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Barack Obama’s summer reading list of favorite African books …

For former president Barack Obama, books were a way of surviving his eight years at the White House. Days before vacating office in 2017, he told former chief book critic of the New York Times Michiko Kakutani about how books allowed him to “slow down and get perspective” and afforded him “the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.”

So it was only prudent that on the eve of his maiden trip to Africa since leaving office, Obama would share a list of books from some of Africa’s best writers and thinkers.

The six books, both old and new, fiction and non-fiction, deal with the pertinent issues that continue to affect Africa today: the history of colonialism and the consequences of post-colonialism (Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Ng?g? wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat), tyranny, apartheid and exile (Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and Hisham Matar’s The Return), migration and belonging (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah). Obama also included a non-African author to highlight the politics of liberal idealism and pragmatism that shaped his own presidency—articulated by his former speechwriter, foreign-policy adviser, and confidant, Ben Rhodes (The World as It Is).

As a writer and orator, Obama proves with his choices that he cares about stories: the thread that connects South Africa’s liberation leader to a Libyan exile’s story, or the courage it needs to confront racism in America vis-à-vis the burden of being a hero in a nation on the cusp of independence. As Obama heads to Kenya and South Africa to meet the 200 young African leaders selected by his foundation, here are several other books by African writers that capture the story of this continent’s past history and present aspirations.

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