The best books on the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Who picked these books? Meet our 29 experts.

29 authors created a book list connected to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and here are their favorite Democratic Republic of the Congo books.
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What type of Democratic Republic of the Congo book?


The Coming Plague

By Laurie Garrett,

Book cover of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance

Steffanie Strathdee Author Of The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug: A Memoir

From the list on for armchair infectious disease epidemiologists.

Who am I?

As an infectious disease epidemiologist, my personal and professional lives collided when my husband Tom acquired a superbug that was resistant to all antibiotics while we were traveling on vacation. The story of how a global village of researchers and medical professionals helped me save his life with a 100-year-old forgotten cure is the subject of our first book, The Perfect Predator: A Scientist's Race to Save Her Husband From a Deadly Superbug. A large part of my day job now is as a phage wrangler, helping other people who are battling superbug infections at IPATH, the first phage therapy center in North America.

Steffanie's book list on for armchair infectious disease epidemiologists

Discover why each book is one of Steffanie's favorite books.

Why did Steffanie love this book?

Notable for its prescience and timelessness, this award-winning book by Pulitzer and Peabody winner Laurie Garrett is a must-read for infectious disease aficionados. This book addresses the macro-level factors that drive the emergence of epidemics, such as the over-use of antibiotics in agriculture and climate change. It is a primer on why we need a global health perspective to address pandemics, so it's no wonder that it was re-printed when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

By Laurie Garrett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After four decades of assuming that the conquest of infectious diseases was imminent, people on all continents now find themselves besieged. The water we drink is improperly purified, the air we breathe potentially deadly, and the food we eat possibly poisonous. What went wrong? This book follows the doctors and scientists in their 50 year battle with the microbes, ranging from the savannas of Bolivia to the rain forests of Zaire. Jet travel, the sexual revolution and over-population - all favour the survival of new and old bugs, among them, malaria, Ebola, cholera and tuberculosis, and viruses that kill in…

Book cover of States of Disorder: Complexity Theory and UN State-building in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan

Peter T. Coleman Author Of The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization

From the list on navigating seemingly impossible conflicts.

Who am I?

I have spent more than 30 years in my lab at Columbia University studying how seemingly intractable conflicts develop and the conditions under which they change. I'm a professor at Columbia, a social psychologist who has studied, taught, and written about conflict for decades. I'm also a mediator, facilitator, and consultant who has worked with divided groups and communities around the world. I direct the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia, where we run the Difficult Conversations Lab, an audio/video/physio “capture lab” where we systematically study the dynamics of divisive moral conflicts to try to understand when encounters over them go well and when they go terribly wrong. 

Peter's book list on navigating seemingly impossible conflicts

Discover why each book is one of Peter's favorite books.

Why did Peter love this book?

If you are interested in gaining a better understanding of why the UN fails so miserably at building and sustaining peace – read this new book. Adam Day works at the UN and uses ideas from complexity science to both explain why the UN is so challenged in its ultimate mission to sustain peace, and what it should do to move in the right direction. Day uses two current case studies on some of the most challenging situations faced by the international community and applies new ideas in useful and practical ways. This is the state-of-the-art of complexity-informed peacebuilding.

By Adam Day,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Today's vision of world order is founded upon the concept of strong, well-functioning states, in contrast to the destabilizing potential of failed or fragile states. This worldview has dominated international interventions over the past 30 years as enormous resources have been devoted to developing and extending the governance capacity of weak or failing states, hoping to transform them into reliable nodes in the global order. But with very few exceptions, this
project has not delivered on its promise: countries like Somalia, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remain mired in conflict despite decades of international…

A Thousand Sisters

By Lisa Shannon,

Book cover of A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman

Kathleen Stauffer Author Of Thou Shalt Not

From the list on women’s rights, roles, and limitations over time.

Who am I?

