100 books like Left to Tell

By Immaculée Ilibagiza,

Here are 100 books that Left to Tell fans have personally recommended if you like Left to Tell. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ 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.

Who am I?

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 Another Day of Life

Anjan Sundaram Author Of Breakup: A Marriage in Wartime

From my list on foreign correspondent memoirs of Africa.

Who am I?

I studied reporters' memoirs of Africa for my PhD in journalism at the University of East Anglia, under Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland. I was fascinated by how foreign correspondents are aided by local reporters, who unfortunately often don’t receive much credit or commensurate pay for their contributions to international news. This inequality is changing, but not quickly enough, and it affects the kinds of news that we all receive, and how western lives, for example, are often respected more than others. 

Anjan's book list on foreign correspondent memoirs of Africa

Anjan Sundaram Why did Anjan love this book?

I promised my publisher, who edited Kapuscinski, a book as elemental, pure, and wild as Kapuscinski's seminal account of the Angolan independence struggle in 1975.

Though I’m not sure I succeeded, Breakup is that book.

I was inspired by this classic of reportage for its simple and profound observations of the city, and countryside, trying to make sense of the chaos and what Angolans, in Portuguese, called confusão.

By Ryszard Kapuściński, William R. Brand (translator), Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand (translator)

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Another Day of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1975, Angola was tumbling into pandemonium; everyone who could was packing crates, desperate to abandon the beleaguered colony. With his trademark bravura, Ryszard Kapuscinski went the other way, begging his was from Lisbon and comfort to Luanda—once famed as Africa's Rio de Janeiro—and chaos.Angola, a slave colony later given over to mining and plantations, was a promised land for generations of poor Portuguese. It had belonged to Portugal since before there were English-speakers in North America. After the collapse of the fascist dictatorship in Portugal in 1974, Angola was brusquely cut loose, spurring the catastrophe of a still-ongoing civil…


Book cover of Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

Tim Crothers Author Of The Queen of Katwe: One Girl's Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion

From my list on young African heroes.

Who am I?

For most of my life I have been fascinated by Africa, but I could never figure out a good reason to go there. Then one day in 2010 while delivering a book talk in North Carolina, a gentleman approached me afterward saying that he’d read a brief item in a missionary newsletter that morning and he thought it might make “a good story” for me. Six months later, I was on a flight to Uganda and that “good story” was born as a magazine piece before evolving into a book and finally in 2016 into a Disney movie. I have since traveled to Africa many times and it is a magical place, my home away from home.  

Tim's book list on young African heroes

Tim Crothers Why did Tim love this book?

Phiona once told me that she grew up in Katwe believing that everyone in the world lived in the same desperate circumstances that she did and that if you’re born in Katwe, you are expected to die there. Mathabane was similarly anchored to his poverty-ravaged township of Alexandra outside of Johannesburg. “Kaffir” is an ugly ethnic slur common during Apartheid-era South Africa, a term that the author battled to overcome every day while surviving an environment plagued by gang violence. Mathabane’s salvation was his education (and, similar to Phiona, success in an unlikely sport), which eventually led him to attend college in the U.S., just like Beah, Kamkwamba, and Mutesi.

By Mark Mathabane,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Kaffir Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic story of life in Apartheid South Africa.

Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa's most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is…


Book cover of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Christine Ieronimo Author Of A Thirst for Home: A Story of Water across the World

From my list on stories from Africa with strong protagonists.

Who am I?

I am passionate about writing books for children that create windows to the world, teaching empathy. Children that are empathic grow up to be kind and compassionate adults. I write because I long for a world that is more accepting and compassionate.  

Christine's book list on stories from Africa with strong protagonists

Christine Ieronimo Why did Christine love this book?

Drought has hit a Malawi village and everyone’s crops are failing. Fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba figures out how to bring electricity to the village by building a windmill out of scraps from a junkyard. I love this story because it highlights the importance of education, and along with determination, William was able to build this windmill bringing electricity which helped lift this community up and bring hope. Education is the best way to lift communities up from poverty. Elizabeth Zunon provides gorgeous illustrations that enhance the text.  

By William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer, Elizabeth Zunon (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba's tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season's crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family's life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William's windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land. Retold for a younger audience, this exciting memoir shows…


Book cover of Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You

Berlie W. Doherty Author Of The Girl Who Saw Lions

From my list on children’s books about refugees and asylum seekers.

Who am I?

My maternal great-grandparents were Irish immigrants. My paternal grandfather left Liverpool in the late 19th century to go to Australia. I’d love to know their children’s stories! Some of the families I visited as a social worker (mid-1960s) were immigrants, struggling to make sense of a new language and a new culture. I met a child who had come here alone as an illegal immigrant and had been a house slave until the social services settled her with a foster family. I met author Hanna Jansen and her many adopted children from war-torn countries. Fiction gives us many powerful stories about children forced to flee from their homes because of war, tyranny, hunger, poverty, natural disasters.

Berlie's book list on children’s books about refugees and asylum seekers

Berlie W. Doherty Why did Berlie love this book?

