2012 Africa Reading Challenge

Welcome to the Africa Reading Challenge.

I have absolutely no reason for hosting nor urging you to participate in this challenge save for the joy of discovering and reading African literature!

Here are the details:

Challenge Period

January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012


The entire African continent, including its island-states, which are often overlooked. Please refer to this Wikipedia “list of sovereign states and dependent territories in Africa”. Pre-colonial empires and regions are also included.

Reading Goal

5 books.  That’s it.  There will be no other levels.  Of course, participants are encouraged to read more than 5 books.  Eligible books include those which are written by African writers, or take place in Africa, or are concerned with Africans and with historical and contemporary African issues. Note that at least 3 books must be written by African writers.


  • Fiction – novels, short stories, poetry, drama, children’s books.  Note: You can choose to read a number of individual and uncollected short stories.  In this case, 12 such stories would constitute 1 book.  Individual poems do not count but books of poetry do.
  • Non-fiction – memoirs, autobiographies, history and current events

Reading Suggestions

  • Cover at least two regions, pick from North Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, West Africa and Central Africa
  • Include translated fiction from Arabic, Francophone and Lusophone literature
  • You can mix classic and contemporary fiction
  • If you are intend to read mostly non-fiction, then please include at least one book (out of the five) of fiction

I’m not inclined to push any reading philosophy, I would however like to encourage participants to broaden their knowledge of African literature. Broadly then:

For the novice, if you have not read any African lit or if you’ve read one book (E.g. Achebe’s Things Fall Apart):  I would advise a mix of at least two regions, two languages, classic and contemporary, with both male and female writers.  A sample reading list could be:

  • Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih (North Africa, Arabic, classic)
  • Maps by Nuruddin Farah (East Africa)
  • Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Southern Africa, contemporary)
  • So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba (West Africa, classic, Francophone)
  • Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Southern Africa, contemporary, modern fantasy)

For the advanced reader of African literature:  perhaps there is some gap (country, region, language, theme, gender)  you want to fill or author(s) whose works you want to explore further?

You could also, for example:

  • Read only collection/anthologies of short stories
  • Stick to the literary tradition of one country
  • Read only Lusophone literature
  • Explore the literature of contemporary South Africa
  • Read the books of North African countries of the Arab Spring
  • Read wherever the urge takes you!

My suggestions notwithstanding, the most important thing is to have fun and to explore Africa through books.

Other Details

  1. Overlap with other challenges is allowed.
  2. E-books and audio books are allowed.
  3. There is no need to make a list beforehand.  Although most of us love lists, don’t we?

To Sign up:

For those with blogs:  write a post on your blog about the challenge (with or without your list) and sign-up with the Mr Linky below using the direct URL of your sign-up post.

For those without blogs:  you can sign-up with your social media profile (Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads, Facebook or Shelfari).  Please make sure to use the URL of your profile page.  Alternatively, you can leave a comment  indicating  your intention to participate.

Reviews and Completion of Challenge

Reviews of books read are not required but are encouraged especially for those with blogs.  Please share your reviews with the rest of community the on Reviews Page.  If you do not have a blog and would like to guest review on this blog, then please feel free to contact me.

Likewise, completion posts are encouraged and you can share those on the Completion Page.

On Books and Reading Lists

Some classic African literature can be hard to find.  Please check your libraries and use inter-library loans if you have access to such services.  You will be able to do this challenge with the books currently available on the market.

I will publish lists of reading materials under various themes every Friday until I tire of the process.  Please contact me at kinnareadsATgmailDOTcom if you need any help.


  1. Ghanaian Literature Week – I have hosted this event for the past two years.  This year, I will move it up from November to probably August (pending an announcement). So you could save your GhanaLit reads for then.
  2. Nigerian Literature Event – Amy will host this even again this year.  She will provide more details in due course
  3. A new reading event – I’m toying with the idea of a South African Lit week or month.  I will decide soonest and let everyone know.  Or if anyone is interested in hosting this or any event, please do!

