The best 17 African History books

Exploring African history sheds light on the rich tapestry of cultures, events, and legacies that have shaped the continent. Our carefully curated book list offers a gateway to understanding the complexities and nuances of this vital subject.

Delve into our collection to uncover hidden stories, gain new perspectives, and deepen your knowledge of African history. Take the first step towards a captivating journey through time and culture by diving into these insightful reads.

The best 17 African History books
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1
African History Books: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela
The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
4.5 (192 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Long Walk to Freedom about?

Nelson Mandela's A Long Walk to Freedom (1994) is one of the most famous autobiographies of recent times. It tells the story of his life, from his humble beginnings in the South African countryside to his work as an iconic anti-apartheid freedom fighter, and ends, after chronicling his twenty-year prison sentence, with his final victory and release.

Who should read Long Walk to Freedom?

  • People interested in Nelson Mandela
  • Anyone curious about South African history
  • Proponents of social justice

2
African History Books: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

A Long Way Gone

Ishmael Beah
Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
4.3 (33 ratings)
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00:00

What's A Long Way Gone about?

A Long Way Gone (2007) is a story of how, as a young boy in Sierra Leone, the author found himself caught in a civil war and recruited as a child soldier. You’ll travel alongside during his harrowing journey, eventual rescue and recovery guided through the kindness and grace of loving people.

Who should read A Long Way Gone?

  • Anyone interested in modern history of Sierra Leone
  • Students of history exploring civil wars and warfare
  • People curious about the ongoing plight of child soldiers in Africa

3
African History Books: Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

Strength in What Remains

Tracy Kidder
A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness
4.0 (22 ratings)
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What's Strength in What Remains about?

Strength in What Remains (2009) tells the story of a man who, after fleeing war-torn Burundi, is able to make his dreams a reality with the help of a few kind souls. By following his story, you’ll learn all about how the small actions of a few good people can make a huge difference for a community on the other side of the world.

Who should read Strength in What Remains?

  • Anyone interested in refugees' stories 
  • People curious about the Hutu-Tutsi conflict
  • Established and aspiring philanthropists

4
African History Books: The Rift by Alex Perry

The Rift

Alex Perry
A New Africa Breaks Free
4.3 (71 ratings)
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What's The Rift about?

The Rift (2015) is a revealing look at Africa’s emergence as a continent no longer defined by poverty, war, corruption and dependence on the West. Find out how modern farming methods, solar and mobile technologies and new leadership are creating a brighter future for Africa.

Who should read The Rift?

  • Investors looking for new opportunities in Africa
  • Those dubious of the idea that Africa is only about war and famine

5
African History Books: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime

Trevor Noah
Stories from a South African Childhood
4.4 (111 ratings)
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00:00

What's Born a Crime about?

Born a Crime (2016) is about Trevor Noah's childhood and adolescence in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. A child of mixed heritage, Noah details the challenges he faced and the peculiarities that existed when he was growing up.

Who should read Born a Crime?

  • Trevor Noah fans
  • Those interested in life during and after apartheid in South Africa
  • Anyone after an inspiring personal story

6
African History Books: The Congo from Leopold to Kabila by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja

The Congo from Leopold to Kabila

Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja
A People’s History
4.3 (80 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's The Congo from Leopold to Kabila about?

The Congo from Leopold to Kabila (2002) is the history of the Congolese democratic movement in the twentieth century. The history begins with Belgian colonial rule, working its way through Mobutu’s reign of terror, before looking at the Congo Wars and concluding with the prolific unrest still rampant at the turn of the century. This survey illuminates how exploitative external interests and internal weaknesses have hampered the Congolese democratic movement and proposes how it might still advance.

Who should read The Congo from Leopold to Kabila?

