The best Ghana books

8 authors have picked their favorite books about Ghana and why they recommend each book.

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Elmina, 'The Little Europe'

By Joseph K. Adjaye,

Book cover of Elmina, 'The Little Europe': European Impact and Cultural Resilience

This book is a brief introduction to the history of Elmina, its castle, the people, and their traditions. It outlines the town’s 500-year relations with Europeans, highlighting the transformations that have developed out of these interactions. Written by one of the top historians of Ghana and a leading scholar of the African diaspora, the book is based on original archival information and oral sources. It is richly informed by the writer’s own personal knowledge as a citizen of Elmina.


Who am I?

As an engineer, I have constructed bridges, highways, and power plants throughout Africa, and on journeys learned and explored the continent's history. My novel, Ama, a Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, won the 2002 Commonwealth Writers Prize for the Best First Book. My 200 plus sources, and excerpts from many of them, are listed on the companion website


I wrote...

Ama, a Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade

By Manu Herbstein,

Book cover of Ama, a Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade

What is my book about?

Ama is a neo-slave narrative set in the late 18th century. The novel follows the life of its eponymous protagonist from her youth in the African Sahel to old age in a Brazilian sugar estate, a life in which she balances resistance to the deprivation of her freedom with unavoidable accommodation to the power of her oppressors. It has four sections, entitled Africa (set in the north of today’s Ghana and in Kumase, capital of the Asante Empire); Europeans (set in the Dutch slave castle at Elmina); The Love of Liberty (set in the Middle Passage); and America (set in Bahia).

Homegoing

By Yaa Gyasi,

Book cover of Homegoing

Being originally from West Africa, this book is a journey back home for me in so many ways. A real homegoing. It is well-written and paced in a way that as I follow each character, I am reliving their story and relating to it on an emotional level I surprised myself with. 


Who am I?

I am a writer who loves to create stories across cultures and time periods. Writing a historical romance novel involves a lot of reading about the history and the times. After reading a few historical novels, I started toying with the idea of writing one. I loved a slave is my second historical romance novel and I have started work on two more. Being transported into the time period gives me a lot of excitement and I hope you enjoy the books on my list as much as I have! I have a master’s in liberal arts and an MFA in Creative Writing.


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I loved a slave

By Sinmisola Ogunyinka,

Book cover of I loved a slave

What is my book about?

Johnny Holt Jr. comes home to Kentucky for the summer to find his father, JJ has made alliances with a notorious slave owner, Spanish-born Edmond Maguerro to turn Holt Lands into a million-dollar plantation. Johnny doesn’t involve himself until he meets Elisa, one of his father’s slaves. Smitten, Johnny is convinced Elisa belongs with him in New York, where he is a law student at a prestigious college, or any other world where the society is color-blind. And he goes all out to remove her from slavery and into that world. Set in 1800s American slave era, I loved a slave follows the story of two lovers as they make their way through circumstances beyond their control to escape their reality and live in a world best imagined.

Emmanuel's Dream

By Laurie Ann Thompson, Sean Qualls (illustrator),

Book cover of Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

I’ve had an easy life in so many ways, so I appreciate learning from people whose childhood adversities shaped them to make positive changes in the world. When Emmanuel was born in Ghana with a deformed leg, his future looked bleak. Some considered him “cursed.” His mother encouraged him to dream big and become independent. He refused to be defined by his disability and ended up showing “that being disabled does not mean being unable.” To bring attention to the difficulties disabled people face Emmanuel organized and completed a 400-mile bike ride across Ghana. 

I love this book because Emmanuel’s mother believed he was more than his disability, and the way Emmanuel proved this to be true prompted the Ghanaian Parliament to pass the Persons with Disability Act. 


Who am I?

Ever since I read Island of the Blue Dolphins in 5th grade I’ve loved historical fiction. I am inspired by amazing humans who lived across centuries and around the globe and left their mark on the world. My 2023 book I’m Gonna Paint: Ralph Fasanella, Artist of the People is about a social activist artist. Future published books include middle grade novels on the 1838 Trail of Tears, a day on Ellis Island in 1907, and a 1935 book about Eleanor Roosevelt and the planned community of Arthurdale, WV. Like I said, I love exploring history! I read in many genres, but still enjoy learning about history through fiction.


I wrote...

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks

By Anne Broyles, Anna Alter (illustrator),

Book cover of Priscilla and the Hollyhocks

What is my book about?