You can subscribe to this blog (see top of the right sidebar) to stay updated on this challenge.

That’s it.  Let’s enjoy reading for the 2012 Africa Reading Challenge.

To Sign-Up

Click on graphic and enter your link. I will add the sing-ups to

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  1. […] Kinna’s Africa Challenge–I actually did okay on this one since there was no specific book count and it overlapped with another of my own personal projects, which was to read Kenyan authors in preparation for the trip I took last August. The Housemaid, by Amma Darko, Imperial Reckoning, by Caroline Elkins, The Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The River and the Source, by Margaret Ogola, and Wizard of the Crow, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o all counted toward this challenge. […]


  2. […] One day, an older woman labeled a “witch” and disowned by her grown children finds a dead infant abandoned behind her hut in rural Ghana. Word spreads quickly through her village and suddenly everyone is arguing about who is to blame, with men vilifying the imagined neglectful mother and the women bemoaning the sad arrogance of undependable men. But as the true story of what happened is told through the perspectives of a number of women, it becomes clear that this child’s death is not the fault of one or another sex, but a society in which exploitation is quickly becoming a dominant means of attaining wealth. It begins when a young housemaid travels from her village to Accra to work for a wealthy older woman whose deceased husband’s family believes that her money rightfully belongs to them. The housemaid gets caught up in a plot of inheritance to win back the money for the husband’s family, but does not realize that her employer, though happy and confident in her independence, is not free of the sexual demands of the businessmen who remain in a class above her and so is not easy to manipulate. Nor does she understand that her own family’s motives may not be good for her, personally. The final telling of what happens to her baby is tragic but it is the fault of no individual: instead, it is the result of greed and an caustic individualism. A very worthy novella that counts toward Kinna’s Africa Challenge. […]


  3. […] Next up in Amy McKie. Amy is a Toronto based blogger who grew up on the east coast of Canada. She has a job that allows her lots of reading time and takes advantage of it, reading fiction, non-fiction and has a particular interest in promoting African and GLBTQ literature. She also generously donates her time to several organization including A Year of Feminist Classics, Independent Literary Awards GLBTQ category, Association of Black Women Historians, and African Reading Challenge. […]


  4. Hi Kinna, I would love to participate in the Africa Reading Challenge but I would also like to add a giveaway to make readers more involved. Is this allowed? Thanks.


  5. Super super good!
    Im going to read the latest from my homeland Kenya:PRINCESS ADHIS AND THE NAIJJO COCA BRODA by Tony ‘Smitta’ Mochama and ONE DAY I WILL WRITE ABOUT THIS PLACE by Binyavanga Wainaina. After that,i will read something from the North,South,East and Central Africa.


  6. Great idea Kinna. Count the Paperworth Bookclub in. We intend to read 5 books from 5 different parts of Africa including one non-fiction. We would send our reviews as we progress.

    For a West Africa option, Please permit me to suggest our very own Tomorrow Died Yesterday by Chimeka Garricks :-).


  7. I think this is a really great idea. Count the Paperworth Bookclub in. We intend to read 5 books from 5 different parts of Africa and would endeavour to submit our reviews. Well done!

    PS: for those interested may we suggest our book Tomorrow Died Yesterday by Chimeka Garricks as a West African option. :-)


  8. Thank you for this challenge, Kinna. I don’t think I’ve read any African literature, but I’m very interested in its various histories and cultures. I decided to give your novice reading list a shot, minus the ones I can’t get at my local library (Salih and Ba), plus the the African Literature staple by Achebe. For now, I’ve added Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, but I’m doubtful this one actually counts. So, my list is still possibly one book short – I’d like to add a west/north African novel – what would you recommend to someone with my level of experience that will likely be available in a Canadian library?


  9. Hi Kinna, just noticed this. I’m in – will do an ‘official’ sign up when I post at the end of March on my 52 books progress. I’ve already got two African titles on my list so I’m well on the way.