I grew up with five brothers in the 1950-60s and never felt that I could not do whatever they desired to do. Later, I developed a heart for women and children’s rights and a desire for real-life stories about authentic people and their struggles. As I watch the news, television, and observe my daughters and granddaughters, I am intrigued by women’s ever-evolving roles and the courage and perseverance it took for progress. Mary Meier, in Thou Shalt Not, did not  change the world; however, she did give her community much to think about when only the town blacksmith seemed to take an interest in her dire situation—which ultimately leads to a murder.

Kathleen's book list on women’s rights, roles, and limitations over time

Discover why each book is one of Kathleen's favorite books.

Why did Kathleen love this book?

Inspired by an Oprah episode, Lisa Shannon starts to run for Congo Women—literally. Beginning with a 30-mile run and a deep desire to make a difference, it’s an inspiration as to women’s ever-changing roles, and how one person can start a movement that can impact many. In the Congo, she learns it is the worst place on earth for women to live. Instead of driving her away, her life evolves into something bigger than she could have imagined. My daughter, who had been to Africa herself many years ago, recommended this book. The stamina and courage it took to survive was beyond admiration; it was miraculous. I, at times, wonder how God’s divine plan will playout when I read of such circumstances. But when I read of Lisa’s calling, I am reminded that we are each called to be the hands and feet of Jesus—something bigger than who we are…

By Lisa Shannon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lisa J. Shannon had a good life-a successful business, a fiance, a home, and security. Then, one day in 2005, an episode of Oprah changed all that. The show focused on women in Congo, the worst place on earth to be a woman. She was awakened to the atrocities there-millions dead, women raped and tortured daily, and children dying in shocking numbers. Shannon felt called to do something. And she did. A Thousand Sisters is her inspiring memoir. She raised money to sponsor Congolese women, beginning with one solo 30-mile run, and then founded a national organization, Run for Congo…

The Year of the Gorilla

By George B. Schaller,

Book cover of The Year of the Gorilla

Erich Hoyt Author Of Orca: The Whale Called Killer

From the list on studying and living among wild animals.

Who am I?

I’ve spent most of my life since the 1970s working with whales and dolphins. I was lucky to get involved in one of the first field studies for killer whales and since then have led other research in the Russian Far East. I have worked with entomologists in Costa Rican rainforests, blue whale scientists in Québec and Iceland, humpback whale scientists in Hawaii. I’ve searched for rare North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Fundy, measured Canada’s tallest trees in British Columbia and seen the wild plant ancestors of maize growing in the mountains of Mexico. Field research—studying and living in nature—makes us empathize with Planet Earth.

Erich's book list on studying and living among wild animals

Discover why each book is one of Erich's favorite books.

Why did Erich love this book?

George Schaller’s pioneering popular Year of the Gorilla, set in Rwanda, is part history, travelogue, and accessible behavioral biology. This book was my model for how to write about my own seven summers living with killer whales off northern Vancouver Island, Canada. Travelling with wife Kay, Schaller in his mid-20s was among the first to get into the field with primates when few even considered it. Rich with stories, his book included his own beautiful line drawings of gorillas and tantalising maps. The story uncovers a misty kingdom—he climbed the volcanoes—as much as revealing the intimate details of the gorillas, with their food gathering, nest-building, relationships, their emotional lives. This book has human and gorilla characters. You feel like you are right there.

By George B. Schaller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This seminal work chronicles George B. Schaller's two years of travel and observation of gorillas in East and Central Africa in the late 1950s, high in the Virunga volcanoes on the Zaire-Rwanda-Uganda border. There, he learned that these majestic animals, far from being the aggressive apes of film and fiction, form close-knit societies of caring mothers and protective fathers watching over playful young. Alongside his observations of gorilla society, Schaller celebrates the enforced yet splendid solitude of the naturalist, recounts the adventures he experienced along the way, and offers a warning against poaching and other human threats against these endangered…

The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Book cover of The Poisonwood Bible

Susan Shapiro Barash Author Of Maribelle's Shadow

From the list on sisters, devout or detached.

