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Want to learn more? We’ve identified some of our favorite books, from easy-to-read novels set in Africa, to some tantalizing nonfiction, and a few deeper reads as well. Let us know what you think of these suggestions. Are there any books you would add?  Drop Evan a line at evan.haglund@wisezambia.org.

For every book you buy using the Amazon links here, Amazon pays WISE a small amount for the referral. These funds go to help our programs in Zambia. When you read, so does a child in Zambia.

Welcome to Lagos

Chibundu Onuzo

A mystery, African style. Set in Nigeria, but with elements familiar to anyone who has traveled to Zambia or elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. A group of misfits comes together, and comes into money as well. A sweeping novel that captures many aspects of life in Africa, but from the struggles of rural life to the realities of the crowded big cities, corruption, and more than a little bit of determination and grit as well.


A Nigerian-born author, Ms. Onuzo is an inspiration to female writers across the continent. Elle.com listed "Welcome to Lagos" as one of the 32 novels you must read this summer!

Blood Rose

Margie Orford

A more standard mystery, for fans of Patricia Cornwell and Sue Grafton. Dr. Claire Hart is a profiler for South African police, but is optioned to Walvis Bay, Namibia, to assist with a serial killer investigation. Fast paced thriller, with some great local flavor. Truly a beach read. 

From Start to Finish : How to be Successful

Jane Abucha


Read about one of WISE’s own board members. Jane is a refugee from the war in Sudan, and tells about her challenges, not only in leaving her home country, but in relocating to the United States. She includes words of encouragement and wisdom from her life’s journey. Learn more about one of our own!

The Obstacle is the Way

Ryan Holiday

Its many fans include a former governor and movie star (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a hip hop icon (LL Cool J), an Irish tennis pro (James McGee), an NBC sportscaster (Michele Tafoya), and the coaches and players of winning teams like the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Cubs, and University of Texas men’s basketball team.

The book draws its inspiration from stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience. Stoics focus on the things they can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, tougher. As Marcus Aurelius put it nearly 2000 years ago: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Ryan Holiday shows us how some of the most successful people in history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—have applied stoicism to overcome difficult or even impossible situations. Their embrace of these principles ultimately mattered more than their natural intelligence, talents, or luck.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World - And Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Ronnlund, Ola Rosling

The book Bill Gates is giving out to college graduates around the world! When asked simple questions about global trends—what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school—we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.


In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective—from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Three Cups Of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace - One School at a Time

Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson tells his story of building schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan. Yes, I’m aware of the controversy, and there is good reason to believe many parts of the story are fictionalized. In other words, it’s a book “based on a true story,” as the movie folks would say. So, read it as fiction. Still an inspiring read. I can assure you, many of the sentiments and observations in the book come from someone who does know the feeling of delivering education to children starving for learning. 

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah was an involuntary child soldier in the brutal civil war fought in Sierra Leone for many years. His story of how he was conscripted, fought, and then recovered, is fascinating. And yes, like Three Cups of Tea, there is some suggestion that not every part of the book is factually accurate. I’m not convinced by the critics but, as with Three Cups of Tea, I’m not sure how much it matters. There was a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone. Both sides used child soldiers. Ishmael Beah was there. I have no doubt that it is sufficiently accurate to warrant our consideration.  

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson 

This should be required reading for, well, everyone in the world. From Botswana to the United Kingdom, Brazil to the United States, the authors do a comprehensive analysis of what differentiates successful and stable countries from those that are not. No matter whether you are Zambian or American, you will view political developments in a very different light. 

Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom

Condoleezza Rice 

Admittedly, in the same vein as Why Nations Fail, except this time through the eyes of someone who has “lived” these principles, as President Bush’s national security advisor and secretary of state. Many chapters are devoted to the history of the United States, but fascinating histories of the rise of democracy in countries such as Kenya—and the death of democracy in other countries such as Russia. As with Why Nations Fail, you will have a whole new perspective on political events.