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Several Dozen Books about Sierra Leone and Related Topics






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      * = poor

    ** = okay

  *** = very good

**** = excellent

0 *’s = unknown/unreviewed


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Book List:


Against All Odds: Escape from Sierra Leone ***

Phil Ashby.  Nonfiction. Small paperback.  This easy to read, true drama describes a major British rescue mission in the jungles of Sierra Leone to free British and other United Nations soldiers captured by rebels during the 1990s civil war.  Ashby is a sharp, dramatic writer who tells the story from the U.N. peacekeepers' point of view while also allowing deeper glimpses into rebel minds and actions.  However, the first third or so of the book is Ashby's own history in the British military. Skipping these early chapters allows a reader to go directly to his adventures in Sierra Leone with no loss of understanding essentials about the country.

Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones ****

Greg Campbell. Nonfiction. Westview Press.  Large (trade) paperback.  Campbell is a journalist, and he provides a well researched and documented story that is part dramatic recounting of atrocities and part description of the movement of raw diamonds during Sierra Leone's civil war in the 1990s.  The diamonds moved, often undercover of false or misleading papers, through a complicated network from muddy diggers working as war captives/slaves, then to rebel soldiers and international arms traders, and finally to diamond traders throughout the world who either don't want to know the source of the diamonds--or don't want to know.   


Blood in the Desert’s Eyes, Cheny-Coker

1991.  Poetry by a Sierra Leonean.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Children at War ***

P.W. Singer.  Nonfiction.  Trade (large paperbound).  U. of Cal. Press.  This harrowing book details how children have become a major part of a majority of wars throughout the world, especially in third world countries.  Children as young as six and seven can now learn to dismantle, clean, and load an AK-47 machine gun or grenade launcher; more importantly, advances in weaponry have made such weapons so light that even young children can carry them through long marches and into battle.  Children also are more easily brainwashed and frightened into fighting and, in battle, they have much less sense of danger to themselves, hence they make excellent--and easily directed--soldiers.  This book details the many ways they are controlled, abused, and cheaply expended.  Examples from Africa abound.                                  

A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa

Howard W. French.  Nonfiction. Hardcover.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Corruption and State Politics in Sierra Leone ***-****

William Reno. Nonfiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Michael Jackson calls this an "invaluable commentary on this period" (p. 215 in In Sierra Leone, cited below).  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Russell Banks. Fiction about Liberia, the country bordering the diamond minefields of Sierra Leone—and the country that was the main source of Sierra Leonean rebel armaments during the '90s civil war.  "The 'darling' of the story is Dawn Carrington, neé Hannah Musgrave, a political radical and member of the Weather Underground forced to flee America to avoid arrest. At the time of the novel, she is 59,...recalling her life in Liberia and her recent return to that country to look for her sons....  She abandoned her sons during a bloody civil war, after the death of her husband, Woodrow Sundiata, a black African Cabinet Minister in President Samuel Doe's government, who is beheaded in front of her and her three boys. Banks explores mercilessly the corruption, greed, sloth, cynicism, and violence running through the Liberian leaders from Tolbert to Doe to Charles Taylor, weaving the real story of the horrors of West Africa...." review of Darling


Democracy by Force?: A Study of International Military Intervention in the Conflict in Sierra Leone from 1991-2000

Abass Bundu.  Nonfiction. Universal Publishers, 2000. 330 pp. Available at
books/bundu.htm.  Book available for sale in print or online (in Adobe PDF). Read the first 25 pages of the book/e-book free in Adobe PDF at the Web site.


The Devil that Danced on the Water: A Daughter’s Quest ****

Aminatta Forna.  Nonfiction.  London: HarperCollins, 2002.Hardcover.  This heartbreaking, real-life tragedy tells how a popular politician became railroaded by the existing administration int heearly decades of independence.  Forna and her family were among the privileged members of their society. For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


The End of Poverty--Economic Possibilities for Our Time ****

Jeffrey Sachs; foreword by Bono.  Nonfiction.  Trade (large paperbound) and hardcover.  383 pp.  Time magazine considers Sachs one of the 100 most influential people in the world.  He has personally had a hand in helping to alleviate hunger and poverty in a number of undeveloped countries throughout the world.  In this New York Times bestseller, he describes how and why the world can eliminate most poverty in two decades--just as the United States did so after the Great Depression in the 1930s.  The London Economist says, "Book and man are brilliant, passionate, optimistic and impatient....  Outstanding."  The book is of especial importance for countries that, like Sierra Leone, are at the very bottom of the U.N. development index.

