Obama reveals Africa-inspired summer reading list

Obama reveals Africa-inspired summer reading list

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nelson Mandela and Ben Rhodes are among the authors featured on Barack Obama's summer reading list ahead of his trip to Africa.

The former US president revealed in a Facebook post that he has often “drawn inspiration from Africa's extraordinary literary tradition”.

In preperation for his trip to Kenya and South Africa, he has recommended “some [titles] from a number of Africa’s best writers and thinkers – each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways”. The six-strong list is dominated by Penguin Random House titles as well as appearances from HarperCollins and Little, Brown.

Mandela’s memoir Long Walk to Freedom (Little, Brown) is described by Obama as “essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it” while Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (4th Estate), set partly at Princeton University, raises “universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home”.

Obama has tipped “true classic of world literature” Things Fall Apart (Penguin) by Chinua Achebe which “paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism”. Fellow Penguin Classic title, A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o also features as 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”. Other PRH books on the list include “beautifully-written memoir” The Return (Viking) by Hisham Matar, which balances Libya’s recent history “with the author’s dogged quest to find his father who disappeared in Gaddafi’s prisons”, as well as Bodley Head’s The World As It Is by 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 said of Rhodes.

Of his upcoming trip, the former President added: "I was proud to visit sub-Saharan Africa more times than any other sitting President, and I’ll return this week to visit Kenya and South Africa. In South Africa, the Obama Foundation will convene 200 extraordinary young leaders from across the continent and I’ll deliver a speech to mark the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. 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."

In January, the former president revealed his favourite books of 2017 including Naomi Alderman's feminist dystopia The Power (Viking).