The best books to understand the importance of Algerian History

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved Algeria since I lived there for 3 years from 2007. The experiences of the 20th century, particularly the War of Independence, make Algeria such an important country. The anti-colonial War overturned an entrenched colonialism, not only in Algeria, but set in train a movement for freedom across an entire continent. I have written extensively on the growth of civil society associations and how these helped people recover from tragedies; and more recently, the developments that sprung from the Algerian Hirak of 2019. This saw millions of protesters march peacefully, for over a year, to bring about significant changes and new understandings of citizenship in the 21st century.


I wrote...

Civil Society in Algeria: Activism, Identity and the Democratic Process

By Jessica Ayesha Northey,

Book cover of Civil Society in Algeria: Activism, Identity and the Democratic Process

What is my book about?

Are new forms of activism emerging in Algeria? Can civil society affect political reform in the country? The violence between radical Islamists and the military, during the 1990s, led to huge loss of life and mass exile. The public sphere was constrained and rendered a dangerous place to be for over a decade. Yet, despite and in defiance of these conditions, civil society grew. Associations were set up to protect human rights and vulnerable groups, commemorate those assassinated, protect the environment, and promote Algerian heritage. There are now over 100,000 registered associations across the country. With updated material since the 2019 Hirak’s massive mobilization for democracy, this revised edition explores the impacts of the growth of civil society since the 1990s and its effects on the civility, and civic engagement.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of A History of Algeria

Jessica Ayesha Northey Why did I love this book?

James McDougall’s History of Algeria gives an excellent overview of Algerian history, focusing on the lived experiences of the Algerian people over the last 500 years.

He does this with an easily readable style, offering acute insights and drawing on the personal experiences of those who lived through world-changing movements. He covers the War of Independence and the revolutionary transformations which ensued in Algeria, and across the continent, by that long and heroic struggle.

By James McDougall,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A History of Algeria as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Covering a period of five hundred years, from the arrival of the Ottomans to the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, James McDougall presents an expansive new account of the modern history of Africa's largest country. Drawing on substantial new scholarship and over a decade of research, McDougall places Algerian society at the centre of the story, tracing the continuities and the resilience of Algeria's people and their cultures through the dramatic changes and crises that have marked the country. Whether examining the emergence of the Ottoman viceroyalty in the early modern Mediterranean, the 130 years of French colonial rule and…


Book cover of Our Fighting Sisters: Nation, Memory and Gender in Algeria, 1954-2012

Jessica Ayesha Northey Why did I love this book?

Our Fighting Sisters is a wonderful, inspiring, and stylishly written book, drawing on in-depth interviews with celebrated women fighters from the liberation struggle in Algeria.

It is one of the first books to fully engage with the experiences of women who lived through the struggles of the Independence War. It documents the roles women played, both as intellectuals and combatants, in overturning the brutal colonial rule, thus liberating Algeria and in many ways, the African continent.

It still has implications for the future of resistance movements in Algeria and beyond. 

By Natalya Vince,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Fighting Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between 1954 and 1962, Algerian women played a major role in the struggle to end French rule in one of the twentieth century's most violent wars of decolonisation. This is the first in-depth exploration of what happened to these women after independence in 1962. Based on new oral history interviews with women who participated in the war in a wide range of roles, from urban bombers to members of the rural guerrilla support network, it explores how female veterans viewed the post-independence state and its multiple discourses on 'the Algerian woman' in the fifty years following 1962. It also examines…


Book cover of Algerian Women and Diasporic Experience: From the Black Decade to the Hirak

Jessica Ayesha Northey Why did I love this book?

Latefa Guemar’s powerful research on the Algerian Diaspora from a woman’s perspective shows to the world the terrible experiences of violence against women in the Algerian Black Decade of the 1990s.

This harrowing conflict forced women into exile via a broken European asylum system that failed, and still fails, women in so many ways.  Her work on diasporic networks of women’s groups and associations, inspired work we recently did together during Covid on Algeria diaspora activism.

The book’s beautiful and mesmerizing front cover, designed by one of our students, Ikram, was part of our arts-based training on Imagining the Future. I still get shivers when I see this.

