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A drawing of the Africa Continent made of Books An illustration of a woman reading a book in her house with the africa continent being made by books in her library
Illustration by Vanessa Toye

50 Notable African Books of 2020

A Broken People’s Playlist

Chimeka Garricks

Fiction - Short Stories

June 8, 2020 | 255 pages

Chimeka Garrick's music-inspired collection is an opera of life in Port Harcourt, one of Nigeria's most beloved cities. All twelve stories, woven around music references, capture the varied lives of average Nigerians experiencing love, heartbreak, and self-discovery.

BUY

A Girl Is A Body of Water

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Fiction

September 1, 2020 | 560 pages

In Nattetta, a small Ugandan village, a girl named Kirabo battles a secret and ancient power awakening inside her. Makumbi departs from her debut novel in this inspiring story exploring myths of origin centered on women’s lives.

BUY

Addis Ababa Noir

Maaza Mengiste

Fiction - Anthology

August 4, 2020 | 255 pages

Booker Prize shortlistee Maaza Mengiste rounds up a brilliant cast of Ethiopian writers to ponder the dark underbelly of one of Africa’s oldest cities through page-turning crime stories guaranteed to keep your pulse thumping.

BUY

Afterland

Lauren Beukes

Fiction

July 28, 2020 | 416 pages

6 years after Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes delivers yet another fiercely feminist speculative fiction. After a pandemic wipes out all men, leaving behind Cole’s son, she embarks on an epic journey to protect him from predators.

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An Act of Defiance

Irene Sabatini

Fiction

September 1, 2020 | 336 pages

Ben and Gabrielle’s love story was rocky from the very start, but a shocking experience send them reeling in the deep end of Mugabe's Zimbabwe, prompting Gabrielle to embark on a journey of self-discovery.

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At Night All Blood is Black

(trans.) Anna Moschovakis | David Diop

Fiction

November 10, 2020 | 160 pages

This dark, twisted war story is about Senegalese men who fought in the first world war. At the heart of the story is an enigmatic character entangled in a web of revenge killing and rumors of black magic.

BUY

Butter Honey Pig Bread

Francesca Ekwuyasi

Fiction

November 3, 2020 | 368 pages

This is not your usual diaspora story. The book traces the lives of three women who live abroad but return to Lagos, all the while haunted by the shadows of the Abiku, a malevolent spirit in Yoruba mythology.

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Charlotte

Helen Moffett

Fiction

May 14, 2020 | 400 pages

South African novelist Helen Moffett’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice is a bold retelling of a classic. Charlotte's decision to marry Mr. Collins has always puzzled readers, but she finally gets to tell her side of the story!

BUY

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America

Laila Lalami

Nonfiction - Essays

September 22, 2020 | 208 pages

In this beautiful collection of essays straddling the person and the political, Leila Lalami exposes the contradictions at the heart of American political life. She dissects the long-standing structures put in place to keep "outsiders" out.

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Deluge

Leila Chatti

Poetry

April 21, 2020 | 74 pages

Tunisian-American poet Leila Chatti takes readers on a poetic journey through her struggle with chronic vaginal bleeding. She looks at how faith and illness conspire to complicate the lives of women. Her writing is visceral and haunting.

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Embracing My Shadow: Growing Up Lesbian in Nigeria

Unoma Azuah

Nonfiction - Memoir

March 1, 2020 | 196 pages

Writer-Activist Unoma Azuah uses literature to make space for the expression of queer African life. Her long-awaited memoir, in which she chronicles her experience as a lesbian in Nigeria, is a mix of brilliant prose and poignant storytelling.

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His Only Wife

Peace Adzo Medie

Fiction

September 1, 2020 | 288 pages

This buzzed-about novel is about love in Accra. Afi imagines her life changing for the better with her move to Accra and her marriage to Elikem, only to get caught up in an inconvenient love triangle. 

