The best books about Ethiopia

10 authors have picked their favorite books about Ethiopia and why they recommend each book.

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Scoop

By Evelyn Waugh,

Book cover of Scoop

A savage counterpoint to Pyle’s brave frontline reporting. The English novelist made two trips to the Ethiopia to cover the war launched by Mussolini in 1935. While in Africa, Waugh complained bitterly about a rival reporter who “never set foot in Abyssinia . . . he sits in his hotel describing an entirely imaginary campaign.” And in this satire, he gave savage voice to this incendiary allegation, describing a group of reporters who spent the bulk of their time far from the front, writing stories based on either misleading briefings by local propaganda chiefs or ingenious inventions that fit the prejudices of their editors and proprietors back home. A hilarious romp.

Scoop

By Evelyn Waugh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Evelyn Waugh's brilliantly irreverent satire of Fleet Street, now in a beautiful hardback edition with a new Introduction by Alexander Waugh

Lord Copper, newspaper magnate and proprietor of The Daily Beast, has always prided himself on his intuitive flair for spotting ace reporters. That is not to say he has not made the odd blunder, however, and may in a moment of weakness make another. Acting on a dinner party tip from Mrs Algernon Stitch, he feels convinced that he has hit on just the chap to cover a promising little war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia. But for,…


Who am I?

Steven Casey is Professor in International History at the LSE. A specialist in US foreign policy, he is the author of ten books, including Cautious Crusade, which explored American attitudes toward Nazi Germany during World War II; Selling the Korean War, which won both the Truman Book Award and the Neustadt Prize for best book in American Politics; and When Soldiers Fall which also won the Neustadt Prize. In 2017, he published War Beat, Europe: The American Media at War against Nazi Germany, which won the American Journalism Historians Association 2018 book of the year, the panel judging it “a landmark work.” 


I wrote...

The War Beat, Pacific: The American Media at War Against Japan

By Steven Casey,

Book cover of The War Beat, Pacific: The American Media at War Against Japan

What is my book about?

The definitive history of American war reporting in the Pacific theater of World War II, from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After almost two years slogging with infantrymen through North Africa, Italy, and France, Ernie Pyle immediately realized he was ill-prepared for covering the Pacific War. As Pyle and other war correspondents discovered, the climate, the logistics, and the sheer scope of the Pacific theater had no parallel in the war America was fighting in Europe.

The War Beat, Pacific shows how foreign correspondents ran up against practical challenges and risked their lives to get stories in a theater that was far more challenging than the war against Nazi Germany, while the US government blocked news of the war against Japan and tried to focus the home front on Hitler and his atrocities.

The Emperor

By Ryszard Kapuściński,

Book cover of The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat

All of Kapuscinski’s books are gems. He traveled Africa and other parts of the developing world as a Soviet journalist. The Emperor describes the rule and decline of the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie. The dry day-to-dry accounts of the emperor’s benign neglect for his people is chilling. Haile Selassie knew to keep those around him happy and not to worry about the people: “A man starved all his life will never rebel…. No one raised his voice or hand there. But just let the subject start to eat his fill and then try to take the bowl away, and immediately he rises in rebellion. The usefulness of hunger is that a hungry man thinks only of bread.”.

The Emperor

By Ryszard Kapuściński,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A "sensitive, powerful ... history" (The New York Review of Books) of a man living amidst nearly unimaginable pomp and luxury while his people teetered netween hunger and starvation.

Haile Selassie, King of Kings, Elect of God, Lion of Judah, His Most Puissant Majesty and Distinguished Highness the Emperor of Ethiopia, reigned from 1930 until he was overthrown by the army in 1974. While the fighting still raged, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Poland's leading foreign correspondent, traveled to Ethiopia to seek out and interview Selassie's servants and closest associates on how the Emperor had ruled and why he fell. This is Kapuscinski's…


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.


We wrote...

The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (lead author), Alastair Smith,

Book cover of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

What is our book about?

Our cynical, but we believe accurate, view of politics examines how leaders come to power, stay in power, and rule for their benefit rather than that for the people. No leader rules alone. Everyone needs essential supporters to implement policy, collect taxes and keep the people under control. Whether we consider dictators, democrats or corporate bosses, political success requires that leaders must always take care of their coalition of supporters first and foremost. In such diverse settings as public policy, tax collection, corruption, revolution, foreign aid, and fighting wars, the handbook shows that the good of the people is always a secondary concern, at best. However, the book contains a hopeful message. By understanding politics through the lens of what is best for the leader, we can constraint leader rapacity.

