For the sixth year running, we are excited to present our annual selection of the best books about Africa, or written by African authors.
The Africa Book Club 2018 books of the year list features 15 exciting titles many of them from first time novelists. To compile the list, we scanned titles from over 50 leading publishers and scoured various newspapers and websites. As in previous years, we also looked out for the books that received literary award nominations during the year.
Let us know what books you enjoyed reading during the year in the comments below. Did you discover a new author that you would like us to know about? As always, we welcome your recommendations and suggestions.
Win the Ultimate 2019 Book Giveaway from Africa Book Club
Get all 19 books featured in the Africa Book Club 2018 books of the year by taking part in our ultimate 2019 book giveaway competition. To enter, join the Africa Book Club as a premium member or make a purchase of any value from our bookstore between January 1, 2019 and March 31, 2019. The winner will be randomly selected from all entries received and announced on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.
Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, was released by Henry Holt & Company in March 2018, and became a deserving #1 New York Times bestseller.
The novel takes us to Orisha where Zélie Adebola has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
The novel was a bestseller in France, and it has been awarded numerous literary prizes, among them the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, and is being published in thirty countries worldwide.
Pulsing with wit, seduction, and dark humor, House of Stone is a sweeping epic that spans the fall of Rhodesia through Zimbabwe’s turbulent beginnings, exploring the persistence of the oppressed in a young nation seeking an identity, but built on forgetting.
House of Stone is Tshuma’s debut novel, and is set to be released in the US market in January. The novel has received immense (and well-deserved) praise.
Translated into English by Lawrence Schimel, Trifonia Obono’s novel, La Bastarda, is the story of the orphaned teen Okomo, who lives under the watchful eye of her grandmother and dreams of finding her father. Forbidden from seeking him out, she enlists the help of other village outcasts: her gay uncle and a gang of “mysterious” girls reveling in their so-called indecency. Drawn into their illicit trysts, Okomo finds herself falling in love with their leader and rebelling against the rigid norms of Fang culture.
For avid followers of African writing, Akwaeke Emezi is not a new name. An immensely talented young writer, Emezi was awarded the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa for her story Who Is Like God. One of her essays was selected for FADER’s “Best Culture Writing of 2015.” Her debut novel, Freshwater, is set predominantly in America and is closely based on Emezi’s own experiences with her mental health. Told from the perspectives of multiple selves, this unconventional and beautifully written novel explores mental health from a non-Western perspective. The novel centers on a young Nigerian woman grappling with her mental health.
Freshwater has received numerous citations, including being named a New York Times book review editor’s choice, an Amazon top 10 book pick, and a best book of the year by the New Yorker, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub and other publications.
Originally published in Nigeria, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel is a darkly comic novel about a woman, Korede, whose younger sister, Ayoola, has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends. Korede the big sister takes on the thankless task of cleaning up the mess that Ayoola leaves behind – and that includes disposing of the body and getting rid of evidence. However, the sibling relationship gets tested when Ayoola turns her attention to a kind, handsome doctor that Korede fancies.
In This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival. As a last resort, Tambudzai takes an ecotourism job that forces her to return to her parents’ impoverished homestead. It is this homecoming, in Dangarembga’s tense and psychologically charged novel, that culminates in an act of betrayal, revealing just how toxic the combination of colonialism and capitalism can be.
Nuruddin Farah continues to make his mark as one of the foremost African writers. The veteran Somali writer’s latest book, North of Dawn, is a provocative, devastating story of love, loyalty, and national identity that asks whether it is ever possible to escape a legacy of violence–and if so, at what cost. The novel tells the story of a Oslo-based couple, Gacalo and Mugdi, who reluctantly offer to provide a home to their son’s widow and children after he joins a terrorist group and kills himself in a suicide attack. But on arrival in Oslo, their daughter-in-law cloaks herself even more deeply in religion, while her children hunger for the freedoms of their new homeland, a rift that will have life-altering consequences for the entire family.
Nigerian writer, Uzodinma Iweala returns with yet another great novel with his latest book, Speak No Evil. The novel centers around a heart-wrenching event that rocks a conservative Nigerian family. On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, DC, he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school, bound for Harvard in the fall. When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift.
Named a New York Times notable book of the year and Booklist best book of the year, Nafkote Tamirat’s The Parking Lot Attendant explores how who we love, the choices we make, and the places we’re from combine to make us who we are. The novel centers on an unnamed narrator whose secluded upbringing makes her an easy prey to the charms of a street-wise hustler named Ayale. Ostensibly a parking lot attendant, Ayale soon proves to have other projects in the works, which the narrator becomes more and more entangled in to her father’s growing dismay. By the time the scope of Ayale’s schemes–and their repercussions–become apparent, our narrator has unwittingly become complicit in something much bigger and darker than she ever imagined.
From award-winning writer Aminatta Forna, Happiness is a stunning novel that builds of a chance encounter between an American scientist and a Ghanaian psychologist. Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes in London, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech accidentally collide while walking across Waterloo Bridge. The two are drawn together as they search for a missing child. At the center of Forna’s novel is an exploration of the interconnections of humanity. Aminatta Forna is the author of the novels Ancestor Stones, The Memory of Love (a must-read), and The Hired Man, as well as the memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water. Forna’s books have been translated into sixteen languages.
A moving and unexpectedly funny exploration of friendship and family, shame and forgiveness, Michael Donkor’s debut novel, Housegirl, follows three adolescent girls grappling with a shared experience: the joys and sorrows of growing up. The novel has been widely praised. It was nominated for the Edinburgh First Book Award, and selected as one of the UK Guardian Newspaper’s “Best Summer Books”.
The 2018 Africa Book Club anthology titled The Wrong Patient and Other Stories from Africa, is an exciting collection of short stories that span different themes – from cheating spouses and domestic violence to friendship, politics, and parenthood. Told through the voices of some of Africa’s most promising writers, the stories provide a contemporary and illuminating picture of the continent.
In this memoir, Jamal Mahjoub writes about returning to Sudan, twenty years after his family fled the country after a coup. He finds Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan. Re-discovering the city in which his formative years were spent, Mahjoub encounters people and places that he left behind. The capital contains the keys to Sudan’s divided, contradictory nature and while exploring the Khartoum’s present – its changing identity and shifting moods, its wealthy elite and neglected poor – Mahjoub also delves into the country’s troubled history, one turbulent with the rivalry between Christians and Muslims. His search for answers evolves into a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of identity, both personal and national.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is, without doubt, one of the foremost African writers and his influence on the continent has been immense. His latest book, Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir, recalls the night when armed police pulled him from his home in Kenya and jailed him in a prison block with eighteen other political prisoners, quarantined from the general prison population. In a conscious effort to fight back the humiliation and the intended degradation of the spirit, Ngugi decides to write a novel on toilet paper, the only paper to which he has access, a book that will become his classic, Devil on the cross. Written in the early 1980s and never before published in America, this book is an account of Ngugi’sdrama and the challenges of writing the novel under twenty-four-hour surveillance. He captures not only the excruciating pain that comes from being cut off from his wife and children, but also the spirit of defiance that defines hope.
Other books to watch out for in 2019 (US Editions)
- An Orchestra of Minorities (by Chigozie Obioma) – January 2019
- Elsewhere, Home (by Leila Aboulela) – February 2019
- Children of Virtue and Vengeance (by Tomi Adeyemi) – March 2019
Join the conversation. Tell us what were your favorite books of the year and why? Share news about any upcoming titles and book recommendations in the comments below.