The best books on the sahara desert

Who picked these books? Meet our 40 experts.

40 authors created a book list connected to the sahara desert, and here are their favorite sahara desert books.
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What type of sahara desert book?


Running Man

By Charlie Engle,

Book cover of Running Man: A Memoir of Ultra-Endurance

Dean Karnazes Author Of A Runner's High: My Life in Motion

From the list on running from an ultrarunner.

Who am I?

An internationally recognized endurance athlete and New York Times bestselling author, Dean Karnazes has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits. Among his many accomplishments, he has run 350 continuous miles, foregoing sleep for three nights. He's run across Death Valley in 120-degree temperatures, and run a marathon to the South Pole in negative 40 degrees. On ten different occasions, he's run a 200-mile relay race solo, racing alongside teams of twelve. His long list of competitive achievements include winning the world's toughest footrace, the Badwater Ultramarathon, running 135 miles nonstop across Death Valley during the middle of summer. His most recent endeavor was running 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days, finishing with the NYC Marathon, which he ran in three hours flat.

Dean's book list on running from an ultrarunner

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

Why did Dean love this book?

To say Charlie Engle has led a colorful life would be putting things mildly. An addict and alcoholic, after nearly losing his life to a hail of bullets, Charlie turned to running as his savior.

By Charlie Engle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After a decade-long addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol, Charlie Engle hit rock bottom after a near-fatal six-day binge ended in a hail of bullets. Then he found running, and it has helped keep him sober, focused and alive. He began to take on the most extreme endurance races, such as the 155-mile Gobi March, and developed a reputation as an inspirational speaker. However, after he made the documentary Running the Sahara, narrated by Matt Damon, which followed him on a 4500-mile crossing of the desert and helped raise $6 million, he was sent to prison after failing to complete…

Libyan Sands

By Ralph A. Bagnold,

Book cover of Libyan Sands: Travel in a Dead World

Stephen Haddelsey Author Of Shackleton's Dream: Fuchs, Hillary and the Crossing of Antarctica

From the list on forgotten expeditions and extraordinary journeys.

Who am I?

Although I’m fascinated by the history of exploration, I’m most attracted to the stories that have been lost, neglected, or forgotten. Why, for instance, is Sir Vivian Fuchs – arguably the most successful British Antarctic explorer of the twentieth century – not as well-known as Scott or Shackleton? Why do we know so little of Operation Tabarin – the only wartime Antarctic expedition to be launched by a combatant nation? These are the kind of questions that I want to answer, and these are the expeditions that I have wanted to examine. I’ve been fortunate to meet and interview some truly extraordinary men – and telling their stories has been a joy and a privilege.  

Stephen's book list on forgotten expeditions and extraordinary journeys

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

Why did Stephen love this book?

Libyan Sands tells the story of Ralph Bagnold’s extraordinary expeditions into the North African deserts between the two world wars. Remarkably for the time, Bagnold chose to use not camels, as his predecessors had done, but specially-adapted Ford Model-A motorcars, in which he covered tens of thousands of miles in extraordinarily inhospitable, waterless conditions, travelling where no motor vehicle and hardly any people had ever been before. The knowledge he accrued would lead him, ultimately, to found and lead the Long Range Desert Group in the Second World War. 

Having written about extraordinary journeys into the polar wastes, and having come to understand, through meeting many of the explorers involved, what it is that has driven them into those wildernesses, what most caught my imagination in Bagnold’s book was his incredibly vivid descriptions of the desert, a barren wilderness that he grew not only to respect, but to love deeply:…

By Ralph A. Bagnold,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Libyan Sands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Libyan Sands" is unmistakably the work of an Englishman, a modest, machine- and desert-loving young officer whose passionate amateur enthusiasm led to the exploration of the Egyptian western desert and the Libyan Sahara on the eve of the second world war.


By Clive Cussler,

Book cover of Sahara

Graham Smith Author Of The Flood

From the list on where the weather is a character and a foe.

Who am I?

