The most recommended books about Somalia

Who picked these books? Meet our 15 experts.

15 authors created a book list connected to Somalia, and here are their favorite Somalia books.
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Book cover of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

Tim Pritchard Author Of Ambush Alley: The Most Extraordinary Battle of the Iraq War

From my list on battles that go wrong.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2003 I was travelling through Baghdad with US forces to report on the Iraq war. Suddenly an ear-shattering explosion cracked through our Humvee and a rush of hot debris swept past my face. The heavily armoured door warped inwards, and the vehicle lifted off the ground. Soldiers were screaming in terror and anger, clutching at bloody faces, arms, and legs. We’d been attacked by unknown members of the Iraqi resistance. The sheer terror of that moment gave me a new understanding of war  the sight, smells, sounds, and touch of combat – and a desire to tell the stories of the young soldiers who get caught up in it.  

Tim's book list on battles that go wrong

Tim Pritchard Why did Tim love this book?

It was this book that inspired me to write my book. It’s a powerful and gut-wrenching description of soldiers being lost in the fog of war when a military operation goes wrong and exposes the limits of what sophisticated hardware and weapon technology can do to save the day.  

By Mark Bowden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Recounts a 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, Somalia, that resulted in the deaths of eighteen Americans and more than five hundred Somalis, examining the rationales behind the disastrous raid.


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

Riccardo Orizio Author Of Lost White Tribes, Journeys Among the Forgotten

From my list on post colonial life in Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about unusual places, unusual people, and unusual stories. Places, people, and stories that are rough, different, authentic, often forgotten, full of troubled history and a magical present. 

Riccardo's book list on post colonial life in Africa

Riccardo Orizio Why did Riccardo love 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?

By Francesca Marciano,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the vast space of East Africa lives a close-knit tribe of expatriates. They all meet at dinner parties; they share the same doctors and eat at the same restaurants; they sleep with each other and take the same drugs.

Set in contemporary Nairobi, Rules of the Wild is at once a sharp-eyed dissection of white society in modern Kenya and the moving story of a young woman, Esme, struggling to make sense of her place in Africa, and her feelings for the two men she loves - Adam, a second generation Kenyan who is the first to show her…


Book cover of Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

Maxim Samson Author Of Invisible Lines: Boundaries and Belts That Define the World

From my list on redefining your understanding of geography.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Geography professor at DePaul University with a long-standing obsession with the world, comparing puddle shapes to countries as a small child and subsequently initiating map and flag collections that I cultivate to this day. Having lived in different parts of the UK and the USA, as well as being fortunate enough to travel further afield, I’ve relished the opportunity to explore widely and chat with the people who know their places best. I love books that alter how I look at the planet, and I am particularly intrigued by the subtle ways in which people have shaped our world—and our perceptions of it—both intentionally and inadvertently.

Maxim's book list on redefining your understanding of geography

Maxim Samson Why did Maxim love this book?

I regard this book as the quintessence of a modern geography trade book, a work that compels us to examine the places around us with an increasingly critical eye.

Drawing on current geographical thinking and a rich assortment of case studies from across the globe, Bonnett demonstrates why place matters: it is how we apply meaning to the world. Accordingly, to be placelesswhether through dispossession or demolition on the ground or deletion from the mapis tantamount to not existing at all.

Part of what makes this book such a captivating read is its attention to such concerns. Our relationship with the world may be quite innocuous, characterised by innocent curiosity and a craving for excitement, but it can also assume an ugly side, where people seek to seize places only for themselves. Ultimately, what we make of the planet, mundane and remarkable all at once,…

By Alastair Bonnett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A fizzingly entertaining and enlightening book' Daily Telegraph


'Mesmerising' Geographical Magazine


'A fascinating delve into uncharted, forgotten lost places. But it's not just a trivia-tastic anthology of remote destinations but a nifty piece of psycho-geography, explaining our human need for these cartographical conundrums.' Wanderlust

In a world of Google Earth, in which it is easy to believe that every discovery has been made and every adventure already had, Off the Map is a stunning testament to how mysterious our planet still is.

From forgotten enclaves to floating islands, from hidden villages to New York gutter spaces, Off the Map charts…


Book cover of When Stars Are Scattered

Alyssa Bermudez Author Of Big Apple Diaries

From my list on graphic novels for young readers to encourage empathy.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a graphic novel creator and art teacher with years of experience, I understand the importance of introducing serious topics for discussion in an accessible way. My art students of all ages are curious about different subjects, wondering what life is like for others and if their own feelings are normal. Graphic novels are a perfect tool for fostering these discussions. Having been interested in comics as a medium for a long time, I'm thrilled to share this with young audiences and encourage exploration of diverse perspectives.

