The best books about Kenya 📚

Browse the best books on Kenya as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Bitter Money

Bitter Money

By Parker Shipton

Why this book?

It isn’t just African politics that is different. Economics is too. If modern economics had been invented by an African, instead of Adam Smith, it would look very different. Wealth would be measured in people rather than material objects, property, and capital. There would be much less emphasis on markets. Some things, should never be sold, and if they were it would create “bitter money” and bad luck. This book is a great place to start to re-think your ideas about economics.

From the list:

The best books to read to understand Africa

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Book cover of Rules of the Wild: A Novel of Africa

Rules of the Wild: A Novel of Africa

By Francesca Marciano

Why this book?

A novel that reads like a reportage, almost a documentary, on contemporary (the Nineties) life in Kenya for the small and influential (but not rich) community of “white Kenyans”: some native of Kenya, some adoptive sons and daughters of the country that invented the safari a century ago and that is the main hub for all news organizations in the continent. So, reporters, conservationists, dreamers, adventures, misfits, eccentrics populate this hugely evocative and partially autobiographical book that has some of the best “sound bites” on the question we are often asked: Why You Love Africa?

From the list:

The best books about post colonial life in Africa

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Book cover of It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower

It's Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower

By Michela Wrong

Why this book?

Michela Wrong’s story centres on one country, Kenya, and one person, but it resonates throughout the continent and far beyond it – everywhere, where corruption is as systemic, as it is in Kenya. John Githongo, a journalist who fought corruption, was appointed to head an anti–corruption unit by a new president. As in every decent detective novel, involving corruption, the hero discovers that the roots lead to the very top, finds the proof and, after many adventures, publicizes it. Only this is not a novel, though it certainly reads like one. Wrong’s hero is a real person, who did what…

From the list:

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

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Book cover of Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir

Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir

By Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

Why this book?

I recommend this book because it takes the reader to a totally different world of a child growing up in the 1940s and 50s in Kenya, East Africa, during the war between the British colonials and Mau Mau freedom fighters. The author was born into a typical African compound ruled by a patriarch with four wives. He had many adventures in his attempts to escape the restrictions of his native culture. In Chapter 3 of my memoir, titled “First Dreams of Africa,” I describe how I saw shapes which looked like African animals on a hill, the other side of…

From the list:

The best memoirs of childhood and youth

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Book cover of I Dreamed of Africa

I Dreamed of Africa

By Kuki Gallmann

Why this book?

Kuki Gallman, an Italian socialite, is another wealthy woman who sought adventure in Kenya. And another woman, with her husband, who set out to start a ranch in an inhospitable land. When her husband and son are killed in separate accidents, Gallman turns the ranch into a conservation park, using her money to bring attention to the plight of the local wildlife. And, as is true in Namibia, she enlisted the help of local tribal leaders to save both the endangered wildlife and native culture. In 2010, she founded Prayers for the Earth and in 2011, she and her daughter…

From the list:

The best books for wild women desperately seeking adventure

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Book cover of Nomad: One Woman's Journey Into the Heart of Africa

Nomad: One Woman's Journey Into the Heart of Africa

By Mary Anne Fitzgerald

Why this book?

African exploration has a rich history of intrepid women travelers (I think particularly of Mary Kingsley, who had once ascended Mount Cameroon in a day, Victorian petticoats notwithstanding. Kingsley finally died of typhoid in South Africa while she was administering to Boer prisoners of war, but before that, she made many an expedition among the Fang of Gabon and, as she put it, “danced many a wild dance with the wild river.”) Mary Anne Fitzgerald is the best modern example. Jailed by the dictatorship of Kenya’s Daniel Arap Moi and subsequently expelled, she then reported from hotspots all over Africa,…

From the list:

The best books illustrating the richness and complexity of African cultures

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