There are two ways to travel. One is to pack your bags, hop on a plane, and go. The second is to pick up a book. On this National Book Lovers Day, join me in journeying to Africa. Let’s explore the great writers from this vast and varied continent. Below are several book lists that might help you discover a few great finds from one of Africa’s many talented authors.
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Among the renowned and recognizable of African literary voices is Nigerian Chinua Achebe, author of the highly acclaimed Things Fall Apart in 1958 and winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2007. Achebe keeps good company with other African recipients of the Booker prize. Any of these prizewinning selections over the past 50 years could make excellent additions for your own book list:
1999 - Disgrace by J.M Coetzee of South Africa
1991 - The Famished Road by Ben Okri of Nigeria
1983 - Life and Times of Michael K. by J.M. Coetzee of South Africa
1974 - The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer of South Africa
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Four writers from the African continent can lay claim to the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. Residing at points in Africa distant from each other, these authors have contributed much to the African canon of literature. Belong to a book club? Consider adding a work from one of the following authors to your schedule.
1986 - Wole Soyinka, playwright and political activist from Nigeria
1988 - Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian writer of Arabic literature including 50 novels
1991 - Nadine Gordimer, South African novelist and short story writer
2003 - John Maxwell Coetzee, South African novelist and essayist
Another writing award focuses only on authors from the African continent. The CAINE prize for African Writing aspires to expose talented African writers to a larger audience. The 2018 prize was awarded to Kenyan writer Makena Onjerika for her short story “Fanta Blackcurrent.” A great way to dabble among the most up and coming writers on the African continent, the CAINE Prize Anthology includes a collection of short stories written by authors shortlisted for this annual award.
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Finally, for those who like new releases but prefer diving into a novel rather than reading short stories, there are plenty of choices. Below are a few that received some buzz in recent years. Each has a link to a Goodreads summary and review.
Desertion by Tanzanian Abdulrazah Gurnah
The Kindness of Enemies by Sudanese Leila Aboulela
TheHappy Marriageby Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun
The Book of Memory by Zimbabwean Petina Gappah
Sometimes There Is a Void by South African Zakes Mda
And After Many Days by Nigerian Jowhor Ile
Enjoy your sojourn to Africa. Read on!