100 books like City of Thorns

By Ben Rawlence,

Here are 100 books that City of Thorns fans have personally recommended if you like City of Thorns. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Shugri Said Salh Author Of The Last Nomad: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert

From my list on bringing other cultures to life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am at heart a storyteller, with a special interest in archiving and weaving the tales of my people to give you insight into a culture that is quite different from yours. Like an archaeologist digging a forgotten world, I want to bring these stories to life in the form of words. After a long day of animal herding and chores, my family and I would sit by the fire in a vast, open desert covered in blackness, and share century-old stories. My big ears consumed these stories like a thirsty desert after a long drought, so I could one day share this library of wisdom with others.

Shugri's book list on bringing other cultures to life

Shugri Said Salh Why did Shugri love this book?

This memoir captures the journey of child soldiers during the civil war in Sierra Leone, and shows how once-innocent children with ordinary lives became killing machines in the hands of a ruthless rebel leader. Beah doesn't shy away from the gruesomeness of civil war, but there is beauty in how he weaves this memoir that reads like a novel. Though I am not usually a fan of books with a lot of violence, I was drawn to this one and could not put it down. I believe history is best learned from those who have first-hand experience. This is a one-of-a-kind book and to Beah’s credit, well-written as well. 

By Ishmael Beah,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Long Way Gone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this…


Book cover of Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan

Denis Dragovic Author Of No Dancing, No Dancing: Inside the Global Humanitarian Crisis

From my list on the tragedy of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have lived, breathed, and studied peace and conflict since 1998, but what I’m most passionate about is the plight of the people. I spent over a decade in countries such as Iraq, Sudan, and East Timor providing humanitarian assistance followed by another decade writing and working on the consequences of wars. The more we understand the impact of wars the better humanity will be placed to stop them. That is why I chose five beautifully written books that will be difficult to put down while offering an array of voices and perspectives that together provide insights into how we can better respond to outbreaks of war.

Denis' book list on the tragedy of war

Denis Dragovic Why did Denis love this book?

Ann Jones’ memoir Kabul in Winter takes the reader inside the lives of Afghan women following the overthrow of the Taliban in the early 2000s. The book includes the necessary tour of Afghanistan’s history taking the reader through major events alongside the more valuable contribution of her time in Kabul. The book’s beauty lies in Jones’ ability to explain the plight of Afghan women in the complex context of entrenched cultural norms and religious beliefs without relying on simplistic Western cliches. We get to understand that there is no easy solution, no quick fix, because the entire society is structured around an uber patriarchy. I loved how her writing didn’t hold back and how her passion shines through along with her anger and despair.

By Ann Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Soon after the bombs stopped falling on Kabul, award-winning journalist and women's rights activist Ann Jones set out for the shattered city. This is her trenchant report from the city where she spent the next four winters working in humanitarian aid. Investigating the city's prison for women, retraining Kabul's long - silenced English teachers, Jones enters the lives of everyday women and men and reveals through small events some big disjunctions: between the new Afghan "democracy" and the still-entrenched warlords, between American promises and performance, between what's boasted of and what is. At once angry, profound, and starkly beautiful, "Kabul…


Book cover of The Shadow of the Sun

Mark Weston Author Of The Ringtone and the Drum: Travels in the World's Poorest Countries

From my list on travel in Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I first visited Africa in 2004 I’ve found it difficult to tear myself away. I’ve lived in South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, and Sudan and travelled in all corners of the continent. I’ve participated in a revolution, hung out with the illegal fishermen of Lake Victoria, been cursed—and protectedby witch doctors, and learned Swahili. I’ve also read extensively about the place, written three books about it, and broadcast from it for the BBC World Service. In my other life I research and write about international development for universities and global organisations. This too has a focus on Africa.

Mark's book list on travel in Africa

Mark Weston Why did Mark love this book?

This short book is without doubt the best introduction to African travel (and in my opinion one of the greatest travel books ever written).

