1. “Africa: A Biography of the Continent,” by John
Reader. A wide-reaching and sweeping look at trends and broader
explanations for the way things are, covering history, geography,
anthropology, biology and politics. While it is a thick tome (some 700
pages) it manages to be engaging, interesting and easy to read. This
would be a good place to start for the interested newcomer to African
2. “Africa Works: Disorder as a Political Instrument,” by Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz. A lucid and theoretically-rich exposition of African politics. Describing how systems of patronage operate within the context of modern states, Chabal and Daloz provide powerful explanations for conflict, corruption and poor economic development. It also introduces English-speakers to the rich seam of francophone research and literature about Africa.