100 books like The Devil That Danced on the Water

By Aminatta Forna,

Here are 100 books that The Devil That Danced on the Water fans have personally recommended if you like The Devil That Danced on the Water. 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 In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler's Tale

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 is a beautifully written tale of the author’s time living in rural Egypt in the 1980s.

Ghosh’s accounts of his meetings and friendships with Egyptians unused to foreigners resonate with my own experiences in rural Africa, and the way he pieces together the long-forgotten history of an anonymous twelfth-century Indian slave and his Arab Jewish trader master and weaves it into the story is astonishingly deft.

I read it again recently and enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

By Amitav Ghosh,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked In an Antique Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Once upon a time an Indian writer named Amitav Ghosh set out an Indian slave, name unknown, who some seven hundred years before had traveled to the Middle East. The journey took him to a small village in Egypt, where medieval customs coexist with twentieth-century desires and discontents. But even as Ghosh sought to re-create the life of his Indian predecessor, he found himself immersed in those of his modern Egyptian neighbors.
   Combining shrewd observations with painstaking historical research, Ghosh serves up skeptics and holy men, merchants and sorcerers. Some of these figures are real, some only imagined, but all…


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 Travels in the Interior Districts of 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?

Mungo Park’s journeys into West Africa at the end of the 18th century were probably the toughest undertaken by any of the Europeans who explored the continent.

The trials he underwent, from disease to hunger to attacks by local leaders make modern-day travellers like myself look pampered.

As I recount in my book, I was eventually worn down by travelling in West Africa and succumbed to what was known by the region’s French colonisers as “soudanité”, so I could relate to the depressions Park suffered in much more gruelling circumstances. His account of his travels manages to be both epic and full of humility at the same time.

By Mungo Park,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge, exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press. In its determination to preserve the century of revolution, Gale initiated a revolution of its own: digitization of epic proportions to preserve these invaluable works in the largest archive of its kind. Now for the first time these high-quality digital copies of original 18th century manuscripts are available in print, making them highly accessible to libraries, undergraduate students, and independent scholars.
The eighteenth-century fascination with Greek and Roman antiquity followed the systematic excavation of the ruins…


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 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 Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Liberty

Vincent Carretta Author Of Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man

From my list on recover early Black Atlantic lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I decided to familiarize myself with eighteenth-century authors of African descent by editing their writings, I didn’t anticipate becoming their biographer. In annotating their writings, I quickly became intrigued and challenged by trying to complete the biographical equivalent of jigsaw puzzles, ones which often lack borders, as well as many pieces. How does one recover, or at least credibly speculate about, what’s missing? Even the pieces one has may be from unreliable sources. But the thrill of the hunt for, and the joy of discovering, as many pieces as possible make the challenge rewarding. My recommendations demonstrate ways others have also met the biographical challenge.

Vincent's book list on recover early Black Atlantic lives

Vincent Carretta Why did Vincent love this book?

Rather than writing the life of just one person, Pybus scours fragmentary church, legal, military, and prison records on three continents to create what might be called a cumulative biography.

Pybus reconstructs the lives of individuals in the diaspora of men, women, and their families who embraced Britain’s offer of freedom to anyone who fled rebel enslavers to join its forces during the American Revolution.

Among them were men formerly enslaved to George Washington and Patrick Henry.

Evacuated by the withdrawing British forces at the end of the war, the continuing quest for freedom of Black Loyalists brought them to Canada, Britain, Africa, and Australia.

By Cassandra Pybus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cassandra Pybus adds greatly to the work of [previous] scholars by insisting that slaves stand at the center of their own history . . . Her 'biographies' of flight expose the dangers that escape entailed and the courage it took to risk all for freedom. Only by measuring those dangers can the exhilaration of success be comprehended and the unspeakable misery of failure be appreciated.--Ira Berlin, from the Foreword

During the American Revolution, thousands of slaves fled their masters to find freedom with the British. Epic Journeys of Freedom is the astounding story of these runaways and the lives they…


Book cover of Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone

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?

African civil wars are not about ethnicity, diamonds, or foreign aid. They are genuine political conflicts about how society is to be organized, created by grievances and political marginalization and also deeply embedded in local cultures. As such, they stem from the same roots as the English Civil War of the 1640s or the American Revolutionary War of the 1770s-1780s. This is all revealed in this brilliant book on the Sierra Leone civil war.

By Paul Richards,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fighting for the Rain Forest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do small wars in Africa manifest a 'new barbarism'?
What appears as random, anarchic violence is no such thing. The terrifying military methods of of Sierra Leone's soldiers may not fir conventional western models of warfare,but they are rational and effective nonetheless. The war must be understood partly as a 'performance', in which techniques of terror compensate for lack of equipment.