Who am I?

I'm an author of fiction and nonfiction books, focusing on how women are positioned in society. Under my real name, Susan Shapiro Barash, I have written thirteen nonfiction titles. As a fiction writer, I've published four novels, written under my pen name, Susannah Marren. For more than twenty years I taught in the Writing Department at Marymount Manhattan College and have guest taught creative nonfiction at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. I served as a literary panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts, as a judge for the International Emmys, and as Vice Chair of the Mentoring Committee of the Women’s Leadership Board at the JFK School of Government, Harvard.

Susan's book list on sisters, devout or detached

Discover why each book is one of Susan's favorite books.

Why did Susan love this book?

In this novel the mother, Orleanna, and then her four daughters, Rachel, Adah, Leah, and Ruth May, narrate the story of their lives in the Congo, where their father, Nathan Price, is a missionary during the 1960s.

It takes place during the Congo’s fight for independence and the drama is high. We realize each daughter’s ‘journey’ as she grows individually, influenced by their father’s mission and by living in Africa. All four sisters have their own destiny.

This is an unforgettable sister story, one where social influences and a life in Africa have a profound effect on the characters. I admire the distinctive portrayal of Rachel, Adah, Leah, and Ruth May, their goals, and place in the world. The backdrop of history in the Belgian Congo is larger than life. There is an underlying sense of sadness and loss, and how burdened women feel.

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Poisonwood Bible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



An international bestseller and a modern classic, this suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and their remarkable reconstruction has been read, adored and shared by millions around the world.

'Breathtaking.' Sunday Times
'Exquisite.' The Times
'Beautiful.' Independent
'Powerful.' New York Times

This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

They carry with them everything they believe they will…

Book cover of In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo

Alex Finley Author Of Victor in the Rubble

From the list on adventures in Africa.

Who am I?

I have traveled throughout Africa and had the great opportunity to live in West Africa for two years, while I was working for the CIA. That experience was wild and challenging, but also transforming. West Africa became the setting for my first novel, Victor in the Rubble, because I loved the absurdity and adventure I experienced there, where nothing is logical but everything makes sense. I have read a number of novels that take place in different parts of Africa, as well as a wide array of nonfiction books about various African countries, their history, and their leaders. There are so many great stories there that pique my interest and inspire me.

Alex's book list on adventures in Africa

Discover why each book is one of Alex's favorite books.

Why did Alex love this book?

This is one of the books that sparked my interest in the cult of personality that dictators cultivate in order to secure their own power.

It helped inspire a number of essays I later wrote about dictators and informed some of the characters in my own books. In fact, Mobutu is one of the most interesting dictators to me because he chose as his mistress his wife’s identical twin.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!

By Michela Wrong,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Known as "the Leopard," the president of Zaire for thirty-two years, Mobutu Sese Seko, showed all the cunning of his namesake -- seducing Western powers, buying up the opposition, and dominating his people with a devastating combination of brutality and charm. While the population was pauperized, he plundered the country's copper and diamond resources, downing pink champagne in his jungle palace like some modern-day reincarnation of Joseph Conrad's crazed station manager.

Michela Wrong, a correspondent who witnessed Mobutu's last days, traces the rise and fall of the idealistic young journalist who became the stereotype of an African despot. Engrossing, highly…

Peacemakers in Action

By Joyce S. Dubensky (editor),

Book cover of Peacemakers in Action: Volume 2: Profiles in Religious Peacebuilding

Georgette F. Bennett Ph.D. Author Of Religicide: Confronting the Roots of Anti-Religious Violence

From the list on human rights that focus on religion.

Who am I?

Between us, we’ve been in the interreligious relations business for a combined 50 years. We started working together when Jerry was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. In 2015, we were both invited by Prince Ghazi of Jordan to join other interreligious leaders to advance a UN resolution defining and taking a stand against religicide. That resolution never made it to the Security Council. But we joined forces to sound the alarm about religicide. We wrote our book in the hope of inspiring an international campaign to end this killing in the name of God – or being killed because of your God.   

