The Top African Books of 2021 for Readers of All Ages

September 30, 2021


As we head into the holiday season, we’ve partnered with Brittle Paper,

the online literary magazine for African literature and The Mail and Guardian, to share Brittle Paper’s annual list of 50 Notable African Books and the top African children’s books of 2021.

Both lists feature an array of African and African diasporic authors from countries such as Mauritania, DRC, Ghana, Nigeria, and many more. The books have been selected for their enrichment of the literary culture and explore diverse African experiences through themes that range from family to self-love, space travel to food. Both lists are great for shopping holiday gifts for the book lover (of all ages!) in your life.

Check out a sampling of the lists below and make sure to join us for a conversation on “The Books That Made Us: 2021” on December 6 at 12pm EST. RSVP here.

1. In The Company of Men by Veronique Tadjo (Cote d’Ivoire)

Ivorian novelist Veronique Tadjo’s beautifully experimental work details the tragedy of living in the midsts of the Ebola crisis. In the final chapter, Ebola takes the floor to reflect on its life as a virus unleashed by human action.

2. The Sex lives of African Women by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah (Ghana)

This book came out of interviewing women from 31 African countries. The diversity of sexual experiences it explores stuns the reader into abandoning any preconceived notions of African women’s experience of sex and pleasure.

3. The Actual True Story of Ahmed and Zarga by Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Mauritania)

For readers who haven’t read Mauritanian fiction, Slahi’s novel is the perfect place to begin. when a beloved camel named Zarga loses his way in the Sahara Desert, his owner undertakes a life-changing journey to find him.

4. House of Rust by Khadija Abdalla Bajaber (Kenya)

Kenyan novelist Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s stunning debut draws inspiration from Swahili and diasporic Hadhami cultures to weave a magical realist adventure sotry about a girl looking for her missing father.


5. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (Sierra Leone)

The Gilded Ones is the first book in the planned trilogy titled “The Deathless Series.” The book is a feminist, West-African inspired fantasy that follows the journy of a young girl to self-empowerment.

6. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o (Kenya)

Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. In this stunning debut picture book actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

7. Every Leaf a Hallelujah by Ben Okri (Nigeria)

Ben Okri and Diana Ejaita have created a magical world of beauty and color, an enchanting array of extraordinary trees, each with its own personality and voice. The chief among them, the great baobab, invites us into his branches to travel the world and see for ourselves the perils of not listening to nature.


8. Aziz and The Little Blue Bird by Laila Koubaa and Mattias De Leeuw (Tunisia)

Azizi lives in a country governed by greedy rules who capture all blue birds and lock them up in a big blue cage in the courtyard of their palace. The people suffer and live in fear, until one day a little blue bird escapes from the cage. Together with Azizi it sets out on a long journey to free the people of their cruel and relentless rulers.

9. Alya and The Three Cats by Amina Hachimi Alaoui (Morocco)

Myriam and Sami have three cats: Pasha, Minouche, and Amir. One day Myriam’s belly starts to get bigger and something starts to stir in it. Myriam disappears for a few days and comes back home with something that screams and demands a lot of attention. Their three cats are very confused. What’s going on?

10. Sing to the Moon by Nansurbuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn (Uganda)

Do adventures only happen in galaxies far away or can he find magic a little closer to home? A touching story of a grandfather’s love for his grandson and the quiet pleasures of a rainy day.

Visit Brittle Paper to see the full list of 50 Notable African Books of 2021 and the Top African Children’s Books of 2021.

Register for “The Books That Made Us: 2021” on December 6 at 12pm EST here.