100 books like The Nile

By Terje Tvedt,

Here are 100 books that The Nile fans have personally recommended if you like The Nile. 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 Cairo: City of Sand

Ronnie Close Author Of Cairo's Ultras: Resistance and Revolution in Egypt’s Football Culture

From my list on Egyptian politics and the 2011 Revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a writer and filmmaker based in Cairo for over a decade. I was inspired to move to Egypt when I visited during the 2011 Revolution and fell in love with the vibrance of the city. Since then Cairo has changed and I have lived through an extraordinary history with some difficult times but always with a sense of curiosity for stories. My book, Cairo’s Ultras, began as a documentary film project in 2012 and I have found many other interesting topics during my time in this enigmatic and fascinating place. I will publish a second book next year, called Decolonising Images, that looks at the photographic heritage and visual culture of Egypt.

Ronnie's book list on Egyptian politics and the 2011 Revolution

Ronnie Close Why did Ronnie love this book?

The book gives the reader a deep layered understanding of Egypt before the 2011 uprising to look at the state of the nation and into the heart of Cairo, an ancient city but now a metropolis of over 20 million. Written with a novelist's flare this is an intimate portrait of the lives of Cairenes that explores hidden aspects of this mysterious city. The author builds an intriguing story on the religious beliefs, family values, negotiating tactics, driving habits, and attitudes towards foreigners. This is a reflection on a wonderous city, a place of sadness and of hope, which uses the metaphor of Saharan desert sand blowing in to shape the sand castle politics of the Mubarak era that would come crashing down in the 2011 Revolution.

By Maria Golia,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cairo is a 1,400-year-old metropolis whose streets are inscribed with sagas, a place where the pressures of life test people's equanimity to the very limit. Virtually surrounded by desert, sixteen million Cairenes cling to the Nile and each other, proximities that colour and shape lives. Packed with incident and anecdote "Cairo: City of Sand" describes the city's given circumstances and people's attitudes of response. Apart from a brisk historical overview, this book focuses on the present moment of one of the world's most illustrious and irreducible cities. Cairo steps inside the interactions between Cairenes, examining the roles of family, tradition…


Book cover of Red Nile: The Biography of the World's Greatest River

Dan Morrison Author Of The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River

From my list on the Nile and the worlds it created.

Why am I passionate about this?

I traveled the length of the Nile River from source to sea through Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt to write a book that the Daily Beast called "a masterful narrative of investigative reportage, travel writing, and contemporary history," and that the Village Voice named to its ten best books of the year.

Dan's book list on the Nile and the worlds it created

Dan Morrison Why did Dan love this book?

Where I wrote The Black Nile as a white-knuckle current history of the Nile region, British polymath Robert Twigger took the long view to craft an absorbing portrait of the Nile, from Biblical times to the present. Twigger, whose adventures have taken him from the Canadian Rockies to Indonesian hill country to the karate dojo of the Tokyo riot police, has, with Red Nile, written a moving, cinematic masterpiece.

By Robert Twigger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A rip-roaring yet intimate biography of the mighty Nile by Robert Twigger, award-winning author of ANGRY WHITE PYJAMAS. 'A tour de force' FINANCIAL TIMES.

So much begins on the banks of the Nile: all religion, all life, all stories, the script we write in, the language we speak, the gods, the legends and the names of stars. This mighty river that flows through a quarter of all Africa has been history's most sustained creator.

In this dazzling, idiosyncratic journey from ancient times to the Arab Spring, award-winning author Robert Twigger weaves a Nile narrative like no other. As he navigates…


Book cover of Season of Migration to the North

Kim Barnes Author Of In the Kingdom of Men

From my list on Arabic writers on the destruction of colonization.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the 1950s, my mother and father left the red dirt of Oklahoma for the forests of Idaho to escape their families’ poverty. Instead of sharecropping, my father became a logger, but my aunt and her husband, a drilling rig roughneck, moved to the deserts of Saudi Arabia to work for Aramco and live in the American compound of Abqaiq. I remember the gifts they brought me: camel hide purses, Aladdin slippers. The Saudis, too, were experiencing rapid modernization and expanding wealth. I became fascinated by the conflict inherent in the sudden enmeshing of cultures and meteoric shift in power and privilege.

