Favorite Books: Inspired by Africa

As summer heats up, so does our favorite book list. But these books, based in Africa, aren’t your typical “beach reads” as the topics are a bit heavier. And much like our “Inspired by Asia” list, these aren’t our reviews but descriptions of the books. Because they are listed means that we were enlightened by them.

What is the What
By Dave Eggers

What Is the What is the epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children–the so-called Lost Boys–was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom. When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges. Moving, suspenseful, and unexpectedly funny, What Is the What is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through one extraordinary man.

Out of Africa
By Isak Dinesen

In this book, Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) gives a true account of her life on her plantation in Kenya. She tells with classic simplicity of the ways of the country and the natives: of the beauty of the Ngong Hills and coffee trees in blossom: of her guests, from the Prince of Wales to Knudsen, the old charcoal burner, who visited her: of primitive festivals: of big game that were her near neighbors–lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffaloes–and of Lulu, the little gazelle who came to live with her, unbelievably ladylike and beautiful.

[singlepic=1507,150,,,right]Peter Beard (Photofile)
By Christian Caujolle

Fascinated by Africa and the writings of Karen Blixen, Peter Beard (b. 1938) was twenty-four years old when he moved to Kenya, where he built up an exceptional body of work. His images of wild animals such as crocodiles and elephants, and of the land in all its purity and its wildness, are a huge collage of his experiences. This book features mainly photos from Africa, together with pages from his photographic journals.

(Editorial Note: Peter Beard is among one of my favorite photographers and has been a great inspiration in my life. Visit his website to learn more about him – Peter Beard)

The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War
[singlepic=1505,175,,,right]By Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva

This powerful account intertwines the personal and professional lives of four journalists, known as the Bang Bang Club, who helped bring the struggle for the end of apartheid in South Africa and other conflicts into the worldview. Two members of the “club” survived to tell their story here, while the other two tragically died: Greg Oosterbroek was fatally shot while covering a firefight, and Kevin Carter, who won a Pulitzer for his photograph of a vulture stalking a starving child in the Sudan, committed suicide. Since then, many have questioned the ethics of taking such a picture, and Carter’s own responses changed over time. In this highly readable account, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Marinovich, who narrates the stories, and Silva, whose voice is represented in the third person, openly discuss this and other topics concerning the morality of journalism. The book’s 40 photographs offer stark illustrations of the issues, especially the question of the responsibility of the journalist to intervene in order to help rather than merely to profit. An introduction by Desmond Tutu frames the book, putting it in the context of South African history.

(Editorial Note: I had the opportunity to meet Greg Marinovich in South Africa and was truly impressed with how he has been able to use his talents and guts to tell the stories of those who didn’t have a voice.)

What are some books that have inspired you?

Other comments

One Comment on "Favorite Books: Inspired by Africa"

  1. Saben on Mon, 24th Aug 2009 6:39 am 

    Out of Africa is one of my favorite books, but I have never heard of “What is the What”. Sounds like a great read, I will have to add that to my list!

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