Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Sheree Renée Thomas and Zelda Knight
In spite of the enduring challenges of African book publishing, 2022 has been a luminous year of brilliant debut authors, exciting genres and engaging ideas.
At Brittle Paper, we have attempted to capture how richly and expansively African literary culture has grown this year with our 100 Notable African Books of 2022 list. 50 books have been selected from the list and beautifully displayed here.
Our notable books list is in its fourth year. It is aimed at helping readers stay current on new, exciting and noteworthy African books.
It also conveys the diversity of African writing in English. This year, 23 countries are represented, including Djibouti and Burkina Faso, for the first time.
Featured writers include familiar names, such as Tsitsi Dangaremgba, Nnedi Okorafor, Sofia Samatar and Niq Mhlongo, as well as brand-new voices such as Noor Naga, Eloghosa Osunde and Okwirri Oduor.
The list also offers a unique perspective into major trends in African literature. For example, it confirms our hunch that, over the last few years, women have become more visible in the African literary space and this trend is not slowing down.
Thirty of the 100 books on the list are debut books. From this we know that the culture is getting a good bit of fresh blood, which might also mean African literary culture is expanding in the direction of new, emerging voices as opposed to older, established writers.
The diversity of genres and subject matter is stunning. The list features poetry, fiction and nonfiction but also crime thriller, travel memoir, romance fiction, speculative fiction and many more. There is something in there for everyone!
Congratulations to the authors and publishers featured on this list. Join us in celebrating their success.
1. The Scent of Burnt Flowers by Blitz Bazawule
Bazawule’s debut is the story of a young black couple who end up in Nkrumah’s Ghana while on the run from killing a white man in Alabama.
2. These Impossible Things by Salma El-Wardany
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing & Trapeze Books
In El-Wardany’s debut novel, three women share an experience that shakes their relationships with each other and threatens their bond.
3. Vagabonds! By Eloghosa Osunde
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Vagabonds! captures the essence of Lagos through queer and trans experiences, filtered through magical realist elements. The story is haunting and irresistible.
4. Things They Lost by Okwiri Oduor
In her debut novel, Oduor takes us to a dreamy East African world where women are at their most powerful when they lean into the multiple selves and worlds they embody.
5. It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way by Alistair Mackay
Mackay’s debut novel is post-apocalyptic story set in what is left of Cape Town. Three queer friends attempt to make sense of a world falling apart and losing itself in the allure of virtual reality.
6. The Second Verse by Onke Mazibuko
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa
South African psychologist Onke Mazibuko examines the emotional and psychic experience of teenagers. The novel is about a boy navigating the confusions of coming of age.
7. On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi
Publisher: Avon Books
Ghanaian cardiologist Shirlene Obuobi’s debut’s book is the story of a young Ghanaian woman who finds love amid the whirlwind of life as a medical student.
8. Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye
In this stunning debut, Falaye draws from Yoruba Orisha mythology to weave a gripping tale about a girl who possesses the power to change the world.
9. The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Forna’s intricately built fantasy world inspired by Sierra Leonean folklore is still dark and enchantingly fantastical in the second installment of the deathless trilogy: How You Grow Wings.
10. Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
The third book in the Africanjujuist Nsibidi Series is about witchy powers “that zip, buzz, creep, swell on this planet and beyond.”
11. Blood to Poison by Mary Watson
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Savannah is destined to die due to an old curse, but she fights for survival at all cost. Blood Poison is a feminist story about girls who use their anger to confront the world.
12. Even When Your Voice Shakes by Ruby Yayra Goka
Publisher: Norton Young Readers
A maid for a wealthy family has to choose between silence or calling out her assaulter at the risk of losing everything.
Biographies and memoirs
13. An African Abroad by Olabisi Ajala
Publisher: Masobe Books & Olongo Africa
Masobe Books and Olongo Africa join forces to revive this Nigerian travel memoir classic. It chronicles the adventures of Àjàlá during his trip around the world on his Vespa!