  • Curious minds interested in Congolese history and its democracy movement
  • Students of colonial and postcolonial history
  • Africans and non-Africans seeking African history as told from an insider perspective

7
African History Books: To Stop a Warlord by Shannon Sedgwick Davis

To Stop a Warlord

Shannon Sedgwick Davis
My Story of Justice, Grace, and the Fight for Peace
4.2 (12 ratings)
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00:00

What's To Stop a Warlord about?

To Stop a Warlord (2019) is an inspiring account of a remarkable mission: the quest to bring to justice one of the world’s most notorious war criminals – Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Packed with insights into Africa’s longest-running conflict, this account tells how Shannon Sedgwick Davis helped assemble an unlikely alliance between philanthropists, the Ugandan military and a South African mercenary to take on Kony’s army across four countries. While that coalition might not have achieved its primary objective of bringing Kony to justice, it did help tip the balance in favor of peace.

Who should read To Stop a Warlord?

  • Campaigners, activists and human-rights advocates
  • Politics buffs fascinated by Central Africa’s past and present
  • Anyone interested in conflict resolution

8
African History Books: A History of Nigeria by Toyin Falola

A History of Nigeria

Toyin Falola
4.4 (114 ratings)
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00:00

What's A History of Nigeria about?

A History of Nigeria (2008) documents the millennia-long history of the areas that make up the modern nation of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Going on an epic journey from the region’s precolonial past right up to the country’s recent transition toward democracy, the authors document the riveting history of a nation and, of course, its people – whose future looks bright.

Who should read A History of Nigeria?

  • Students of history, international relations or politics
  • Curious individuals wanting to discover the riveting story of Africa’s most populous nation
  • Nigerians – or people of Nigerian descent – who would like to learn more about the country’s history

9
African History Books: A People Betrayed by Linda Melvern

A People Betrayed

Linda Melvern
The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide
4.5 (71 ratings)
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00:00

What's A People Betrayed about?

A People Betrayed (2000) is a masterful, in-depth look at the international community’s failure to intervene in one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes since the Holocaust. Through selfish and racist policies, the UN and its Security Council dithered  and denied its way through three months of genocidal slaughter. As a direct result of their inaction, an estimated one million civilians were brutally murdered.

Who should read A People Betrayed?

  • Anyone interested in how policy translates from boardroom to battlefield
  • History buffs interested in the chilling after-effects of colonialism in Africa
  • People who suspect there’s a dark side to the new world order

10
African History Books: Afropean by Johny Pitts

Afropean

Johny Pitts
Notes From Black Europe
4.5 (35 ratings)
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00:00

What's Afropean about?

Afropean (2020) is a travelogue tracing the hidden history and culture of Black people in Europe. Exploring cities such as Paris, Berlin, and Moscow, author Johny Pitts reveals the diversity of African-descendent communities in Europe – and shows how they are forging new identities for themselves beyond the continent’s colonialist legacy.

Who should read Afropean?

  • Young Europeans navigating questions of nationality, identity, and community
  • Backpackers, wanderers, and other travel addicts
  • People interested in Europe’s hidden Black history and culture

11
African History Books: King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild

King Leopold's Ghost

Adam Hochschild
A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
4.6 (77 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's King Leopold's Ghost about?

King Leopold’s Ghost (1998) is the devastating story of how one man – Leopold, King of the Belgians – developed a territory comprising one-thirteenth of the African continent into his personal fiefdom. While publicizing his supposedly benevolent intentions, Leopold enslaved vast numbers of people, forcing them to harvest ivory and rubber in appalling conditions. In all, an estimated ten million Africans died while he was the King-Sovereign of the Congo. 

Who should read King Leopold's Ghost?

  • Anyone too horrified by colonialism to look away
  • Those interested in little-known histories
  • Scholars of African history

12
African History Books: Bedtime Biography: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Bedtime Biography: Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela
The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
4.6 (84 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Bedtime Biography: Long Walk to Freedom about?