I am a novelist with a passion for reading and it is this which I feel qualifies me to speak on this topic. My reading is eclectic across the crime/mystery genre and there’s nothing I love more than a book that sucks me right into the same world its characters inhabit, something all five of my choices did. As a novelist I appreciate the way these novels all use the weather conditions to add an extra layer of threat to the protagonists and it’s something I’ve always wanted to emulate.

Graham's book list on where the weather is a character and a foe

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

Why did Graham love this book?

One of Cussler’s earlier novels featuring Dirk Pitt, Cussler sends his erstwhile hero deep into a desert landscape where he throws all manner of problems at them.

As Pitt and co battle to survive the harsh conditions, they are tested to the limit as they must not only escape the arid landscape, but do in time to foil a dastardly plot. While perhaps not as much of a literary heavyweight as some of the other authors mentioned on this list, Cussler is brilliant at writing a rollicking good yarn.

By Clive Cussler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The eleventh classic Dirk Pitt novel, where the adventurer is drawn to a secret in the burning African desert, which could destroy all life in the world's seas.


Deep in the African desert, Dirk Pitt discovers that a top secret scientific installation is leaking a lethal chemical into the rivers, threatening to kill thousands of people - and to destroy all life in the world's seas.

To warn the world of the catastrophe, Pitt must escape capture and death at the hands of a ruthless West African dictator and French industrialist, and undertake a…

Tuareg Jewelry

By Helene E Hagan, Lucile Myers,

Book cover of Tuareg Jewelry: Traditional Patterns and Symbols

Melissa Addey Author Of A String of Silver Beads

From the list on exploring Morocco’s culture.

Who am I?

On a trip to Morocco, immersed in new sounds, smells, sights, and tastes, I was hit with the idea for a novel about a woman in the 11th century, a time when a Berber ruler took over the whole of North Africa and Spain. It led to many years of research and correspondence with historians, and became not one novel, but four, telling the story of four women’s lives that interweave as a newborn empire rises. The books I have listed here were some of the ones that brought the place, the culture, and the era alive for me. I hope they can do the same for you!

Melissa's book list on exploring Morocco’s culture

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

Why did Melissa love this book?

A beautiful record of jewelry from Morocco, exploring symbolism, craftsmanship, and culture. The very first novel I wrote was based on the idea of every chapter being a Moroccan woman receiving a piece of jewelry symbolizing a certain moment in her life and this book was my guide, I pored over the lovely photos, marveled at the intricate designs and really enjoyed learning what each piece meant and its history. 

By Helene E Hagan, Lucile Myers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"For you, it may look like a small unimportant detail, like your thumbnail. But for me, it is the whole vast world. Look at this jewel... here is the ant, here is the hyena, the jackal, the hoof of a horse, that of a gazelle, the sun, the moon, the stars, the good eye... this triangle, this is woman, and here are the eyebrows of the Malignant One, there, laughter... it is all of our lives in one piece of silver." (Translated from the French by Helene E. Hagan, from original Tuareg words of an artisan cited by J. Gabus,…

The Rugged Road

By Theresa Wallach,

Book cover of The Rugged Road

Jacqui Furneaux Author Of Hit the Road, Jac! Seven Years, Twenty Countries, No Plan

From the list on travel proving you don’t need the latest motorbike.

Who am I?

Most motorcycle travellers spend months planning their trips but I took off on a whim having been lured by romance and tales of the open road. When my conventional life fell apart, I surprised even myself by flying to India and buying a brand new 500cc Enfield Bullet motorcycle and began my haphazard global wanderings learning to trust that the world I had been told was a dangerous place, wasn't at all (except for a couple of occasions at sea!) I liked the meandering life so much, it became a way of life.

Jacqui's book list on travel proving you don’t need the latest motorbike

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

Why did Jacqui love this book?

The Sahara Desert, more used to Bedouins and camels, had never seen a motorcycle before let alone two Englishwomen riding one. Setting off from London in December 1934, Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron rode their 600cc Panther through Africa from north to south. They maintained a ‘why not?’ attitude that got them through despite frequent punctures, delays whilst waiting for permits and none of the technology provided for today’s motorcycle traveller. These two qualified engineers who had already broken motorcycle speed records at Brooklands, took their motorcycle outfit and trailer with not even a compass... just a map that showed each oasis on the way. I was in a permanent state of suspense when reading about each encounter they experienced and their outstanding ingenuity and perseverance.