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I Have Brown Skin and Curly Hair

Karen Theunissen

Fiction - Children's Book

September 2, 2020 | 32 pages

In this gorgeous book, Karen Theunissen contributes to the growing list of racially affirmative books for children of color. The rhymed narrative and beautiful illustration make this book a favorite for children and parents. 

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Igifu

(Trans) Jordan Stump | Scholastique Mukasonga

Fiction - Short Stories

September 15, 2020 | 160 pages

English readers can finally enjoy the surreal, painful beauty of Scholastique Mukasonga’s short story collection. Though the stories are autobiographical, they offer a cast of characters and experiences that explore the link between vulnerability and survival.  

BUY

Ikenga

Nnedi Okorafor

Fiction - Middle Grade

August 18, 2020 | 240 pages

Nnedi Okorafor dips into Igbo mythology to build a dazzling fantasy world for readers between ages 8 to 12. Following a personal tragedy, a boy named Nnamdi must confront powers that seek to destroy his hometown Kalaria. 

BUY

Joburg Noir

Niq Mhlongo

Fiction - Anthology

October 1, 2020 | 209 pages

Johannesburg is the featured character in this anthology of 20 stories exploring the myths, fears, legends, and fantasies that has made South Africa’s culture capital one of the most storied cities in contemporary African fiction.

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Little Family

Ishmael Beah

Fiction

April 28, 2020 | 262 pages

Ishmael Beah has long captivated readers with stories about Sierra Leon. In his new novel, a group of friends live in an abandoned airplane, making a living and sharing a bond that is far thicker than blood. 

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Love in Color

Bolu Babalola

Fiction - Short Stories

August 20, 2020 | 288 pages

Bolu Babalola “decolonizes love” in this stunning retellings of ancient love stories. The alluring collection affirms that love is a universal experience that takes varying forms in different cultures, from Mesopotamia to Senegal to Lesotho.

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Mamaseko

Thabile Makue

Poetry

March 1, 2020 | 144 pages

Blood is the central metaphor in Thabile Makue’s second poetry collection. Blood as a figure of bodily and historical connectedness is the context for Makue’s exploration of intergenerational trauma and the power of female bond.

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Nairobi Noir

(Editor) Peter Kimani

Fiction - Anthology


Nairobi Noir takes readers into the enigmas that haunt Kenya’s most populous city through the deft storytelling of a stellar cast of writers, which includes Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Stanley Gazemba, Makena Onjerika, Troy Onyango, and others.

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New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Saba) 

Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani (Editors)

Poetry - Anthology

September 8, 2020 | 350 pages

Akashic Books’ chapbooks boxset of African poetry has delighted lovers of poetry for 6 years. The latest collection features 11 new voices. Get ready to be inspired and edified with the power of poetic expression.

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No Roses From My Mouth

Stella Nyanzi

Poetry

February 1, 2020 | 196 pages

Stella Nyanzi is a beacon of feminist resistance on the continent.  No Roses from My Mouth, written and published while Nyanzi was in prison, is a witness to the exposure of women’s lives and bodies to violence.

BUY

Of Passion and Ink: New Voices from Cameroon

(Editor) Dzekashu MacViban

Nonfiction - Anthology

November 25, 2020 | 242 pages

Dzekashu MacViban of Bakwa Books is a champion of Cameroonian indie publishing. With this collection, which he edits, he reawakens the Cameroonian short story tradition. The collection features new voices and covers everything from romance to speculative fiction.

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Ogadinma Or, Everything Will Be All Right

Ukamaka Olisakwe

Fiction

September 10, 2020 | 269 pages

Ukamaka Olisakwe’s second novel tells the story of Ogadinma, a woman who undergoes the most harrowing experiences in a world ruled by patriarchal values but fights unrelentingly for dignity and the right to happiness.

BUY

Our Riches

Chris Andrews | Kaouther Adimi

Fiction

April 28, 2020 | 160 pages

Our Riches is a very bookish book. Set in a celebrated bookshop in Algiers and against Algeria’s turbulent history, it weaves the lives of characters across generations linked by the love and awe for books and reading. 