Georgette's book list on human rights that focus on religion

Discover why each book is one of Georgette's favorite books.

Why did Georgette love this book?

With all that has been written about religion as a cause of violence, here are two volumes of case studies about how religion is used by individuals on the ground to stop violence. The case studies feature the heroic individuals in the Peacemakers in Action Network of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. They operate in conflict zones around the world and this book reveals the methods and techniques they use to transform conflicts. I founded Tanenbaum in 1992 and this signature program was inspired and guided by the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

By Joyce S. Dubensky (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Every day, men and women risk their lives to stop violence in religiously charged conflicts around the world. You may not know their names - but you should. Peacemakers in Action, Volume 2 provides a window into the triumphs, risks, failures, and lessons learned of eight remarkable, religiously motivated peacemakers including: * A Methodist bishop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who confronts armed warlords on his front lawn * A Christian who travels to Syria to coordinate medical aid and rebuild postwar communities * A Muslim woman, not knowing how Kabul's imams will react, arrives to train them…


By Lynn Nottage,

Book cover of Ruined

Will Dunne Author Of The Dramatic Writer's Companion: Tools to Develop Characters, Cause Scenes, and Build Stories

From the list on plays with characters who leap off the page.

Who am I?

I’m a playwright who loves not only writing plays but also teaching dramatic writing workshops – mostly through my San Francisco program and Chicago Dramatists where I’m a Resident Playwright. My plays have received many awards and honors, including three selections for the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, and have been presented in Europe, Russia, and Australia as well as the U.S. Meanwhile my workshops and script consultations have given me the opportunity to work with thousands of writers over the past 35 years. This led me to begin writing books for writers, starting with The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, now in its Second Edition.

Will's book list on plays with characters who leap off the page

Discover why each book is one of Will's favorite books.

Why did Will love this book?

I saw the world premiere of this play at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and never forgot it.

What stays with me most is the powerful main character Mama Nadi, a fierce, shrewd businesswoman who runs a brothel in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a civil war. And though she lives in a world where sex trafficking, rape, mutilation, and other brutality is commonplace, she knows how to keep her establishment flourishing and her girls, safe.

Playwright Nottage based her characters on women and girls whom she interviewed during a trip to Africa. The authenticity of the characters and storyline may help explain why the play went on to earn multiple awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. 

By Lynn Nottage,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

“A powerhouse drama. . . . Lynn Nottage’s beautiful, hideous and unpretentiously important play [is] a shattering, intimate journey into faraway news reports.”—Linda Winer, Newsday

“An intense and gripping new drama . . . the kind of new play we desperately need: well-informed and unafraid of the world’s brutalities. Nottage is one of our finest playwrights, a smart, empathetic and daring storyteller who tells a story an audience won’t expect.”—David Cote, Time Out New York

A rain forest bar and brothel in the brutally war-torn Congo is the setting for Lynn Nottage’s…


By David Van Reybrouck,

Book cover of Congo: The Epic History of a People

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

From the 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)

Discover why each book is one of Michela's favorite books.

Why did Michela love this book?

As the author of a book on the Democratic Republic of Congo myself, I should have felt fiercely competitive with Van Reybrouk, a Belgian playwright, poet, and author. In fact, I loved this book. He tells this enormous country’s complex history, from King Leopold’s 19th-century giant land grab through to Patrice Lumumba's premiership, Marechal Mobutu Sese Sekos’ overthrow, Laurent Kabila’s Rwandan-backed takeover and beyond, almost exclusively through the testimony of living Congolese citizens, making it not only extraordinarily fresh, but utterly authentic as a record of the past. It’s a long book – 150 years of history, addressed at a leisurely pace, takes up a lot of paper - but every chapter is a jewel.

