The best books on Eritrea

Who picked these books? Meet our 10 experts.

10 authors created a book list connected to Eritrea, and here are their favorite Eritrea books.
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What type of Eritrea book?


Refugee Boy

By Benjamin Zephaniah,

Book cover of Refugee Boy

Mary Jennifer Payne Author Of Enough

From the list on unforgettable protagonists in urban settings.

Who am I?

Born the same year as Winona Ryder, Tupac Shakur, and Elon Musk, I’m a Toronto-based writer of novels, short fiction, graphic stories, nonfiction, and scripts for film and television. My YA books include the graphic novella The Lion of Africa, the supernatural, climate change-fuelled Daughters of Light trilogy, and the hard-hitting Since You’ve Been Gone. My writing gives voice to strong, diverse protagonists in urban settings who are dealing with seemingly insurmountable challenges. I’ve been a special education teacher for more than 20 years and my characters are often inspired by the amazing young people I’ve worked with. The cities in my work are living, breathing entities that shape the plot and the protagonist’s character.

Mary's book list on unforgettable protagonists in urban settings

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

Why did Mary love this book?

In a world where the number of forcibly displaced people is rising faster and to the highest levels ever, I believe this beautifully written story of fourteen-year-old Alem is incredibly important. Thinking he’s on a short holiday to the UK with his father, Alem, who is an aspiring architect, happily soaks in the sights and sounds, making apt comparisons between London and the urban landscapes and architecture of Ethiopia. However, Alem is about to have his world turned upside down. The next day, his father abandons him in the UK in a desperate attempt to keep him safe from the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. This means Alem is forced to navigate the asylum process and get used to living in the UK while trying desperately to hang onto the hope that his parents are still alive and that they might one day be reunited as a family.

By Benjamin Zephaniah,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Playful, obstinate and courageously humorous ... hilarious and later heartbreaking' Guardian 'Sweet, funny, highly inventive' Yorkshire Post The personal, funny and poignant tale of a young refugee, from acclaimed storyteller Benjamin Zephaniah Acclaimed performance poet and novelist Benjamin Zephaniah's honest, wry and poignant story of a young refugee left in London is of even more power and pertinence today than when it was first published. Life is not safe for Alem. His father is Ethopian, his mother Eritrean. Their countries are at war, and Alem is welcome in neither place. So Alem is excited to spend a holiday in London…

Child of the Sun

By Kyle Onstott,

Book cover of Child of the Sun

Andrew Chugg Author Of Alexander's Lovers

From the list on sexual relationships in Greek and Roman antiquity.

Who am I?

When I voyaged into the ancient world in the readings of my youth, it led me to realize that the gay-straight divide in modern perceptions of sexuality and relationships is an artifice. It was constructed by the conceit of the ascetic religions that the only legitimate purpose of sex is the production of children within a sanctified marital relationship. In Antiquity, the divide followed a more natural course between the groups who were the sexually active partners (mainly adult men) and those who were sexually passive (mainly women, youths, and eunuchs). My hope is to disperse some of the confusion that the obscuration of this historical reality has caused.

Andrew's book list on sexual relationships in Greek and Roman antiquity

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

Why did Andrew love 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.

By Kyle Onstott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This brilliant and brutally intimate novel captures accurately the depravity and intrigue of Ancient Rome. CHILD OF THE SUN tells the story of the youth Varius Avitus Hassianus, destined to become Emperor of the Roman empire. Varius spurned women. His erotic longings searched out a very different kind of love. Whatever or whomever he fancied was quickly offered to him. And no man, be he soldier or citizen, dared refuse him. As his perverted passions grew more and more bizarre, even the voluptuaries of Rome recoiled in horror.

Gossip from the Forest

By Sara Maitland,

Book cover of Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales

Ashland Pym Author Of The Serpent and the Swan: A Grimm-Dark Fairy Tale

From the list on capturing the power of myth.

Who am I?

I’m a fantasy author and mythologist who studies myth’s place in culture, history, and heritage conservation. To finish my doctorate, I moved from Seattle to Galway, Ireland and never left. Myth and folklore permeate the landscape around me as well as my day-to-day life. After grad school I returned to my first love, fiction, with all the knowledge and passion that came from the better part of a decade spent studying mythology. When I’m not writing, I spend my time exploring 5000-year-old tombs or practicing Fiore (14th century Italian sword fighting) with my husband. The Serpent and the Swan is the debut fairy tale in a much larger series.

Ashland's book list on capturing the power of myth

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

Why did Ashland love this book?