Read to you by Twaambo Kapilikisha

Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom (1994) is one of the most famous autobiographies of recent times. It tells the story of his life, from his humble beginnings in the South African countryside to his work as an iconic anti-apartheid freedom fighter, and ends, after chronicling his twenty-year prison sentence, with his final victory and release.

Who should read Bedtime Biography: Long Walk to Freedom?

  • People interested in Nelson Mandela
  • Anyone curious about South African history
  • Proponents of social justice

13
African History Books: River of the Gods by Candice Millard

River of the Gods

Candice Millard
Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile
4.2 (30 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's River of the Gods about?

River of the Gods (2022) follows two audacious individuals as they search for the source of the world’s longest river. At the time, this was a question of mythical proportions, and one which would consume and break the men sent to answer it.

Who should read River of the Gods?

  • History buffs
  • Travel lovers
  • Anyone who grew up with navigation apps on their smartphone

14
African History Books: The Making of Modern South Africa by Nigel Worden

The Making of Modern South Africa

Nigel Worden
The Making of Modern South Africa
4.7 (186 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's The Making of Modern South Africa about?

The Making of Modern South Africa (2012) traces the history of South Africa from the colonial conquests of the eighteenth century to the birth of an inclusive democracy in 1994. Along the way, it unpacks how struggles over land, natural resources, and belonging shaped the country’s development. 

Who should read The Making of Modern South Africa?

  • Historians 
  • Politics buffs
  • Anyone interested in race and equality

15
African History Books: The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

The Wretched of the Earth

Frantz Fanon
4.1 (17 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's The Wretched of the Earth about?

The Wretched of the Earth (2021) is a seminal work examining the psychological effects of colonialism and advocating for revolutionary struggle against racist and colonial oppression. It has profoundly influenced civil rights, anti-colonial, Black consciousness, and psychiatric reform movements globally since its publication in 1961.

Who should read The Wretched of the Earth?

  • Activists and organizers
  • Students and scholars
  • People who care about justice

16
African History Books: They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky by Benson Deng

They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky

Benson Deng
The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan

What's They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky about?

This book is a memoir that tells the harrowing story of three young boys who were forced to flee their homes in war-torn Sudan. They endure unimaginable hardships as they make their way to safety, facing starvation, disease, and violence along the way. It is a powerful account of resilience and the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Who should read They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky?

  • Individuals interested in personal stories of resilience and survival
  • History enthusiasts looking to learn about the Sudanese civil war
  • Readers who enjoy narratives about overcoming adversity and finding hope in difficult circumstances

17
African History Books: God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau

God Grew Tired of Us

John Bul Dau
A Memoir

What's God Grew Tired of Us about?

This book tells the incredible true story of John Bul Dau and other Lost Boys of Sudan who fled their war-torn country and embarked on a perilous journey to find safety and a better life. It offers a firsthand account of their resilience, determination, and the challenges they faced as they sought refuge in the United States. It is a powerful and inspiring tale of survival and the strength of the human spirit.

Who should read God Grew Tired of Us?

  • Those who are interested in the experiences and resilience of Sudanese refugees
  • Readers who want to gain insights into the challenges and triumphs of being a displaced person
  • Individuals who enjoy memoirs that offer a unique perspective on war, survival, and hope

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African History Books
 FAQs 

What's the best African History book to read?

While choosing just one book about a topic is always tough, many people regard Long Walk to Freedom as the ultimate read on African History.

What are the Top 10 African History books?

Blinkist curators have picked the following:
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  • Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
  • The Rift by Alex Perry
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • The Congo from Leopold to Kabila by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja
  • To Stop a Warlord by Shannon Sedgwick Davis
  • A History of Nigeria by Toyin Falola
  • A People Betrayed by Linda Melvern
  • Afropean by Johny Pitts

Who are the top African History book authors?

When it comes to African History, these are the authors who stand out as some of the most influential:
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Ishmael Beah
  • Tracy Kidder
  • Alex Perry
  • Trevor Noah