By Theresa Wallach,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The remarkable story of two women, the first in the world to drive the length of Africa, and the first to cross the Sahara on a motorcycle. London to Cape Town overland by motorcycle and sidecar, pulling a trailer. No roads, no back up - just straight across the Sahara through equatorial Africa, and South to the Cape - in 1934/35, without even a compass! Undeterred by nomads, sand drifts, heat, rain, rivers, breakdowns and politics, Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron completed a journey that might well defeat a modern motorcycle, and Florence even rode back as far as the…


By Maria Golia,

Book cover of Cairo: City of Sand

Ronnie Close Author Of Cairo's Ultras: Resistance and Revolution in Egypt’s Football Culture

From the list on Egyptian politics and the 2011 Revolution.

Who am I?

I'm a writer and filmmaker based in Cairo for over a decade. I was inspired to move to Egypt when I visited during the 2011 Revolution and fell in love with the vibrance of the city. Since then Cairo has changed and I have lived through an extraordinary history with some difficult times but always with a sense of curiosity for stories. My book, Cairo’s Ultras, began as a documentary film project in 2012 and I have found many other interesting topics during my time in this enigmatic and fascinating place. I will publish a second book next year, called Decolonising Images, that looks at the photographic heritage and visual culture of Egypt.

Ronnie's book list on Egyptian politics and the 2011 Revolution

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

Why did Ronnie love this book?

The book gives the reader a deep layered understanding of Egypt before the 2011 uprising to look at the state of the nation and into the heart of Cairo, an ancient city but now a metropolis of over 20 million. Written with a novelist's flare this is an intimate portrait of the lives of Cairenes that explores hidden aspects of this mysterious city. The author builds an intriguing story on the religious beliefs, family values, negotiating tactics, driving habits, and attitudes towards foreigners. This is a reflection on a wonderous city, a place of sadness and of hope, which uses the metaphor of Saharan desert sand blowing in to shape the sand castle politics of the Mubarak era that would come crashing down in the 2011 Revolution.

By Maria Golia,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cairo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cairo is a 1,400-year-old metropolis whose streets are inscribed with sagas, a place where the pressures of life test people's equanimity to the very limit. Virtually surrounded by desert, sixteen million Cairenes cling to the Nile and each other, proximities that colour and shape lives. Packed with incident and anecdote "Cairo: City of Sand" describes the city's given circumstances and people's attitudes of response. Apart from a brisk historical overview, this book focuses on the present moment of one of the world's most illustrious and irreducible cities. Cairo steps inside the interactions between Cairenes, examining the roles of family, tradition…

The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Richard Howard (translator),

Book cover of The Little Prince

Alex Edmans Author Of Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit

From the list on living with purpose.

Who am I?

I'm a Professor of Finance who specialises in purposeful business and purposeful living. My work on the former shows how companies driven by purpose are ultimately more successful than those driven by profit alone. My interest in the latter stems partly from the former, but also from 20 years of teaching MBA students at MIT, Wharton, and London Business School. While my day job is to teach finance equations, often even more important to my students’ career success and life happiness is living with purpose. There are many self-proclaimed gurus on this topic who shoot from the hip, so I am particularly interested in books based on scientific research.

Alex's book list on living with purpose

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

Why did Alex love this book?

Ostensibly a children’s book, The Little Prince is much, much more.

It’s about the importance of savouring the breadth, length, height, and depth of life, rather than focusing on goals; and about the importance of maintaining your child-like wonder as you mature and what was once novel becomes familiar. While a fiction book, it is consistent with scientific research on what drives happiness is not so much your circumstances, but how you respond to and find joy in your circumstances.