Folklore and nature conservation is a subjects close to my heart. When I met my husband, an ecologist, many of our first conversations were on the importance of narrative to get people interested in conservation efforts. Folklore is the perfect tool.

This book does that job beautifully. As a piece of narrative nonfiction, it collects fairy tales, personal memoirs, and natural history in a lyrical journey through the forests of England. Maitland centers each chapter on an English woodland and the stories associated with it, be they fairy tales or history. More importantly, she discusses not only how myth shapes culture, but how landscape shapes myth. I reference it time and again not only as an academic, but as an author who creates worlds rich in landscape and folklore.

By Sara Maitland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fairytales are one of our earliest and most vital cultural forms, and forests one of our most ancient landscapes. Both evoke a similar sensation in us - we find them beautiful and magical, but also spooky, sometimes horrifying.

In this fascinating book, Maitland argues that the two forms are intimately connected: the mysterious secrets and silences, gifts and perils of the forests were both the background and the source of the fairytales made famous by the Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen. Yet both forests and fairy stories are at risk and their loss deprives us of our cultural lifeblood. Maitland…

Ruby the Copycat

By Peggy Rathmann,

Book cover of Ruby the Copycat

Tricia Tusa Author Of Is That You, Eleanor Sue?

From the list on truly unique children’s tales.

Who am I?

I decided at the age of 5 that I wanted to write and illustrate books for children. That is exactly what I have been doing the last 40 years of my adult life. I find that I walk around seeing and hearing the world as potential stories. It’s fun! I can not imagine doing anything else for a living! I recommended the 5 books that I did because they are a little strange and curious and thought-provoking. The art, as well. Therefore, they feel like they emerged from the author/illustrator from that place within, way down deep, where only authentic expression of self can be found. 

Tricia's book list on truly unique children’s tales

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

Why did Tricia love 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 adorable and expressive and loose. Great humor. Full of humanity. 

By Peggy Rathmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Let the Scholastic Bookshelf be your guide through the whole range of your child's experiences--laugh with them, learn with them, read with them!

It's the first day of school, and Ruby is new. When her classmate Angela wears a red bow in her hair, Ruby comes back from lunch wearing a red bow, too. When Angela wears a flowered dress, suddenly Ruby's wearing one, too. Fortunately, Ruby's teacher knows a better way to help Ruby fit in--by showing how much fun it is to be herself!

To Each His Own

By Leonardo Sciascia, Adrienne Foulke (translator),

Book cover of To Each His Own

David Downie Author Of Red Riviera

From the list on crime novels that double as travel books.

Who am I?

I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s watching Alfred Hitchcock movies and reading Dashiell Hammett—I’m from San Francisco. Then opera got hold of me. So, I dropped out of my PhD program, left Dante’s Inferno behind, and moved to Paris to live a modern-day La Bohème. Because I’m half-Italian, I decided I had to divide my life between Paris and Italy. Mystery, murder, romance, longing, and betrayal were what fueled my passions and still do. To earn a living, I became a travel, food, and arts reporter. These interests and the locales of my life come together in my own crime and mystery novels.

David's book list on crime novels that double as travel books

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

Why did David love 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 it. You enter the heads and hearts of Sicilians. Written over 50 years ago, To Each His Own needs no refreshing. That world never changes.

By Leonardo Sciascia, Adrienne Foulke (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Each His Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This letter is your death sentence. To avenge what you have done you will die. But what has Manno the pharmacist done? Nothing that he can think of. The next day he and his hunting companion are both dead.The police investigation is inconclusive. However, a modest high school teacher with a literary bent has noticed a clue that, he believes, will allow him to trace the killer. Patiently, methodically, he begins to untangle a web of erotic intrigue and political calculation. But the results of his amateur sleuthing are unexpected—and tragic. To Each His Own is one of the masterworks…


By Paul Kenyon,

Book cover of Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa

Irina Filatova Author Of The Hidden Thread. Russia and South Africa in the Soviet Era

From the list on to understand what is wrong and right with Africa.

Who am I?

I am a South African historian of Russian origin, who has studied and taught African history since the late 1960s. For us, the Russians, Africa was then an alluring terra incognita of wild nature, adventure, human suffering, struggles, and tenacity. I have studied how Africa became what it is for 50 years and lived in it for 30. I have learnt a lot about it, but for me it is still a land of human suffering, struggles and tenacity, wild nature, and adventure, and it is still alluring. 

Irina's book list on to understand what is wrong and right with Africa

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

Why did Irina love 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 does not go away. None of his “heroes” could have turned into the monsters they became without the interaction with and support, even if indirect, of global actors who needed the resources which their countries possess, natural or human. 