This is a beautifully written account of how 8-year-old Jeanne d'Arc Umubyeyi (Dédé) escaped the 1994 massacre of the Tutsi ethnic group at the hands of the Huti tribe. Jeanne was the only member of her family to survive. The horror of what she went through is vividly recounted in Jeanne’s words and those of her adoptive mother Hanna Jansen, who adopted her and brought her to Germany. 

It is a very powerful, true, story. I had heard of the Rwandan massacre, but knew little about it till I read this novel. 

I love the book and have re-read it several times. Young adults will identify strongly with both Jeanne and Hanna.

By Hanna Jansen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Before that fateful April day, Jeanne lived the life of a typical Rwandan girl. She bickered with her little sister, went to school, teased her brother. Then, in one horrifying night, everything changed. Political troubles unleashed a torrent of violence upon the Tutsi ethnic group. Jeanne's family, all Tutsis, fled their home and tried desperately to reach safety.

They did not succeed. As the only survivor of her family's massacre, Jeanne witnessed unspeakable acts. This haunting story was told to Jeanne's adoptive mother, and here she makes unforgettably real the events of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.


Book cover of God Sleeps in Rwanda: A Journey of Transformation

Michela Wrong Author Of Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad

From my list on Central Africa (from a journalist based there).

Who am I?

After working as a foreign correspondent in Italy and France I was sent by Reuters news agency to Cote d’Ivoire and what was then Zaire, the latter posting coinciding with the shocking start of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda. It was the kind of assignment you don’t forget, and when I moved to the Financial Times I continued following the larger-than-life dramas unfolding in Africa’s Great Lakes region. I’ve now written five books, the first – In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz - about Mobutu Sese Seko's imprint on the Democratic Republic of Congo and the latest – Do Not Disturb - looking at personalities and events I first started writing about a quarter of a century ago. You keep going back.

Michela's book list on Central Africa (from a journalist based there)

Michela Wrong Why did Michela love this book?

The author, a Tutsi genocide survivor, was once a young Rwandan politician who deeply admired Paul Kagame and seemed destined for prominent public office. Instead, from his position as parliamentary speaker, he watched as his hero steadily emasculated the judiciary, undermined the country’s Hutu president – a symbol of ethnic reconciliation - and sabotaged parliamentary democracy itself,  eventually fleeing the country when his own life was threatened. His book not only offers great insights into the workings of village life in a tiny African country traumatized by its violent past, it’s a step-by-step analysis of how a dictatorship takes cynical, relentless hold.

By Joseph Sebarenzi, Laura Mullane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Joseph Sebarenzi’s parents, seven siblings, and countless other family members were among 800,000 Tutsi brutally murdered over the course of ninety days in 1994 by extremist Rwandan Hutu—an efficiency that exceeded even that of the Nazi Holocaust. His father sent him away to school in Congo as a teenager, telling him, “If we are killed, you will survive.” When Sebarenzi returned to Rwanda after the genocide, he was elected speaker of parliament, only to be forced into a daring escape again when he learned he was the target of an assassination plot.

Poetic and deeply moving, God Sleeps in Rwanda…


Book cover of Greenmantle

Eugene Rogan Author Of The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East

From my list on by veterans of WW1 on the Middle East.

Who am I?

As a professional historian of the Middle East, I’ve long recognized WWI as a vital turning point in the region’s history, when the ancient Ottoman Empire fell and the modern states of the Middle East took its place. Based in Oxford, I am particularly aware of this university’s role in shaping so many of those whose book captured the British experience of the Ottoman Front. But there’s also an element of family history behind my fascination, as in following the story of my great-uncle’s death in Gallipoli in 1915, I came to appreciate the magnitude of sacrifice suffered by all sides in the Great War in the Middle East.

Eugene's book list on by veterans of WW1 on the Middle East

Eugene Rogan Why did Eugene love this book?

John Buchan served in the War Propaganda Bureau during WWI, crafting press releases that sought to preserve public morale against the terrible losses on the Western Front. Already a successful novelist, he created a new character named Richard Hannay who starred in his 1915 adventure thriller The Thirty Nine Steps. Hannay was so popular that Buchan revived him for a 1916 sequel set in the Ottoman Empire that proved an enduring classic: Greenmantle. Through his work in intelligence and propaganda, Buchan was aware of British war planners’ concerns that the Ottoman call for jihad that followed their declaration of war might provoke colonial Muslims to rise against the Entente Powers in India, Egypt, North Africa, and the Caucasus. He captured British fears of an Ottoman-inspired jihad inflaming Indian Muslims with the memorably Orientalist line: “There is a dry wind blowing through the East, and the parched grasses wait the spar.…

By John Buchan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With an introduction by Christopher Hitchens. Richard Hannay is tasked to investigate rumours of an uprising in the Muslim world and takes off on a hair-raising journey through German-occupied Europe to meet up with his old friend Sandy Arbuthnot in Constantinople, where they must thwart the Germans' plans to use religion to help them win the war. Set during World War I, Greenmantle is a controversial meditation on the power of political Islam.


