Lists: Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century

I will compile various reading lists as a resource for the soon-to-be-announced Africa Reading Challenge.   I thought it best to start with this list.

Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century was an initiative by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair with encouragement from the historian Ali Mazrui.  For the purposes of this list, an African is “someone either born in Africa or who became a citizen of an African country.”

The 100-book list includes children’s literature, creative writing and non-fiction.  Only creative writing works are present below.   

I find that it omits certain people like Alex La Guma and Alifa Rifaat. Anyway, it’s a good starting place for those looking for classic African literature.  Unfortunately, some of the books are out of print.  I have culled from the overall list those works of creative writing which are still in print and/or are available at a library (hopefully) somewhere near you.

(Note: I used ImageNations’ list of the 70 creative works. The entire list, Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century,  is here.)

 

  1. Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria)–Arrow of God
  2. Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria)–Things Fall Apart
  3. Aidoo, Ama Ata (Ghana)—Anowa (drama)
  4. Almeida, Germano (Cape Verde)–O testamento do Sr. Napumonceno da Silva Araujo (The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araújo)
  5. Armah, Ayi Kwei (Ghana)–The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
  6. Ba, Amadou Hampate (Mali)–L’etrange destin de Wangrin  (Fortunes of Wangrin)
  7. Ba, Mariama (Senegal)–Une si longue lettre (So Long a Letter)
  8. Ben Jelloun, Tahar (Morocco)–La nuit sacree (The Sacred Night)
  9. Beti, Mongo (Cameroon)–Le pauvre Christ de Bomba (The Poor Christ of Bomba)
  10. Brink, Andre (South Africa)–A Dry White Season
  11. Cheney-Coker, Syl (Sierra Leone)–The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar
  12. Coetzee, J.M. (South Africa)–Life and Times of Michael K
  13. Couto, Mia (Mozambique)—Terra sonambula (Sleepwalking Land)
  14. Dangarembga, Tsitsi (Zimbabwe)—Nervous Conditions
  15. Djebar, Assia (Algeria)–L’amour, la fantasia (Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade)
  16. Emecheta, Buchi (Nigeria)–The Joys of Motherhood
  17. Farah, Nuruddin (Somalia)—Maps
  18. Fugard, Athol (South Africa)–The Blood Knot (drama)
  19. Gordimer, Nadine (South African)—Burgher’s Daughter
  20. Head, Bessie (South Africa)–A Question of Power

     

  21. Honwana, Bernardo (Mozambique)–Nos motamos o cao tinhoso (We Killed Mangy-Dog and Other Mozambican Stories)
  22. Hove, Chenjerai (Zimbabwe)—Bones
  23. Isegawa, Moses (Uganda)—Abessijnse Kronieken (Abyssinian Chronicles)
  24. Joubert, Elsa (South Africa)–Die Swerdjare van Poppie Nongena (Poppie Nongena)
  25. Kane, Cheikh Hamidou (Senegal)—L’aventure ambigue (Ambiguous Adventure)
  26. Kourouma, Ahmadou (Cote d’Ivoire)–Le soileils des independances (Suns of Independence)
  27. Laye Camara (Guinea)—L’enfant noir (The Dark Child: The Autobiography of an African Boy)
  28. Magona, Sindiwe (South Africa)–Living, Loving, and Lying Awake at Night
  29. Mahfouz, Naguib (Egypt)–The Cairo Trilogy
  30. Marechera, Dambudzo (Zimbabwe)–House of Hunger
  31. Mofolo, Thomas (Lesotho)—Chaka
  32. Mutwa, Vusamazulu Credo (South Africa)–Indaba, My Children
  33. Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya)–Caitaana Mutharaba-ini (Devil on the Cross)
  34. Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya)–A Grain of Wheat
  35. Niane, Djibril Tamsir (Senegal)–Soundjata ou l’epopee mandingue (Sundiata: An epic of old Mali)
  36. Okibgo, Christopher (Nigeria)—Labyrinths (poetry)
  37. Okri, Ben (Nigeria)–The Famished Road
  38. P’Bitek, Okot (Uganda)–Song of Lawino (prose poetry)
  39. Saadawi, Nawal El (Egypt)–Woman at the Point Zero
  40. Salih El Tayyib (Sudan)–Season of Migration to the North
  41. Sembene, Ousmane (Senegal)–Les bouts des bois de Dieu  (God’s Bits of Wood)
  42. Sony Labou Tansi (Congo)–La vie et demie  (Life and a Half: A Novel)
  43. Sow Fall, Aminata (Senegal)–La greve des battus (The Beggars’ Strike)
  44. Soyinka, Wole (Nigeria)–Death and the King’s Horsemen (drama)
  45. Tutuola, Amos (Nigeria)–The Palm-Wine Drinkard
  46. Vera, Yvonne (Zimbabwe)—Butterfly Burning
  47. Yacine, Kateb (Algeria)—Nedjma
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19 comments

  1. Mmm, I love lists! Thanks for posting this, Kinna. I haven’t read many of them, but have really enjoyed the ones I have read – Things Fall Apart, A Dry White Season, Devil on the Cross, The Palm-Wine Drunkard and Death & the King’s Horsemen (well, I saw the play rather than reading it, but you know what I mean). Lots to get my teeth into here – do you have any particularly strong recommendations?

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    • Andrew, where have you been? Writing, I hope! I would recommend Season of Migration to the North, Nervous Conditions, and Maps. All the best.

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  2. I’m quite pleased to discover that I’ve read quite a few of these, but the interesting thing is that (unlike similar lists for UK) if I haven’t read it then I haven’t even heard of the author or the title. I have a lot to browse here. Thank you!

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  3. I’ve only read 8 of these titles (though I’ve read different books by a few more of the authors), so lots of books to add to my wish list! 😀

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  4. Thank you for culling the full list, Kinna, I haven’t read much African literature, but I have been intrigued by several titles on your blog.

    This list is a great place to start!

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  5. Thanks for the list, Kinna. I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity, but I would really like to expand my horizons to African literature. (The only African novel I’ve read to date is Things Fall Apart.) This will be very helpful is knowing where to start.

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  6. Thanks for posting this list! I’ve read… 10 I think, and have another 9 on my shelf. I must make them a priority this year, clearly! (I’m also really happy to see Assia Djebar on this list, I really like her works that I’ve read, though I’ve not read this title yet – it’s one I own though at least!)

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