PAUL RICHARDS is Professor of Technology and Agrarian Development, Wageningen University

Published in association with the International African Institute


Book cover of Someone Knows My Name

Helen Lundström Erwin Author Of Sour Milk in Sheep's Wool

From my list on historical fiction on women who changed history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love to write stories about people who lived during pivotal times in history. I’m intrigued by what people were thinking and why they thought that way. People, just like us now, were a product of their time and circumstance. They had strong opinions about the issues of the day, and debated fiercely. It’s these conversations and opinions that help me make the past come alive. Being born and raised in Sweden, and having been a New Yorker for thirty years, I was awarded the 2021 Swedish Women’s Educational Association (SWEA) New York’s Scholarship for the artistic promotion of Swedish culture and history in New York.

Helen's book list on historical fiction on women who changed history

Helen Lundström Erwin Why did Helen love this book?

Someone Knows My Name, is a poignant portrayal of the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the inhuman strength and perseverance of a woman who survived it.

As a writer and historian, I love when I find a writer who can put themselves inside the mind of a person from an earlier time. Lawrence Hill truly does, especially the way he describes how alien the new world was for someone who came from a different culture. How every detail is new, and how heart-wrenching it is to be torn from everything you know. 

By Lawrence Hill,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Someone Knows My Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kidnapped from Africa as a child, Aminata Diallo is enslaved in South Carolina but escapes during the chaos of the Revolutionary War. In Manhattan she becomes a scribe for the British, recording the names of blacks who have served the King and earned their freedom in Nova Scotia. But the hardship and prejudice of the new colony prompt her to follow her heart back to Africa, then on to London, where she bears witness to the injustices of slavery and its toll on her life and a whole people. It is a story that no listener, and no reader, will…


Book cover of Ebola's Evolution: Turning Despair to Deliverance: a Road Map for Covid-19

Michael B.A. Oldstone Author Of Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present, and Future

From my list on understanding how viruses cause disease.

Why am I passionate about this?

Michael B.A. Oldstone was head of the Viral-Immunobiology Laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute, devoting his career to understanding viruses, the diseases they cause, and the host’s immune response to control these infections. His work led to numerous national and international awards, election to the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Medicine. Oldstone served on the SAGE executive board of the World Health Organization and as a WHO consultant for the eradication of polio and measles.

Michael's book list on understanding how viruses cause disease

Michael B.A. Oldstone Why did Michael love this book?

This book provides an intimate portrait of outbreaks of Ebola, the world’s most fearsome and deadly virus, and reveals how the result of that experience provides information to help fight Covid-19. Introduced are people who fought heroically with limited resources, including  Sheik Kahn who died fighting Ebola as it spread as a tsunami, Pardis Sabeti a geneticist named “scientist of the year” by Time magazine and Robert Garry who led the fight against viral hemorrhagic diseases. Sabeti and Garry worked with the authors and provide a personal narrative of the involved events.

By Michael B.A. Oldstone, Madeleine Rose Oldstone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ebola's Evolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book provides an intimate portrait of multiple outbreaks of Ebola in Africa and reveals how the results of that experience can help us fight COVID-19.
Michael B.A. Oldstone, who led the Viral-Immunobiology Laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute worked with Ebola, teams up with Madeleine Rose Oldstone to give a detailed account of the 2013-2016 and 2018-2020 Ebola outbreaks.
The authors trace the origin of the disease, its spread like a tsunami thru Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the collapse of economies, and the development of anti-viral therapies against Ebola. They compare the outbreaks of one of the world's…


Book cover of The New Story - Storytelling as a Pathway to Peace

Susan Perrow Author Of Therapeutic Storytelling: 101 Healing Stories for Children

From my list on the healing power of story and storytelling.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Susan Perrow. I am an Australian whose ‘work’ passion is stories and storytelling. I am an author, storyteller, teacher trainer, and parent educator. For the last 30 years, I have been documenting stories from other cultures, writing stories, and telling stories to groups of children and adults – all this woven in with a career in teaching, lecturing, and consulting in Australia, Africa, Asia, China, Europe, and North America. I currently have four published story collections, in a total of 14 languages. Three of my collections are Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour, An A-Z Collection of Behaviour Tales, and Stories to Light the Night: A Grief and Loss Collection for Children, Families and Communities.

I have chosen my fourth collection to introduce to you below.

Susan's book list on the healing power of story and storytelling

Susan Perrow Why did Susan love this book?

This is a book for all who work with people – in other words, it is a book for everyone. It is full of inspiration and practical tools to bring transformation and healing into your daily life, wherever you are. During times of conflict, storytelling dedicated to peace and reconciliation has proven successful in creating a common ground between people of all ages, from different cultures and disparate world views.

The New Story includes more than 30 tales from around the world plus easy-to-do exercises, with contributions from six modern storytellers at work in places like Israel, Kurdistan, and Sierra Leone.

By Inger Lise Oelrich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Story - Storytelling as a Pathway to Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The shortest distance between two human beings is - a story. Without inspired passion things will not change. Storytelling is a social activity where two or more people are present. In a rich and lively picture language, ancient myths, wisdom tales, life stories and spontaneously created stories are shared in an appreciative way, where everyone has a voice. In THE NEW STORY, more than 30 tales from around the world and easy to do exercises give a fresh and encouraging take on how to bring about understanding, compassion and transformation in different life situations - whether at school, in worklife,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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