Nigerian playwright and essayist Wole Soyinka once said, “My horizon on humanity is enlarged by reading the writers of poems, seeing a painting, listening to some music, some opera, which has nothing at all to do with a volatile human condition or struggle or whatever. It enriches me as a human being.”
The African literary canon is filled with stories of heartbreak and triumph, each working to present a more holistic view of the continent and the experiences taking place inside of it.
All of the seven works below are celebrated pieces of African literature. What they also have in common are great stories, original points of view and crafty wording that suck readers in and stay with them long after they turned the last page. These books will make you think and expose you to points of view you may have not considered.
Below is a list of the 7 best books by African authors The Folklore staff suggests you pick up right now:
Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
This harrowing tale story moves between Manchester and Kampala as the characters learn to adjust to living in England. The work is a collection of short stories, with characters, appearing across stories, making it feel like a singular, cohesive novel. While it varies in tone and theme, the story remains lively about the immigrant struggle and fighting to belong.
House of Stone by Novuyo Tshuma
One of the most emotionally gripping novels to be released last year, House of Stone mixes fact and fiction to paint a beautiful but painful story set in modern Zimbabwe. The book dives into the histories of main characters, Abednego, Agnes, and Zamani as they search for Abednego and Agnes’ missing son. Written like a journal, the book is a personal tale full of twists and turns that will leave you wanting more.
My Sister the Serial Killer by Onyikan Braithwaite
This book title may sound scary, but inside you'll find a humorous take on murder. It follows Korede, a Nigerian woman who is grappling with the fact that her sister’s previous three boyfriends have ended up dead. When her sister, Ayoola, catches the attention of Korede’s crush, she has to decide how far she’ll go to protect her.
People of the City by Cyprian Ekwensi
Cyprian Ekwensi's debut novel was released in 1954, but remains a defining work in African literature. The book follows a young journalist and bandleader as he struggles to find his place in the world. At the time of its publishing, many felt it did a better job at describing West Africa than most journalists and anthropologists did.
Coming to Birth by Marjorie Oludhe MacGoye
MacGoye powerfully describes a Kenyan woman’s coming of age in this 1986 feminist novel. The story follows 16-year-old Paulina as she’s forced to move from her small village in western Kenya to Nairobi with her new husband. Soon, her personal life begins to mirror that of her country's political turmoil.
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
This timely work presents the story of two women: one black and one white. Together they must find a way to work together after being sworn enemies for decades. The question throughout the novel is will the women, Hortensia and Marion, become real friends or devolve back into being enemies.
Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo
When a woman divorces her abusive husband to join a polygamist union, she has to consider what it means to be a modern African woman. In her novel, Aidoo shows how finding the love you deserve sometimes isn’t as easy as it seems.
Written by Octavius D. Williams