6 Books By African Writers To Escape Into Right Now

The year is 2020, and the world is rife with a series of unfortunate events. Everyone needs an escape, and now more than ever, we turn to books. What have you been reading to experience new worlds while staying sane despite the times? You should include these 6 books by African writers in your to-read list:

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel from Pexels

1. The Famished Road By Ben Okri 


Written by Nigerian author, Ben Okri, The Famished Road (1991) is the first book in a trilogy that is followed by Songs of Enchantment (1993) and Infinite Riches (1998). It is an enthralling take into the life of an Abiku, a spirit-child of Yoruba origin who is born to die oftentimes before attaining the age of puberty, a vicious cycle because this child always returns only to die again.

However, for Azaro (Abiku in The Famished Road), staying alive was all he wanted. In this unknown world deftly created by the one of the world’s most renowned African writers, spirits live inside camera shutters or hang around Madame Koto’s palm wine-infested bar, or trail behind Azaro wherever he goes.

We explore the human condition through the eyes of Azaro in this immersive, and in them, we see possibilities.

Our favourite quote from the book: This is what you must be like. Grow wherever life puts you down.”

2. Elsewhere, Home by Leila Aboulela 


A deliciously riveting collection of short stories by Sudanese-Egyptian Writer, Leila Aboulela, explore the all too familiar story of immigration from people just like you, who simply want a better life.

Aboulela subtly navigates themes around complicated love, Islamic faith, and an immigrant’s longing for home. These people may not like the cramped apartments of Aberdeen and London, but Africa as a home is no longer an option. Only something to remember with fondness.

Our favourite quote from the book: “He sneers at the Arab women in black abayas walking behind their men. ‘Oppressed, that’s what people would think of them. Here they respect women, treat them as equal; we must be the same,’ he says. So I have to be careful not to fall behind him in step and must bear the weight of his arm around my shoulder, another gesture he had decided to imitate to prove that, though we are Arabs and Africans, we can be modern too.”

3. Blackass by Igoni Barrett 


What would you do as a black person if you woke up one morning and you have become white? Blackass by Nigerian Author Igoni Barrett is modern, satirical, quirky, and definitely triggering.

In this distinct blend of comedy and provocative questions about race and gender, Barrett toys with ideas of how differently the world treats a person on account of their skin colour or their gender. Interestingly, Furo (the protagonist) may have brand-new white skin but his ass is still black (literally!) Also, we meet Igoni later in the book, a male character who transforms into a gorgeous woman but still retains his penis. You want to grab a tall glass of wine for this one.

Our favourite quote from the book: “One of the reasons I will never leave Nigeria is because, in this country, anything can happen.”

4. The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell


Zambian writer Namwali Serpell’s debut is rich with reckless exuberance….and mosquitoes. Told by three generations of families (European, African, and Indian), this is a speculative journey into Zambia’s abundant history, epidemics, and failed experiments.

Lose yourself in a new world on the banks of the Zambezi River, where humanity and its arch-enemy, mosquitoes, come to a centre. It also lets you into the dazzling mind of one of the finest African writers ever.

Our favourite quote from the book: “Progress is just the word we use to disguise power doing its thing.”

5. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Travel through time in this magically winding tale by African-American Author, Ta-nehisi Coates. This narrative dances fluidly between magical realism and everyday life. It tells the story of Hiram, a young slave who is gifted with a mysterious power that will go on to save him from drowning years later.

This power, called ‘Conduction’ allows Hiram a photographic memory as well as the ability to time-travel. As expected, the fantastical adventures in this story are endless even while it tackles important themes of slavery and the want for freedom.

Our favourite quote from the book: “Breathing. I just dream of breathing.”

6. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi


In this hypnotic three-part debut by Nigerian Author of Igbo-Tamil descent, Akwaeke Emezi, the beauty is its lack of rhythm.

Freshwater is intimate yet riotous, based on the African writer’s personal life as an Ogbanje  (or spirit-child, Igbo version of the Abiku). It lets you through explosive encounters in the life of Ada, an Ogbanje coming to the terms with the many other selves who live inside her.

A powerful tale about identity, the existence of being, love, family, and migration. This one will do wonderful things to your psyche and stay with you long after it has been put down.

Our favourite quote from the book: “Understand this if you understand nothing: it is a powerful thing to be seen.”

Stuck at home yet looking for an escape? These 6 books by African Writers will take you places from the comfort of your bed!

Got more recommendations? Save a life. Let us know in the comment section!

Also Read: 5 African Movies on Netflix Everyone is Watching and you should too!


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