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Quirky Quick Guide to Having Great Sex

Tiffany Kagure Mugo

Nonfiction

April 21, 2020 | 260 pages

Thank you Kwela Books for gifting the world Tiffany Kagure Mugo’s guide to all things sex and relationships. The book contains 260 pages of truths, advice, and tips about everything from making a sex tape to using condoms.

BUY

Raybearer

Jordan Ifueko 

Fiction - YA

August 18, 2020 | 400 pages

 Ifueko draws from African oral stories to build a stunning fantasy world. Evoking Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone, the novel features a female character bent on finding her place in the world on her own terms. 

BUY

Riot Baby

Tochi Onyebuchi

Fiction

January 21, 2020 | 176 pages

Tochi Oyebuchi explores the utopian possibilities of black life. Ella awakens to a super power that could save her brother Kev from the racist stranglehold of the criminal justice system and, perhaps, change the course of history.

BUY

Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone

Minna Salami

Nonfiction

March 31, 2020 | 208 pages

Salami's debut is groundbreaking work! She offers an Africa-centered, black feminist approach to knowledge by excavating African cosmologies, philosophies, history, and art for ideas on dismantling patriarchal ideals of beauty, power, womanhood, and more.

BUY

Sex and Lies: True Stories of Women’s Intimate Lives in the Arab World

Leila Slimani | Sophie Lewis

Nonfiction - Essays

July 14, 2020 | 176 pages

Leila Slimani writes bestselling fiction about sexually expressive female characters. Her first nonfiction book translated in English shows Moroccan women navigating suppressive sexual politics. Let's just say the book is a persuasive argument for a sexual revolution.

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Songs We Learn from Trees: An Anthology of Ethiopian Amharic Poetry

Alemu Tebeje | Chris Beckett

Poetry - Anthology

May 1, 2020 | 240 pages

This anthology of Amharic poetry in English is the first of its kind. It features giants of 20th century Ethiopian poetry such as Kebede Mikael and Tsegaye Gabre Medhin, in addition to poems by over 30 contemporary poets.

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Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

(trans.) Emma Ramadan | Meryem Alaoui

Fiction

September 15, 2020 | 304 pages

Meryem Alaoui's debut is finally available to English readers. Set in Casablanca, it chronicles the life a prostitute named Jmai---a perceptive, alluring character who charms with her fascinating takes on the world around her.

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Stranger Faces

Namwali Serpell

Nonfiction - Essays

October 29, 2020 | 196 pages

Following her speculative fiction debut, Namwali Serpell takes on philosophy and political culture to explore the meanings we give to people’s faces. She asks why it matters to interrogate our beliefs and myths about the face.

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That Hair

(trans.) Eric Becker | Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida

Nonfiction - Memoir

March 17, 2020 | 200 pages

Angolan-Portuguese writer Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida reflects on the old truth that the personal is always political. In her semi-autobiography available in English for the first time, hair is a feminist trope for exploring race and self-discovery. 

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The Actual

Inua Ellams

Poetry

October 5, 2020 | 84 pages

“Word sorcerer” Inua Ellams exposes our current moment in all its stark realities. If you’re still reeling from a year of protests and pandemic, Ellams’ 55 poems will give you the language you seek to express your truth.

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The Book Of Echoes

Rosanna Amaka

Fiction

March 19, 2020 | 384 pages

A story told by a ghost, The Book of Echoes traces the intertwined fates of Londoner Michael and Ngozi, a domestic worker in Enugu. Though separated, their lives are linked by a history of violence anchored on slavery.

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The Death of Comrade President

(trans.) Helen Stevenson | Alain Mabanckou

Fiction

September 1, 2020 | 256 pages

Michel is a day-dreaming 12-year-old boy. When the President is assassinated, his life in Pointe-Noire is forever changed. Mabanckou, known for his absurdist humor, captures the political life of a nation through the eyes of a child. 

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The Death of Vivek Oji

Akwaeke Emezi

Fiction

August 4, 2020 | 256 pages

Emezi makes history with this novel that explores trans experience in the Nigerian context. Like their debut novel Freshwater, this novel leads us right into the heart of a character who pays the ultimate price for daring to be different.