The Famished Road
Ben Okri.  Anchor Books, New York, 1993, $15.00.  500 pp.  Fiction.  Okri’s brilliant story, told through the eyes of a young Nigerian child, Azaro, about his impoverished life, was the fiction winner of a Booker Prize, adult novel category--Great Britain’s version of the Pulitzer.  It is at once one of the most beautiful, fantastical, and realistic books about Africans in our time.  As fantasy, it also is one of the world’s most accomplished novels of imaginary realism, in the class of Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Morrison’s Beloved, and Erdrich’s Love Medicine.  When the child, Azaro (named after Lazarus) talks of his boxer-stevedore father and market-saleswoman mother and their difficult life in a Nigerian ghetto, it sings with urgency and unparalleled emotional and physical detail.  Poverty, politics, culture, rich and poor—all are revealed with the sharpness of Ockham’s razor.  When more fantastical events occur, the urgency still exists, but the fantasies can be difficult to follow.  But when fantasy and ghetto life intermingle, some of the more heartbreaking and poignant scenes in modern fiction occur. 


Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone

Paul Richards.  Nonfiction. ISBN: 0435074067.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Guns, Germs, and Steel--The Fates of Human Societies ****

Jared Diamond. Nonfiction. Trade (large paperbound) and hardcover. 494 pp.  This book won the Pulitzer Prize.  In addition, the author has won a MacArthur Foundation "genius" fellowship and a National Medal of Science award.  The New Yorker says, "The scope and the explanatory power of this book are astounding."  According to Paul Ehrlich, the book "is a brilliantly written, passionate, whirlwind tour through 13,000 years of history on all the continents....  The origins of empires, religion, writing, crops, and guns are all here.  [T]he book demolishes the grounds for racist theories of history.  Its account of how the modern world was formed is full of lessons for our own future.  After reading the first two pages, you won't be able to put it down."  It gives detailed meaning to the fact that cultures in all continents and nations are equal in their citizens' intelligence, hard work, and love, but by virtue of location, resources, and timing, some have had much more difficult situations in which to develop as a people than have others.


Half of a Yellow Sun.***

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Fiction.  Trade (large paperbound) and hardcover.  According to the New Yorker review at, "Based loosely on political events in nineteen-sixties Nigeria, this novel focuses on two wealthy Igbo sisters, Olanna and Kainene, who drift apart as the newly independent nation struggles to remain unified. Olanna falls for an imperious academic whose political convictions mask his personal weaknesses; meanwhile, Kainene becomes involved with a shy, studious British expat. After a series of massacres targeting the Igbo people, the carefully genteel world of the two couples disintegrates. Adichie indicts the outside world for its indifference and probes the arrogance and ignorance that perpetuated the conflict. Yet this is no polemic. The characters and landscape are vividly painted, and details are often used to heartbreaking effect: soldiers, waiting to be armed, clutch sticks carved into the shape of rifles; an Igbo mother, in flight from a massacre, carries her daughter's severed head, the hair lovingly braided."


The Heart of the Matter. ***

Graham Greene.  Fiction. The famous novelist wrote this novel, about a "West African" character, from his house overlooking the bay on which is situated Freetown, Sierra Leone.  For more about this book from the author himself, see
~greeneland/heart.htm.    For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


How de Body? One Man's Terrifying Journey through an African War ***

Teun Voeten.  Nonfiction. Hardcover.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 

Hybrid Eyes—An African in Europe ***

Osman A. Sankoh (Mallam O.) Nonfiction. ($10.00).  Available at  This book catalogues the real life experiences of the author during his student years in Germany .” –  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


In the Land of Magic Soldiers ****

Daniel Bergner.  New York : Picador, 2004.  ISBN: 031242292X (Trade Ed. (large paperback), $14.00).  Bergner, who attended Blake School in the Twin Cities, practices the nearly lost art of literary journalism while maintaining several dramatic, carefully balanced, and sometimes intensely searing narratives showing the viewpoints of a man whose hands were cut off, a mercenary, a government official, a rebel, and others.  Some readers dislike how the characters' stories are broken up into chapters or parts of chapters, whereas others find the broken-narrative technique enhances the quality of the book.  “Beautifully written---Bergner describes what is magical and what is malign in Africa as well as anyone ever has…. A great novelist would be hard pressed to invent such a cast of characters.” – Los Angeles Times.