  10. I am among those who discovered your challenge through Alex’s blog, but only now did I manage to write a sign-up post. Thank you for hosting this!
    And on a completely different note, I love your blog’s header image!


  11. This is definitely something I look forward to participating in. I haven’t read much African fiction since I left school and this challenge is just the thing I need to get me to seek out more African writers and also hopefully more Ugandan writers too.
    I have just put up my list. Though I have only put up the 5 required for the challenge there are others that I have marked for when I am done with ARC. Should be an interesting year. Now to the reading.


  12. Just seen your challenge. For your readers who are interested in reading novels from lesser-known African countries, they might look at my website http://themodernnovel.com/african/region.htm, where they will find reviews of books from Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, CAR, both Congos, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Réunion, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tunisia and /zambia, as well as the better-known countries. Sadly, many are not available in English.


  13. I am currently reading “How to Read the Air” by Dinaw Mengestu (and loving it!).. and “The Official Wife” by Mary Karooro Okurut (not enjoying this one) and planning to read Teju Cole’s “Open City.” (looking forward to this one)
    I read a lot of African literature.. and this is an excuse to read more of it!!! I am not even going to add my current reads to the five because that way I get to read more :-)


  14. I’m so excited for this challenge! I’ve got my list up over at my blog… It looks very short, I might “cheat” and do more than 5 books :-) Looking forward to reading your reviews!


  15. i’ve just joined as well – very exciting!
    i can’t wait to see what other people are reading, and to develop my own list. i hope to surpass five, and luckily there is plenty of time in which to do so. thank you for posting this!


  16. Kinna, just to clarify, for this challenge, the fiction should be by AFRICAN authors, right? Just wondering as I’m making my lists. My classics book club is reading Heart of Darkness (shudder, I’m a bit afraid) but that’s not by an African, so it wouldn’t count?

    I have plenty others on my list, so I shouldn’t have a problem reading 5 in the whole year, but I just wanted clarification on that.


  17. Yeay! I just finished reading Sleepwalking Land, thoughts to come. I also really want to read Wizard of the Crow this year, maybe sometime later in the year after baby brain wears off. And then I’ll have to find something Ghanian and Nigerian (oooo I have THING AROUND MY NECK to finish). Thanks for doing this! I’m not about challenges this year but I can do 5 in the year, especially since I already finished one. :)


  18. I d said I d not do any challenges but as it is you and as I will read five african books this year at least it isn’t going to be to hard ,not sure what yet but want to find some real gems ,all the best stu


  19. Hi Kinna

    I came to this challenge by way of The Sleepless Reader. I am currently reading my way around the world (1 book per country) and therefore will at some stage have to read books from all African countries. As I have set myself challenge rules as to which country I read at any one time, I can’t in advance state which countries I will be covering but as I have two African countries already in my next five to-be-read (Angola and Malawi), I think I am fairly safe to commit to this challenge and it will be great to share reviews on African lit with other readers – looking forward to it. BTW, I have LONG lists of African lit suggestions which I can share if it will help…
    Happy reading!
    The Literary Nomad


    • Thanks for you offer of sharing your list of African literature. I will take you up on that. No pressure, I’m sure that you will read the 5 books given the even bigger challenge of reading 1 book per country.


  20. I’m awful with challenges! I sign up and forget all about them. But, I’ve got to give this one a try! I haven’t read African literature in quite a while and could use the nudge into a directed reading. I’m adding the blog to my Google Reader as following the many events you have planned will keep reminding me to read.
    Thanks for hosting this!


  21. I’m certainly in. I love it when a challenge matches with goals you already have for yourself! :-) I built up quite a significant TBR shelf of African fiction and non-fiction last year and thank goodness otherwise my determination only to read from the TBR would thwart my joining in. As it is I have over 15 books to choose from. I’ll post about them soon.


