Our Bookshelf

These are some of the books that we’ve slid off of our ever-expanding bookshelf for both research and pleasure. We’ll share more as our library grows, so check back often!

Note: If you would like to expand your own library, purchasing through our affiliate links would help support this website at no extra cost to you.


 Culture | History | Academic Journals | Novels | Photography | Children’s | Books in French


Culture Books

Bogolan: Shaping Culture through Cloth in Contemporary Mali by Victoria Rovine

Cover of the book "Bogolan: Shaping Culture through Cloth in Contemporary Mali" by Victoria Rovine, featuring a piece of traditional mudcloth.

From its village origins, along with the labor-intensive process used to create this iconic Malian cloth, to its emergence on the international scene thanks to contemporary Malian studio artists using bogolan materials and iconography in their work, this beautifully illustrated book explores the changing notions of tradition, culture and identity.


The Gèlèdé Spectacle: Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in an African Culture by Babatunde Lawal

Cover of the book "The Gelede Spectacle: Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in an African Culture" by Babatunde Lawal, featuring a traditional sculpture.

Babatunde Lawal, art historian, researcher and participant in the Yoruba Gèlèdé, brings this spectacular festival to life with his unique perspective, vivid descriptions, photographs, collected chants, proverbs, and verses. Through masquerade, dance and rhythm, the spiritual powers of women and social harmony are celebrated.


More books about West Africa

  • A Spirit of Tolerance: The Inspiring Life of Tierno Bokar by Amadou Hampaté Bâ [Amazon]
  • African Myths of Origin by Stephen Belcher [Amazon]
  • Akan-Ashanti Folk-Tales by R. S. Rattray [Amazon]
  • Art and Religion in Africa (Religion and the Arts Series) by Rosalind I. J. Hackett [Amazon]
  • Dreaming, Religion, and Society in Africa by Rosalind Shaw & M. C. Jedrej (eds.) [Amazon]
  • Gelede: Art and Female Power Among the Yoruba by H. J. Drewal & M. Drewal [Amazon]
  • The Hausa of Nigeria by Frank Salamone [Amazon]
  • The Masons of Djenné by Trevor H. J. Marchand [Amazon]
  • Playing with Time: Art and Performance in Central Mali by Mary Jo Arnoldi [Amazon]
  • Talking drums of Africa by John F Carrington [Amazon]
  • Twins in African and Diaspora Cultures: Double Trouble, Twice Blessed by Phillip K. Peek (ed.) [Amazon]



History Books

African Dominion: A New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa by Michael Gomez
Cover of the history book "African Dominion" by Michael A. Gomez, featuring the great mosque of Djenné and the African continent.

By carefully extracting the threads of ancient Arab sources, oral traditions and archaeological studies, Michael Gomez weaves the early West African kingdoms together and inextricably binds them to the rest of the world in a ground-breaking way. At interplay throughout the book are the criss-crossing fibers of religion, slavery, caste, ethnicity, race, and gender, the very conceptions of which were pliable over time, informing the shape of the underlying, ever-changing social web that is specific to this region.


General History of Africa by UNESCO

Cover of the first book/volume in the 'General History of Africa" encyclopedia by UNESCO, featuring rock art.This 8 volume encyclopedia — the first of its kind — conceived over decades with contributions from experts in every area of African history, offers an in-depth view of not only historical, political events but also social dynamics such as population movements, social organization, and the impacts of religion, slavery and colonization. Although denser to read than the other encyclopedias listed below, this masterwork is rewarding to consult and made available in 13 languages by UNESCO for free.

[Free PDF download on UNESCO’s website | Amazon]

Books about West African History

  • Ancient Middle Niger: Urbanism and the Self-Organizing Landscape by Roderick McIntosh [Amazon]
  • The Origins of Iron Metallurgy in Africa: New Light on Its Antiquity, West and Central Africa by Hamady Bocoun (ed.) [Amazon]
  • The Search for Takrur: Archaeological Excavations and Reconnaissance along the Middle Senegal Valley by Roderick McIntosh & Susan McIntosh [Amazon]
  • Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali (Revised Edition) by D. T. Niane [Amazon]
  • Sunjata: A New Prose Version by David Conrad [Amazon]


Encyclopedias of African History

  • Africa (5 volumes) by Toyin Falola (ed.) [Amazon]
  • The Cambridge History of Africa (8 volumes) [Amazon]
  • Encyclopedia of African History (3 volumes) by Kevin Shillington (ed.) [Amazon]
  • Encyclopedia of African History and Culture (5 volumes) by J. D. Fage and R. Hunt Davis, Jr. [Amazon]


Primary Historical Sources

  • Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History by Nehemia Levtzion & JFP Hopkins (eds.) [Amazon]
  • Ta’rikh al Fattash, Timbuktu Chronicles 1493-1599 by Christopher Wise (ed.) [Amazon]
  • Travels in the Interior of Africa by Mungo Park [Free PDF version on Archive.org | Amazon]



Academic Journals




Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Ghana)

Cover of the novel/book "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe, featuring the portrait of a West African man.

Following the main protagonist, Okonkwo, and his fall from grace from his Igbo tribal world, not only does Achebe illustrate the conflict between the individual and society, but the much larger clash of cultures with the advent of colonialism in West Africa. Weaving meaningful proverbs into a narrative that often echoes Africa’s oral tradition, Things Fall Apart (itself a reference to a W.B. Yeats’ poem) gives voice to life in Nigeria at the turn of the twentieth century.


The Fortunes of Wangrin by Amadou Hampaté Bâ (Mali)

Cover of the novel/book "The Fortunes of Wangrin" by Amadou Hampaté Bâ, featuring a West African sculpture.

Widely considered to be Hampaté Bâ’s masterpiece, The Fortunes of Wangrin captures, with both humor and implicit gravity, the almost farcical relationship between the colonized and the colonizer. Wangrin is a rogue, wiley and resourceful, caught between the French colonial authorities and his own people, playing them both at every turn.


More Novels by West African Authors

  • Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achabe [Amazon]


Novels set in West Africa

  • Segu by Maryse Condé [Amazon]



Photography Books

Makasutu, mecca in the forest by Jason Florio

Cover of the photography book "Makasutu, mecca in the forest" by Jason Florio, featuring the portrait of a West African girl.

These award-winning portraits, taken by Jason Florio over a 12-year period in the sacred forest of the Gambia, are revealing. “With little direction on my part, I found that the subjects in front of the camera would become silently quizzical of themselves and how they wanted to be portrayed.”  Jason Florio 

[Blurb Books]

Flash Afrique! Photography from West Africa 

Cover of the photography book "Flash Afrique !", featuring an old portrait of a West African man holding a flower.

From studio portraits to documentary images by preeminent West African photographers such as Philip Kwame Apagya, Seydou Keita, Boubacar Touré Mandémory, and the celebrated Malick Sidibé, Flash Afrique! gives a glimpse into how West Africa has seen itself, through evolving times.




Children’s Books

The Hatseller and the Monkeys: A West African Folktale by Baba Wague Diakite

Cover of the children's book "The Hatseller and the Monkeys" by Baba Wagué Diakité, featuring a ceramic illustration of a West African hatseller.

Wagué, which means “A man of trust” in his native Bambara, was entrusted with a ‘library’: his grandmother’s trove of traditional legends, oral histories, and folk stories that he preserves through his unique story-telling and ceramic-tile illustration.


More West African Children’s Books

  • Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott [Amazon]
  • The Hunterman and the Crocodile: A West African Folktale by Baba Wague Diakite [Amazon]
  • Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski [Amazon]


Last updated on October 2, 2018.