14. Broken Porcelain by Relebone Rirhandzu eAfrika
Publisher: Blackbird Books
The Nine Lives of Depression Survivors podcast host bares it all in this memoir about her struggle with mental illness, calling for more understanding and less stigma.
15. The White Mosque by Sofia Samatar
Fans of Samatar will encounter a new side of the sci-fi author in her memoir where she retraces the steps of German-speaking Mennonites who left Russia for central Asia a century ago.
16. A Visible Man by Edward Enninful
Publisher: Penguin Books
Edward Enninful is the first black editor-in-chief of British Vogue. The memoir chronicles his amazing journey from the city of Tema in Ghana to astronomical success in fashion.
17. Can Themba: The Making and Breaking of the Intellectual Tsotsi by Siphiwo Mahala
Publisher: Wits University Press
Can Themba was an iconic Drum-era journalist in South Africa. Mahala brings Themba’s storied career to life in a vivid depiction of his evolution as a cultural figure.
18. Radius: A Story of Feminist Revolution by Yasmin El-Rifae
Examining the Tahrir Square uprising and its aftermath, journalist El-Rifae looks at how revolutions can fail women but also the powerful solidarities that lead to truly meaningful impact.
19. Black and Female by Tsitsi Dangaremgba
Publisher: Faber Books
Dangarembga is a literary powerhouse. Her first nonfiction book takes readers through the life experiences and lessons that made her the writer and filmmaker she is today.
20. Africa is not a Country by Dipo Faloyin
Publisher: WW Norton & Company
Using humour and deep insights, Faloyin destroys assumption after assumption about Africa as a world of famine and safaris.
21. How to Write about Africa by Binyavanga Wainaina
Publisher: Penguin Books
Binyavanga’s untimely death at 48 is still a shock. This collection gathers some of his well-known essays exploring sexuality, art, history, food and Africa.
22. An Angel’s Demise by Sue Nyathi
Publisher: Pan Macmillan SA
In Sue Nyathi’s fourth novel, the female protagonist is on a path to self-discovery against the backdrop of a nation in turmoil.
23. Days Come and Go by Hemley Boum | Translated by Nchanji Njamnsi
Publisher: Bakwa Books & Two Lines Press
Boum chronicles the lives of three generations of Cameroonian women as they experience a history framed by colonial disruption.
24. An Unusual Grief by Yewande Omotoso
Publisher: Cassava Republic
Omotoso’s third novel is a strange, deeply moving, and surprising meditation on mourning.
25. Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo
Bulawayo’s second novel, shortlisted for the Booker, is a “beast fable” told as a humorous satire of Zimbabwe’s contemporary politics.
26. Harry Sylvester Bird by Chinelo Okparanta
Publisher: Mariner Books
Okparanta’s second novel is a powerful story about the kind of racism that disguises as love and desire for black bodies, black life, and black pain.
27. Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments by TL Huchu
Publisher: Tor Books
Book number two of the Edinburgh Nights series sees Ropa, the mbira-playing ghost talker, move on from the Library of the Dead to a new mystery having to do with an unusual hospital and a boy’s school for magic.
28. The Daughters of Nandi by Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang
Nandi, the mother of Zulu emperor Shaka, has unfinished business with her descendants.
29. Two Tons O’ Fun by Fred Khumalo
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa
For his 15th book, veteran South African writer Fred Khumalo captures the ups and downs of teenage life in this story about a girl coming of age in a sprawling South African township.
30. You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
Publisher: Atria Books & Faber Books
The brilliantly prolific Akwaeke Emezi stuns in this mesmerising romance celebrating queer love in the context of black diaspora experience.
31. Tomorrow, I Become a Woman by Odafen Aiwanose
Aiwanose channels her own experiences into this novel exploring the choices women face, and how to fight for the right to live and love on one’s own terms.
Children & middle grade
32. Anansi and the Golden Pot by Taiye Selasi
Publisher: DK Children
Taiye Selasi wrote this book for her son, Safa. The story is about a boy named Anansi and his unforgettable encounter with the famous spider who is his namesake.
