Getting Started in African LiteratureThere are the books you read, and then there are the books that change your life. We can all look back on the books that have shaped our perspective on politics, religion, money, and love. Some will even become a source of inspiration for the rest of your life.

Here, I have narrowed down the top 100 books that have shaped the lives of many black, African women and men, while also helping define broader cultural ideas of what it means to be Black, African, and or Female. These books should be read by all of us who identify as African, black and female. These 100 books for smart African women make us think, feel and elevate our consciousness and our conversations.

In my readings, I’ve noticed how the stories of black people around the globe parallel, so it isn’t complete to read African literature, without reading the classics in the African-American literature genre, and vice versa. Reading a variety of cultural and geographical perspectives give us a more accurate picture of the global African story.

There is so much to learn about life’s great questions from these gems. Let me know in the comments which of these you loved, hated, and the books that meant a lot to you and should have made the list (you can even get really indignant about your favorite book). I’ve read plenty on this list and I’ve linked them to reviews I’ve done on them. As I catch up on my reviews, I will update the links on this list, so come back frequently. And without further ado, this is my list.

To see a list of just the titles and authors names for easy printing, click here.

100 Must Read Books in African and Black Literature (In no particular order)

  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie*
  • Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire*
  • Master Harold and the boys by Athol Fugard
  • Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Patton*
  • The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecha*
  • I do not come to you by chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani*
  • I Write What I Like: Selected Writings by Steve Biko
  • The Struggle Continues by Kwame Nkrumah**
  • The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami*
  • Foreign Gods, Okey Ndibe
  • Bride Price, Buchi Emecha
  • Dust Tracks On A Road by Zora Neale Hurston*
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston*
  • The Memory of Love, Aminatta Forna
  • Weep Not, Child by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
  • July’s People, Nadine Gordimer
  • Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley*
  • Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga**
  • The Wretched of The Earth by Franz Fanon
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler*
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie*
  • Voices of America, E C Osondu*
  • Powder Necklace by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond*
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie*
  • No Disrespect by Sister Souljah*
  • Changes, Ama Atta Aidoo*
  • No Sweetness here, Ama Atta Aidoo
  • Letter to My Daughter, Maya Angelou*
  • Ancestor Stones, Aminatta Forna*
  • The Bluest Eye, Tony Morrison*
  • Our Sister Killjoy, Ama Atta Aidoo
  • I know why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  • Everything Good will Come, Sefi Atta*
  • So Long A letter, Mariama Ba*
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe*
  • Every Day is For the Thief by Teju Cole*
  • Distant View of a Minaret by Alifa Rifaat
  • Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami*
  • On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe
  • Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana
  • Women of Algiers in Their Apartments by Assia Djebar
  • A Question of Power by Bessie Head
  • The Cry of Winnie Mandela by Njabulo Ndebele
  • Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
  • Close Sesame by Nuruddin Farah
  • God’s Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembene
  • Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson***
  • Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
  • Butterfly Burning / The Stone Virgins by Yvone Vera
  • Search Sweet Country, Kojo Laing
  • Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi
  • The Palm-Wine Drinkard, Amos Tutuola
  • Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe
  • Anowa (drama), Ama Ata Aidoo
  • The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araujo, by Germano Almeida
  • Fortunes of Wangrin by Amadou Hampate Ba
  • The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar by Syl Cheney-Coker
  • We Killed a Mangy Dog by Bernardo Honwana
  • Bones by Chenjerai Hove
  • Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali by Djibril Tamsir Niane**
  • Labyrinths (poetry) by Christopher Okibgo
  • Season of Migration to the North by Tayyib El Salih
  • The Beggars Strike by Aminata Sow Fall
  • Nedjma by Kateb Yacine
  • Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta
  • Country of my Skull by Antjie Krog
  • Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah by Kwame Nkrumah
  • Ake: the years of Childhood by Wole Soyinka**
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • Black Power by Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure)*
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Makeba: My Story by Miriam Makeba
  • Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin
  • You Must Set Forth at Dawn by Wole Soyinka
  • God Help the child by Toni Morrison
  • Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee
  • Black Power by Richard Wright*
  • Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey
  • Head Above Water by Buchi Emecheta
  • Mules and Men by Zora Neal Hurston*
  • Angela Davis: An Autobiography by Angela Y. Davis
  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois**
  • Aint I A Woman?: Black Women & Feminism by Bell Hooks
  • Autobiography of Frederick Douglass**
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • A People’s history of the United States by Howard Zinn*
  • African Short Stories Edited by Chinua Achebe
  • Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
  • Before you Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  • Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor*
  • The Warmth Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Coconut by Kopano Matlwa

Compiled by ThisAfropolitanLife.com

*Easy read (good to get started with, could work for young adults)
**Medium difficulty (some stylistic differences, starts slow then picks up)
***Difficult (archaic language, text heavy, interesting but reads like a history book)

What’s on your top 100 list? Do we share some faves?

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