In 2012,  we featured Lyrics Alley (Leila Aboulela), The Memory of Love (Aminatta Forna), Heart of Darkness (David Zane Mairowitz, Joseph Conrad and Catherine Anyango) and many more published excellent works of fiction.

In 2013, we’ve read and enjoyed a clutch of new faces as well as some fascinating not-so-new ones. Here’s our breakdown of the best in African literature this year. Get your copies before Christmas – most are available on – and enjoy them through the holidays!

book happiness

Happiness like Water by Chinelo Okparanta ( Granta Books); a graduate of the Iowa Writers’Workshop. Her first piece,  Runs Girls was published in the Exit Stratergies issue of Granta magazine and she was featured in their New Voices series. Happiness like Water is her debut collection of short stories centred on Nigerians at home and abroad facing challenges. A couple struggling to conceive, two women isolated in different ways seeks comfort with each other and a young woman struggles with a dilemma to save her mothers life.

book we need new names

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus). Noviolet was the 2011 Caine prize winner for her story Hitting Bhudapest  published in the Boston Review. Her new vovel focuses on Darling, one of the rag tag band of children in her short story. Having realised the collective dream and made it to America she learns that paradise is never quite what is promised.  We Need New Names was named on the 2013 Man Booker Prize shortlist. This makes her the first black African woman and the first Zimbabwean to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

book ghana must go

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi (Viking, Penguin) first came to attention with her article Bye- Bye Barbar or What is an Afropolitan? which defined a new generation of young, culturally astute Africans. Her short story The Sex Lives of African Girls was published in the F Word issue of Granta magazine and is one of their most downloaded. A death at the beginning brings together a family,  earlier deeply fragmented by events in their lives. Selasi conjures a wonderful tale of loss, leaving and the African immigrant experience in the face of American modernity.

book love

Love is Power or Something Like That by A. Igoni Barrett (Farafina Books) is the second collection of short stories. He has published pieces in Guernica magazine and his excellent essay I Want to Be a Book: On Becoming A Writer was published on The Millions. Focusing on love in modern Nigeria, the stories are inhabited by a milieu of vivid characters including a corrupt police officer who beats his wife and a young man who seduces men online pretending to be a woman.

book tomorrow I'll be

Tomorrow I will be Twenty Years Old by Alain Mabankou (Serpent’s Tail) is the fifth novel published in translation from French. Michel is a young boy living with his parents in 1970′s Congo dreaming about the destinations of the planes that fly over head. Loosley based on Mabankou’s childhood this is a darkly funny funny account of growing up.

book americanah

Americannah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Farafina Books) is the second novel from the MacArthur Foundation fellowship grant winner. Set in America and Nigeria,  a story about childhood sweethearts pulled apart by military dictatorship and eventually reunited. Can they be the same after such different experiences in the West?  

book COS

Children of Saba by N.K. Read (Afrikkana Books).  Frustrated by the widespread ignorance of Africa’s rich history and in a bold move away from the current-popular ‘African immigrant’s experiences in the West’ genre, Kenyan born N.K Read’s debut novel attempts to redress the balance. Drawing on ancient African legends, Children of Saba recreates the glory and majesty of a prodigious continent, appealing to lovers of the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings series. It is the untold story of Africa, one that re-imagines the legacy of a vast ancient race responsible for throwing giant shadows upon the dawn of time. It is a chronicle that leaps beyond the boundaries of the present and transcends the parameters of the origins of the Earth. With a trilogy planned, we’re sure it won’t be long before someone snaps up the film rights very soon.



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