Kim's book list on Arabic writers on the destruction of colonization

Kim Barnes Why did Kim love this book?

I planned to read this book for research but ended up so immersed in the story that I kept forgetting to take notes. The narrative, a “clever inversion of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness,” follows the travels and travails of a young protagonist tangled in the contradictions of his African childhood, his formal education in England, and his return home with what he sees as the boon of modern thought. Part mystery, part romance, part history, part monomyth, part psychological thriller, the novel is set in an “unsettled and violent no-man’s-land between…tradition and innovation, holiness and defilement...” This book fascinated and haunted me even as it informed me about the complexities, dichotomies, and dissonance of colonization. Shot through with “allusions to Arabic and European fiction, Islamic history, Shakespeare, Freud, and classical Arabic poetry,” Salih’s novel should first be read for what it is: a brilliant work of art.

By Denys Johnson-Davies, Tayeb Salih,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Season of Migration to the North as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led…


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 Rivers: A Visual History from River to Sea

Anne Lambelet Author Of Maria the Matador

From my list on picture books you can pore over for hours.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Anne Lambelet, author-illustrator of Maria the Matador. The greatest compliment to any author-illustrator is that a child wants to keep spending time with your book after the first read-through is over. As an avid childhood reader who has maintained a passion for kid lit into my adulthood and my career, I’ve read a lot of picture books in my life, but the ones that have stuck with me are the ones that demanded a second, a third, even a fiftieth look. For that reason, I’ve chosen the following topic for my list of recommendations.

Anne's book list on picture books you can pore over for hours

Anne Lambelet Why did Anne love this book?

Again, Peter Goes could have multiple books here if this list were longer, but if I have to pick just one, it’ll be Rivers. Non-fiction books usually pack in a lot more information than fictional stories so you usually have to spend more time with them to absorb everything, but the thing that makes Rivers so special amongst non-fiction books is the presentation of information. Facts and legends flow across heavily illustrated maps, in and out of animals, architecture, mythological figures, and cultural vignettes. Each bit of imagery and text corresponds to the path of the river, mirroring its meandering journey across the page.

It’s a lot to process, but Goes’s graphic illustrative style and limited color palette prevent compositions from feeling too busy and overwhelming. Every time I come back to this book, I notice something new or learn a fact that I missed before. I don’t think looking…

By Peter Goes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rivers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

This breathtaking journey along the most important rivers in the world takes us from the Nile to the Amazon, the Mekong Delta to the Mississippi, the Murray to the Waikato.

Our seas and rivers tell a compelling story about our planet. Through tracking the life source of people, animals and the land itself, Peter Goes brings alive our history and our lives today. Each illustration includes major events and historical figures connected with its river, but also favorite stories and icons. This absorbing, playful book shows who we are, how we live and the myths we weave around our people…


Book cover of The White Nile

Ben Coates Author Of The Rhine

From my list on rivers and the people who leave alongside them.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an Anglo-Dutch writer living in the Netherlands, and the author of two books. Growing up in England I never thought much about rivers, but in the Netherlands they’re hard to avoid, and I’ve become fascinated by them. These days, when we all work remotely and (when rules allow) usually travel by car, train, or plane rather than boat, it’s easy to think of rivers as just scenic backdrops, rather than anything more important. But the truth is many of our cities wouldn’t exist without the waters which flow through them, and waterways like the Rhine, Thames, and Seine have had a huge influence on the history and culture of the people living alongside them. If you want to understand why somewhere like Rotterdam, London or Paris is the way it is, you could spend the day in a library or museum – but you’d be better off going for a boat ride or swim, poking around under some bridges and talking to the fishermen, boatmen, and kayakers down at the waterline.

Ben's book list on rivers and the people who leave alongside them

Ben Coates Why did Ben love this book?