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

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.

I Didn't Do It for You

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.

Eritrea…


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.


We wrote...

The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (lead author), Alastair Smith,

Book cover of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

What is our book about?

Our cynical, but we believe accurate, view of politics examines how leaders come to power, stay in power, and rule for their benefit rather than that for the people. No leader rules alone. Everyone needs essential supporters to implement policy, collect taxes and keep the people under control. Whether we consider dictators, democrats or corporate bosses, political success requires that leaders must always take care of their coalition of supporters first and foremost. In such diverse settings as public policy, tax collection, corruption, revolution, foreign aid, and fighting wars, the handbook shows that the good of the people is always a secondary concern, at best. However, the book contains a hopeful message. By understanding politics through the lens of what is best for the leader, we can constraint leader rapacity.

Ancient Churches of Ethiopia

By David W. Phillipson,

Book cover of Ancient Churches of Ethiopia: Fourth-Fourteenth Centuries

David Phillipson is an archeologist who has excavated – and shown me round – sites at Axum and other places. Here he guides us through the early history of the church from the 4th to 15th centuries by showing the wonderful photos, descriptions, and plans of the main church sites, supplemented by historical and geographical essays. A tour of the buildings is a clear and perceptive introduction to this tradition – as well as being a breath-taking journey through some of the more important historic centres of this ancient civilisation.

Ancient Churches of Ethiopia

By David W. Phillipson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The kings of Aksum formally became Christian during the second quarter of the 4th century, making Ethiopia the second country in the world (after Armenia) officially to adopt the new faith. This landmark book is the first to integrate historical, archaeological, and art-historical evidence to provide a comprehensive account of Ethiopian Christian civilization and its churches-both built and rock-hewn-from the Aksumite period to the 13th century.

David W. Phillipson, a foremost authority on Ethiopia's archaeology, situates these churches within the development of Ethiopian society, illuminating the exceptional continuity of the country's Christian civilization. He offers a fresh view of the…


Who am I?

I had visited many Eastern Orthodox churches across Eastern Europe and the Middle East for a research project, and finally came to Ethiopia. Here I encountered a large and thriving Christian community which reached back to the earliest days of the church. Its location between the Middle East and East Asia and Africa as well as Europe has given it a distinctive way of living and worshipping which is unique in the Christian world – and overlooked by other churches. I’ve spent the last twenty years exploring this tradition which gives the rest of us a radically different understanding of faith.


I wrote...

The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

By John Binns,

Book cover of The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

What is my book about?

Surrounded by steep escarpments to the north, south, and east, Ethiopia has always been geographically and culturally set apart. It has the longest archaeological record of any country in the world: indeed, this precipitous mountain land was where the human race began. It is also home to an ancient church with a remarkable legacy. The Church of Ethiopia is the only pre-colonial church in sub-Saharan Africa; today it has a membership of around forty million and is rapidly growing.

This book is a major study of the history and theology of a community that has developed a distinctive approach different from all other churches. John Binns explains how its special features have shaped the life of the Ethiopian people, and how political changes since the overthrow of Haile Selassie have forced the Church to rethink its identity and mission. 

Greater Ethiopia

By Donald N. Levine,

Book cover of Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society

Ethiopia is a country with the second largest population in Africa. There are over 80 ethnic groups and languages, living in a region that includes the largest area of mountains in Africa and also the lowest point on the earth’s land surface. While this book tells the history of the Christian north, including the national epic which tells how Ethiopian kings are descended from Solomon of Israel, it also describes the culture and traditions of other societies which make up this fascinating country, and shows both the tensions and the creativity within Ethiopian society. 

Greater Ethiopia

By Donald N. Levine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Combines history, anthropology and sociology to answer two major questions. Why did Ethiopia remain independent under the onslaught of European expansionism while other African political entities were colonized? And why must Ethiopia be considered a single cultural region despite its political, religious and linguistic diversity? Donald Levine's interdisciplinary study seeks to make a contribution both to Ethiopian interpretive history and to sociological analysis. In his preface, Levine examines Ethiopia since the overthrow of the monarchy in the 1970s.