  22. Thanks for putting this together. I like you encouragement to read books by Africans.

    I have some ideas about the books I intend to read, but not a real list. My overall interests are in reading books by and about women from all over the globe.

    Currently I am reading Map of Love, by the Egyptian writer, Ahdaf Soueif

    In the past I have read and Joys of Motherhood, by Buchi Emecheta and will probably read one of her books. a Nigerian read.

    Other bloggers have may trying to get and read something of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, another Nigerian.

    Basically I look forward to the suggestions of you and others for guidance about other books.


  23. I am definitely participating and will be postiong about this. Very excited. My choices may not be all that original, since I haven’t read many books from African authors (I haven’t even read Things Fall Apart *hides in shame*), but I do have some exciting choices on my shelves and I’m sure this will lead to many more recommendations!


    • Don’t worry about Things Fall Apart. It’s just what most people read when they do read African lit. I hope you do get to The Memory of Love though. I see it’s on your TBR.


  24. I think this is awesome. I’m have over committed on number of challenges, but this one really sounds like up my alley. If by fluke I am close to reading 5 African books, I’ll sign-up and post my review at one go!

    This sounds amazing. :)


  25. Hi Kinna! This challenge is so great. It overlaps completely with one of my own reading goals this year, which is to read 6 books by Kenyan authors (or about Kenya) before my trip there next summer/fall. Plus I’ve already read The Famished Road by Ben Okri this year and am starting a book now that’s set in Rwanda. So I just might have to overlap with this challenge, though it feels a bit like cheating :)


  26. I *don’t* want anymore challenges for this year. Really I don’t!
    But at the same time I really do ;)
    As I said on twitter a few weeks (months? I don’t remember) ago when you were talking about this challenge I’m very interesting in reading more African lit. So I will sign up. Absolutely!
    More later today!


  27. Kinna, I’m in! The plan is to do only Portuguese-speaking African countries. Since the challenge is 5 books and there are 5 such countries, it seems perfect.

    I’ve already looked online and know I’ll have problems getting books from authors from Sao Tome e Principe (probably Conceição Lima) and Guine-Bissau (probably Abdulai Silla), especially since I’m not currently living in Portugal. I’ll have to ask friends and family there to help me track them down :)

    Excited about this!


  28. I was wondering how short stories will fit into this-not collections by one writer-I was wondering if you could add a section line-ten short stories from ten countries, or five or 20 as different levels-this could be done online starting with the Caine Prize stories-we could see how close to all the countries we could cover in a year-just let me know what your reaction to this is-as a practical matter many of us in South East Asia have no libraries so we rely on online sources


      • thanks I think I will try to find a short story online from every country over the course of 2012-might not be possible but would be a challenge for sure-once you do your amended post I will do a post on the Africa Short Story Challenge


  29. As you know, I am beyond excited for this :) Will start writing up my post now. Can’t wait to go home and peruse my shelves and decide exactly which books to read. I know for sure I want to explore more Lusophone and Francophone African lit.


  30. I swore I wouldn’t get involved in any reading challenges this year, but I can’t resist this one. I’m going to read some of my African TBR which includes half a dozen Andre Brinks and one by Nadine Gordimer, plus The Cry of Winnie Mandela by Njabulo Ndebele, Ake by Wole Soyinka, Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda, A Blade of Grass by Lewis deSoto, Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor, and The Concubine by Elechi Amadi. I’ve got some short stories from African Roar on my Kindle too. I’ll try and organise my reading so that I read and review the Ghanian and Nigerian ones at the right time. Thanks for hosting this, Kinna!


    • That is quite a lit. And I like the concentration in South African Literature; I hope to do something similar with my list. Thanks for participating. Enjoy your reading.


      • Hi Cathy, the Nadine Gordimer is July’s People, but I’m not going to read that one next. The plan is (vaguely) to read one per month from what I have on my TBR, but to try to read he authors I don’t know first. So since I’ve already read Gordimer’s The Conservationist, I probably won’t get to that for a while.


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