The Devil That Danced on Water (Forna, Aminatta – 2003)
Written by a diasporic Sierra Leonean woman, Forna uses memoir/historical fiction to uncover the reasons and actions leading to her politician father’s death in Sierra Leone as post-colonial democracy shifted toward dictatorship.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Beah, Ishmael – 1998)
This is the heart wrenching tale of a child soldier in the RUF during Sierra Leone’s civil war. The memoir describes how young boys were brainwashed by RUF leaders to perform unspeakable acts of murder, rape, and torture. There is some debate as to whether this book is a true memoir or fictionalized memoir.
Green Oranges on Lion Mountain (Joy, Emily – 2004)
This is the somewhat lighthearted account of a young Scottish surgeon’s experiences practicing a very primitive form of medicine in Mende country. Her work in Sierra Leone is cut short by the beginning of the civil war.
A Dirty War in West Africa: The RUF and the Destruction of Sierra Leone (Gberlie, Lansana – 2005)
This is the best account of Sierra Leone’s disastrous civil war, written by a Sierra Leonean journalist. It is particularly valued as a piece written by an African amidst numerous accounts of the war by Westerners.
West African Fiction
Things Fall Apart (Achebe, Chinua – 1958)
This is one of the great novels of the twentieth century because of its consistently African viewpoint and its marvelous depiction of African village life in Nigeria prior to the arrival of the British colonists. It also describes the early encounters between British officials and local Africans, all seen from an African viewpoint.
Anthills of the Savannah (Achebe, Chinua – 1987)
Written almost thirty years (1987) after Things Fall Apart, this novel’s focus is on the corruption of the governing elites in newly independent African countries.
Purple Hibiscus (Adichie, Chimamanda – 2003)
The first novel of a talented Nigerian writer, this work describes the tensions in one African family between Western values and African tribal values.
Half of a Yellow Sun (Adichie, Chimamanda – 2006)
A hauntingly beautiful account of the struggle for an independent Biafra in Nigeria demonstrates the loving relationships that endure through a tumultuous decade. The books appropriately complicates the intersections of colonialism, class, and ethnicity.
Development as Freedom (Sen, Amartya – 2000)
Winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics, Sen promotes development as a means and end for political freedom. He focuses on India and China yet his interjection of morality and ethics into economic development is extremely refreshing. With strong promotion for human-based development, Sen offers a unique, thought-provoking analysis of development.
The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (Easterly, William – 2006)
A former World Bank economist cites international development’s top-down approach without consultation with poor as the fundamental cause for aid ineffectiveness. A scathing review of the actions of organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Easterly asks readers to look critically at international development and globalization.
The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working (Calderisi, Robert – 2006)
This book describes in detail the ineffectiveness of foreign aid in Africa and offers some possibilities for changing that circumstance.
The Bottom Billion: What the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About it
(Collier, Paul – 2007)
Written by a British academic with great understanding of poverty worldwide, this book is particularly good at explaining the special conditions in Africa that make ending the continent’s poverty so difficult.
The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation State (Davidson, Basil – 1992)
This is an amazing book because of the breadth and depth of the author’s understanding of the harmful effects of colonialism in Africa and the disastrous mistakes made by the leaders of newly independent African countries.
The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the future of the World (Goldberg, Michelle – 2009)
While this book deals with the difficulties of women worldwide, the sections on the virtual enslavement of some African women are very revealing. Goldberg’s powerful work has one whole chapter devoted to the widespread practice of female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone.
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (Sachs, Jeffrey – 2006)
This is perhaps the best-known book about ending poverty worldwide. It advocates an increase in international aid by developed countries spread across 9 steps that will move those in extreme poverty onto the first rung of the economic development ladder.
Globalization and its Discontents (Stiglitz, Joseph – 2003)
Finding that a one-size-fits-all economic development policies can do more harm than good under the age of gloablization, Stiglitz asks readers to reconsider how development institutions work with developing countries. A balanced book, recognizing the potential benefits of globalization while simultaneously criticizing some of its uses, this book is a great start for anyone trying to understand the complexities of globalization and its impact of developing countries.
Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
(Yunus, Muhammed – 2003)
A definitive book written as a memoir about the birth of micro lending as a means to end poverty. Yunus demonstrates the ability of the poor to help themselves with access to small amounts of credit, which won him and the micro-lending Grameen Bank the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa (Moyo, Dambisa – 2010)
Zambian native Moyo finds that international aid creates dependency and encourages corruption and is somewhat at fault for the lack of African development. Moyo offers numerous free market mechanisms as solutions for African development.
Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty
(Thurow, Roger and Kilman, Scott – 2009).
Written by two Wall Street Journal reporters with decades of experience in Africa, this book is a detailed description of the agricultural challenges facing Africa and an analysis of the complex political dynamics of the global food industry.