Who am I?

I had visited many Eastern Orthodox churches across Eastern Europe and the Middle East for a research project, and finally came to Ethiopia. Here I encountered a large and thriving Christian community which reached back to the earliest days of the church. Its location between the Middle East and East Asia and Africa as well as Europe has given it a distinctive way of living and worshipping which is unique in the Christian world – and overlooked by other churches. I’ve spent the last twenty years exploring this tradition which gives the rest of us a radically different understanding of faith.


I wrote...

The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

By John Binns,

Book cover of The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

What is my book about?

Surrounded by steep escarpments to the north, south, and east, Ethiopia has always been geographically and culturally set apart. It has the longest archaeological record of any country in the world: indeed, this precipitous mountain land was where the human race began. It is also home to an ancient church with a remarkable legacy. The Church of Ethiopia is the only pre-colonial church in sub-Saharan Africa; today it has a membership of around forty million and is rapidly growing.

This book is a major study of the history and theology of a community that has developed a distinctive approach different from all other churches. John Binns explains how its special features have shaped the life of the Ethiopian people, and how political changes since the overthrow of Haile Selassie have forced the Church to rethink its identity and mission. 

Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia

By Gérard Prunier, Éloi Ficquet,

Book cover of Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia: Monarchy, Revolution and the Legacy of Meles Zenawi

Ethiopian society has gone through radical changes and transformations during the last century – and which continue into an uncertain future. The medieval-style empire of Haile Selassie was toppled by a Marxist dictatorship in 1974, which in turn fell to an alliance of northern peoples who set up a federalist system in 1991, which is now showing signs of tension. This collection of sixteen essays by some of the best-known authorities in their fields, outlines the political history and economic changes. It also tells about the arrival of Pentecostal churches, the growth of militant Islam, and the adaptation of the Orthodox church to a changing world. 

Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia

By Gérard Prunier, Éloi Ficquet,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When we think of Ethiopia we tend to think in cliches: Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the Falasha Jews, the epic reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, the Communist Revolution, famine and civil war. Among the countries of Africa it has a high profile yet is poorly known. How- ever all cliches contain within them a kernel of truth, and occlude much more. Today's Ethiopia (and its painfully liberated sister state of Eritrea) are largely obscured by these mythical views and a secondary literature that is partial or propagandist. Moreover there have been few attempts to offer readers a comprehensive…


Who am I?

I had visited many Eastern Orthodox churches across Eastern Europe and the Middle East for a research project, and finally came to Ethiopia. Here I encountered a large and thriving Christian community which reached back to the earliest days of the church. Its location between the Middle East and East Asia and Africa as well as Europe has given it a distinctive way of living and worshipping which is unique in the Christian world – and overlooked by other churches. I’ve spent the last twenty years exploring this tradition which gives the rest of us a radically different understanding of faith.


I wrote...

The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

By John Binns,

Book cover of The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

What is my book about?

Surrounded by steep escarpments to the north, south, and east, Ethiopia has always been geographically and culturally set apart. It has the longest archaeological record of any country in the world: indeed, this precipitous mountain land was where the human race began. It is also home to an ancient church with a remarkable legacy. The Church of Ethiopia is the only pre-colonial church in sub-Saharan Africa; today it has a membership of around forty million and is rapidly growing.

This book is a major study of the history and theology of a community that has developed a distinctive approach different from all other churches. John Binns explains how its special features have shaped the life of the Ethiopian people, and how political changes since the overthrow of Haile Selassie have forced the Church to rethink its identity and mission. 

The Wife's Tale

By Aida Edemariam,

Book cover of The Wife's Tale: A Personal History

The author is an Ethiopian/Canadian journalist living in London. The book is a vivid biography of her grandmother, Yetemegnu, based on many conversations and interviews. It begins in a traditional household in northern Ethiopia where the grandmother was married at the age of 10 to an ambitious priest twenty years older than her, and it takes us through a century of history as the family lives through and adapts to turbulent times, ending up in modern Addis Ababa where her son became a successful doctor and emigrated to Canada. It’s a beautiful and affectionate account that introduces us to a changing society. 