By David Van Reybrouck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'Not only deserves the description "epic", in its true sense, but the term "masterpiece" as well' Independent

This gripping epic tells the story of one of the world's most critical failed nation-states: the Democratic Republic of Congo. Interweaving his own family's history with the voices of a diverse range of individuals - charismatic dictators, feuding warlords, child soldiers, and many in the African diaspora of Europe and China - Van Reybrouck offers a deeply humane approach to political history, focusing squarely on the Congolese perspective and returning a nation's history to its people.

Travels in the Congo

By Andre Gide,

Book cover of Travels in the Congo

Edward Berenson Author Of Heroes of Empire: Five Charismatic Men and the Conquest of Africa

From the list on the impact of European colonialism on Africa and Africans.

Who am I?

I’ve spent most of my career teaching and writing about French history. In the 1990s, it became belatedly clear to me and other French historians that France shouldn’t be understood purely as a European nation-state. It was an empire whose imperial ambitions encompassed North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Indochina, and India. By the twentieth century, and especially after 1945, large numbers of people from those colonial places had emigrated to mainland France, claiming to belong to that country and asserting the right to live there. Their presence produced a great deal of political strife, which I wanted to study by looking at France’s colonial past.

Edward's book list on the impact of European colonialism on Africa and Africans

Discover why each book is one of Edward's favorite books.

Why did Edward love this book?

This travel diary by the Nobel Prize winning French writer was published in 1927 and expertly translated by his lifelong friend Dorothy Bussy. Gide dedicated his book and its sequel, Return from Chad, to Joseph Conrad, whose Congolese itinerary Gide retraced in part. In 1926 and 1927, the Frenchman spent ten months in Equatorial Africa with his lover Marc Alégret, making no secret of his sexual preference for young men and boys. In these travelogues, Gide fiercely criticized French colonialism and especially France’s “concessionary companies,” the large monopolistic firms that cruelly exploited Congolese laborers forced under inhuman conditions to harvest raw rubber. France’s Congo colony reproduced the excesses of its Belgian counterpart, despite the efforts of Gide and other prominent French figures to reform it.

By Andre Gide,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

King Leopold's Ghost

By Adam Hochschild,

Book cover of King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

Lyla Bashan Author Of Global: An Extraordinary Guide for Ordinary Heroes

From the list on becoming a global citizen and ordinary hero.

Who am I?

In 6th grade I did a report about the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which manifested in a career spanning more than 20 years where I’ve worked for NGOs, the State Department, and the United States Agency for International Development to help make the world a better place. I’ve lived in Guatemala, Tajikistan, Armenia, and Jordan, and travelled throughout Sub-Saharan Africa working on conflict prevention, democracy, governance, and human rights. I’m a firm believer that, no matter your profession, everyone can help make the world a better place – and that’s why I wrote my book and why I read the books on my list – to help make this a reality. 

Lyla's book list on becoming a global citizen and ordinary hero

Discover why each book is one of Lyla's favorite books.

Why did Lyla love this book?

I read King Leopold’s Ghost when I was working on conflict resolution in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the State Department.

The painful legacy of colonization can still be felt in the DRC and across the continent. Colonizing nations didn’t invest in education, public servants, infrastructure, or any of the necessary elements to create a strong nation-state because this was never colonization’s goal.

This book clearly outlines this upsetting reality with the real-life example of Belgium’s colonization of the DRC. It is upsetting to read, but so important to understand how we got to where we are in so many countries that were colonized around the world. 

By Adam Hochschild,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked King Leopold's Ghost as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Duff Cooper Prize, King Leopold's Ghost is the true and haunting account of Leopold's brutal regime and its lasting effect on a ruined nation. With an introduction by award-winning novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

In the late nineteenth century, when the great powers in Europe were tearing Africa apart and seizing ownership of land for themselves, King Leopold of Belgium took hold of the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. In his devastatingly barbarous colonization of this area, Leopold stole its rubber and ivory, pummelled its people and set up a ruthless regime that would reduce…