Experts > Sam Kiley

Sam Kiley's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Sam Kiley recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Sam Kiley's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Will To Die

A collection of stories about black Johannesburg in the late 1950s which was banned in South Africa until 1982. Stories and reports include Crepuscule, Kwashior-kor, The Urchin, The Suit, Ten to Ten, The Dube Train, Terror in the Trains, Boozers Beware of Barberton! Brothers in Christ, Nude Pass Parade, Let the People Drink, Political Offenders Banned to the Bush, Henry Nxumalo, The Boy with the Tennis Racket, Requiem for Sophiatown and the Bottom of the Bottle. Copyright Africa Book Centre. less
Recommended by Sam Kiley, and 1 others.

Sam KileyAgain, I highly recommend this. Can Themba was a writer on Drum magazine, which was the great magazine with a largely black readership in the early days of apartheid. Can was a friend of my dad’s. It sounds weird, but there’s almost a nostalgia for apartheid, reading it, because all the stories are set in the townships – Soweto, principally. So the backdrop is apartheid, but again they’re not... (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...


Petals of Blood

The puzzling murder of three African directors of a foreign-owned brewery sets the scene for this fervent, hard-hitting novel about disillusionment in independent Kenya. A deceptively simple tale, Petals of Blood is on the surface a suspenseful investigation of a spectacular triple murder in upcountry Kenya. Yet as the intertwined stories of the four suspects unfold, a devastating picture emerges of a modern third-world nation whose frustrated people feel their leaders have failed them time after time. First published in 1977, this novel was so explosive that its author was imprisoned... more
Recommended by Sam Kiley, and 1 others.

Sam KileyIt’s a world-class novel by any standards. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent
from 1876 to 1912
Recommended by Alec Russell, Sam Kiley, and 2 others.

Alec RussellI first went to South Africa in an extraordinary, tumultuous time, just before the end of apartheid. It was May 1993, and no one was quite sure what way the country was headed. So my first year there was spent covering the very traumatic final year of white rule and the rise to power of the ANC, and then I stayed on for another four years covering Mandela’s presidency as a foreign correspondent. (Source)

Sam KileyYou can’t understand anything about contemporary Africa without reading that book. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...


Travels into the Interior of Africa

Park's two journeys to Africa, in 1795 and 1805, provided Europeans with their first reliable descriptions of that continent's interior. A vivid recollection and the most readable of all the classics of African exploration. less
Recommended by Sam Kiley, and 1 others.

Sam KileyI loved this book. Park comes from a pre-racist Europe, and he’s travelling along the 16th parallel – the sort of watershed between ‘Animus’ Africa and Islamic Africa. And a lot of the cultures he moves through, in terms of literature and mathematics and astrology, are equal to or more advanced than what he’s used to at home. It was a very interesting period. (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

THINGS FALL APART tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.

The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world...

Barack ObamaAs 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018... (Source)

Jacqueline NovogratzThe first book I read by an African author. Achebe is unflinching in his portrayal of the challenges of change, the relationships of colonialism, and power/powerlessness. (Source)

Sam KileyI think what’s so fantastic about it is that it’s sort of portentous, if that’s the right word, in that it captures that moment between the end of colonisation and independence, and the inevitable crushing of Africa’s dreams. I can’t remember exactly when it was written, but it was very early on in the process. It sounds really pessimistic – I mean, it’s a beautifully written book, but it’s the... (Source)

See more recommendations for this book...

Don't have time to read Sam Kiley's favorite books? Read Shortform summaries.

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you focus your time on what's important to know
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.