The Wife's Tale

By Aida Edemariam,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE RSL ONDAATJE PRIZE 2019
AN ECONOMIST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A CBC BOOK OF THE YEAR

The extraordinary story of an indomitable 95-year-old woman - and of the most extraordinary century in Ethiopia's history. A new Wild Swans

A hundred years ago, a girl was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. Before she was ten years old, Yetemegnu was married to a man two decades her senior, an ambitious poet-priest. Over the next century her world changed beyond recognition. She witnessed Fascist invasion and occupation, Allied bombardment and exile from her city, the ascent and…


Who am I?

I had visited many Eastern Orthodox churches across Eastern Europe and the Middle East for a research project, and finally came to Ethiopia. Here I encountered a large and thriving Christian community which reached back to the earliest days of the church. Its location between the Middle East and East Asia and Africa as well as Europe has given it a distinctive way of living and worshipping which is unique in the Christian world – and overlooked by other churches. I’ve spent the last twenty years exploring this tradition which gives the rest of us a radically different understanding of faith.


I wrote...

The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

By John Binns,

Book cover of The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

What is my book about?

Surrounded by steep escarpments to the north, south, and east, Ethiopia has always been geographically and culturally set apart. It has the longest archaeological record of any country in the world: indeed, this precipitous mountain land was where the human race began. It is also home to an ancient church with a remarkable legacy. The Church of Ethiopia is the only pre-colonial church in sub-Saharan Africa; today it has a membership of around forty million and is rapidly growing.

This book is a major study of the history and theology of a community that has developed a distinctive approach different from all other churches. John Binns explains how its special features have shaped the life of the Ethiopian people, and how political changes since the overthrow of Haile Selassie have forced the Church to rethink its identity and mission. 

The Chains of Heaven

By Philip Marsden,

Book cover of The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance

The author walks from Lalibela to Axum, the two main pilgrimage destinations of Christian Ethiopia. It’s a journey of 250 miles through the heartland of Christian Ethiopia. It’s a spectacular mountain landscape, along an old road which passes by many churches and monasteries. As he walks, he describes the people he meets, explains the history of the region, tells the stories and legends, and shares his adventures. For the visitor, Ethiopia is a strange and unfamiliar place and so encountering Ethiopia is always a journey of exploration. We need a guide and Philip is an engaging and well-informed travel companion.

The Chains of Heaven

By Philip Marsden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Philip Marsden returns to the remote, fiercely beautiful landscape that has exercised a powerful mythic appeal over him since his first encounter with it over twenty years ago.

'Ethiopia bred in me the conviction that if there is a wider purpose to our life, it is to understand the world, to seek out its diversity, to celebrate its heroes and its wonders - in short, to witness it.'

When Philip Marsden first went to Ethiopia in 1982, it changed the direction of his life. What he saw of its stunning antiquity, its raw Christianity, its extremes of brutality and grace…


Who am I?

I had visited many Eastern Orthodox churches across Eastern Europe and the Middle East for a research project, and finally came to Ethiopia. Here I encountered a large and thriving Christian community which reached back to the earliest days of the church. Its location between the Middle East and East Asia and Africa as well as Europe has given it a distinctive way of living and worshipping which is unique in the Christian world – and overlooked by other churches. I’ve spent the last twenty years exploring this tradition which gives the rest of us a radically different understanding of faith.


I wrote...

The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

By John Binns,

Book cover of The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History

What is my book about?

Surrounded by steep escarpments to the north, south, and east, Ethiopia has always been geographically and culturally set apart. It has the longest archaeological record of any country in the world: indeed, this precipitous mountain land was where the human race began. It is also home to an ancient church with a remarkable legacy. The Church of Ethiopia is the only pre-colonial church in sub-Saharan Africa; today it has a membership of around forty million and is rapidly growing.

This book is a major study of the history and theology of a community that has developed a distinctive approach different from all other churches. John Binns explains how its special features have shaped the life of the Ethiopian people, and how political changes since the overthrow of Haile Selassie have forced the Church to rethink its identity and mission. 

