The best books on Eritrea

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Eritrea and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation

I Didn't Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation

By Michela Wrong,

Why this book?

Wrong’s account of Eritrea’s bid for independence from Ethiopia highlights the conflict between the needs of the people and the wants of leaders. The title of her book is taken from what a soldier liberating Ethiopia from Italian rule told a local and sets the tone of the book. Time and again Wrong describes how leaders will starve their own people or bomb their own soldiers provide it help keep them in power.

From the list:

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Book cover of Ruby the Copycat

Ruby the Copycat

By Peggy Rathmann,

Why this book?

Ruby is new to school as she enters Miss Hart’s class. Ruby’s desk is right behind Angela’s. Angela seems to be a self-possessed, lovely young girl and, right away, Ruby is quite taken with Angela.  She wants to be her friend. Perhaps Ruby wants to be noticed and equally admired by this potential new friend, and so she imitates Angela in every way. It gets old fast. Miss Hart handles the situation admirably well, with utmost respect and sensitivity. (I wish I had encountered more teachers like that as a kid.)  Rathmann captures kids’ innocent foibles, well. The artwork is…

From the list:

The best children’s books that are truly unique tales (as opposed to preachy and moralizing)

Book cover of Voices from the 'Jungle': Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp

Voices from the 'Jungle': Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp

By Calais Writers,

Why this book?

Thinking about camps and incarceration brings me to Voices from the ‘Jungle’: Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp. I choose this book because it offers insights into the lives and aspirations of refugees who congregated in the refugee camp in the coastal town of Calais in northern France. As such, it is an antidote to much contemporary reportage of refugees as a faceless and anonymous mass. Their vivid first-person accounts testify to the violence and persecution from which they escaped, whether in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, or Syria, and their subsequent adventures and odysseys, including endless waiting for official decisions…

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Book cover of The Crossing

The Crossing

By Manjeet Mann,

Why this book?

The Crossing really moved me. It’s an unforgettable story of two young people who suffer extreme trauma and struggle to find their way to a better future. Nat is in England, her mother has died, and in her honour Nat sets herself the task of raising money for refugees by swimming the Channel. Sammy, in Eritrea, has witnessed the political murder of his father and is soon to be drafted into the army, where he knows he will be tortured. I love the way the author weaves their first-person stories together, till we feel the two must meet. Sammy’s desperate…

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Book cover of To Each His Own

To Each His Own

By Leonardo Sciascia, Adrienne Foulke (translator),

Why this book?

A double homicide in Sicily. Innocent, eccentric, small-town characters. The Mafia, the church, and a stifling, frightening nightmare world portrayed with humor, humanity, and a diamond-tipped eye for detail: that’s Leonardo Sciascia’s 1960s detective novel classic, To Each His Own (A ciascuno il suo). The writing is clean, clear, nervy, and seductive—some of the best crime writing, period. It even survives translation. This book is at least as good as The Godfather and better than anything by Andrea Camilleri. As you turn the pages, you’re not only transported to off-the-beaten-track, real-deal Sicily. You feel the grit. You smell…

From the list:

The best crime novels that double as travel books

Book cover of Hector and the Search for Happiness

Hector and the Search for Happiness

By Francois Lelord,

Why this book?

This book, tells the story of a journey the author, embarks on to search for something he feels he’s missing in his life. Lelord is a psychiatrist and has an insightful perspective on the human condition. I love his simple use of language – which brings a refreshing, child-like wonder to observing the world and what makes life worth living. 

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Book cover of Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa

Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa

By Paul Kenyon,

Why this book?

Rich in interesting and juicy detail, this account of governance in Africa presents a chronicle, rather than an analysis, of what was, and still is, wrong with the continent. Kenyon tells the story of state and power differently, basing it on personalities and circumstances, rather than ages-long continuities. His personalities are the corrupt leaders of seven unhappy countries, who managed to amass enormous power and keep it for decades. With such personalities come passions, greed, and immeasurable cruelty to their compatriots, all presented in intimate detail, as the author saw it all – he was there. But the global context…

From the list:

The best books to understand “what is wrong” with Africa – and what is right

Book cover of Child of the Sun

Child of the Sun

By Kyle Onstott,

Why this book?

What would happen if a randy teenage boy became Emperor of Rome after winning a pitched battle against a usurper? Would the magisterial traditions and decorum of the office triumph over adolescent hormones or vice versa? Actually, there is no need to speculate about the answer, because it happened in real life and was recorded in several ancient histories that have come down to us. This novel, though billed upon its publication as erotic, is quite closely based on those histories. Clue: the hormonal impulses of teenage boys are quite hard to suppress.

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