When we were thinking about all the books we have read that are set abroad, we were not surprised that we had read a number of novels about Africa. Africa is a continent full of rich culture, history, and family stories. It is not surprising we have read so many wonderful African novels.
We chose books about Africa or books set in Africa that we loved. Some of these books are powerful stories about family and culture, while others are lighthearted and fun. We have a list of books set in Africa that will open your world to this extraordinary continent that I hope to visit one day. And as Lavar Burton says: “Take a look. It’s in a book”.
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Best Novels About Africa
This is another book from Oprah’s original book club that has stayed with me over the years. This is the story of one family’s three decades in the Congo.
Oprah chooses books that are emotional and well-written and this family saga is no exception. Nathan Price is an evangelical Baptist who takes his family on a mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. The novel takes place during the Congo’s fight for independence. This epic family saga is told by Nathan’s Wife and four daughters. If you are looking for the best novels about Africa, this one will not disappoint.
This coming-of-age story examines the relationship between a black woman and a white girl in apartheid South Africa in 1976. This novel is a brutally honest and emotionally compelling story, unlike anything I have ever read.
This book begins just before the 1976 Soweto uprising in which thousands of black students marched in protest of the apartheid government. Though the protest was peaceful, police open-fired killing a hundred children.
This historical fiction book led to the most amazing discussions with our book club. The characters jump off the page. I was completely absorbed from the first sentence on the first page until the last page of the book. It is powerful and poignant and one of Jackie’s all-time favorite books. This is an African Novel that you will not want to miss.
This contemporary fiction book tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze who are young and in love when they leave war-torn Nigeria. Ifemelu comes to the United States and despite plans to follow her, Obinze cannot come to post-9/11 America.
The saga takes place over a 15-year period when Ifemelu and Obinze are reunited in Nigeria. It is intense and deeply emotional. I read this book with a very heavy heart as it seemed like tragedy after tragedy befell these two individuals. This is one of our books about Africa that you must read.
However, with that said, this book is amazingly written and a true work of art. If you are looking for one of the best book club books, this would be your choice.
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers who are born secretly to a nun and a surgeon. They are orphaned when their mother dies and their father disappears.
This sweeping family saga is set over three decades from Ethiopia to America as Ethiopia is on the brink of a revolution. This is another epic family saga that is not to be missed and a stunning choice of from books set in Africa.
Best African Novels
I recall being enraptured by this first book in Chinua Achebee’s African trilogy when I first read it in high school. Achebee’s story about colonization opened my eyes to the roots of our society and the destruction that colonizers did to the people they enslaved and oppressed.
This story will forever be one I thank for opening my eyes and teaching me lessons in a way I could feel in my soul. It’s a perfect example of how a well-told fictional story can leave a lasting impact on young minds.
Find this book in African Novels / Literary Classic
Easily one of the most unique books about sisters and books in general, I’ve ever read. This debut was fabulous. Despite the title, this book is more literary fiction than anything else. Korede has to hide the secret that her gorgeous sister, Ayoola, is a serial dater who murders her many boyfriends.
When Ayoola sets her sights on the only man Korede fancies, Korede has to decide where her loyalties lie. More about the emotional bonds of sisters, the murder is just an undercurrent of the story forcing emotions to the surface of this book. This is one of the best murder mystery books of all time and an African novel that is not to be missed.
I have read so many of the mystery books in this series that I have lost count. If you are a die-hard mystery lover this series may be too tame for you.
But, if you are new to the mystery genre or like a lighter, cozy mystery book series, these books set in Africa are amazing. Precious Ramotswe is so hilariously self-assured you cannot help but love her.
October 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
I generally love Reese’s book club picks. This particular one was billed as a Ghanan version of Crazy Rich Asians, a book I adored. I think I was expecting that level of over-the-top gossip and glamour and this book wasn’t like that. It was a poor comparison in my mind.
Afi is a young woman who is convinced to marry a man that she does not know in order to provide her mother with financial security. Afi has moved from her small hometown to Accra, Ghana’s capital city.
I did like the story of Afi’s struggles in her arranged marriage, though I got frustrated by her choices at certain points in the story. This African novel gave me a new perspective.
