Lengthy novels are great for a rainy weekend when all you want is to curl up in bed and lose yourself in an endless heap of pages. But the fear of committing to a 500-page novel can be a little intimidating for some readers.

That’s why little, purse-size books are great. They are particularly great for commitment phobics. You’re in. You’re out. And you can check the book off your list.

Petite books are also handy for commuters. Many of us have to travel some distance to go to work or school. Instead of endlessly refreshing your twitter feed, a small but gripping novel could be a far more fun and fulfilling way to pass the time.

We’ve put together a charming little list of teeny-weeny books of fiction, poetry, and essays that fall roughly within a hundred pages.

Have fun reading!

You can easily order the books by clicking on the images.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A girl named Binti is on her way to the prestigious Oomza University. But when a tragedy suddenly strikes, she has no choice but to ditch her initial plan and save humanity. Binti is Harry Potter, inter-galactic odyssey, and black girl magic rolled up into one. The novella won Okorafor the Nebula awards. A sequel titled Binti Home comes out later this year.

The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories by Ivan Vladislavic

This small collection of weird and fragmented texts is essentially what happens when an author has the bright idea to pen down ideas that are impossible to translate to writing or “case studies of failure” as Vladislavic calls them. Readers with a taste for weird and quirky things would find this collection a treasure trove.

Simbi and the Satyre of the Dark Jungle by Amos Tutuola

Simbi has everything. She’s rich. She sings beautifully. But she is also bored silly and unhappy with her life of luxury and comfort. One fine day, she decides to leave her familiar surroundings to pursue an adventure in poverty. Amos Tutuola is one of Africa’s foremost fantasists so gear up for a crazy adventure.


The January Children by Safia Elhillo

Safia Elhillo is the one poet everyone should be reading. She began making waves when she won the Brunel University African Poetry Award a few years ago. This chapbook is a poetic exploration inspired by her Sudanese heritage. But it is also a powerful anthem for the Afropolitan generation.


Survivor’s Club by Lauren Beukes

Lauren Beukes is the South African literary genius who gave us Shining Girls, a bestselling novel about a time-traveling serial killer. She joins Cape-town based illustrator Dale Halvorsen to create Survivor’s Club, a 9-part comic series inspired by ‘80s horror genre.

On Becoming by Toke Makinwa

There is no precedent for what Toke Makinwa is. Imagine a Kim Kardashian who fancies herself an Oprah Winfrey and truly hopes to one day become a Michelle Obama. That’s Toke. When someone that fascinating writes a memoir, you stop everything you’re doing and read it.

Queen Pokou: Concerto for a Sacrifice by Veronique Tadjo

Veronique Tadjo gives a moving account of the 18th century Baoule queen who sacrifices her child for the survival of her people. Queen Abraha Pokou is a woman you don’t forget in a hurry. Her ordeal, now the stuff of myth and legend, is a beautiful, tear-jerking story of love and sacrifice.

Chaka by Thomas Mofolo

Here is your chance to read one of the oldest African novels. In Mofolo’s account of the life of the great Zulu king, Chaka is an unforgettable character—a dark blend of Julius Caesar and Okonkwo. His life is an aspirational drama that chronicles his rise from poverty to ruling one of the greatest political orders of modern times. In there somewhere is a star-crossed love-affair and a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of two much power.

An Image of Africa by Chinua Achebe

Penguin had the bright idea to collect two of Achebe’s most iconic essays in one tiny little book. “An Image of Africa” is a beautifully angry essay in which Achebe calls out the entire western literary establishment for conspiring to misrepresent Africa in their stories. The second essay, “The Trouble with Nigeria,” is Achebe’s attempt to perform the rather ambitious task of identifying what is wrong with Nigeria. We know what you’re thinking: “Good luck with that Achebe.”

The Conscript by Hailu Gebreyesus

An Eritrean novel written in 1927, this 64-page book is quite the discovery. It tells the story of an Eritrean soldier who leaves his idyllic village to fight in faraway Libya. It’s a soldier’s tale, so it’s fun to read but there are also these beautifully poetic moments that make the story all the more moving.

Madmen and Specialists by Wole Soyinka

Soyinka’s 1971 play comes straight of out the theatre of the absurd, which simply means that if you don’t understand a word of it, it’s not your fault. It tells the story of Si Bero, a young woman who takes it upon her self to save her family from her insane, cannibal brother.



I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

3 Responses to “11 Petite African Books to Read on the Go” Subscribe

  1. yewwy 2017/01/25 at 09:47 #

    I need this…
    I haven’t had time for proper novels this year!!

  2. Oluwatosin Onile-Ere-Rotimi 2017/01/26 at 03:02 #

    May I add Molara Wood- ‘Indigo’ to the list? It is full of short, elegant, tightly written stories infused with the magic and mystery of Yoruba cultures.

  3. Temilade 2017/01/30 at 00:58 #

    Good to know… At this rate, I’ll complete my tbr list by the time I’m 105

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Lesley Nneka Arimah Picked for the US National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” List

Lesley Nneka Arimah has been picked for the US National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” list of 2017, on the […]

The Photographer as an Osprey | John “Lighthouse” Oyewale | Essay

On 30 June, we published Work Naija: The Book of Vocations, an anthology of writing and visual art that explores the […]

Zukiswa Wanner Calls Out Misogyny in South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe, Takes on Politicians and the Media

Zukiswa Wanner has called out misogyny in South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe, taking on politicians and the media in the […]

Dinaw Mengestu and Nadifa Mohamed Have New Work in Freeman’s Magazine

Nadifa Mohamed

Dinaw Mengestu and Nadifa Mohammed both have new fiction forthcoming in the new fourth issue of Freeman’s magazine. Titled “The Future […]

The Brittle Paper Literary Awards: New Date for the Announcement of Winners

The announcement of the winners of the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards was scheduled for 23 September 2017. However, a change […]

The Reviews Are In! | Namwali Serpell Has High Praise for Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu

Screen-Shot-2017-09-20-at-4.57.42-PM-e1505944728679 copy

Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is one of the hit novels of 2017. A historical drama, it tells the story of an 18th […]