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3 Most Influential Books for Me in 2016

In a prior post, I wrote about wanting to read more about Africa and more books by African authors. I did just that, and those three books that delved into that area proved to be the three most influential for me. As you can see from the diagram above, this came about in three different ways:

  • An American author writing about Africa (Kenya mostly)
  • An African author writing about Africa (South Africa)
  • An African author writing about America (mostly but also about Nigeria)

A Primate’s Memoir: Love, Death and Baboons in East Africa

A Primate’s Memoir by Robert M. Sapolsky is about his research on the savannah baboons of Kenya. The book is often hilarious, sometimes sad, and very historical. It gave me a good overview of Kenyan history and politics and made me wanting to learn more. I highly recommend it for anyone living in Kenya.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is about his growing up during the final days of apartheid and the early post-apartheid year. If you like Noah’s humor, you will love this book. It’s a fun read, and also educational. For me, it not only taught me some things I did not know about apartheid, but also opened my eyes to how easily America could become an apartheid state.

There is a line from the book that I am keeping in mind both as a hope and a reminder to keep fighting for human rights. I’m paraphrasing here, but overall: There is a space between the law and what is right. You need humanity and common sense to bridge the gap of that space.


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is fiction. The novel is about a Nigerian woman living in America. The story really pulls you in and the characters are complex. It’s a great read. It’s also a really good eye opener on race relations and about being non-American black in America.

The book resonated with me because of the insights made on race. It also clearly stated something that I’ve always had trouble explaining.

I get a lot of odd questions about what I am, where I’m from, et cetera. Sometimes it’s okay. Sometimes I want to punch the person asking the question because of how it was asked or the context. It’s been hard to explain why it’s sometimes fine and sometimes not. There’s a line in Americanah that explains it perfectly: You can tell when the question is coming from a good place.

What’s Next?

So, what do I want to read next? Most probably I’ll go into Chinua Achebe’s trilogy:

  • Things Fall Apart
  • No Longer at Ease
  • Arrow of God

I also want to read more about Kenyan history. I’d like to find something written by a Kenyan. If anyone has recommendation, please leave them in the comments below.

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