A year of African literature and film – in lists

Africa in Words is taking a break from our regular content over the festive season, but we’ll be back from next week.

In the meantime, it’s that time of year for best-of lists, and the African literature and arts blogosphere is no exception.

Africa in Words definitely isn’t Buzzfeed, but nonetheless we do like a good list. So, in case you missed any of these lists, we proudly present: our list of lists (in no particular order).

Africa is a Country has a characteristically extensive and wonderful round-up of its contributors’ recommendations for the African books of 2014, ranging across fiction and non-fiction: history, journalism, essays, novels, poetry, short stories, academic texts and more.9781783781027

The Mail and Guardian has a list of “ten fiction books by African authors that you should pick up now for your holiday”. The recommendations range from high-profile releases such as Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust to some less well-known recommendations such as Angela Makholwa’s Black Widow Society and Abdourahman Waberi’s Transit.

Bookshy has had a great year and she rounds up with a number of interesting lists: a look at ten new releases for 2015, her favourite African book covers of 2014, and her own round-up of the African books on global best-of lists of 2014 (also part II ). We also can’t forget her earlier lists, co-curated with Dele Meiji Fatunla, of the top 50 books by African women and top 50 books by African men. Thank you Bookshy!

This is Africa has an extensive list of the ‘100 Best [African] Books in fiction, poetry, memoir and non-fiction, published between 2010 and 2014′ – well worth checking out for some lesser known books as well as the usual favourites.

Okayafrica has a list of the best African films of 2014 from “Mauritania, Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and the US, and includ[ing] documentaries, anthology films, full-length features and shorts”.

africa39coverWe couldn’t make this list without mentioning Aaron Bady’s good-natured rage against boring, out-of-date canonical lists of African literature (we paraphrase, but only just): ‘(NOT) Five African novels to read before you die’. Bady’s point is that mainstream lists of African literary greats still tend to be about 20-50 years behind the times, featuring only the big, well-known authors (Achebe, Ngugi, Soyinka), ignoring the huge contemporary African literary scene. Bady’s own ‘irresponsible’ list is in fact a fine (and pointedly non-exhaustive) list of some excellent (and actually contemporary) African writing, including Francophone and Arabic literature in translation.

Finally, it’s not a blog, but the Africa39 anthology is doubtless one of the most influential lists to have emerged in 2014, featuring “the 39 most promising fiction writers from Africa (south of the Sahara) under 40”.

And back in May, literature blogger James Murua compiled his own list of the top 39 English language African authors under 40, to complement and challenge the Africa39 anthology.




Any other lists you think we should know about? Let us know in the comments. Or do all these lists leave out your favourites, or leave you cold entirely? Let us know that too.

And please let us take this opportunity to thank all of you for reading Africa in Words this year, and to wish you a happy new year wherever you are.


Post edited on 31 December 2014 to update it with lists by James Murua and This is Africa.

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2 replies

  1. I compiled the 39 Top English Language African Novelists under 40 in May which you can find at;

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