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Richard Howard (translator),

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Little Prince as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few stories are as widely read and as universally cherished by children and adults alike as 'The Little Prince'. Richard Howard's new translation of the beloved classic-published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's birth-beautifully reflects Saint-Exupery's unique and gifted style. Howard, an acclaimed poet and one of the preeminent translators of our time, has excelled in bringing the English text as close as possible to the French, in language, style, and most important, spirit. The artwork in this new edition has been restored to match in detail and in colour Saint-Exupery's original artwork. By combining the new…

The English Patient

By Michael Ondaatje,

Book cover of The English Patient

Emily Mitchell Author Of The Last Summer of the World

From the list on reminding you how strange the past really was.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in history. I grew up in London, where there's a lot of it. But what made me want to write fiction about the past was experiences of imaginative affinity for certain other times and places. My first book is set during World War One. I've always felt connected to the change in sensibility that many people went through then, from an optimistic, moralistic, Victorian outlook, in which, to quote Paul Fussell from The Great War and Modern Memory, people “believed in Progress and Art and in no way doubted the benignity even of technology” to an understanding that human beings and our societies contained deeper, more persistent shadows. 

Emily's book list on reminding you how strange the past really was

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

Why did Emily love this book?

This was the first novel written by Ondaatje I ever read, when I was in my early 20s, and it was a revelation. The story of Count Lazslo d’Almasy’s doomed love for the wife of a British archeologist in the Egyptian desert in the years before the Second World War is interspersed and pointedly contrasted with the story of the Canadian nurse, Hana, who cares for the severely disfigured Almasy years later in an abandoned house in France and Hana’s romance with a Sikh man from India who has been drafted into the British army as a sapper. Side by side the two stories lead the reader to inevitable questions about love, equality, freedom, the persistence of history both personal and collective. Here as elsewhere, Ondaatje’s understated lyrical prose makes the worlds he portrays shimmer. 

By Michael Ondaatje,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The English Patient as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hana, a Canadian nurse, exhausted by death, and grieving for her own dead father; the maimed thief-turned-Allied-agent, Caravaggio; Kip, the emotionally detached Indian sapper - each is haunted in different ways by the man they know only as the English patient, a nameless burn victim who lies in an upstairs room. His extraordinary knowledge and morphine-induced memories - of the North African desert, of explorers and tribes, of history and cartography; and also of forbidden love, suffering and betrayal - illuminate the story, and leave all the characters for ever changed.

The Nomad

By Isabelle Eberhardt,

Book cover of The Nomad: Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt

Louisa Waugh Author Of Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia

From the list on the intimate lives of landscapes.

Who am I?

Louisa Waugh is a writer, blogger, and the prize-winning author of three non-fiction books: Hearing Birds Fly, Selling Olga, and Meet Me in Gaza. She has lived and worked in the Middle East, Central and West Africa, and is a conflict adviser for an international peace-building organisation. She blogs at The Waugh Zone and currently lives in Brighton, on the southern English coast, where she kayaks and drinks red wine on the beach, usually not at the same time.

Louisa's book list on the intimate lives of landscapes

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

Why did Louisa love this book?

Isabelle Eberhardt was born in 1877. She was “a crossdresser and sensualist, an experienced drug taker and a transgressor of boundaries”. Born in Switzerland, she crossed the Sahara Desert on horseback dressed as a male marabout, driven by a hunger for nomadic adventures, and for love. Isabelle’s evocative diaries are intense, beautifully written, self-centred and dramatic, occasionally very funny. She fell madly in love with the Sahara, was accused of being a spy, married a young Algerian soldier, and drowned in a desert flash flood at the age of 27. This book is about a short life that burned radiantly and the desiccated landscape that mirrored her intensity.

By Isabelle Eberhardt,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Nomad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eberhardt's journal chronicles the daring adventures of a late 19th-century European woman who traveled the Sahara desert disguised as an Arab man and adopted Islam. Includes a glossary. Previously published in English by Virago Press in 1987, and as The Passionate Nomad by Virago/Beacon Press in 19

Wind, Sand and Stars

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery,

Book cover of Wind, Sand and Stars

Kelly Cordes Author Of The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre

From the list on belief and finding meaning from the meaningless.

Who am I?