Book cover of The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide

Michela Wrong Author Of Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad

From my list on Central Africa (from a journalist based there).

Who am I?

After working as a foreign correspondent in Italy and France I was sent by Reuters news agency to Cote d’Ivoire and what was then Zaire, the latter posting coinciding with the shocking start of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda. It was the kind of assignment you don’t forget, and when I moved to the Financial Times I continued following the larger-than-life dramas unfolding in Africa’s Great Lakes region. I’ve now written five books, the first – In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz - about Mobutu Sese Seko's imprint on the Democratic Republic of Congo and the latest – Do Not Disturb - looking at personalities and events I first started writing about a quarter of a century ago. You keep going back.

Michela's book list on Central Africa (from a journalist based there)

Michela Wrong Why did Michela love this book?

So many books have been written about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda since this came out, but for me it still effortlessly holds its own: clear, accessible, immensely insightful in the way it traces cause and effect. Make sure you buy the second edition, though, as French historian Prunier revised some key views over the years, including his opinion on who brought down the plane in which two African presidents died – the incident that triggered the genocide. The book is the perfect companion piece for Prunier’s follow-up tome, which pans back to examine not just Rwanda but the entire Great Lakes region during the turbulent post-genocide years: “From Genocide to Continental War. The “Congolese” Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa.” 

By Gérard Prunier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1994 the tiny African nation of Rwanda exploded onto the international media stage, as internal strife reached genocidal proportions. But the horror that unfolded before our eyes had been building steadily for years before it captured the attention of the world. In The Rwanda Crisis, journalist and Africa scholar Gerard Prunier provides a historical perspective that Western readers need to understand how and why the brutal massacres of 800,000 Rwandese came to pass. Prunier shows how the events in Rwanda were part of a deadly logic, a plan that served central political and economic interests, rather…


Book cover of When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda

T.M. Lemos Author Of Violence and Personhood in Ancient Israel and Comparative Contexts

From my list on the comparative history of violence.

Who am I?

I am a biblical scholar who has become a historian of violence because I could no longer ignore the realities of the present or my own past. I write of violence for my childhood self, who was bullied for a decade and used to run away from school.  I write of it for my grandfather, who was born of exploitation.  I write of it for my African-American wife and daughter, in the hopes that I might contribute to the elimination of hierarchies that threaten their dignity and sometimes their lives.  Doing this work is not just intellectual for me—it is a memorialization and a ritual of healing. 

T.M.'s book list on the comparative history of violence

T.M. Lemos Why did T.M. love this book?

This influential book on the Rwandan genocide presents a nuanced analysis of how extreme violence can arise in postcolonial contexts. Through this and other writings, Mamdani has made important contributions to the study of violence, imperialism, and postcolonialism.

By Mahmood Mamdani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Victims Become Killers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An incisive look at the causes and consequences of the Rwandan genocide

"When we captured Kigali, we thought we would face criminals in the state; instead, we faced a criminal population." So a political commissar in the Rwanda Patriotic Front reflected after the 1994 massacre of as many as one million Tutsis in Rwanda. Underlying his statement was the realization that, though ordered by a minority of state functionaries, the slaughter was performed by hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, including judges, doctors, priests, and friends. Rejecting easy explanations of the Rwandan genocide as a mysterious evil force that was…


Book cover of Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

Michael J. Prince Author Of Weary Warriors: Power, Knowledge, and the Invisible Wounds of Soldiers

From my list on the psyche of disabled war veterans.

Who am I?

A Canadian academic, Michael J. Prince is an award-winning author in the field of modern politics, government, and public policy. The Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria, he has written widely on issues of disability activism and social change, including on veterans and their families. He is co-author, with Pamela Moss, of Weary Warriors: Power, Knowledge, and the Invisible Wounds of Soldiers, New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014. 

Michael's book list on the psyche of disabled war veterans

Michael J. Prince Why did Michael love this book?

Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire is the highest-ranking military officer who has come out and publicly talked about his psychiatric struggles with flashbacks, depression, and suicidal thoughts. This is his story as the commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda in 1993-94. Woven into his narrative is an account of the onset of traumatic stress and of his reactions to what psychiatry refers to as PTSD. This is a brutally honest book by a high-ranking military officer about the unspeakable inhumanity of civil war and the terrible vulnerability of international peacemakers. It is a story of one of the walking wounded who survived the genocide as a moral witness.  

By Roméo Dallaire,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shake Hands with the Devil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the first time in the United States comes the tragic and profoundly important story of the legendary Canadian general who "watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect." When Romeo Dallaire was called on to serve as force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, he believed that his assignment was to help two warring parties achieve the peace they both wanted. Instead, he was exposed to the most barbarous and chaotic display of civil war and genocide in the past decade, observing…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Rwanda, the Rwandan genocide, and the Holocaust?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Rwanda, the Rwandan genocide, and the Holocaust.

Rwanda Explore 14 books about Rwanda
The Rwandan Genocide Explore 6 books about the Rwandan genocide
The Holocaust Explore 372 books about the Holocaust