The best books about Somalia 📚

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

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Book cover of The Invention of Somalia

The Invention of Somalia

By Ali Jimale Ahmed

Why this book?

This groundbreaking and pioneering book was the best book ever written on Somalia. It was indeed an eye-opener for me during my early years of academia. It dramatically changed how I would think of Somali studies. I still recall vividly to this day how I became enchanted with how authors, most of whom were Somalis, had critically challenged previous anthropological and historical scholarship on Somalia, pompously written at the time by Eurocentrists. As soon as I finished reading the book, I began to follow in the footsteps of scholars like Professor Ali Jimale Ahmed.

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The best book on contemporary Africa and the legacy of late colonialism

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Book cover of Seven Days In May

Seven Days In May

By Fletcher Knebel, Charles W. Bailey II

Why this book?

Like most readers, I’m scared these days about the future of our democracy. As a reporter I’ve covered trouble spots; like Somalia – where no law existed - and Sudan, where I was in a crowd fleeing at the mere sight of an airplane, fearing bombs. One of my friends lost his wife in a Washington car bombing. Others escaped danger during a Chilean coup. Seven Days in May imagined an attempted coup in the US, and although the setting was decades ago, some forces at play are the same, since human motivation never changes. This book sobered up the…

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The best thriller novels that affected the real world

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Book cover of Black Hawk Down: The History of the Battle of Mogadishu

Black Hawk Down: The History of the Battle of Mogadishu

By Charles River Editors

Why this book?

Black Hawk Down documents efforts by America’s Unified Task Force to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in 1993, and the resulting fight in Mogadishu between U.S. forces and his militia. Dramatically, graphically reconstructing the battle, author Mark Bowden leaves nothing about combat to the imagination. He describes Mogadishu as a place of Mad Max-like anarchy to describe the warring with great accuracy. Thinking there must have been some official inquiry into the tragedy that killed 18 American fighters and upwards of 500 Somalis, Bowden discovered none was undertaken, and so this account was conceived. It is a horribly enthralling…

From the list:

The best non-fiction military books that you can't put down

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Book cover of Struggle for Land in Southern Somalia: The War Behind the War

Struggle for Land in Southern Somalia: The War Behind the War

By Catherine Besteman, Lee V. Cassanelli

Why this book?

I read this original and outstanding book long before I decided to join academia. It was almost a year before I embarked on my undergrad years. It was a memorable time of my life, as an exile in a small town, a suburban of Brussels, Belgium, to grasp the real causes of the state failure in Somalia. The authors brilliantly presented painful empirical research findings on land grabbing they had collected a few years before the collapse of the military regime in Somalia in 1991 which navigated a new route in research findings on the post-state collapse in Somalia that…

From the list:

The best book on contemporary Africa and the legacy of late colonialism

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Book cover of Desert Flower

Desert Flower

By Waris Dirie, Cathleen Miller

Why this book?

It isn’t the best-written book but Waris Dirie’s account of her escape from Somalia, her life as a domestic servant in London, her marriages of convenience, and her ultimate triumph in New York’s world of fashion, haunted me for years.

A frank, intimate account of a beautiful woman’s escape from a nomadic tribal life of female abuse to scaling the heights of western fashion modeling.

From the list:

The best novels on the refugee experience

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Book cover of Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine

Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine

By Catherine Besteman

Why this book?

Making Refuge focuses on Somali Bantu refugees who were resettled in the town of Lewiston, Maine in the early 2000s. These refugees had been the focus of Besteman’s earlier research in Somalia in the 1980s. About a decade after Somalia plunged into civil war, Somali Bantus were being resettled in the United States, enabling Besteman to physically reconnect with them. One of the strengths of this book is that it provides rich historical context, giving the reader an overview of the different stages of the refugee experience: the events leading to war and displacement, life in refugee camps in Kenya,…

From the list:

The best books on refugees in or from the Middle East

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