The best novels about African post-colonial life

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Akure, a hilly, ancient, rainforest town that became the chief administrative town of the newly created Ondo State in 1976. As a child, I witnessed the old town’s effort, both deliberate and inevitable, to wear a modern look. I’m naturally attracted to stories, fiction or non-fiction, that gives voice to the individual right to resist the old or the new; resistance that will not be without consequences. Kasali’s Africa is the theatre of ideas for Kasali, a rural farmer courted by the educated elites, and his view on what Africa should be. If you love Africa, I know you will enjoy these books.


I wrote...

Kasali's Africa

By Feyisayo Anjorin,

Book cover of Kasali's Africa

What is my book about?

Kasali Adebayor, a prominent farmer in the city of Akure, a husband of five wives, fancies himself as an activist for good governance while wielding the big stick of patriarchy over his family members. In the fast-changing African political landscape Kasali's family comes under the spotlight; an exposure which—initially appealing and addictive—threatens everything he holds dear and secret. Kasali's daughter who has been a secret rebel in her father's Akure enclave visits her aunt in Monrovia, gets drunk on her freedom, and is soon caught in the web of violence that engulfs Liberia's Glay presidency. 

Kasali Adebayor, weak against the subtle feminism-inspired request of his of beloved wife Mojisola, ends in a dead end that brings out the worst in him, and begins the end of Kasali's Africa.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Famished Road

Feyisayo Anjorin Why did I love this book?

Ben Okri won a Booker Prize in 1991 for this poetic storytelling finesse based on the Yoruba Abiku Myth.

I love its lyrical depiction of life on the fringes of poor suburban Africa; the narration by Azaro, a 9-year-old boy who decides to stay with his Mom on earth rather than die as he was done in prior reincarnations, is a blend of Kafka and Marquez in tropical Africa, and everything that comes with the heat and humidity. I love the author’s mirror on the hopelessness of poverty, the hypocrisy of the political class, and the situation of poorly governed country that always seems to go back to terrible beginnings. I knew the world of the story as a Yoruba man, and as a Nigerian.  

By Ben Okri,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Famished Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Man Booker Prize: “Okri shares with García Márquez a vision of the world as one of infinite possibility. . . . A masterpiece” (The Boston Sunday Globe).

Azaro is a spirit child, an abiku, existing, according to the African tradition, between life and death. Born into the human world, he must experience its joys and tragedies. His spirit companions come to him often, hounding him to leave his mortal world and join them in their idyllic one. Azaro foresees a trying life ahead, but he is born smiling. This is his story.
 
When President Bill Clinton first…


Book cover of Half of a Yellow Sun

Feyisayo Anjorin Why did I love this book?

Wow. I was haunted by Chimamanda’s expressive writing of that Nigerian Civil War story, based on the pre-war years, the short-lived Biafra Republic, and a short time after the war. I love that she tells the hard truths in vivid pictures and lively characters. I still agonize about Kainene, one of the twin sisters swept away by the war, to death or to states a lot more like death.

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Half of a Yellow Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE BAILEYS PRIZE BEST OF THE BEST

Winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007, this is a heartbreaking, exquisitely written literary masterpiece

This highly anticipated novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is set in Nigeria during the 1960s, at the time of a vicious civil war in which a million people died and thousands were massacred in cold blood.

The three main characters in the novel are swept up in the violence during these turbulent years. One is a young boy from a poor village who is employed at a university lecturer's house. The other is a…


Book cover of Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty

Feyisayo Anjorin Why did I love this book?

I was taken to Congo Brazzaville in the 70s. I know that 10-year-old boy, Michel, the narrator of this exploration of urban, postcolonial childhood. As the continent oscillates between cold war ideologies, Michel innocently observes the world around him and truthfully arrives at philosophical conclusions based on his intelligence. The skillful mix of moments of sad reflection with the joys of childhood thrills the adult perspective, thus giving us 1970s Pointe Noire and the air around it.

By Alain Mabanckou, Helen Stevenson (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tomorrow I'll Be Twenty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finalist for the Man Booker International Prize 2015

Michel is ten years old, living in Pointe Noire, Congo, in the 1970s. His mother sells peanuts at the market, his father works at the Victory Palace Hotel, and brings home books left behind by the white guests. Planes cross the sky overhead, and Michel and his friend Lounes dream about the countries where they'll land.

While news comes over the radio of the American hostage crisis in Tehran, the death of the Shah, the scandal of the Boukassa diamonds, Michel struggles with the demands of his twelve year old girlfriend Caroline,…


Book cover of The Fishermen

Feyisayo Anjorin Why did I love this book?

The Fishermen is set in Akure, the first town I ever knew intimately, and a town I have fallen in love with once again as an adult. In Akure you will see hills and rivers and green scenery, you will see stories. This gives me rare insight into the childhood adventures of the protagonist, Ben, and his 3 brothers, whose lives were shackled by the rantings of a mentally disturbed man. I love the author’s use of historical figures and events of 1990s Nigeria as a backdrop for this tragic story about a normal Nigerian family.

By Chigozie Obioma,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fishermen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A striking debut novel about an unforgettable childhood, by a Nigerian writer the New York Times has crowned "the heir to Chinua Achebe."

Told by nine-year-old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the Cain and Abel-esque story of a childhood in Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his absence to skip school and go fishing. At the forbidden nearby river, they meet a madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by…


Book cover of Wizard of the Crow

Feyisayo Anjorin Why did I love this book?

Post-colonial Africa’s clash of ideas unravels in this sprawling satirical story set in Aburiria, a fictional African country where a dictator and his cronies battle both human and supernatural, real or imagined enemies. The opening paragraph drew me in, and from there I took sides with human or supernatural beings as each page opens up the misery born of the Aburiria dictator’s misrule.

By Ngugi Wa Thiong'o,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Wizard of the Crow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Informed by traditional African storytelling, discover Ngugi wa Thiong'o's masterpiece.

To honour the Ruler's birthday, the Free Republic of Aburiria set out to build a tower; a modern wonder of the world that will reach the gates of Heaven. But behind this pillar of unity a battle for control of the Aburirian people rages. Among the contenders: the eponymous Wizard, an avatar of folklore and wisdom; the corrupt Christian Ministry; and the nefarious Global Bank.


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The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

Book cover of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

Kathryn Betts Adams Author Of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I was first a clinical social worker and then a social work professor with research focus on older adults. Over the past few years, as I have been writing my own memoir about caring for my parents, I’ve been drawn to memoirs and first-person stories of aging, illness, and death. The best memoirs on these topics describe the emotional transformation in the writer as they process their loss of control, loss of their own or a loved one’s health, and their fear, pain, and suffering. In sharing these stories, we help others empathize with what we’ve gone through and help others be better prepared for similar events in their own lives.

Kathryn's book list on Memoirs illness aging death moving vivid prose

What is my book about?

The Pianist's Only Daughter is a frank, humorous, and heartbreaking exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her mother, an English scholar and poet, and her father, a pianist and music professor. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' newly single father flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Their daughter watches in disbelief…

The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

What is this book about?

Grounded in insights about mental health, health and aging, The Pianist’s Only Daughter: A Memoir presents a frank and loving exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her English scholar and poet mother and her pianist father. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' father finds himself single and flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with…


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