Top Ten Classic Books by African Authors

Article by Maureen Kasuku
Posted: June 11, 2020  

Here are our top ten books by African authors which will enlighten your perspective and enrich your mind with knowledge from the African continent and experiences from Africans.

Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe is widely considered one of Africa’s best writers. Published in 1958 this book takes us through the life of Okonkwo, the leader of an Igbo community, from the events leading to his banishment in the community, through the seven years of his exile, to his return. The novel is traditionally structured and full of Igbo proverbs and it also addresses the intrusion of white missionaries and colonial government into the Igbo society.

Weep not Child- Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Ngugi wa Thiong’o is considered a Kenyan literally giant. Published in 1964, this novel is about the effects of the Mau Mau uprising on the lives of ordinary men and women, one family in particular. The times are against two brothers, Njoroge and Kamau since the Mau Mau is waging war against the white government in the forest and the brothers must choose their allegiance. It is easy for Kamau who wants to train to be a carpenter but quite difficult for Njoroge who wants to attend school.

The beautyful Ones are not yet Born – Ayi Kwei Armah

This novel focuses on an unnamed protagonist working at a railroad station who also acts as the narrator. He observes people celebrating brassily in early 1966 and watches in disdain as the people have no idea why they are celebrating. The novel focuses on the immorality and naivety that ultimately led to the political unrest in Ghana before the fall of Kwame Nkrumah.

The Road – Wole Soyinka

The Road by Wole Soyinka was published in 1967 and is a play about a group of drivers and their associates in a poor neighbourhood in Nigeria. The play mainly happens inside Aksident Store, a small automotive repair and parts shop. The owner of the store, Professor, also forges licenses on the side. The play takes you through the lives of these people in the poor neighbourhood and what they do to survive.

Betrayal in the City – Francis Imbuga

This is a novel in the form of a play published in 1976 which brings to light the effects of freedom and independence after colonialism in African Nations. In his play, Francis sheds light on the corrupt politicians left behind by the white government and the fact that Africans no longer know how to live after years of violence and oppression. He is careful not to mention names by using fictional characters with fictional generic traits that allow him to safely critique the corrupt politicians and government systems across the African continent.

So Long A letter – Mariama Ba

This book was originally written in French under the title “Une si Longue Lettre” and is an epistolary novel, a novel written as a series of letters, in which the main character Ramatoulaye Fall writes to her best friend. The main character and her best friend, Aissatou grew up in Senegal but Ramatoulaye remains behind and gets married as Aissatou immigrates to America. The sudden death of Ramatoulaye’s husband forces her to go into customary isolation for 40 days to mourn her husband during which she keeps a journal that she plans to send to her best friend in America.

Houseboy – Ferdinand Oyo

Another book originally written in French, “Une vie de boy” was published in 1956. The book is about a boy named Toundi who runs away from his father’s household to go live with a priest. After an accident which leaves the priest dead, the boy is taken to live with a white commander to serve as his houseboy. His life then takes an interesting turn after he becomes a houseboy. The book depicts the effects of colonialism on a young boy.

God’s Bits of Wood – Sembene Ousmane

This novel was also originally written in French as “Les Bouts de Bois de Dieu” and was published in 1960. The book is about the last gasp of colonialism narrated through the story of a railroad strike. The main character, Bakayoko is the man who combines African humanism and European technology. The other characters are committed to change and they demonstrate dignity despite their difficult backgrounds.

Song of Lawino- Okot p’Bitek

This novel is a narrative poem originally written in the Acholi language and later translated into English. The book describes how Lawino’s husband, Ocol, has taken a second wife who is educated and acts European. It goes further describing how Ocol is shunning his tribal ways in favour of European ways and even prefers his new wife Clementine to Lawino. The book advocates for the African culture and ways the culture has been lost by the educated folks.

Purple Hibscus- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a post-colonial novel published in 2003 and it depicts the economic and political instability of Nigeria during colonial times. The narration takes the perspective of a fifteen-year-old girl whose psyche and decisions are heavily influenced by her father’s stiff religious philosophy but later on, the girl grows into her own skin and develops her own sense of identity

About the author

Maureen Kasuku

Maureen is our resident cat lady and Beyoncé stan. She writes about spas, brunch and ballet recitals but has never been to any. Moonlights as a social justice activist in her spare time. She knows things and is obnoxiously opinionated on the internet but not in real life


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