10 books like Boyhood

By J.M. Coetzee,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Boyhood. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

West with the Night

By Beryl Markham,

Book cover of West with the Night: A Memoir

Beryl Markham was a bush pilot in Africa during the early years of aviation. She is a marvelous writer and an adventurous soul. Ernest Hemingway wrote of her: “Did you read Beryl Markham’s book? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could put pen to paper except to write in her flyer’s log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I am completely ashamed of myself as a writer.... She can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers.”

Hemingway is right. This is the best written travel book I’ve read. I grew up in what is now called South Sudan, not far from Kenya where Markham grew up. Her writing brings back the land and people, the weather and hardships, the beauty of that land and its lonely skies.

West with the Night

By Beryl Markham,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked West with the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WEST WITH THE NIGHT appeared on 13 bestseller lists on first publication in 1942. It tells the spellbinding story of Beryl Markham -- aviator, racehorse trainer, fascinating beauty -and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and 30s.

Markham was taken to Kenya at the age of four. As an adult she was befriended by Denys Finch-Hatton, the big-game hunter of OUT OF AFRICA fame, who took her flying in his airplane. Thrilled by the experience, Markham went on to become the first woman in Kenya to receive a commercial pilot's license.

In 1936 she determined to fly solo…


Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

By Alexandra Fuller,

Book cover of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood

This memoir of Alexandra Fuller’s childhood is a hilarious take on her family’s experience of farming in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia in the 1970s and 1980s. It is a refreshing reminder of what it was like to live and grow up as a member of the white minority intent on remaining in power during a fast-changing, violent, and deeply unstable period in the history of southern Africa. It is a wonderful portrayal of some of the traumas of growing up with a witty, mad, and heavy-drinking mother who had to endure the unspeakable tragedy of losing a child, a chain-smoking father who farmed by day and fought terrorists by night, and a glamorous older sister. It is a book that keeps you laughing or crying the whole way through.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

By Alexandra Fuller,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an introduction by author Anne Enright.

Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award, a story of civil war and a family's unbreakable bond.

How you see a country depends on whether you are driving through it, or live in it. How you see a country depends on whether or not you can leave it, if you have to.

As the daughter of white settlers in war-torn 1970s Rhodesia, Alexandra Fuller remembers a time when a schoolgirl was as likely to carry a shotgun as a satchel. This is her story - of a civil war, of a quixotic battle…


What Is the What

By Dave Eggers,

Book cover of What Is the What

When One Book, One Philadelphia called me in my office at Drexel University and asked me to select 10 students to interview 10 South Sudanese refugees for a One Book project, I read Dave Egger’s epic tale of Valentino Achak Deng’s survival as a so-called “Lost Boy" of Sudan. Valentino along with thousands of other “Lost Boys” was forced to separate from his parents at a young age and trek thousands of miles across Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya without resources to food or water to arrive at several refugee camps. This is Valentino’s story yet it resonates with fleeing people worldwide. Anyone who lives in freedom will stop and listen to the plight of others after reading this astonishing book.

What Is the What

By Dave Eggers,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked What Is the What as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children —the so-called Lost Boys—was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom.

When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges. Moving, suspenseful, and unexpectedly funny, What Is the What is an astonishing novel that…


Sufferings in Africa

By James Riley,

Book cover of Sufferings in Africa: The Astonishing Account of a New England Sea Captain Enslaved by North African Arabs

This remarkable tale is not as well known as others, in part because it was written in 1817 and by a less accomplished writer, but it is hard to beat as a true account of nearly unsurvivable hardship. Captain James Riley, captured when his American ship—Commerce—runs aground south of Morocco, is taken into the Sahara desert along with several of his crew as slaves of Bedouins. Barefoot, terribly sunburnt, forced to drink camel urine, they walk hundreds of miles behind their master’s camels until finally ransomed by an American consul. This shocking reversal of the usual slavery tale is a poignant indictment of the slave trade. Abraham Lincoln claimed that Sufferings in Africa, along with The Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress, had the most effect on his political ideology.

Sufferings in Africa

By James Riley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sufferings in Africa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In August 1815, New England sea captain James Riley and his crew were shipwrecked off the coast of Moroccan Western Sahara. They headed inland, only to be captured by marauding Sahrawi natives who kept them as slaves. Riley and his crew were beaten, sun-burnt, starved, and forced to drink camel urine before eventually being rescued.

Abraham Lincoln, listed Riley's narrative, alongside the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress, as one of the three most influential works that shaped his views on slavery.


Life & Times of Michael K

By J.M. Coetzee,

Book cover of Life & Times of Michael K

The Life and Times of Michael K is a beautifully written allegory about the troubled apartheid era in South Africa. The author, Nobel Laureate JM Coetzee, was one of my lecturers at the University of Cape Town and this is my favorite book of his. It provides superb descriptions of the arid South African landscape and how a solitary figure ekes out an existence: alone, off-grid, reclusive… waiting for the tide of history to turn. The novel is set in the heart of the Karoo, a semi-desert region that I love to visit to get away from the city and its strife.

Life & Times of Michael K

By J.M. Coetzee,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Life & Times of Michael K as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From author of Waiting for the Barbarians and Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee.

J.M. Coetzee's latest novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, is now available from Viking. Late Essays: 2006-2016 will be available January 2018.

In a South Africa turned by war, Michael K. sets out to take his ailing mother back to her rural home. On the way there she dies, leaving him alone in an anarchic world of brutal roving armies. Imprisoned, Michael is unable to bear confinement and escapes, determined to live with dignity. This life affirming novel goes to the center of human experience-the need for an…


Move Your Shadow

By Joseph Lelyveld,

Book cover of Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White

Move Your Shadow is a masterpiece of reportage. Lelyveld, a former executive editor of the New York Times, spent considerable periods in apartheid South Africa in both the 1960s and the 1980s. The sixties was the period of “baaskap”—“bosshood” apartheid, when the perverse racist cruelties of the system were imposed with a sledgehammer. I would call the eighties the era of “facelift” apartheid—why, the word was hardly used by the regime anymore. 

