hisham Matar

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The World as It Is
by Ben Rhodes

It’s true, Ben Rhodes does not have African blood running through his veins. But few others so closely see the world through my eyes like he can. Ben’s one of the few who’ve been with me since that first presidential campaign. His memoir is one of the smartest reflections I’ve seen as to how we approached foreign policy, and one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen about what it’s actually like to serve the American people for eight years in the White House.

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The World as It Is
Ben Rhodes

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Close

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