In Sierra Leone ****

Michael Jackson.  Nonfiction. Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2004. Large (trade) paperback.  (See also The Kuranko below.)  Jackson, a well known European ethnographer and literary writer, is a distinguished anthropologist, poet, novelist, and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen who has plied his trade of ethnography off and on for many years in Sierra Leone.  This book, part biography about important political figure S.B. Marah, part history, and part poetic and philosophical musing, is an inside view of how Sierra Leoneans--especially in the northern region--view themselves, their country, and their civil war.


The Kuranko: Dimensions of Social Reality in a West African Tribe ****

Michael Jackson.  Nonfiction. (See also In Sierra Leone above.)  A study of the Kuranko tribe of northern Sierra Leone.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Maiden Voyages and Infant Colonies: Two Women’s Travel Narratives of the 1790s, Deirdre Coleman. Nonfiction. ISBN: 0718501500.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Monique and the Mango Rains ****

Kris (Kristina) Holloway.  Nonfiction.  Publisher: Waveland Press.  Trade (large paperbound).  This 2007 book details Kris(tina) Holloway's powerful, always interesting story of her two years in the Peace Corps in the West African country of Mali (just north of Sierra Leone) and the wonderful young village midwife, Monique, with whom she worked.  Top reviewers around the U.S. call the book "tender, revelatory" (Publishers Weekly); "as compelling as any novel" (Entertainment Weekly "Pick"); and a "poignant and powerful book" (Kirkus, Starred Review).  Holloway details in interesting, clear prose what it is like to live in a West African village, be in the Peace Corps, and have about the best kind of experience possible in such a situation.  While the ending is tragic, it also is uplifting, making the whole an excellent, heart-warming book.   


***Operation Sudden Death

Damien Lewis.  Nonfiction. Random House-Great Britain. (Order from British Amazon UK at  Random House/Arrow Paperback, 460 pp.  $12.00.  "This is the untold, epic story of the single most daring Special Forces operation since World War Two; the rescue by the SAS of British soldiers who were being held captive by drug-crazed rebel group The West Side Boys in the Sierra Leone jungle....  Officially called Operation Barras..., 200 crack forces were sent in to rescue 11 British hostages, who faced execution and worse at the hands of the rebels....  Extensive interviews with the hostages and the assault forces have produced this blow-by-blow account....  It is a [London] Sunday Times top-ten bestseller." --Andrew Lownie Literary Agency, Great Britain


The Road to Kenema and Other Poems

Samuel Hinton. 2003. ISBN: 3980808432 ($9.00). Available at  “Presents a poignant, sometimes searing portrait of a man…balancing memories of his homeland with dreams of his adopted [U.S.] country…on a journey that is often upsetting, but always engaging.” –


Sierra Leone at the End of the Twentieth Century: History, Politics, and Society ***

Earl Conteh-Morgan and Mac Dixon-Fyle. Nonfiction. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Sierra Leone: The Agony of a Nation **

Abdul K. Koroma. Nonfiction. Freetown: Andromeda, 1996.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Sierra Leone: The Fighter from Death Row: Testimony of Survival by a Christian Journalist

Hilton Ebenezer Fyle. Nonfiction. Universal Publishers, 2000. Available at
  Book available for sale in print or online (in Adobe PDF).  Read the first 25 pages of the book/e-book free in Adobe PDF at the Web site.  
For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Singing in Exile and the Child of War

S.U. Kamarah.  Poetry. Sierra Leonean Writers Series.  ISBN: 3980808408 ($8.00).  Available at“Dr. Sheikh Umarr Kamarah’s…collection of poetry…examines the causes of the African (Sierra Leonean) condition….” –  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe.  Achebe has won a Nobel Prize for his collected works about Africa. This is his best known and most read book.  Although the novel is often cited as an example of a polemic against British colonization of Nigeria, the bulk of Achebe's great work is excellent in immersing the reader in African--in this case the Ibo tribe--village life and distinctively black African ways of looking at life. For that reason alone, the novel should be included on anyone's "best of" reading list.