The White Nile is another classic, telling the story of how European explorers “discovered” Africa’s greatest river in the second half of the nineteenth century. It’s a rollicking tale, featuring cameos from everyone from Herodotus to Churchill, packed with wild tales of bull-headed men marching into areas which were, for them, literally blank spaces on the map. Some of the prose inevitably feels a little dated these days, but it overflows with drama and detail, and provides a fascinating insight into the history of a region which many people still know too little about. I lived near the source of the Nile in Uganda for quite a while, and have many happy memories of reading this before heading out for a swim.

By Alan Moorehead,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Relive all the thrills and adventure of Alan Moorehead's classic bestseller The White Nile -- the daring exploration of the Nile River in the second half of the nineteenth century, which was at that time the most mysterious and impenetrable region on earth. Capturing in breathtaking prose the larger-than-life personalities of such notable figures as Stanley, Livingstone, Burton and many others, The White Nile remains a seminal work in tales of discovery and escapade, filled with incredible historical detail and compelling stories of heroism and drama.


Book cover of Ô nuit, ô mes yeux: Le Caire / Beyrouth / Damas / Jérusalem

Raphael Cormack Author Of Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt's Roaring '20s

From my list on popular culture along the Nile.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer and an Arabic to English translator, with a PhD in Arabic Theatre from the University of Edinburgh. In recent years, I have gravitated towards the history of popular culture and the demi-monde in the Middle East. The stories of singers and dancers say much more to me than the conventional subjects of histories of the Arab world – politicians, soldiers, etc. Through them, we can see the Middle East in a way that we seldom see in the West means much more to a lot of the people who live there.

Raphael's book list on popular culture along the Nile

Raphael Cormack Why did Raphael love this book?

Published in French or Arabic, this richly and attractively illustrated book dives headfirst into nostalgia for the nightlife of the 20th century Middle East. Loaded with short vignettes and stories, accompanied by Ziade’s own drawings, this book takes the reader on a tour of nightclubs in Cairo and across the wider Middle East. It is a beautiful, misty-eyed elegy for a lost age.

By Lamia Ziadé,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ô nuit, ô mes yeux as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dans ce livre il y a les cabarets du Caire, les studios, villas, casinos du Caire, les maris, les amants, l'alcool, les somnifères, l'argent, les suicides, les brownings, les scandales, les palaces. Il y a le chant, la musique, la voix, les ovations, les triomphes, la gloire. Il y a l'audace, le génie, l'aventure, la tragédie. Il y a des poètes et des émirs, des danseuses, des banquiers, des officiers, des imams, des cheikhs, des actrices, des khawagates, des musiciens, des vamps, des noctambules, des révoltés, des sultans, des pachas, des beys, des espionnes, des prodiges, des rois d'Égypte et…


Book cover of Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff

Jill Franks Author Of Every Stranger a God: Hiking The English Moors

From my list on adventure travel with a quirky narrator.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an English professor/long-distance hiker who loves both the experience of walking in cool places and then writing about the adventure. I've hiked across several European countries and odd sections of the Appalachian Trail—such as New Jersey. As for the "quirky narrator" part, apparently I'm brave, brazen, or bizarre to explore the world unescorted. I find I meet more people when traveling alone and pursue my thoughts to a greater extent. I love it when a writer finds a way to put their vulnerabilities on the page in a way that doesn't alienate others (or themselves). I love books with strong, individualistic narrative voices that draw you into their stories.

Jill's book list on adventure travel with a quirky narrator

Jill Franks Why did Jill love this book?

Mahoney's courage, intelligence, and eloquence make her an intimate companion on my armchair journeys. I knew I could follow this woman anywhere when she wrote of camping in Israel to the sound of bombs in Palestine (A Singular Pilgrimage). The dangers are even greater when she decides to paddle down the Nile in a rowboat. She presents such a persistent challenge to Egyptians—a woman traveling alone, buying a boat, talking to strangers—that she ultimately concedes and dons a masculine disguise. She often leavens the dread that readers may feel with irony and humor. When an Egyptian man complains of the "whorish" British women who hire gigolos, Rosemary levelly replies that it must be the gigolos who are prostitutes since they are the ones selling their bodies.

