A reader asked me if I had a suggested reading list on Africa. I didn’t, but I took a shot at some suggestions, starting with good, readable books and moving towards the more academic. Suggestions are welcome.
First, some readable histories. Jon Reader writes a long but enjoyable natural and political history of Africa.
John Iliffe is one of the best and most thoughtful historians of the continent and writes this short history.
The most wonderful travel accounts and reportage have been written by Ryszard Kapuscinski. My favorite is Shadow of the Sun. Another Day of Life is a first-hand account of the civil war in Angola, and The Emperor is the story of the last days of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as told by palace courtiers.
On the economic front, Paul Collier’s Bottom Billion is the probably most influential development book of 2007-08. I’m not through it yet (that’s what vacations are for!) but some smart people I know think it’s a worthy contribution.
For a provocative view on politics, aid and development, see Andrew Mwenda’s TED talk and read about his new newspaper. His books are not out yet, but readers of this blog will hear about it when they are ready.
For the more academically inclined, I recommend Mahmood Mamdani’s groundbreaking account of the effects of colonialism on African political structures. Mamdani (a Ugandan) also wrote this compelling analysis of the Rwandan genocide.
Also for the academically inclined, Dan Posner has one of the best volumes on ethnic politics.
On civil war, Deborah Scroggins writes a thoughtful and highly readable account of the Sudan’s civil war, through her account of the life and death of a young British aid worker.
On the causes of war in Africa, Paul Collier and Nicholas Sambanis edit this volume of case studies of African civil conflict and Jeremy Weinstein develops a theory of the organization of armed groups and violence using Uganda and Mozambique as case studies.
John Iliffe also writes a recommended history of the African AIDS epidemic.
I hope that helps. Recommendations of more books written by Africa-born writers and scholars are welcome.
UPDATE: Elliot Green points out the glaring omissions from this list in part two of the Africa reading list.