Based on a true story, Priscilla and the Hollyhocks follows a young enslaved girl from her early years on a Southern plantation to her forced march along the Trail of Tears to the chance encounter that leads to her freedom. On her journey from slave to free woman, Priscilla carries something precious with her: hollyhocks seeds… and hope. Nikki Giovanni said, “Priscilla and the Hollyhocks tells a story too often ignored or overlooked—a story of how the West was not won but captured. Reading about Priscilla’s remarkable life makes all our hearts a bit warmer of filling our hearts with a much-needed piece of American history.”

Ghana Must Go

By Taiye Selasi,

Book cover of Ghana Must Go

A propulsive, elegant novel that goes back and forth in time remembering the progressive scattering of a family across the globe because of a singular decision by its patriarch – to leave – and then charting their coming back together. It moved me, putting its finger on the meaning of family in a way that felt true and specific to my own experiences as a son and a brother.


Who am I?

It took me writing a whole novel to finally understand that the biggest factor shaping my thematic obsessions is my familial experiences, both the good and the bad. Leo Tolstoy wrote that all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. Tola Rotimi wrote that family is “everyone’s first war.” It would seem that the question of family is most compelling when there is unhappiness involved. My own interest as a writer is in rifling through that unhappiness to reach healing and wholesomeness. As my own life experience has shown me, this is not only possible but necessary.


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Such a Beautiful Thing to Behold

By Umar Turaki,

Book cover of Such a Beautiful Thing to Behold

What is my book about?

A mysterious plague known as the Grey grips the small village of Pilam, which the world has quarantined without pity. Laying waste to Pilam’s residents, the sickness saps its victims of strength, drains the color from their eyes, and kills all promise. Only the young are immune. But beyond the barricades and walls of soldiers, there are rumors of a cure. Dunka, the eldest son of a family reeling from the Grey, takes on the daunting task of leaving Pilam to find that cure for his siblings before it’s too late.

His brother and sisters, however, have plans of their own. Navigating the chaos of violence, hunger, and death, each of them tries to make sense of the bleak circumstances, forging new bonds with other juvenile survivors left to their own devices.

The Dilemma of a Ghost

By Christina Ama Ata. Aidoo,

Book cover of The Dilemma of a Ghost

The 1960s and 70s were periods of Black Consciousness, both in Africa and the diaspora. At the heart of this was Pan-Africanism, a political ideology built on historical and cultural links between Black people everywhere. At the heart of these ideas was a psychical and physical “return” to Africa, the “motherland”. This short, but powerful play, explore these politics in the marriage of Ato Yawson and Eulalie Rush, a Ghanaian man and an African-American woman who emigrate from the US to Ghana in search of racial and cultural harmony. What occurs is a dramatization of what happens when political ideologies are applied to private lives. What I love about this text is its confrontation of slavery as traumas that cannot be easily erased by political rhetoric and national endeavors to “move on.”


Who am I?

I am a scholar of African and African American literature with interests in the cultures, histories, and philosophies of Africa and the diaspora. Currently, I teach and research at Texas A&M University. The history of the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies are huge components of my current research; it is also the topic of my doctoral research which I completed in 2017 at The School of Oriental African Studies (SOAS), The University of London. 


I wrote...

Spectres from the Past: Slavery and the Politics of "History" in West African and African-American Literature

By Portia Owusu,

Book cover of Spectres from the Past: Slavery and the Politics of "History" in West African and African-American Literature

What is my book about?

Historical memory of slavery in the US is controversial, but undeniable. This is largely due to the plethora of scholarship on the subject. This is not the same, however, in Africa, where an incalculable number of people were forcibly deported and enslaved in the New World. The obvious link between the past and the present in African American literature and popular discourses appears missing in Africa. Thus, the conclusion is: in Africa, there is no historical memory of slavery. 

My book contends with this thesis. It provides a reading of selected West African narratives to note unique and specific ways that African writers remember and articulate the enduring legacy of slavery and how these both diverge and converge with perspectives in African American narratives. 

Wolf Light

By Yaba Badoe,

Book cover of Wolf Light

When copper miners plunder Zula's desert home in Gobi Altai, and Adoma's forest and river are polluted by gold prospectors, it is only a matter of time before the lake Linet guards with her life is also in jeopardy. How far will Zula, Adoma, and Linet go to defend the well-being of their homes? And when all else fails, will they have the courage to summon the ancient power of their order, to make the landscape speak in a way that everyone will hear?