The Shadow King

By Maaza Mengiste,

Book cover of The Shadow King

War is often food for epic. In Mengiste’s Shadow King a domestic beginning – our future hero Hirut a servant in a noble household, its husband and wife future leaders of the Ethiopian resistance – opens out with fascist Italy’s invasion. Internal points of view include a fascist commander, a Jewish-Italian war photographer, Haile Salassie. The novel deploys group Choruses as in Greek tragedy, imitates Homer’s Iliad in its asymmetric battle scenes, and rests on oral songs of Ethiopia in memory of the war. Hirut’s Wujigra – a crotchety old rifle, that she has to cling onto against her own side – becomes the epic hero’s cult weapon. 

The Shadow King

By Maaza Mengiste,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Set during Mussolini's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King takes us back to the first real conflict of World War II, casting light on the women soldiers who were left out of the historical record. At its heart is orphaned maid Hirut, who finds herself tumbling into a new world of thefts and violations, of betrayals and overwhelming rage. What follows is a heartrending and unputdownable exploration of what it means to be a woman at war.


Who am I?

My Amgalant series follows the Secret History of the Mongols, which, though a history of the rise of Chinggis Khan, draws on an oral epic tradition. I always liked epics. Gilgamesh and the Saga of Grettir the Strong are among the fiction that most moves me. I look for historical fiction that owes to epic not only its story but its storytelling. The epic makers, ancient and medieval, knew craft we still can learn from. Quote epic at me, or misquote – homage, but own it. I like epic size and scope, but also intimate epic, with a close-up on the people that is post-19th-century novel. Epic has room for everything.


I wrote...

Against Walls

By Bryn Hammond,

Book cover of Against Walls

What is my book about?

Against Walls, the first in my Amgalant series, covers the Secret History of the Mongols sections 1-123. I let my 13th-century Mongol original guide me from event to event, with its gloriously—but concisely—told stories for bones, fleshing out into a novel. I like to say that every word in the original is found somewhere in mine.

People who know the Mongols for their conquests might find the content extraordinary. The Secret History is an intimate portrait of Chinggis Khan, with a human focus, with notes of tragedy, and whoever conflated these firsthand accounts into a written document had an eye for ethical conundrum and a flair for ambiguous character. As a novelist, I find it dream material. 

The Seventh Scroll, 2

By Wilbur Smith,

Book cover of The Seventh Scroll, 2

This book made me fall in love with ancient Egypt. It might not take place in the past but the findings of the main characters take you straight back in time. The descriptions of the places and the way of living in ancient Egypt-Ethiopia-The blue Nile, easily trigger your imagination and you find yourself creating pictures in your head. Also, the adventure is breathtaking. 

The Seventh Scroll, 2

By Wilbur Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Seventh Scroll, 2 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BOOK 2 IN THE BESTSELLING ANCIENT EGYPTIAN SERIES, BY THE MASTER OF ADVENTURE, WILBUR SMITH

'Best historical novelist' - Stephen King

'A master storyteller' - Sunday Times

'Wilbur Smith is one of those benchmarks against whom others are compared' - The Times

'No one does adventure quite like Smith' - Daily Mirror

AN ANCIENT SCROLL
A 4000 YEAR OLD LEGACY
A BATTLE FOR THE TRUTH

It is 4000 years since the battle for the Egyptian Kingdom, and Duraid and Royan al Simma have just uncovered the tomb of the ancient Egyptian Queen, Lostris, alongside the secret scrolls of the most…


Who am I?

History always fascinated me and ancient history even more. I have strong feelings about ancient Greece, Egypt, and ancient Rome, but I also find the medieval times really fascinating and always search for books that are set during that period of time. I feel that by reading these kinds of books, I learn a lot. I do my own research and I’m in awe by how these authors have managed to recreate those times. Although I avoid writing historical fiction, I love the genre so much that I consider it to be my favorite even above romance, which I am an expert in.   


I wrote...

Unmapped

By Nektaría Markaki,

Book cover of Unmapped

What is my book about?

Lexie loves her lists and lives a well-programmed life. Manu hates anything confining and lives his life carefree. When Lexie decides to take a chance and change her boring life, Manu joins her on a long trip around Europe. Can two seemingly different people survive their differences? Will Lexie learn how it feels to wander unmapped in life and love, and will Manu learn how to put his chaotic life in order again?

A wandering romance. A life-changing discovery of all the important things in life. Because the most beautiful things in life are discovered by accident!

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