I love to read books about the places I am going either before or after I arrive. But, I didn’t have much time before we went to Kenya. I loved the country so much that I voraciously read whatever I could find after to relive the moments and see how others experienced this magical place. These are a few titles that I enjoyed.
Circling the Sun – Paula McLain
I found this book in a bookstore at Heathrow airport on our return from Kenya. It’s set in colonial Kenya and I love the fiery female main character. It has a great story that reads quick and easy. You’ll be able to imagine all of the places the author describes as soon as you see them on your travels. Pair it with the next book whose author makes an appearance in this novel!
Out of Africa – Isak Dinesan
This is considered a classic piece of literature. The author managed a coffee plantation for nearly two decades in Kenya from 1914 to 1931. It’s also a movie that no doubt you’ve heard of, if not seen. You might bristle at the language and the way the author refers to local Kenyans in the writing, but it’s worth remembering the sentiments and behavior of the time. This is a short book (under 250 pages) and fairly easy read.
Wainaina is a middle class Kenyan who shares his childhood in this memoir. There’s no stereotype or cliche here and it’s one of the best ways to get a look inside Kenya from a local. It’s also a modern novel that tells the story of Kenya today, not colonialist narrative.
Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
Amazon describes this novel as, “Here is a spellbinding novel about a brother and sister who have lost their way; about how myths come to pass, history is written, and war stains us forever.” With multiple storylines weaving the history of the family together with the events that have marked Kenya this novel is a journey through family life and a look into Kenyan society.
Say You’re One of Them – Uwern Akpan
This book is a collection of five short stories that take you around Africa and is written by a Nigerian born author. The story set in Kenya is a love story – of two siblings struggling to survive in the slums of Nairobi. Few tourists will ever see this side of life in Kenya but it’s there and important to realize.
These are just a few of the authors and novels that are either about or set in Kenya or are written by Kenyan authors. Read at least one before your visit to get better acquainted with the country.