33. Blue by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond | Illustrated by Daniel Minter
In this gorgeous children’s book, Brew-Hammond traces the colour blue across time and place, exploring how it came to mean different things to different people.
34. Joyful, Joyful: Stories Celebrating Black Voices by Dapo Adeola
Publisher: Two Hoots
From the curious case of a talking book to the joy of jollof rice, the themes in this anthology celebrate the joy of black life.
35. Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tola Okogwu
Margaret K McElderry Books
Okogwu’s unputdownable sci-fi tale is the story of a 12-year-old British-Nigerian girl with psychokinetic superpowers in her hair. A gem for young readers!
Short story collections
36. A Down Home Meal for These Difficult Times by Meron Hadero
Publisher: Restless Books
Hadero blazed into the African literary scene with her Caine Prize-winning story Street Sweep, included in this collection.
37. A Mind to Silence and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing edited by Anwuli Ojogwu
Publisher: Cassava Republic
The Caine Prize’s latest collection captures the hottest trends in African writing today: mystery, noir fiction, political thrillers, speculative fiction and magical realism.
38. Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction edited by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Sheree Renée Thomas and Zelda Knight
The collection displays the sheer diversity of African speculative fiction and includes sci-fi, fantasy, horror and everything in-between.
39. Blood Feast by Malika Moustadraf | translated by Alice Guthrie
Publisher: Feminist Press
Moroccan feminist icon Moustadraf was only 37 when she died. Blood Feast combines her short story collection and four posthumously published stories to celebrate her life and talent.
40. God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu
Publisher: A Public Space Books
Ifeakandu’s debut collection explores queer life through fictional stories of gay Nigerian men fighting for love, intimacy, and humanity in a homophobic world.
41. The Feeling House by Saleh Addonia
Publisher: Holland House Books
Saleh was born to Eritrean/Ethiopian parents. He and his family survived the Om Hajar massacre and escaped to a refugee camp in Sudan where he lost his hearing at the age of 12. These short stories draw heavily from Saleh’s personal life.
42. For You, I’d Steal a Goat by Niq Mhlongo
From political intrigues to social dilemmas, these 10 stories take the reader through complexities of love, desire, injustice, diaspora and other facets of the human condition.
43. Peach Country by Nondwe Mpuma
Nondwe Mpuma’s imagistic poetry is a meditation on experiences and ideas drawn from the rural worlds of her Eastern Cape birthplace.
44. A History of Disappearance by Sarah Lubala
Publisher: Botsotso Pub
Lubala’s family fled the Democratic Republic of Congo two decades ago. In this collection, she explores the violence of displacement in women’s lives.
45. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire
Publisher: Random House
Shire’s first collection since she collaborated with Beyoncé on Lemonade and Black Is King is a powerful reflection on womanhood amid displacement.
46. Girls that Never Die by Safia Elhillo
Publisher: One World
Elhillo uses the epic form to expose the dangers of silence in a culture where women’s trauma is often repressed.
47. Against Heaven by Kemi Alabi
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Against Heaven challenges common beliefs about God, heaven, religion and calls for new frames for making sense of our world.
48. Quiet by Victoria Adukwei Bulley
Publisher: Faber Books
Bulley is a Young Barbican alumna. Her debut collection is a powerful reflection on the significance of silence and stillness in our increasingly noisy world.
49. An/Other Pastoral by Tjawangwa Dema | Illustrated by Tebogo Cranwell
Publisher: No Bindings Press
Motswana poet TJ Dema combines history and race with the climate crisis to create riveting poetry that brings an African ecopoetics perspective to our changing world.
50. A is for Acholi by Otoniya J Okot Bitek
Publisher: Wolsak and Wynn
In this collection, Bitek centres Acholi culture and experience in the context of displacement, the politics of language, and legacies of colonialism.
To read the full list of 100 Notable African books, visit Brittle Paper.