Some thirty years ago, on a frozen waterfall near an old logging town in Montana, my life changed forever. A friend took me climbing. Almost instantly, upon leaving the ground, the mountains became my singular passion. I lived in run-down shacks and worked dead-end jobs, freeing myself to travel and to climb. Along the way I stumbled into an editorial job with the American Alpine Journal, where I worked for twelve years, deepening my knowledge of mountains, including the incomparable Cerro Torre. I know that climbing is overtly pointless. What we gain from it, however—what it demands and what we give in return—has immeasurable power.

Kelly's book list on belief and finding meaning from the meaningless

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

Why did Kelly love this book?

Saint-Exupery’s descriptions of what he sees and feels during enthralling activities amid stunning landscapes left me enchanted. The feelings he captures extend beyond the mere act of flying and into human relationships and our quest for meaning, written in beautiful, often philosophical prose. He approached flying as a metaphor for life and the human condition. Even if I will never fly, he made me care. 

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Wind, Sand and Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The National Book Award-winning autobiographical book about the wonder of flying from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the beloved children's classic The Little Prince.

A National Geographic Top Ten Adventure Book of All Time

Recipient of the Grand Prix of the Académie Française, Wind, Sand and Stars captures the grandeur, danger, and isolation of flight. Its exciting account of air adventure, combined with lyrical prose and the spirit of a philosopher, makes it one of the most popular works ever written about flying.

Translated by Lewis Galantière.

"There are certain rare individuals...who by the mere fact of their existence put…

"Exterminate All the Brutes"

By Sven Lindqvist, Joan Tate (translator),

Book cover of "Exterminate All the Brutes": One Man's Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide

Arlene Voski Avakian Author Of Lion Woman's Legacy: An Armenian-American Memoir

From the list on social consciousness in historical contexts.

Who am I?

I was an angry girl, railing against the difference between the expectations and restrictions on me and my younger brother. I was also the child of survivors and victims of the Armenian genocide, and I grew up in 1950 when my immigrant family didn’t fit the representations of “Americans” as they were then depicted. And I was white. I wanted to change myself, the world and learn why there was so much injustice in the U.S. I went back to school at UMass, got connected to faculty in the Afro-American Studies Department, and joined the group that was creating the Women’s Studies Program. I am still learning and trying to change the world.  

Arlene's book list on social consciousness in historical contexts

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

Why did Arlene love this book?

A mere 172 pages, this book examines the brutality of European colonialism in the 19th century, uncovering genocides I had never heard of that were perpetrated by so-called “civilized people” on so-called “primitive people.” 

The justification for this barbarism was that they for the benefit of the people annihilated because they could not live in the modern world. 

That justification is the same one often used on this side of the ocean for the genocide or “removal” of Indigenous people from their ancient lands and for the enslavement of African people who were “improved” by being around white people. 

Part travelogue, part history, part literary analysis – Lindqvist focuses on Joseph Conrad’s novel The Heart of Darkness – the book cannot be easily categorized and when reading it I often wondered what he was doing. 

But my understanding of both colonialism and what the Europeans did when they came to…

By Sven Lindqvist, Joan Tate (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked "Exterminate All the Brutes" as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Exterminate All the Brutes" is a searching examination of Europe's dark history in Africa and the origins of genocide. Using Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as his point of departure, Sven Lindqvist takes us on a haunting tour through the colonial past, interwoven with a modern-day travelogue. Retracing the steps of European explorers, missionaries, politicians, and historians in Africa from the late eighteenth century onward, the author exposes the roots of genocide in Africa via his own journey through the Saharan desert. As Lindqvist shows, fantasies not merely of white superiority but of actual extermination "cleansing" the earth of the…

Book cover of The Book of Strangers

Alexander Knysh Author Of Sufism: A New History of Islamic Mysticism

From the list on teaching you how to be a Sufi.

Who am I?

My exploration of Sufism began in the unlikely environment of the Soviet Union where Sufism was considered a relic of the past to be replaced by the atheist, world-asserting ideology. The fact that my Muslim academic advisor assigned this topic to me, an active customs officer, was nothing short of a miracle. It was the beginning of a chain of miracles that punctuated my teaching and research career in the USSR, UK, US, EU, and the post-Soviet republics of Eurasia, especially Tatarstan and Kazakhstan. Having observed Sufism in various shapes and forms for over thirty years, my knowledge of its precepts and rituals is of great help to me in everyday life.  