By Paul Kenyon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Financial Times Book of the Year

'Jaw-dropping' Daily Express

'Grimly fascinating' Financial Times

'Humane, timely, accessible and well-researched' Irish Times

The dictator who grew so rich on his country's cocoa crop that he built a 35-storey-high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast. The austere, incorruptible leader who has shut Eritrea off from the world in a permanent state of war and conscripted every adult into the armed forces. In Equatorial Guinea, the paranoid despot who thought Hitler was the saviour of Africa and waged a relentless campaign of terror against his own people. The Libyan army officer…

Book cover of Hector and the Search for Happiness

Christopher Riley Author Of Where Once We Stood: Stories of The Apollo Astronauts Who Walked On The Moon

From the list on making sense of our existence in the Universe.

Who am I?

I am a film director and producer, specialising in science and history. I write books between making films. 

Christopher's book list on making sense of our existence in the Universe

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

Why did Christopher love 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. 

By Francois Lelord,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hector and the Search for Happiness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can we learn how to be happy? Hector is a successful young psychiatrist. He's very good at treating patients in real need of his help. But many people he sees have no health problems: they're just deeply dissatisfied with their lives. Hector can't do much for them, and it's beginning to depress him. So when a patient tells him he looks in need of a holiday, Hector decides to set off round the world to find out what makes people everywhere happy (and sad), and whether there is such a thing as the secret of true happiness.

I Didn't Do It for You

By Michela Wrong,

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

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita And Alastair Smith Author Of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

From the list on rulers behaving badly in Africa.

Who am I?

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith are professors of politics at New York University. They use the mathematical approach of game theory to understand the incentives of leaders in different settings. The Dictator’s Handbook distills decades of academic work into a few essential rules that encapsulate how leaders come to power and remain there.

Bruce's book list on rulers behaving badly in Africa

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

Why did Bruce love 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.

By Michela Wrong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Didn't Do It for You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One small East African country embodies the battered history of the continent: patronised by colonialists, riven by civil war, confused by Cold War manoeuvring, proud, colorful, with Africa's best espresso and worst rail service. Michela Wrong brilliantly reveals the contradictions and comedy, past and present, of Eritrea.

Just as the beat of a butterfly's wings is said to cause hurricanes on the other side of the world, so the affairs of tiny Eritrea reverberate onto the agenda of superpower strategists. This new book on Africa is from the author of the critically acclaimed In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz.


The Crossing

By Manjeet Mann,

Book cover of The Crossing

Berlie W. Doherty Author Of The Girl Who Saw Lions

From the 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

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

Why did Berlie love 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 journey, with its horrors, hunger, despair, and unimaginable hardship, is particularly graphically told.

I found this story of bravery shocking and frightening, but not without hope.

By Manjeet Mann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Powerful, compassionate and ultimately hopeful. Observer

WINNER OF THE COSTA CHILDREN'S BOOK AWARD 2021 and the Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week - a trailblazing novel about two teenagers from opposite worlds; The Crossing is a profound story of hope, grief, and the very real tragedies of the refugee crisis.

The sea carries our pain. The stars carry our future.

Natalie's world is falling apart. She's just lost her mum and her brother marches the streets of Dover full of hate and anger. Swimming is her only refuge.

Sammy has fled his home and family in Eritrea for the…

Voices from the 'Jungle'

By Calais Writers,

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

Peter Gatrell Author Of The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent

From the list on the history of migration and refugees.

Who am I?

I am interested in the history of people on the move, and in particular how migrants and refugees negotiated the upheavals of war and revolution in the 20th century. Originally, I turned to these topics as a specialist in Russian history, but I have since broadened my perspective to consider the causes and consequences of mass population displacement in other parts of the world. I have just retired from the History faculty at the University of Manchester, where I taught since 1976. In 2019 I was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences.

Peter's book list on the history of migration and refugees

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

Why did Peter love 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 or for the opportunity to make their way to the UK to join family or friends. The camp and its residents have been much photographed, but most of these images give little idea of the extent to which the “jungle” became a vibrant community; juxtaposing images and words, as in…

By Calais Writers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Voices from the 'Jungle' as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Often called the 'Jungle', the refugee camp near Calais in Northern France epitomises for many the suffering, uncertainty and violence which characterises the situation of refugees in Europe today. But the media soundbites we hear ignore the voices of the people who lived there - people who have travelled to Europe from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan and Eritrea: people with astounding stories, who are looking for peace and a better future.

Voices from the 'Jungle' is a collection of these stories. Through its pages, the refugees speak to us in powerful, vivid language. They reveal their childhood…