By Rosemary Mahoney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Rosemary Mahoney, in 1998, took a solo trip down the Nile in a seven-foot rowboat, she discovered modern Egypt for herself. As a rower, she faced crocodiles and testy river currents; as a female, she confronted deeply-held beliefs about foreign women while cautiously remaining open to genuine friendship; and, as a traveller, she experienced events that ranged from the humorous to the hair-raising - including an encounter that began as one of the most frightening of her life and ended as an edifying and chastening lesson in human nature and cultural misunderstanding.
Whether she's meeting Nubians and Egyptians, or…


Book cover of Letters from Egypt: A Journey on the Nile, 1849-1850

Rosemary Mahoney Author Of Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff

From my list on floating down the Nile.

Why am I passionate about this?

When author Rosemary Mahoney took a solo trip on the Egyptian Nile in a seven-foot rowboat, she discovered modern Egypt for herself. As a female, she confronted deeply-held beliefs about foreign women while cautiously remaining open to genuine friendships; as a traveler, she had experiences that ranged from the humorous to the hair-raising--including an encounter that began as one of the most frightening of her life and ended as a chastening lesson in cultural misunderstanding.  Whether she's meeting contemporary Egyptians or finding connections to Westerners who traveled the Nile long ago, Mahoney's informed curiosity about Egypt never ceases to captivate the reader.

Rosemary's book list on floating down the Nile

Rosemary Mahoney Why did Rosemary love this book?

If you, like me, have imagined Florence Nightingale as selfless, holy, good, unworldly, prim, and therefore probably very dull, this collection of her letters from Egypt will completely dash that perception. Nightingale was ferocious. Purely by coincidence, she set off on a three-month cruise down the Nile during the same week as Gustave Flaubert. Though the two apparently never met in their travels, they had many of the same experiences and visited the same places within two or three days of each other. Of the two, Nightingale was in fact the more daring and the more acute in her observations and judgments. 

She was brilliant, widely traveled, extremely well-educated, and had an absolutely wicked sense of humor that in these pages will surprise and delight you. Where Flaubert was emotional, sometimes melodramatic, superstitious, and occasionally fearful, Nightingale was tough-minded, unsentimental, and rational. In places where Flaubert chickened out, Nightingale just…

By Florence Nightingale,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of letters written during a journey to Egypt describing the author's views on the country and its history and people


Book cover of Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile

Solange Ashby Author Of Calling Out to Isis: The Enduring Nubian Presence at Philae

From my list on ancient Nubia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in the art and written language of ancient Egypt due to its beauty and antiquity. Writing is art and art often contains text in this oldest written African language. I am fascinated with the process of religious change, intercultural interaction, and resistance to colonization. All of these themes are present in the study of the last functioning Egyptian temple, Philae, which is dedicated to the worship of Isis. What is often omitted from the history of this exceptional Egyptian temple is the fact that it was Nubians who defended and sustained the traditional religious practices long after most Egyptians had converted to Christianity. I wrote my book to research and share this neglected history.

Solange's book list on ancient Nubia

Solange Ashby Why did Solange love this book?

A beautiful coffee table book, complete with stunning photographs by Chester Higgins, this publication includes maps, general articles about Nubia, and a gazetteer of stunning sites from Gebel Qeili and Naqa in the south to Philae, Elephantine, and Aswan in the North. The general articles range from art and architecture, kings and kingship, religion, texts, and women in ancient Nubia. This book is a beautiful and welcoming introduction to the vibrant land of ancient Nubia.

By Marjorie M. Fisher (editor), Peter Lacovara (editor), Salima Ikram (ed)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

2012 American Publishers (PROSE) Awards winner for Best Archaeology & Anthropology Book For most of the modern world, ancient Nubia seems an unknown and enigmatic land. Only a handful of archaeologists have studied its history or unearthed the Nubian cities, temples, and cemeteries that once dotted the landscape of southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Nubia’s remote setting in the midst of an inhospitable desert, with access by river blocked by impassable rapids, has lent it not only an air of mystery, but also isolated it from exploration. Over the past century, particularly during this last generation, scholars have begun to…


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