The Underneath of Things: Violence, History, and the Everyday in Sierra Leone **-****

Marianne Ferme. Nonfiction. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


Unknown Destination

Abdul Kamara. Nonfiction. 2003. ISBN: 3980808416 ($12.00).  Available at  "This book examines a wide spectrum of challenges that confronted African students in the aftermath of the economic reforms of structural adjustment in the 1980s….” –  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 


War--The Lethal Custom ****

Gwynne Dyer. Nonfiction.  Trade (large paperbound) and hardbound, 484 pp.  Older version, 1985; revised/updated version, 2005 (newer version recommended).  Dyer, who served in the Canadian, British, and American navies and received a PhD. in military history from the University of London, won a Columbia University School of Journalism Award for the 1985 version of this book. It also became a seven-part television series, an episode of which was nominated for an Academy Award.  Find the revised and updated 2005 version, which has both the 1985 materials, revised, and new discussions of the U.S. 9-11 terrorism event and the global fight against terrorism.  Some people consider this book the best available in popular form on the history of war and its meaning for humankind.  Dyer is very helpful in explaining not only world wars, but also civil and regional warfare in individual continents such as Africa.


Warrior Marks **-***

Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar.  Nonfiction and Photos.  Hardbound--Scribner's; Softbound--Back Bay Books/Little, Brown.   Alice Walker won a Pulitzer Prize for The Color Purple and is considered one of our best American novelists.  She has studied the subject of female genital mutilation (FGM) and, in this documentary book about the making of their documentary video of the same name, she and journalist Pratibha Parmar make the subject come alive by interviewing women from Africa and other countries who have been circumcised and the older women who perform the "ritual"--almost always on young girls.  Some parts of the book are very painful to read.  You will be disappointed if you are looking for a continuing narrative from one authorial point of view; however, if you are looking for multiple viewpoints from a variety of people, both about FGM and the making of the film about it, including photos, you may find a wealth of helpful information here.


White Man’s Grave

Richard Dooling. ISBN: 031213214X.  For a review of this book, please go to and search for the book by name. 

Whiteman ***
Tony D'Souza. Fiction.  Trade (large paperbound).) Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2006. 279 pp.  Whiteman is a thinly disguised account of D’Souza’s Peace Corps Volunteer experiences in 2000-2002 in Ivory Coast, West Africa.  In the book, the Peace Corps becomes the “Potable Water International” or PWI.  He lives in a small, non-electrified northern village where he learns the language quickly, works hard, and soon finds his initial assigned job is impossible.  He often visits the nearby city of Seguela, where PWI keep a "flophouse" for its regional workers to talk and party.  Sometimes he drives his scooter to the bigger PWI house in the capital, Abidjan. Armed bands of youth and soldiers with machine guns take his money and threaten to kill him.  He cannot always resist women and “goes native.”  He learns to hunt in the forests.  In one classic episode, he cleans up graft in a school, only to cause a chain of events leading to the school’s closing.  Readers looking for stories about starry-eyed Peace Corps volunteers will find, instead, R-rated tales of a alcoholism, prostitution, a country wracked by civil war, and a wooden phallus for AIDS lessons.  But D’Souza’s story is a very real side of the Peace Corps; chapters have appeared in The New Yorker, Playboy, and the O. Henry Prize Stories 2007.  His novel is a rare chance to experience the underside of the Peace Corps.



See also:

  1. The Sierra Leone Writers Series: (books for sale)

  2. Sierra Leone Writers Series Books Database: 400 books about or related to Sierra Leone:

  3. Novels about nearby Nigeria by Nobel Prizewinner Chinua Achebe at http://www.scholars.
    achebe/achebeov.html, and by Nobel Prizewinner Sole Woyinka at 

  4. Midwifery in Third World Countries and in Africa:

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