The best books set in Africa that move, uplift, and inspire

Who am I?

I am a Scottish writer who enjoys travelling and meeting people of different cultures and beliefs. I have always been a fan of adventure stories, particularly those with a strange or supernatural bent. My travels to The Ivory Coast and North Africa, hearing accounts of various witch stories, and encountering strange events and practices firsthand inspired me to write The Witch’s List Trilogy: the first two books published and the third in progress. 

I wrote...

The Witch's List

By Andrew Cairns,

Book cover of The Witch's List

What is my book about?

Young Scot, Sandy Beech doesn't believe in witches and the supernatural. However, certain strange events occur which put his skepticism to the test: a burning book, a falling crucifix, a mysterious illness, and a fire in a convent that kills all twelve nuns. On her deathbed, Bernadette, the last surviving nun, warns him to control his lusts and avoid African women. He pays no heed though, and marries Rocky from the Ivory Coast. On a visit to her home country, Sandy is drawn into a world of strange beliefs and practices, notably the Witch's List - a list of people destined to die imminently. He delves further and further into the realm of African witchcraft, but the horrific truth remains obscure...

The books I picked & why

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In Search of King Solomon's Mines: A Modern Adventurer's Quest for Gold and History in the Land of the Queen of Sheba

By Tahir Shah,

Book cover of In Search of King Solomon's Mines: A Modern Adventurer's Quest for Gold and History in the Land of the Queen of Sheba

Why this book?

If you haven’t discovered Tahir Shah’s work yet, then this is a great place to start. It is about a quest the writer sets himself to discover the lost Solomon’s Mines in Ethiopia after purchasing an old map in a bazaar in Jerusalem. Shah goes off the beaten track venturing to a cliff-face monastery where the monks pull visitors up on a leather rope, to the ruined castles of Gondar, and to the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela. Most striking of all are his descriptions of an illegal gold mine that he visits where the miners dig with their bare hands. The people he meets, the strange circumstances he finds himself in, and the interesting historical and geographical background he provides all contribute to a rich and compelling account.  

A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary

By Ken Saro-Wiwa,

Book cover of A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary

Why this book?

This is an interesting and moving account by Nigerian writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, which describes his non-violent struggle against big petroleum companies and the military dictatorship who were involved in human rights and environmental abuses of the Ogoni people. He describes his detention and the events leading up to it in harrowing detail and gives lucid convincing arguments against his accusers. A truly inspirational message, especially given that much of it was written in secret in prison, and knowing that he was unjustly tried and executed in 1995, shortly after the book’s publication. 

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

By Nelson Mandela,

Book cover of Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Why this book?

Perhaps the most inspiring African figure of the twentieth century, this is Nelson Mandela’s story written in his own words. The book allows you to find out a lot more about his childhood, his struggle against apartheid, and most of all his resilience and strength of spirit during his 27-year imprisonment. Despite all his suffering and mistreatment, Mandela never gave up hope and refused to give in to hatred, even forgiving his tormentors once released. A book to be read and a message/example that we should all endeavour to follow.  

What the Day Owes the Night

By Yasmina Khadra,

Book cover of What the Day Owes the Night

Why this book?

This is a story of love and friendship set in 1950s Algeria before and during the Algerian War of Independence. The main character, Younes, is an Arabic Algerian but forms friendships with some European boys and falls in love with Emilie a beautiful European girl. Great descriptions of the environment and the characters’ feelings make for an engrossing and moving read as Younes has to make choices about his loyalties towards his friends and family from the two different cultures. 


By Abdulrazak Gurnah,

Book cover of Paradise

Why this book?

Set in East Africa in the late 19th century, this novel follows the adventures of Yusuf, a young boy who is sold by his father in repayment of a debt, to an Arabic trader called Aziz. 

It describes the harsh conditions of ‘uncle’ Aziz’s trading trips from the coast to the interior including attacks by wild animals, and dealings with hostile tribes and the almost alien-like European colonialists. What I loved most about this book was the great balance between the subtle development of the diverse characters, the descriptions of the environment, and the eventful adventure story. Overall a fascinating and ultimately sad story of an Africa at the end of an era before the onslaught of massive European colonialism.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Africa, Nigeria, and gold mining?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Africa, Nigeria, and gold mining.

Africa Explore 156 books about Africa
Nigeria Explore 33 books about Nigeria
Gold Mining Explore 6 books about gold mining

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Famished Road, The Whisper of the Palms, and The Conservationist if you like this list.