Who am I?

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels. She is also a Creative Writing lecturer, freelance editor, screenwriter, and the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League. She was born in 1992 and has a Master's degree from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. 


I wrote...

Green Rising

By Lauren James,

Book cover of Green Rising

What is my book about?

My new novel Green Rising is about a group of climate activists rewilding the planet after they develop the ability to grow plants from their skin. I had to do a lot of research into climate change while writing, but I found it really hard to find other climate fiction books. There’s not really a resource of titles online beyond random news article lists or Goodreads collections.

Green Rising is positive and uplifting and will inspire readers to take action. The future isn’t hopeless, and this fiction represents that.

The Sound of the Sea

By Cynthia Barnett,

Book cover of The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans

If you have ever experienced the delight of admiring seashells then you will be enamored with this fine book. The Sound of the Sea uses seashells as a way to explore the history of life on earth, the extraordinary biology of mollusks, the fascinating cultures of First Nations Amerindians, and the political economy of shells, from the naming of Shell oil to their use as natural resources. Who knew that seashells could take us on such an encompassing journey? After reading this book, you will enhance your sense of wonder and gain a deeper appreciation for the role of mollusks in the biosphere. And you will be more firmly committed to natural history exploration and the necessary conservation it requires. 


Who am I?

I’ve been engaged in the environmental field for fifty years as an educator, a professor, a university president, and as a concerned citizen. The field is dynamic, complex, inspiring, and often overwhelming. All of my writing and teaching emphasizes empowering readers and students alike to use the depth of their experience to gather insight, wisdom, and agency. I want readers to actively think about their relationship to the biosphere, the contributions they can make as environmental citizens, and the inspiration they can cultivate at home or in the workplace. 


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To Know the World: A New Vision for Environmental Learning

By Mitchell Thomashow,

Book cover of To Know the World: A New Vision for Environmental Learning

What is my book about?

How can we respond to the current planetary ecological emergency? In To Know the World, I propose that we revitalize, revisit, and reinvigorate how we think about our residency on Earth. First, we must understand that the major challenges of our time—migration, race, inequity, climate justice, and democracy—connect to the biosphere. Traditional environmental education has accomplished much, but it has not been able to stem the inexorable decline of global ecosystems. I use the term environmental learning to signify that our relationship to the biosphere must be front and center in all aspects of our daily lives.

Mixing memoir, theory, mindfulness, pedagogy, and compelling storytelling, I discuss how to navigate the Anthropocene's rapid pace of change without further separating psyche from biosphere; why we should understand migration both ecologically and culturally; how to achieve constructive connectivity in both social and ecological networks; and why we should take a cosmopolitan bioregionalism perspective that unites local and global.

The Shadow of the Sun

By Ryszard Kapuściński,

Book cover of The Shadow of the Sun

I prefer to read books whose focus lingers long enough on a conflict to uncover its complexities and contradictions. But in this instance, despite The Shadow of the Sun sometimes reading like a backpacker’s travel memoir, I couldn’t put it down. Spanning four decades and much of Africa, the narrative begins in the newly independent Ghana of the nineteen-sixties when the hopes and aspirations of a continent are alive on the streets of Accra, and continues through to the troubled times of Eritrea and Ethiopia in the mid-nineties and many coups and wars in between. Kapuściński’s writing covers the mundane through to the life-changing. From the state of the roads, to stories of his neighbors, to the geopolitics of governments, the breadth of his writing helps the reader contextualize the Africa of today.


Who am I?

I have lived, breathed, and studied peace and conflict since 1998, but what I’m most passionate about is the plight of the people. I spent over a decade in countries such as Iraq, Sudan, and East Timor providing humanitarian assistance followed by another decade writing and working on the consequences of wars. The more we understand the impact of wars the better humanity will be placed to stop them. That is why I chose five beautifully written books that will be difficult to put down while offering an array of voices and perspectives that together provide insights into how we can better respond to outbreaks of war.


I wrote...

No Dancing, No Dancing: Inside the Global Humanitarian Crisis

By Denis Dragovic,

Book cover of No Dancing, No Dancing: Inside the Global Humanitarian Crisis

What is my book about?

As an aid worker in war zones around the world, I often wondered what happened to the people and the projects. Did the communities flourish? Were the water plants maintained? Did the second bout of fighting destroy what we built? No Dancing follows my return journey to the site of three major humanitarian crises—South Sudan, Iraq, and East Timor—in search of answers.