By Latefa Narriman Guemar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Algerian Women and Diasporic Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book uses the narratives of women who fled Algeria in the 1990s-known as the 'Black Decade'-to offer a more intimate understanding of the violence women face in times of conflict. It details their struggle for independence, and for freedom from the violence directed against them as women, as well as revealing the obstacles they encounter when seeking gender-appropriate international protection. Chapters also investigate these women's life experiences beyond Algeria, and the professional and cultural networks they form. Such networks play an important role in enabling the female diaspora to maintain relationships with Algeria and to engage in political discussion…


Book cover of Algerian White

Jessica Ayesha Northey Why did I love this book?

One of Algeria’s greatest writers, Assia Djebar, deserves far greater recognition in the English-speaking world.

Her book, Algerian White, gives a painful account of the loss of three important Algerian intellectuals, against the backdrop of the Black Decade, and offers an eloquent and moving account of Algeria’s trauma of the 1990s.

Her analysis of Algerian society, culture, and language offers us a powerful reflection on the difficulties of nation-building and identity, in the post-colonial period and in challenging times.  

By Assia Djebar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Algerian White, Assia Djebar weaves a tapestry of the epic and bloody ongoing struggle in her country between Islamic fundamentalism and the post-colonial civil society. Many Algerian writers and intellectuals have died tragically and violently since the 1956 struggle for independence. They include three beloved friends of Djebar: Mahfoud Boucebi, a psychiatrist; M'Hamed Boukhobza, a sociologist; and Abdelkader Alloula, a dramatist; as well as Albert Camus. In Algerian White, Djebar finds a way to meld the personal and the political by describing in intimate detail the final days and hours of these and other Algerian men and women, many…


Book cover of Algiers, Third World Capital: Freedom Fighters, Revolutionaries, Black Panthers

Jessica Ayesha Northey Why did I love this book?

Elaine Mokhtefi’s exceptional memoirs, document her life, moving from the US to France, then Algeria, to participate in the Algerian liberation struggle and then in post-independence Algeria.

They are as inspiring as they are exciting. Her story and personal connections with the Black Panther movement’s exiles, give fascinating insights into Algiers as the capital, the Mecca, for revolutionaries of the 1960s and 1970s.

This is an optimistic, but not uncritical, account, which shows the potential of recent Algerian history, to teach us about courage, resilience, and our collective struggles for democracy and justice. 

By Elaine Mokhtefi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Algiers, Third World Capital as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mokhtefi (nee Klein), a Jewish American from Long Island, has had an exhilarating life. In the 1960s, she served as a press adviser to the National Liberation Front in postwar Algiers, before going to work with Eldridge Cleaver, who was wanted in the US for his role in a deadly shoot-out with Oakland police. Half a century later, as an eighty-nine-year-old painter living on the Upper West Side, Mokhtefi still seasons her prose with the argot of revolution.


You might also like...

Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

Book cover of Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Author Snow lover Fish out of water Traveller

Sam's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house, but what was meant as a pitstop becomes life-changing when he decides to stay. Along the way, he meets a colourful cross-section of Slovene society: from dormouse hunters, moonshine makers, beekeepers, and bitcoin miners, to a man who swam the Amazon, and a hilltop matriarch who teaches him the meaning of being 'priden'.

Struggling with Slovene, a language with grammar so complex it can cause brain damage, and battling bureaucracy, he explores the culture and characters of this underappreciated ex-Yugoslav republic, its wild beauty, and its wild animals.

A love letter to Slovenia, this rare, adventurous account follows a foreigner trying to build a new life — and rebuild an old house — in a young country still finding its own place in the world.

Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

What is this book about?

'Charming, funny, insightful, and moving. The perfect book for any Slovenophile' - Noah Charney, BBC presenter

'A rollicking and very affectionate tour' - Steve Fallon, author of Lonely Planet Slovenia

'Delivers discovery and adventure...captivating!' - Bartosz Stefaniak, editor, 3 Seas Europe

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house but what was meant as…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Algeria, women in war, and criminals?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Algeria, women in war, and criminals.

Algeria Explore 36 books about Algeria
Women In War Explore 15 books about women in war
Criminals Explore 71 books about criminals