Ranging across the whole continent, Kapuscinski’s evocative writing, although not always sticking religiously to factual details, captures the essence—and the magic—of the place like nobody else can. The book, along with his other great works on Africa Another Day of Life and The Emperor, was a major influence on both why I wanted to get to know Africa and how I write about it. 

By Ryszard Kapuściński,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Only with the greatest of simplifications, for the sake of convenience, can we say Africa. In reality, except as a geographical term, Africa doesn't exist'. Ryszard Kapuscinski has been writing about the people of Africa throughout his career. In astudy that avoids the official routes, palaces and big politics, he sets out to create an account of post-colonial Africa seen at once as a whole and as a location that wholly defies generalised explanations. It is both a sustained meditation on themosaic of peoples and practises we call 'Africa', and an impassioned attempt to come to terms with humanity itself…


Book cover of Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq

Denis Dragovic Author Of No Dancing, No Dancing: Inside the Global Humanitarian Crisis

From my list on the tragedy of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have lived, breathed, and studied peace and conflict since 1998, but what I’m most passionate about is the plight of the people. I spent over a decade in countries such as Iraq, Sudan, and East Timor providing humanitarian assistance followed by another decade writing and working on the consequences of wars. The more we understand the impact of wars the better humanity will be placed to stop them. That is why I chose five beautifully written books that will be difficult to put down while offering an array of voices and perspectives that together provide insights into how we can better respond to outbreaks of war.

Denis' book list on the tragedy of war

Denis Dragovic Why did Denis love this book?

Occupational Hazards provides a glimpse into the challenges of rebuilding countries after war. In mid-2003 Rory Stewart joined the British government effort to rebuild Iraq. His time overlapped with my early days but regrettably, operating in different areas, our paths never crossed. While I was focusing on humanitarian assistance and community development, Rory was navigating the politics of Maysan province. Rory is an accomplished writer who turns the prosaic work of governance, such as ensuring local salaries are paid, into an exciting and insightful narrative of the mechanics of running an occupation. Luckily for the reader, Rory isn’t the desk-bound type and as a result, we are taken to the streets of Amara, the reed houses of the Marsh Arabs, and the delicate negotiations between competing factions who are seemingly always only one step away from civil war.

By Rory Stewart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fascinating insight into the complexity, history and unpredictability of Iraq.

By September 2003, six months after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the anarchy had begun. Rory Stewart, a young Biritish diplomat, was appointed as the Coalition Provisional Authority's deputy governor of a province of 850,000 people in the southern marshland region. There, he and his colleagues confronted gangsters, Iranian-linked politicians, tribal vendettas and a full Islamist insurgency.

Occupational Hazards is Rory Stewart's inside account of the attempt to rebuild a nation, the errors made, the misunderstandings and insurmountable difficulties encountered. It reveals an Iraq hidden from most foreign journalists…


Book cover of Weight of Whispers

Neil Crawford Author Of The Urbanization of Forced Displacement: UNHCR, Urban Refugees, and the Dynamics of Policy Change

From my list on urban refugees.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m interested in the lives and experiences of refugees and the policies and processes that support, protect, and obstruct them. I’m also interested in cities–how and why they attract people, the dangers and prospects they offer, and the unique way in which humanitarianism happens (or doesn’t happen) there. I’m an interdisciplinary academic who has spent years researching these issues and more. 

Neil's book list on urban refugees

Neil Crawford Why did Neil love this book?

We can learn a lot about urban refugees from works of fiction. This short story is a tragic tale of Boniface Louis R. Kuseremane, a Rwandese prince, who finds himself in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The story does well to remind us that refugees come from all backgrounds and how quickly support and wealth can disappear. Nairobi initially exists as a stop-off on route to continued comforts in Europe, but the protagonist finds himself trapped on a downward spiral as his social and material privileges slip away.

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor is most well known for her beautifully written novels Dust and The Dragonfly Sea, but long before these, her short story Weight of Whispers won the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing.

By Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of When Stars Are Scattered

Alyssa Bermudez Author Of Big Apple Diaries

From my list on graphic novels for young readers to encourage empathy.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a graphic novel creator and art teacher with years of experience, I understand the importance of introducing serious topics for discussion in an accessible way. My art students of all ages are curious about different subjects, wondering what life is like for others and if their own feelings are normal. Graphic novels are a perfect tool for fostering these discussions. Having been interested in comics as a medium for a long time, I'm thrilled to share this with young audiences and encourage exploration of diverse perspectives.

Alyssa's book list on graphic novels for young readers to encourage empathy

Alyssa Bermudez Why did Alyssa love this book?

This book deeply touched me. Through the eyes of a child, it portrays universal emotions of hope, family, and resilience amidst the refugee crisis.

It sheds light on the harsh realities of living in a refugee camp, offering valuable insights into the experiences of displaced families. It's a powerful tool for teaching children about empathy. The ending moved me to tears and prompted me to research and donate to several relevant foundations.

I believe graphic novels possess a unique power to immerse readers in the characters' experiences and emotions. When a child reads When Stars Are Scattered, they step into the world of a refugee camp and gain a new appreciation for everyday necessities.

This graphic novel, based on real people, offers a distinctive storytelling format that can convey silence, body language, and the passage of time in ways other mediums cannot.

By Omar Mohamed, Victoria Jamieson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked When Stars Are Scattered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

A National Book Award Finalist, this remarkable graphic novel is about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a former Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl.

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would…


Book cover of A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss

Patricia Newman Author Of Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation

From my list on elephants for people who love them.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Sibert Honor author and write books for kids and teens about nature. Ever since I saw an elephant skull on the savanna in Kenya, I’ve been fascinated by elephants. When my daughter was an undergrad, she worked with Katy Payne and the Elephant Listening Project, and I knew I had to write about ELP’s astounding work—one of the only groups working with forest elephants. I hope you enjoy the QR codes in Eavesdropping on Elephants. Katy and her colleagues were very generous with their work. The more I write the more I discover our connections to our natural world that humble me and fill me with gratitude. 

Patricia's book list on elephants for people who love them

Patricia Newman Why did Patricia love this book?

As an author of children’s books, I love to share what I’m passionate about with kids. As you read Elephant Memories by Cynthia Moss, give A Passion for Elephants to the children in your life. Imagine the terrific discussions you can have about Cynthia’s adventures sharing two books about the same person. You’ll be able to supplement the kids’ knowledge with some startling facts of your own.

By Toni Buzzeo, Holly Berry (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Passion for Elephants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

A science and nature biography of Cynthia Moss, the elephant expert, by the author of Caldecott Honor book One Cool Friend

Cynthia Moss was never afraid of BIG things. As a kid, she loved to ride through the countryside on her tall horse. She loved to visit faraway places. And she especially loved to learn about nature and the world around her. So when Cynthia traveled to Africa and met the world’s most ENORMOUS land animal, the African elephant, at Amboseli National Park in Kenya, she knew she had found her life’s work.

Cynthia has spent years learning everything she…


Book cover of I Dreamed of Africa

Sharon Pincott Author Of Elephant Dawn: The Inspirational Story of Thirteen Years Living With Elephants in the African Wilderness

From my list on consider taking more risks and do something completely different with your life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I found myself giving up a high-flying life and successful IT career at age 38 to live my dream in the African bush, getting to know wild elephant families intimately and ultimately helping to save them from the actions of corrupt officials, unethical sport-hunters, poachers, and land claimants. It took plenty of tenacity and endurance to make a difference. Books have long been an important influence in my life, as they are for so many. I want to share a different insight and inspire you to ponder which books changed you. Here are five books that helped shape my life, and the thought-provoking reasons why.

Sharon's book list on consider taking more risks and do something completely different with your life

Sharon Pincott Why did Sharon love this book?

So much about this true story was evocative to me at a time when I didn’t yet understand anything much about the real Africa.

Kuki’s perfect prose through adversity and new beginnings had me right there with her in an entirely different world where ordinary people were experiencing extraordinary things.