Along the way, I engage with young entrepreneurs striving to build their businesses, tribal leaders who give unvarnished views of foreign aid, and former colleagues who continued to serve their community long after the last expatriate had left. Alongside stories of freeing kidnapped colleagues and dealings with ayatollahs and tribal chiefs the book looks behind the façade of Western aid interventions and along the way offers answers to how we can better respond to the global humanitarian crisis.

Fledgling

By Hannah Bourne-Taylor,

Book cover of Fledgling

Here’s how an intense, almost obsessive focus on wildlife can bring solace from chaos and alienation. Young bird-lover Hannah Bourne-Taylor moves to Ghana as a ‘trailing spouse,’ and it’s the fauna that keeps her going as she struggles to rebuild her identity. Two stray dogs leap into her life; a pangolin needs saving from someone’s dinner table. But it’s the act of saving a swift and a mannikin finch, nurturing and releasing the birds back into the wild, that provides the key to this closely observed, touching story. At first, the finch doesn’t want to re-wild – and Hannah realizes with a shock that she’s humanized it. Explores interesting dilemmas about intervening on nature’s behalf, and whether one act of compassion can really make a difference. A book full of hope.


Who am I?

I’m an investigative journalist and social historian who’s obsessed with ‘invisible’ women of the 19th and early 20th century, bringing their stories to life in highly readable narrative non-fiction. I love the detective work involved in resurrecting ordinary women’s lives: shop girls, milliners, campaigning housewives, servants. . . The stories I’ve uncovered are gripping, often shocking and frequently poignant – but also celebrate women’s determination, solidarity and capacity for reinvention. Each of my two books took me on a long research journey deep into the archives: The Housekeeper’s Tale – the Women Who Really Ran the English Country House, and Etta Lemon – The Woman Who Saved the Birds.


I wrote...

Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds

By Tessa Boase,

Book cover of Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds

What is my book about?

Etta Lemon is the formidable woman who built the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Her surname suited her. She was bitter in her opposition to the plumage trade, acid in her scorn for women’s vanity. Her RSPB colleagues called her ‘The Dragon’, but to the public, she was simply ‘Mother of the Birds.’ Where she led, the Audubon Society would follow. Her legacy is Britain’s biggest conservation charity. But she has not been remembered by history.

Etta’s bird protection crusade was eclipsed by the more glamorous campaign for the vote, led by the elegantly plumed Emmeline Pankhurst. This fast-paced book shines a light on the interlinked (and often fractious) movements for women's rights and animal rights, showcasing two formidable heroines and their rival, overlapping campaigns.

A Good Man in Africa

By William Boyd,

Book cover of A Good Man in Africa

This laugh-out-loud story of a bumbling British diplomat, Morgan Leafy, in the fictitious African country of Kinjanja evokes the immediate British post-colonial with a dark wit and a sense for the absurd. The colonial expats depicted in the book are all thoroughly dislikable, but as Leafy gets mired deeper and deeper into problems, I found myself rooting for him to find a way out. His characterisation of the expats and the locals, and the hilarious interactions between them, seem searingly accurate, probably because Boyd grew up in Nigeria and Ghana, giving him rich material for his first novel.


Who am I?

I’ve been a journalist since high school and I spent 33 years as a reporter for The Washington Post, mostly as a foreign correspondent based in Asia, Africa, and Paris. My book Out Of America chronicled my three years as a correspondent in Africa during some of its most tumultuous events, the Somalia intervention, and the Rwanda genocide. I’ve always thought a well-crafted novel often captures a place or a time better than nonfiction — books like The Quiet American about the Vietnam War, and The Year of Living Dangerously about Indonesia. I now teach a university course on The Role of the Journalist in Popular Fiction, Film and Comics.


I wrote...

Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa

By Keith B. Richburg,

Book cover of Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa

What is my book about?

Keith B. Richburg was an experienced and respected reporter who had paid his dues covering urban neighborhoods in Washington D.C. and won praise for his coverage of Southeast Asia. But nothing prepared him for the personal odyssey that he would embark upon when he was assigned to cover Africa. In this powerful book, Richburg takes the reader on an extraordinary journey that sweeps from Somalia to Rwanda to Zaire and finally to South Africa. He shows how he came to terms with the divide within himself: between his African racial heritage and his American cultural identity. Are these really my people? Am I truly an African-American?

The answer, Richburg finds, after much soul-searching, is that no, he is not an African, but an American first and foremost.

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