Africa has an “extraordinary” literary tradition, former US President Barack Obama has said as he shared his summer reading list dominated by Africa’s best writers and thinkers.
Obama, an avid reader and cultural critic, had shared the list on his Facebook page ahead of his powerful speech in Johannesburg to mark the 100th birthday of iconic anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.
The six-book list, comprising old and new fiction as well as non-fiction, deal with the intrinsic issues that continue to affect Africa today.
“Kenya, of course, is the Obama ancestral home. I visited for the first time when I was in my twenties and I was profoundly influenced by my experiences – a journey I wrote about in my first book, Dreams from My Father. Over the years since, I’ve often drawn inspiration from Africa’s extraordinary literary tradition,” he said.
“I wanted to share a list of books that I’d recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa’s best writers and thinkers – each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways,” he said.
The list includes literary classics such as ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, a 1959 novel which chronicles pre-colonial life in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the arrival of the Europeans during the late nineteenth century.
He also included ‘A Grain of Wheat’ by Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o which describes the history of colonialism and the consequences of post-colonialism.
A more recent suggestion was the novel ‘Americanah’ by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
“A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world,” Obama wrote about the book.
Paying tribute to Mandela, Obama also included the towering leader’s autobiography ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ in the list.
“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,” Obama wrote in the last week’s post.
The list also includes American born British-Libyan writer Hisham Matar’s memoir ‘The Return’ which deals with tyranny, apartheid and exile, besides his chief speechwriter Ben Rhodes’ ‘The World As It’.
Obama won two Grammys for Best Spoken Word Album (“Dreams From My Father” in 2005 and “The Audacity of Hope” in 2007) before being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.