Alexander's book list on teaching you how to be a Sufi

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

Why did Alexander love this book?

This book offers a poignant personal view of Sufism by a Scottish-born actor and writer who became disillusioned with a world “where people teach but know nothing, where the sentences flow on endlessly but lead nowhere.” He seeks and finds wisdom and solace in the deserts of Sahara under the guidance of a Sufi master to whom he dedicates his short but powerful book. When I picked it up as a reading for my class on Sufism, I thought I would find a usual mushy account of Sufism by a starry-eyed neophyte. The book was anything but: it was eloquent, deeply personal, and felicitously free from platitudes. I was pleasantly surprised and so were my students. I recommend it to everyone interested in spiritual quests regardless of his or her background.    

By Ian Dallas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hardcover, 151 pages.

Khan Al-Khalili

By Naguib Mahfouz,

Book cover of Khan Al-Khalili

Eamonn Gearon Author Of The Sahara: A Cultural History

From the list on Egypt and the Sahara before and during WWII.

Who am I?

Virtually my entire professional life has involved the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). As an author, teacher, public speaker, and historian, I’ve worked with everyone from school children to retirees, via university students and hundreds of American and British diplomats. One era I'm still in thrall to is the first half of the Twentieth century in Egypt, from Cairo to the Sahara. In part because of European involvement in the country at this time, this was a very important period for the country, the wider Middle East, and the post-war trajectory of the region. Taken together, the five books I recommend offer different but complementary sides of a fascinating, multi-faced place and time.  

Eamonn's book list on Egypt and the Sahara before and during WWII

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

Why did Eamonn love this book?

Khan al-Khalili is a famous bazaar in the historic heart of Cairo, and the setting of this powerful and thought-provoking novel by Naguib Mahfouz. One of the most important Egyptian and Arab authors of the Twentieth century, in 1988, Mahfouz became the first Arabic-language writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Mahfouz spent much of his life in and around Khan al-Khalili, which gives this novel an intimacy and sense of place akin to Dicken's writing about Victorian London. It is 1942, and Egypt is tense as the war moves closer and closer to the capital, and Cairenes from different generations thrust together in the crowded neighborhood variously argue for and against tradition, modernity, religious faith, and secularism. This is a great read, and even better if you’re able to read it while sitting in a café in Khan al-Khalili. 

By Naguib Mahfouz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Khan Al-Khalili as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Khan al-Khalili, by Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, portrays the clash of old and new in an historic Cairo neighborhood as German bombs fall on the city.
   The time is 1942, World War II is at its height, and the Africa Campaign is raging along the northern coast of Egypt. Against this backdrop, Mahfouz’s novel tells the story of the Akifs, a middle-class family that has taken refuge in Cairo’s colorful and bustling Khan al-Khalili neighborhood. Believing that the German forces will never bomb such a famously religious part of the city, they leave their more elegant neighborhood and seek…

Sufferings in Africa

By James Riley,

Book cover of Sufferings in Africa: The Astonishing Account of a New England Sea Captain Enslaved by North African Arabs

Tim Bascom Author Of Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia

From the list on memoirs of American and European expats in Africa.

Who am I?

Ever since spending seven years of my youth in East Africa, I have read the literature of that continent. I have relished the incredible novels of authors like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Maaza Mengiste, but I have also sought out stories of those who entered Africa from outside, wanting to confirm my experience and to make sense of it. My reading has included masterpieces like Abraham Verghese’s novel Cutting for Stone or Ryszard Kapuscinski’s journalistic expose The Emperor. But here are a few personal memoirs that have given me a basis for my own understanding of being an expatriate shaped profoundly by life in Africa.  

Tim's book list on memoirs of American and European expats in Africa

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

Why did Tim love this book?