Alyssa's book list on graphic novels for young readers to encourage empathy

Alyssa Bermudez Why did Alyssa love this book?

This book deeply touched me. Through the eyes of a child, it portrays universal emotions of hope, family, and resilience amidst the refugee crisis.

It sheds light on the harsh realities of living in a refugee camp, offering valuable insights into the experiences of displaced families. It's a powerful tool for teaching children about empathy. The ending moved me to tears and prompted me to research and donate to several relevant foundations.

I believe graphic novels possess a unique power to immerse readers in the characters' experiences and emotions. When a child reads When Stars Are Scattered, they step into the world of a refugee camp and gain a new appreciation for everyday necessities.

This graphic novel, based on real people, offers a distinctive storytelling format that can convey silence, body language, and the passage of time in ways other mediums cannot.

By Omar Mohamed, Victoria Jamieson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked When Stars Are Scattered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

A National Book Award Finalist, this remarkable graphic novel is about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a former Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl.

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would…


Book cover of A House in the Sky

Susan Pohlman Author Of Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home

From my list on travel memoir for women on women (and men) who travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the transformational power of travel ever since my husband and I unexpectedly signed a lease to an apartment on the Italian Riviera instead of divorce papers. The power of that year abroad saved our marriage, united our family of four in a sacred way, and introduced us to the many cultures of Europe. I learned the crucial difference between taking a trip and embarking on a journey. Capturing a travel experience on the page for those who can’t journey to a destination themselves is a joy and a privilege I don’t take lightly. Publishing this memoir allowed me to pivot in my career to a full-time writer and writing coach/editor.

Susan's book list on travel memoir for women on women (and men) who travel

Susan Pohlman Why did Susan love this book?

There have been only a handful of books that I have been unable to put down.

This memoir is one of them. In 2008, Amanda Lindhout began her career as a reporter by traveling to Somalia. On her fourth day, she and another journalist were abducted and held for ransom.

She recounts her harrowing experience in captivity (460 days) in vivid, and heart-wrenching detail. When she is most desperate, she travels in her mind to A House in the Sky enabling her to block out her dire circumstances and let in a ray of hope.

This is a true story you will never forget.

By Amanda Lindhout, Sara Corbett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A House in the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BREAKING NEWS: Amanda Lindhout’s lead kidnapper, Ali Omar Ader, has been caught.

Amanda Lindhout wrote about her fifteen month abduction in Somalia in A House in the Sky. It is the New York Times bestselling memoir of a woman whose curiosity led her to the world’s most remote places and then into captivity: “Exquisitely told…A young woman’s harrowing coming-of-age story and an extraordinary narrative of forgiveness and spiritual triumph” (The New York Times Book Review).

As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself visiting its exotic locales. At the…


Book cover of In the Company of Heroes

Joel Struthers Author Of CIVIL: Life after the Foreign Legion

From Joel's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Always learning Driven Humbled Respectful Human

Joel's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Joel Struthers Why did Joel love this book?

I’m a big fan of the book and the movie Black Hawk Down, but in my view, Mr. Durant’s true story of what he experienced that day wins; some will say one of the most harrowing in American military history.

Perhaps he’s piloting a Blackhawk, which is why I found it captivating, or one can read his experiences after watching the movie and put it all together. He did a good job, both crashing his helicopter and writing.

By Michael J. Durant, Steven Hartov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the autumn of 1993, American special forces were dispatched to the famine-stricken land of Somalia. Their intervention in this war-torn country was the most dramatic US military action since Vietnam. A routine mission went horribly wrong when Michael Durant's Black Hawk helicopter was shot down over Mogadishu and he was quickly surrounded by Somali troops and taken captive. The brutal torture he underwent was made all too clear to the world when his coerced statements were broadcast on live television and his battered face appeared on the cover of magazines around the globe.

Michael Durant's ordeal was first described…


Book cover of The Invention of Somalia

Mohamed Haji Ingiriis Author Of The Suicidal State in Somalia: The Rise and Fall of the Siad Barre Regime, 1969-1991

From my list on contemporary Africa and late colonialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Somali scholar in the field of Somali Studies and African Studies, specialising in anthropology, history, and the politics of Somali society and state(s). I am recognised as an authority and expert on the historical and contemporary Somali conflicts in the Diaspora and back home. I am a Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where I am tasked to study the political economy of Mogadishu. I am also a visiting professor at the African Leadership Centre, King’s College London, where I deliver lectures about the genesis of the Cold War in the Horn of Africa and the Civil War in Somalia. 