I read this book over and over again, with joy and tears, before finally making my own move to live in the wilds of Africa.

By Kuki Gallmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Often, at the hour of day when the savannah grass is streaked with silver, and pale gold rims the silhouettes of the hills, I drive with my dogs up to the Mukutan, to watch the sun setting behind the lake, and the evening shadows settle over the valleys and plains of the Laikipia plateau.'

Kuki Gallmann's haunting memoir of bringing up a family in Kenya in the 1970s first with her husband Paulo, and then alone, is part elegaic celebration, part tragedy, and part love letter to the magical spirit of Africa.


Book cover of And Home Was Kariakoo: A Memoir of East Africa

Mark Weston Author Of The Ringtone and the Drum: Travels in the World's Poorest Countries

From my list on travel in Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I first visited Africa in 2004 I’ve found it difficult to tear myself away. I’ve lived in South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, and Sudan and travelled in all corners of the continent. I’ve participated in a revolution, hung out with the illegal fishermen of Lake Victoria, been cursed—and protectedby witch doctors, and learned Swahili. I’ve also read extensively about the place, written three books about it, and broadcast from it for the BBC World Service. In my other life I research and write about international development for universities and global organisations. This too has a focus on Africa.

Mark's book list on travel in Africa

Mark Weston Why did Mark love this book?

Tanzania is a country I have fallen in love with over the past few years and my most recent book is about the Tanzanian half of Lake Victoria.

Vassanji’s book tells the story of his upbringing in Dar es Salaam as well as his travels around the country, from Lake Victoria to Zanzibar. It’s particularly interesting on the subject of East Africa’s South Asian communities, which the author grew up in, and their interactions with both European colonisers and black Africans.

I lived in Dar es Salaam for a while and loved observing this ancient community’s traditions (and eating at the city’s excellent Indian restaurants). Vassanji’s novel, The Gunny Sack, is also worth a read.

By M.G. Vassanji,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked And Home Was Kariakoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From M.G. Vassanji, two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize winner and a Governor General's Literary Award winner for Non-fiction, comes a poignant love letter to his birthplace and homeland, East Africa—a powerful and surprising portrait that only an insider could write.

     Part travelogue, part memoir, and part history-rarely-told, here is a powerful and timely portrait of a constantly evolving land. From a description of Zanzibar and its evolution to a visit to a slave-market town at Lake Tanganyika; from an encounter with a witchdoctor in an old coastal village to memories of his own childhood in the streets of Dar es Salaam…


Book cover of Bitter Money

James A. Robinson Author Of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

From my list on Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social scientist who has been doing fieldwork and research in Africa since 1999. For me, there’s no more fascinating part of the planet – Africa is the cradle of civilization, more diverse than anywhere else and culturally and institutionally vibrant and creative. I have worked in Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe investigating the determinants of political institutions and economic prosperity. I have taught courses on Africa at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, the University of Ghana at Legon and this summer the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.

James' book list on Africa

James A. Robinson Why did James love this book?

It isn’t just African politics that is different. Economics is too. If modern economics had been invented by an African, instead of Adam Smith, it would look very different. Wealth would be measured in people rather than material objects, property, and capital. There would be much less emphasis on markets. Some things, should never be sold, and if they were it would create “bitter money” and bad luck. This book is a great place to start to re-think your ideas about economics.

By Parker Shipton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“fascinating little book adds to the study of culture to political economy” MacGaffey ~Journal of Anthropological Research “presents fascinating material on beliefs about money in some Luo-speaking communities of Kenya… an insightful analysis… a case that will generate fruitful discussions for years to come” Ferguson ~American Ethnologist BITTER MONEY unites symbolic and economic analysis in exploring the beliefs about forbidden exchanges among the Luo of Kenya and other African peoples. Shipton's multi-paradigmatic theoretical explanation briefly summarizes a century of anthropological thought about African exchange, while integrating ways of understanding rural African economy, politics, and culture.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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