Barack Obama Marked His Trip To Africa With A Few Summer Reading Suggestions

"I've often drawn inspiration from Africa's extraordinary literary tradition."

If you're looking for something new to read this summer, Barack Obama has you covered. The former president is visiting Kenya and South Africa this week, and he marked the trip by suggesting a few relevant books on his Facebook page.

This is Obama's first trip to Africa since he left office, and he points out in his post that he visited sub-Saharan Africa the most of any sitting president. In South Africa, 200 young leaders will come together with the Obama Foundation, and Obama will deliver a speech for Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday.


Obama recommended six books, most of them by African authors, in both nonfiction and fiction. He explained that, since his first trip to Kenya (where his father was born), he has "often drawn inspiration from Africa's extraordinary literary tradition." He added that the authors recommended on his list "illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways."

He kicked off the list by recommending the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Obama calls this a "masterpiece" that "paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism."

Next, A Grain of Wheat is a novel by Ngugi wa Thiong'o about the struggle for Kenyan independence. Obama calls it "a compelling story of how the transformative events of history weigh on individual lives and relationships." He also recommends the novel Americanah by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whom he calls "one of the world's great contemporary writers."

Three memoirs also appear on the list, including Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, which Obama calls "essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history — and then go out and change it." The Return by Hisham Matar focuses on the author's trip to Libya to search for his father, who was imprisoned by Muammar Gaddafi.

The final book, The World As It Is, was written by Obama's former adviser Ben Rhodes. "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," Obama wrote.

It's not the first time Obama has shared his cultural recommendations. He did so throughout his presidency, and continued the tradition at the end of last year, posting his favorite books and songs of 2017. More recently, his former staffer Dan Pfeiffer shared three pieces of relationship advice from the former president in his new book.

(H/T: Hello Giggles)

Cover image: Aurelien Morissard / IP3 / Getty Images


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.