In this beautiful novel about Africa, Adunni a teenage girl living in rural Nigeria. She longs for an education but is sold into marriage with a much older man.
She never stops working toward her dreams and trying to build herself the future she dreamed of. This is an incredibly powerful book that looks at poverty, following your dreams, and never giving up that will simultaneously lift you up and break your heart.
Fantasy Books Set in Africa
I absolutely loved this YA fantasy book about Sunny, a twelve-year-old girl who lives with her parents and two brothers in Nigeria. Sunny is albino and teased for her looks. This is one of the fantasy books set in Africa that is a must read!
When Sunny discovers that she is a “free agent”, someone with magical abilities whose parents are not magic, she enters a world she didn’t know existed. Sunny and her three fellow magical students must study and learn their abilities in order to stop the Black Hat Killer before he brings about complete destruction.
Unlike anything I have read, the story is woven beautifully and is one of the best fantasy books for teens. if you love young adult books about witches, this is at the top of our list.
An urban fantasy set in two locations: modern-day Houston and the magical island of Ghizon, off the coast of Madagascar. Rue is a half human, half god, but she didn’t know about the magic in her blood until her mother died.
The first book in YA duology, has Rue struggling to fit in with the white Ghizon culture as the only black girl. But after accidentally using her magic to save a human, Rue becomes an enemy of the state and finds the real source of Ghizon’s magic.
I loved the fantasy version of white appropriation, that portion of the book is done particularly well. I found that this is YA book that is written for its younger audience. This YA fantasy novel is a perfect pick from books about Africa.
This debut novel is billed as an Ethiopian-inspired fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre but I think the Jane Eyre part is the least exciting part of this fantastical tale. (Which is saying something!)
I’ve never read any YA Fantasy book like this one. The world-building is so unique. Andromeda is an exorcist who cleanses households of the evil eye. Magnus Rochester is desperate to have the evil eye removed from his household but no other exorcist will take the job.
The chemistry between these two is intense and instant, the scenes of terror throughout the book are ideal for the haunting season, and the subtle Jane Eyre references bring the whole thing up a notice. This YA fantasy is one of the best novels about Africa.
I enjoyed this book which is the first in a fantasy series for Young Adults. I listened to the amazing audiobook and I loved listening to the story the way that the story was intended to sound. We were so happy to include this amazing YA fantasy book in our list of books set in Africa. (Orisha is a mythical Nigeria).
When magic disappeared from Orisha, Zelie’s world changed forever. When the king ordered all the Maji killed, Zelie was left without a mother or magic. She is on a quest to find revenge and bring magic back to Orisha. This is one of the fantasy books for teens that builds a whole new world and brings young adult fantasy books to a whole new level.
Books About Africa
February 2023 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick
This story about Maddie, known as Maame to her family, was immersive and beautifully complex. Dealing with friendships, racism, familial obligations, and then grief, this story swept me away. Maddie lives in London as the primary caretaker of her father who has Parkinson’s. Her mother spends most of her time in Ghana.
I felt fiercely protective of Maddie while reading this book. There were times I wanted to swoop in to relieve some of the burdens of this wonderful character with a heart of gold. But it was more rewarding to see Maddie finding her inner strength and learning to prioritize herself and her dreams.
I can’t recommend this coming-of-age book about grief enough – especially as a book for book clubs. It’s one of the best books of 2023 and a great pick for a list of book club books. This is one of the heavier books in our beach reads 2023 post, but the list would not be complete without it. This is also one of the best novels about Africa I have ever read.
I love that contemporary romance writers have started writing novels that have meat. This book deals with death, family heritage, interracial relationships, and pregnancy in ways that knocked my socks off.
I was really impressed by how I could get romance vibes while still having a thought provoking read. This African novel is such a great read. I can’t wait to see what Igharo writes next.
This contemporary fiction story was recommended to me so often in the past few years – and it’s an Oprah pick so I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype. My library hold finally came due and I finally took the plunge. WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG?
Honestly, I love this story about immigration, Wall Street, and the American dream. At a time when election coverage is ramping up, this book seems so relevant and is a great book club book. Jeni and Nedi’s story about their move from Cameroon and how it affects their marriage and their morals was compulsively readable. I couldn’t put it down. Don’t wait as long as I did to read this amazing African novel.