This remarkable tale is not as well known as others, in part because it was written in 1817 and by a less accomplished writer, but it is hard to beat as a true account of nearly unsurvivable hardship. Captain James Riley, captured when his American ship—Commerce—runs aground south of Morocco, is taken into the Sahara desert along with several of his crew as slaves of Bedouins. Barefoot, terribly sunburnt, forced to drink camel urine, they walk hundreds of miles behind their master’s camels until finally ransomed by an American consul. This shocking reversal of the usual slavery tale is a poignant indictment of the slave trade. Abraham Lincoln claimed that Sufferings in Africa, along with The Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress, had the most effect on his political ideology.

By James Riley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In August 1815, New England sea captain James Riley and his crew were shipwrecked off the coast of Moroccan Western Sahara. They headed inland, only to be captured by marauding Sahrawi natives who kept them as slaves. Riley and his crew were beaten, sun-burnt, starved, and forced to drink camel urine before eventually being rescued.

Abraham Lincoln, listed Riley's narrative, alongside the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress, as one of the three most influential works that shaped his views on slavery.

Eat Feel Fresh

By Sahara Rose Ketabi,

Book cover of Eat Feel Fresh: A Contemporary, Plant-Based Ayurvedic Cookbook

Victoria Moran Author Of Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World

From the list on yoga and Ayurveda.

Who am I?

I'm an American author of thirteen books (so far). Some are on vegan living (Main Street Vegan, The Love-Powered Diet); others (Creating a Charmed Life, Shelter for the Spirit, Younger by the Day) are about wellbeing and crafting an inner life. My passions are spirituality -- yoga primarily, but all the ways people find meaning; compassionate living: extending loving-kindness to ourselves and all beings; and creating vibrant health through yoga, Ayurveda, plant-based eating, and a grateful outlook. (Here's a little preview: I'm in the early stages of a book about aging like a yogi.)

Victoria's book list on yoga and Ayurveda

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

Why did Victoria love this book?

To me, a cookbook is supposed to be a book, too -- one that you can read as well as cook with. This is one of those. For me as a vegan, I like that there's no dairy here (in a lot of Ayurvedic cookbooks, I have to work around milk and clarified butter), but well beyond that, I appreciate this young author and her fresh outlook. The recipes are accessible and her Ayurvedic suggestions are real-world applicable and easy to incorporate into a busy life.

By Sahara Rose Ketabi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Introducing Eat Feel Fresh, an all-encompassing vegan Ayurvedic cookbook with over 100 healing recipes.

Venture on a journey of wellness and serenity with the ancient science of Ayurveda.

New to Ayurveda? No worries! It teaches that food is a divine medicine with the power to heal, and is packed with holistic healing recipes suited for your individual needs. This beautifully illustrated cookbook gives a detailed look at how to eat according to your body's specific needs, and will help you connect with your inner self.

Dive straight in to discover:

-Over 100 deliciously vegan and gluten-free recipes
-A clear easy-to…

Connect the Stars

By Marisa De Los Santos, David Teague,

Book cover of Connect the Stars

Joni Sensel Author Of The Farwalker's Quest

From the list on girls on epic outdoor adventures.

Who am I?

I grew up playing in the woods near my home and as an adult I enjoy backpacking, scuba diving, biking, snow-shoeing, and solo travel. When I was young, most books with exciting adventure stories in nature were about boys, but I know from experience that girls can do all the same things. And whether it’s set in a fantasy world or our own, I think adventures in nature help us learn who we are and how we connect to all that’s around us. That’s why my Farwalker trilogy features a strong, resourceful girl on a walking adventure, and it’s why I love to find and share other outdoorsy heroines with young readers. 

Joni's book list on girls on epic outdoor adventures

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

Why did Joni love this book?

This fun book includes plenty of humor and kooky characters as well as desert disasters to be overcome. I love deserts, have traveled as far as the Namib and the Sahara to enjoy them, and included a desert in my own book, so the atmosphere of this story resonated with me. And I’ve been a camp counselor, too—though not in any camp as extreme as the one in this book! The dual narratives, one by 13-year-old Audrey and one by Aaron, coordinate well together and help the reader better feel their shared experience—as well as what they learn from each other. Readers who, like me, enjoyed Holes by Louis Sachar would probably also enjoy this one.