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The Deep Blue Between

Ayesha Harruna Attah

Fiction - YA

October 15, 2020 | 256 pages

Hassana and Husseina are twin sisters. An encounter with slave raiders pull them continents apart, but their love for travel bring them back together. Set in 19th century Accra, Attah’s 4th novel is a beautiful sibling story. 

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The Dragons, the Giant, the Women

Wayetu Moore

Nonfiction - Memoir

June 2, 2020 | 272 pages

Written in her signature lush prose, Wayetu Moore’s memoir details her family’s flight from Liberia’s first war in the late ‘80s and her struggle to find a place in the United States, a country torn by racial conflict. 

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The Girl with the Louding Voice

Abi Daré

Fiction

February 4, 2020 | 384 pages

A tear-jerker-that-will-leave-you-unbelievably-inspired, Abi Daré’s debut is about Adunni, a girl from a rural Nigerian town, who surmounts ordeals to fulfill her dreams of living a better life, all the while refusing to stifle her “louding voice!" 

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The Infinite

Patience Agbabi

Fiction - Middle Grade

April 2, 2020 | 256 pages

Patience Agbabi creates a finely constructed sci-fi world around Leaplings---children who can leap through time. A beautifully imagined world peppered with Nigerian cultural references, this book about a time-traveling black girl is an inspiring read.

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The Missing American

Kwei Quartey

Fiction

January 14, 2020 | 421 pages

After 5 books, Quartey retires the Inspector Darko series and introduces a new private investigator named Emma Djan. In the first book of the new series, she is hot on the trails of email scammers and fetish priests.  

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The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o

Fiction

October 6, 2020 | 240 pages

The Perfect Nine is Ngũgĩ's feminist spin on a Gikuyu origin story. In the original epic, Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi pray for nine suitors to marry their nine daughters. In Ngũgĩ's retelling, 9 daughters decide who is worthy among 99 suitors. 

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The Returnees

Elizabeth Okoh

Fiction

April 16, 2020 | 288 pages

Okoh's debut captures the life of the African millennial. Londoner Osayuki is 25 and still nursing a broken heart when she arrives in Lagos to find a big, bold, and puzzling universe of intrigue, romance, and drama.

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The Waiting by Martin Egblewogbe

Martin Egblewogbe

Fiction - Short Stories

February 13, 2020 | 146 pages

Renown master of the short story, Martin Egblewogbe, stuns yet again in this collection of dark, absurdist tales set in the city of Accra. Get ready for a disembodied penis, a lusting pastor, and everything in-between. 

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Transcendent Kingdom

Yaa Gyasi

Fiction

September 1, 2020 | 288 pages

Yaa Gyasi's second novel is an intimate, heart-rending story about a Ghanaian family in Alabama. Haunted by tragic experiences from childhood, Gifty, a Stanford post-grad of neuroscience, seeks to unravel the mystery of her family’s misfortune. 

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Un-American

Hafiza Geter

Poetry

September 8, 2020 | 104 pages

Nigerian-American poet Hafiza Geter is a powerful, new voice worthy of attention. In this debut collection, she takes up the varied landscapes of her upbringing as the starting point for exploring questions of identity and belonging. 

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Water Birds on the Lakeshore: An Anthology of African Young Adult Fiction

(Editor) Zukiswa Wanner

Fiction - Anthology

September 22, 2020 | 167 pages

Yes, the kids can write! This groundbreaking collection available in English, French, and Swahili makes space for young adult writers on the continent. From Benin Republic to Namibia, teenagers tell gripping stories about their world. 

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ǀNamgu’s Escape Theory

Beauty Boois

Fiction

August 5, 2020 | 168 pages

ǀNamgu's life seems perfect. She’s beautiful and comes from money. But a deep shadow of loneliness and anger haunts her. Namibian author Beauty Boois’ debut offers a striking portrait of a young woman battling with mental health issues. 

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