Suggested Further Reading

Mark L. Lilleleht, Teaching Assistant
African 211 - The African Autobiography
Fall 1998

The following is a list of books recommended to my students in the above class way back in 1998. These works aren't necessarily the best works nor are they universally the easiest works but as a whole I think they'd serve as a good introduction to the African literary environment. The links are to's posting for the works where available - via Big Daddy's Bookstore, the income generating arm of this website which makes us a few pennies to buy and ship books and magazines to African libraries and schools.

Achebe, Chinua. No Longer at Ease. Novel (Nigeria). The Nigerian author's easiest, most accessible and I think best novel from a pure entertainment perspective. Paints a good picture of the unthinking ease with which a person gets trapped in corruption.

Armah, Ayi Kwei. Fragments. Novel (Ghana). Novel of the plights of the "been-to" (albeit in a non-pejorative sense). Chronicles the conflicts and struggles between art and the artistic process and the desire to effect change in one's society (and the former's seeming impotence).

Beti, Mongo. The Poor Christ of Bomba. Novel (Cameroon). Funny, well-written and touching story that illustrates the problems of missionary endeavor in Africa. Masterfully even-handed, Beti handles the characters skillfully and does not heap blame on anybody. Everyone is flawed, the text virtually flawless.

Cheney-Coker, Syl. The Graveyard Also Has Teeth. Poetry (Sierra Leone). The first and still best collection by one of the great poets of the second-generation of modern African authors. His poetry is more modernist in style and requires close, multiple readings. Even then it the poetry doesn't yield its meaning readily. Worth the struggle though.

Coetzee, J.M. The Life and Times of Michael K. Novel (South Africa). Frightening, stripped-down narrative of utter desolation of the soul. Excellent if depressing.

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. Novel (Zimbabwe). Fast becoming part of the "canon." A well-written, accessible and familiar story of a young girl's growing up.

Echewa, T. Obinkaram. The Land's Lord. Novel (Nigeria). Similar in theme to Beti's work above. An incredible evocation of place and struggle.

Farah, Nuruddin. Maps. Novel (Somalia). Wonderful blend of political allegory and bildungsroman, where the former does not swamp the latter.

Kibera, Leonard. Voices in the Dark. Novel (Kenya). Novel of disillusionment in post-independence Kenya, reflective of the ennui that gripped much of the African elite in the 1970s.

Magona, Sindiwe. Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night. Short stories (South Africa). Beautiful, touching, and shatteringly disturbing stories about the lives of black South Africans. Mirrors the stories of To My Children's Children but much better written and far more evocative.

Mwangi, Meja. The Cockroach Dance. Novel (Kenya). A funny yet also disturbing novel of modern urban life in Africa.

Ngugi wa Thiong'o. A Grain of Wheat. Novel (Kenya). I am not a great fan of Ngugi's creative writing but this is a well-written, interesting story which centers on the actions of people on both sides of the Mau-Mau struggle for independence. Revealing and touching.

Osundare, Niyi. The Eye of the Earth and Waiting Laughters. Poetry (Nigeria). Beautiful, evocative language. Very suggestive.

p'Bitek, Okot. Song of Lawino. Poetry (Uganda). A classic. Very accessible. p'Bitek shaped this long, narrative poem after the oral traditions of the Acoli people of Uganda yet illustrating the perils of modernism in theme.

Sharpe, Tom. Indecent Exposure and Riotous Assembly. Satire/Novel (South Africa). Ages since I've read these but I remember that they were a scream - dismantling apartheid ideology.

Soyinka, Wole. The Interpreters. Novel (Nigeria). One of the best books ever written. I consider it a classic of literature. Period. Not the easiest read and perhaps best appreciated if you have some background in Yoruba culture and religion, but not necessary.