Jul 13, 2018

What he’s reading: Obama’s Africa trip reading list

Obama visits the House of Slaves in Dakar, Senegal in 2013. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Ahead of his first trip to Africa since leaving office, former President Barack Obama put together a list of summer reading books about the African continent in a Facebook post.

The big picture: Obama's trip will include stops in Kenya, where his father was from, and South Africa, where he'll give a speech commemorating the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's birth.

"Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe

  • His take: "A true classic of world literature, this novel paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism. A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world."

"A Grain of Wheat" by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

  • His take: "A chronicle of the events leading up to Kenya’s independence, and a compelling story of how the transformative events of history weigh on individual lives and relationships."

"Long Walk to Freedom" by Nelson Mandela

  • His take: "Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the 20th century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it."

"Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  • His take: "From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home."

"The Return" by Hisham Matar

  • His take: "A beautifully-written memoir that skillfully balances a graceful guide through Libya’s recent history with the author’s dogged quest to find his father who disappeared in Gaddafi’s prisons."

"The World As It Is" by Ben Rhodes

  • His take: "It’s true, Ben does not have African blood running through his veins. But few others so closely see the world through my eyes like he can. Ben’s one of the few who’ve been with me since that first presidential campaign. His memoir is one of the smartest reflections I’ve seen as to how we approached foreign policy, and one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen about what it’s actually like to serve the American people for eight years in the White House."

Go deeper: Obama's 2018 reading list

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