By Marisa De Los Santos, David Teague,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Saving Lucas Biggs authors Marisa de los Santos and David Teague comes a heartwarming middle grade adventure about two misfits discovering the importance of just being themselves. When thirteen-year-olds Aaron and Audrey meet at a wilderness camp in the desert, they think their quirks are enough to prevent them from ever having friends. But as they trek through the challenging and unforgiving landscape, they learn that they each have what it takes to make the other whole. Luminous and clever, Connect the Stars takes on some hefty topics of the day-bullying, understanding where you fit in, and learning to…

The Unfortunates

By J K Chukwu,

Book cover of The Unfortunates

Robyn Ryle Author Of Fair Game

From the list on women who just won’t quit.

Who am I?

Tenacity—that can’t quit, won’t quit attitude—isn’t always seen as a particularly good quality to have for women and girls. As a tenacious woman myself, I know from where I speak. My mother once told me no one would ever marry me because I argued too much (she was wrong). That was part of the inspiration for Amanda in Fair Game—a young woman who just won’t quit, even when she’s not sure exactly what winning looks like. Here are some of my favorite stories about women and girls refusing to give up in the face of challenging circumstances.

Robyn's book list on women who just won’t quit

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

Why did Robyn love this book?

As a professor, I know that sometimes just getting through four years of college can be its own epic struggle, especially when you’re queer and half-Nigerian, like Sahara.

“The unfortunates” is the name Sahara and her friends use to describe the deaths of too many of their fellow Black students. As if that isn’t enough, Sahara sometimes feels like her only companion is her “Life Partner,” the name she gives to the ugly voice of her depression.

I loved the way The Unfortunates is told as an in-your-face “thesis” to Sahara’s university committee that mixes humor with high-stakes struggles. Follow along as Sahara figures out how to survive in the face of a campus and culture that is not just indifferent, but outright hostile.

By J K Chukwu,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An edgy, bitingly funny debut about a queer, half-Nigerian college sophomore who, enraged and exhausted by the racism at her elite college, is determined to reveal the truth about The Unfortunates—the unlucky subset of Black undergrads who Just. Keep. Disappearing.

Sahara is Not Okay. Entering her sophomore year, she already feels like a failure: her body is too much, her love life is nonexistent, she’s not Nigerian enough for her family, her grades are subpar, and, well, the few Black classmates she has are vanishing—or dying. Sahara herself is close to giving up: depression has been her longtime “Life Partner."…


By Bonnar Spring,

Book cover of Disappeared

Victoria Weisfeld Author Of Architect of Courage

From the list on ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

Who am I?

When I say I enjoy stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, I’m talking about characters who don’t have law enforcement or Special Forces training, who aren’t martial arts experts, KGB agents, or CIA officers. I like those characters too, but they typically engage my head, not my heart. Thrown into dangerous situations, “ordinary” individuals can show tremendous courage and quick-wittedness. I can easily put myself in their shoes and empathize with their plight, which gives me a real stake in the story’s outcome. If a story is well-written, the creative ways characters respond and the strengths they discover within themselves make them true heroes to me.

Victoria's book list on ordinary people in extraordinary situations

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

Why did Victoria love this book?

Two American housewives—sisters—are on vacation in Morocco (a place I’ve really enjoyed visiting) and one of them disappears. Her sister is determined to find her, but neither has any preparation for the dangers they face. A foreign setting is mysterious, exotic, and always holds unknown possibilities. Finding themselves in a rural area, the women don’t know whom to trust, and they cannot rely on the usual social safeguards. The police and military are actually a threat. For me, a standalone thriller like this packs extra tension because you can’t be certain the characters will survive!

By Bonnar Spring,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

These two sisters are about to be permanently "disappeared"

Julie Welch's sister, Fay Lariviere, disappears from their hotel in Morocco. Although she leaves a note that she'll be back in two days, Fay doesn't return.

Julie's anger shifts to worry—and to fear when she discovers a stalker. Then, an attack meant for Julie kills another woman. Searching Fay's luggage and quizzing the hotel staff, Julie discovers Fay's destination—a remote village in the Saharan desert. Convinced her sister is in danger and propelled by her own jeopardy, Julie rushes to warn Fay.

By the time she reaches the village, Julie finds…