Mohamed's book list on contemporary Africa and late colonialism

Mohamed Haji Ingiriis Why did Mohamed love 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.

By Ali Jimale Ahmed (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by


Book cover of Seven Days In May

Bob Reiss Author Of The Last Spy

From my list on thrillers that affected the real world.

Why am I passionate about this?

This will sound corny but if writers aren’t dreamers, who is? As a journalist, I got to cover real events, but I was also concerned about what could happen. But how do you write about something you fear will happen, but hasn’t happened yet? How to drive across future consequences when you are limited by that moment’s reality? A journalist will quote leaders, or reports, and hope that does the trick. A novelist can bring characters to life who will one day have to live with a tragedy and their own choices. My short story collection Still Hungry will be published in January 2023.

Bob's book list on thrillers that affected the real world

Bob Reiss Why did Bob love 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 nation back then by reminding readers what happens when some of us....any of us...think they know better than everyone else and believe force is the way to go. We could use that reminder now.

By Fletcher Knebel, Charles W. Bailey II,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Seven Days In May as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vintage hardcover


Book cover of The Last Nomad: Coming of Age in the Somali Desert

MaryAnn Shank Author Of The Mystical Land of Myrrh

From my list on strong Somali women.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia in the late 1960’s I witnessed the upheaval in the society due to the massive changes in government demanded by the Western world. There were so many brave people emerging from this chaos, especially women. There was even a young Somali woman who saved my life. That such strength grows in such circumstances still amazes me. I am honored to bring a few of them to you, and to share a small part of my personal experience in Somalia.

MaryAnn's book list on strong Somali women

MaryAnn Shank Why did MaryAnn love this book?

Shugri is the last nomad in her family. There are no more.

She fled the wars, the famines, the torture that had become Somalia and, through a treacherous journey became a refugee in hostile places, landing finally in California. Along with her constant confusion with escalators and washing machines, she overcame her fears of torture, and her suspicions, to become a nurse, a wife and a mother, a valuable citizen of her community.

I have met Shugri, and she is now one of the kindest, gentlest people I know. She has a lot to teach all of us about strength of character, and loving.

By Shugri Said Salh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A remarkable and inspiring true story that "stuns with raw beauty" about one woman's resilience, her courageous journey to America, and her family's lost way of life.

Finalist for the 2022 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Nonfiction Award
Winner of the 2022 Gold Nautilus Award, Multicultural & Indigenous Category

Born in Somalia, a spare daughter in a large family, Shugri Said Salh was sent at age six to live with her nomadic grandmother in the desert. The last of her family to learn this once-common way of life, Salh found herself chasing warthogs, climbing termite hills, herding goats, and moving constantly…


Book cover of Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman: 90,000 Lives Changed

MaryAnn Shank Author Of The Mystical Land of Myrrh

From my list on strong Somali women.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Somalia in the late 1960’s I witnessed the upheaval in the society due to the massive changes in government demanded by the Western world. There were so many brave people emerging from this chaos, especially women. There was even a young Somali woman who saved my life. That such strength grows in such circumstances still amazes me. I am honored to bring a few of them to you, and to share a small part of my personal experience in Somalia.

MaryAnn's book list on strong Somali women

MaryAnn Shank Why did MaryAnn love this book?

Hope is sometimes a rare commodity in a land torn by war, famine, and drought for decades.

Blessed help is often even rarer. Dr. Hawa Abdi is that rare person who pours hope into such a desolate environment and saves lives. Dr. Hawa Abdi created a hospital out of nothing, treating all who came to her doorstep, no questions asked. It sits in northern Somalia, with trained nurses and medical supplies brought in from donations.

Dr. Hawa Abdi is a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee for her unrelenting work to help Somalia, her home, bringing hope to many hundreds of her people. Indeed an inspirational story of compassion, and making dreams come true.

By Hawa Abdi, Sarah J Robbins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For the last twenty years, Dr Hawa Abdi and her daughters have run a refugee camp on their family farm not far from Mogadishu which has grown to shelter 90,000 displaced Somalis: men, women, and children in urgent need of medical attention. As Islamist militia groups have been battling for control of the country creating one of the most dire human rights crises in the world, Dr. Abdi's camp is a beacon of hope for the Somalis, most of whom have no proper access to health care. She was recently held hostage by a militant groups who threatened her life…