Friday, January 31, 2014


I have been reading a lot about Ethiopia lately. I'm doing it because I want to learn more, but I've also noticed that the kids seem to love seeing me do it. When I talk about what I've read, A always pays close attention. And D appears to not be listening, but later he may insert Menelik or Haile Selassie into a Jedi vs. Sith light saber battle. I think it's important that the kids see that Ethiopia is valuable not just to them, but to all of our family.

Here are some of the books I have enjoyed the most:

The Battle of Adwa (Raymond Jonas) - I love history books that read like novels. Menelik II in his campaign against the Italians comes across as a genius.

The Sign and the Seal (Graham Hancock) - Part history, part "Raiders of the Lost Ark," part "Da Vinci Code." You need to take it with a large grain of salt, but you will learn a lot about Ethiopian history.

Beneath the Lion's Gaze (Maaza Mengiste) - Very good novel about the fall of Halie Selassie, the Derg, and the Red Terror.

Three Famines (Thomas Keneally) - About Ethiopia, Ireland, and Bengal. Whatever your problems are, at least your government is not purposely trying to starve you to death.

Changing Identifications and Alliances in North-East Africa: Ethiopia and Kenya (Gunther Schlee and Elizabeth E. Watson) - Catchy title, huh? I bought this book because up to this point, the history that I was reading was the history of northern Ethiopia. When Menelik came to power, Addis Ababa was at the southern end of Ethiopia. The land that is currently southern Ethiopia, including Burjii, was not part of Ethiopia at all. This book is ethnography, not history, but it has two whole chapters on the Burjii. I'm trying to pull together what little information on Burjii history I can find, and I'll write more about it later.

What books about Ethiopia, especially about the south, would you add to this list?


  1. Replies
    1. I noticed you have a couple of books by R. Kapuscinski listed on your blog. Would you recommend them?

  2. Thank you for this post. I enjoyed In Ethiopia with a Mule. Hardly a political or historical account, but an interesting journey around the country. Maybe a good introduction to Ethiopia and some of its people.

  3. No suggestions to add, but thanks for this list! I'm going to make note of these books for future reference.

  4. I found "The Emperor" by R. Kapuscinski quite fascinating -- disturbing but fascinating. IMO, it's a must-read.

    I would also recommend Peter Gill's "Famine & Foreigners: Ethiopia since Live Aid." Very readable.

    I just got "The Blue Nile" by Alan Moorehead in the mail. It's older but got fantastic reviews back in the day.

    And these look great but are still staring reproachfully at me from my bookshelf:

    - Donald N. Levine's "Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society"
    - John Markakis' "Ethiopia: The Last Two Frontiers"
    - Bahru Zewde's "A History of Modern Ethiopia: 1855 - 1991"

  5. I'm currently reading Nelson DeMille's "The Quest", which he originally wrote in the 1970s, but just rewrote last year. It's set in civil war era Ethiopia for the most part. While not a book about Ethiopia per se, it's set there--maybe for a fun read at some point?

  6. I also enjoyed Beneath the Lion's Gaze and am looking forward to reading some of the other recommended books. Uwem Akpan's "Say You're One of Them" is a book of short stories pertaining to children living in different countries in Africa, including Ethiopia. Some of the stories are brutal and difficult to get through but I still recommend it. It was important for me to understand the very real scenarios evident in my daughter's beautiful yet complex birth continent.