To paraphrase Gramsci, the old world was dying, a new one struggled to be born. Monsters abounded. Nobody captured the period better than Lelyveld. The chapter on Philip Kgosana, the idealist who led Cape Town demonstrations in 1960—at age 19—was betrayed by the state, and wound up in exile in Sri Lanka—is worth the price of the book.

Move Your Shadow

By Joseph Lelyveld,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Move Your Shadow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on his tours in South Africa as a correspondent for the "New York Times," the author details the absurdities, rationalizations, inequities, and cruelties of apartheid, showing what it means to suffer and survive under the restrictions of racial separation


Jump and Other Stories

By Nadine Gordimer,

Book cover of Jump and Other Stories

While I was a graduate student of writing, I devoured every novel and story by Nadine Gordimer, whose body of work is astounding in how it combines artistic sensibility with a moral vision. Most important, Gordimer, with her unflinching and unrelenting gaze at the horror of apartheid in South Africa, taught me the value of passion in writing. Gordimer is known mostly for her novels, but her short stories are equally sharp and biting in their critique, and she uses the form’s precision to devastating effect. What is striking in Jump and Other Stories is the diversity of her characters and situations, thereby illuminating every corner of the racial injustices in her country.  

Jump and Other Stories

By Nadine Gordimer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jump and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fifteen thematically and geographically wide-ranging stories from the Nobel Prize Winner, with settings ranging from suburban London to Mozambique.


White Tribe Dreaming

By Marq de Villiers,

Book cover of White Tribe Dreaming: Apartheid's Bitter Roots Witnessed By Eight Generations Of An Afrikaner Family

I was born in South Africa almost 300 years to the day after the first white Europeans arrived to establish a permanent home at the tip of the continent.

This book begins with that arrival and follows the history of the author’s family through eight generations.

It is a history of individuals, related by bloodlines, but diverse in ambitions and actions, and seeks to trace and explicate how some of those first settlers and their descendants became the Afrikaners of the 20th century. 

While my own antecedents are less well documented, I like to believe that they are not dissimilar to de Villiers’s,  and were touched by the same major events in the history of the Afrikaners.

White Tribe Dreaming

By Marq de Villiers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a history of the Afrikaner as seen through the history of one family, the de Villiers, who first moved to South Africa in the 1600s. The book traces the history of the family and the Afrikaner, showing how the Afrikaner acted at the turning points in their history and revealing how that has made them what they are today. It also charts the development of the hallmarks of apartheid, including the pass system and tribe mentality. Journalist Marq de Villiers includes memorable scenes from the family's history culled from the diaries and papers.


How Long Will South Africa Survive?

By R.W. Johnson,

Book cover of How Long Will South Africa Survive?: The Looming Crisis

R W Johnson, an international commentator on South African affairs, first wrote a book with this question in 1977. It provided a controversial and highly original analysis of the survival prospects of the apartheid regime.  Now, after more than twenty years of post-apartheid ANC (African National Congress) majority rule, the situation has become so crucial that he feels the question must be posed again. He moves from an analysis of Jacob Zuma’s corrupt rule to the increasingly dire state of the economy, and concludes that South Africa under the ANC is fast slipping backward. Twenty years of ANC rule he feels has shown that the party is hopelessly ill-equipped to cope with the challenges of running a modern industrial economy.


How Long Will South Africa Survive?

By R.W. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Long Will South Africa Survive? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1977, Johnson's best-selling How Long Will South Africa Survive? offered a controversial and highly original analysis of the survival prospects of apartheid. Now, after more than two decades of ANC in government, he believes the question must be posed again. 'The big question about ANC rule,' Johnson writes, 'is whether African nationalism would be able to cope with the challenges of running a modern industrial economy. Twenty years of ANC rule have shown conclusively that the party is hopelessly ill-equipped for this task. Indeed, everything suggests that South Africa under the ANC is fast slipping backward and that even…


A Question of Power

By Bessie Head,

Book cover of A Question of Power

Do you like a good scare? Well, Stephen King is one kind of scary, but A Question of Power is something else altogether: a descent into a sunless valley writhing with monsters. We know that these monsters dwell in the mind of the main character, Elizabeth. But there’s no safety in knowing that, for we’re locked in with them. If we sometimes climb a tree and feel a fresh breeze on our faces, it’s with the knowledge that those tentacles can slither up and snatch us back into hell at a moment’s notice. And they do. 

I didn’t start with what many consider the most important facts of this novel: that Elizabeth is a mixed-race woman born in South Africa and exiled to Botswana. And those are vital facts. But Elizabeth is also one luminous, suffering soul. Watching her fight her way out of that dark valley is a terrifying…

A Question of Power

By Bessie Head,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Question of Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"It wasn't any kind of physical stamina that kept her going, but a vague, instinctive pattern of normal human decencies combined with the work she did, the people she met each day and the unfolding of a project with exciting inventive possibilities. But a person eventually becomes a replica of the inner demons he battles with. Any kind of demon is more powerful than normal human decencies, because such things do not exist for him." Bessie Head

In this fast-paced, semi-autobiographical novel, Head exposes the complicated life of Elizabeth, whose reality is intermingled with nightmarish dreams and hallucinations. Like the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the apartheid, Ethiopia, and Kenya?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the apartheid, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

The Apartheid Explore 33 books about the apartheid
Ethiopia Explore 35 books about Ethiopia
Kenya Explore 45 books about Kenya