Some people dream of marrying their best friend and growing old together in rocking chairs on the front porch. I don’t really care where we grow old or whether we rock our way there, but I always wanted to marry someone who would just sit and read next to me. (Mission: Accomplished)

In our ten years of living in Senegal and reading our way through it, here are 10 books we’ve found very interesting, insightful and helpful. That’s not to say we agree with all of them, but some good thieb for thought in each one.


Learning to See, by Gary Engelberg
“With its roots in the 12th century, and located on a cross-roads where different world cultures have met and mixed, Senegal has had the time to develop intricate mechanisms to manage diversity and bind people together in non-conflictual relationships. While its architectural achievements are modest on the world scale, its social architecture has the beauty of the Taj Mahal in its balance and perfection. These social mechanisms are reflected in the predominant cultural values of this old society. In this collection, I share acquired insights from people and incidents that contributed to my growing respect for these values and the wisdom of this millennial culture.”
Available on Kindle.

So Long a Letter, by Mariama Ba
“Recognized as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century. The brief narrative, written as an extended letter, is a sequence of reminiscences—some wistful, some bitter—recounted by recently widowed Senegalese schoolteacher Ramatoulaye Fall… This semi-autobiographical account is a perceptive testimony to the plight of educated and articulate Muslim women. Angered by the traditions that allow polygamy, they inhabit a social milieu dominated by attitudes and values that deny them status equal to men. Ramatoulaye hopes for a world where the best of old customs and new freedom can be combined.”
Available on Kindle.

However Long the Night, by Aimee Molloy
“The unlikely and inspiring story of Molly Melching, an American woman whose experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found Tostan and dedicate almost four decades of her life to the girls and women of Africa.”
Available on Kindle, also through Kindle Unlimited.

Le Dictionnaire Insolite du Senegal
My friends gave me this book and it is absolute bite-sized gold. SOMEONE NEEDS TO WRITE THIS KIND OF BOOK IN ENGLISH. I nominate Cheikh Fall in Saint-Louis. Raise your hand if you agree. 😀

Your Pocket is What Cures You, by Ellen E Foley
“In the wake of structural adjustment programs in the 1980s and health reforms in the 1990s, the majority of sub-Saharan African governments spend less than ten dollars per capita on health annually, and many Africans have limited access to basic medical care… It also explores how cultural frameworks, particularly those stemming from Islam and Wolof ethnomedicine, are central to understanding how people manage vulnerability to ill health.”
Available on Kindle.

Women at the Crossroads, by M. Lewis Renaud
“HIV ravaged the African continent faster and earlier than any other in the world, spreading primarily through unprotected heterosexual sex. Kaolack, Senegal is a town where travellers and prostitutes converge, and HIV transmission rates have soared, especially among the prostitutes. Going beyond empirical analysis of risk/behaviour data, Women at the Crossroads tells the stories of these women in their own words… Although these women claim to be trapped by the social and political forces that have led them to enter prostitution, Renaud argues that they have taken control of their destinies in an inspiring fashion.”
Available on Kindle.

The Abandoned Baobab: The Autobiography of a Senegalese Woman , by Ken Bugul
“The subject of intense admiration–and not a little shock, when it was first published–The Abandoned Baobab has consistently captivated readers ever since. The book has been translated into numerous languages and was chosen by QBR Black Book Review as one of Africa’s 100 best books of the twentieth century. No African woman had ever been so frank, in an autobiography, or written so poignantly, about the intimate details of her life–a distinction that, more than two decades later, still holds true.

Abandoned by her mother and sent to live with relatives in Dakar, the author tells of being educated in the French colonial school system, where she comes gradually to feel alienated from her family and Muslim upbringing, growing enamored with the West. Academic success gives her the opportunity to study in Belgium, which she looks upon as a “promised land.” There she is objectified as an exotic creature, however, and she descends into promiscuity, alcohol and drug abuse, and, eventually, prostitution. (It was out of concern on her editor’s part about her candor that the author used the pseudonym Ken Bugul, the Wolof phrase for “the person no one wants.”) Her return to Senegal, which concludes the book, presents her with a past she cannot reenter, a painful but necessary realization as she begins to create a new life there.”

African Friends and Money Matters, by David Maranz
“African Friends and Money Matters grew out of frustrations that Westerners experience when they travel and work in Africa. Africans have just as many frustrations relating to Westerners in their midst. Each manages money, time, and relationships in very different ways, often creating friction and misunderstanding. This book deals with everyday life in Africa, showing the underlying logic of African economic systems and behavior.”
Available on Kindle.

Peace is Everything, by David Maranz
“The World View of Muslim and Traditionalist in the Senegambia subregion are studied. The result is a comprehensive view of the religious practices being followed and a broad understanding of the integrated conceptual system on which they are based. The belief systems of most Muslim societies are expressed through a complex mixture of orthodox and nonorthodox practices… Senegambia world view focuses on transcendent peace which is seen to be the pervasive, dominant theme of the culture. It is experienced by individuals when they and society are in balance with cosmic beings and forces, with social units, and with nature.”
Available on Kindle.

Third Culture Kids, by Ruth E. Van Reken
This one isn’t specific to Senegal, but if you are raising TCKs (or like myself, if you are a TCK), it’s a must-read.
Available on Kindle.


What I’ll be reading next:

God’s Bits of Wood, by Ousmane Sembene

Fisherman’s Blues: A West African Community at Sea, by Anna Badkhen

The Belly of the Atlantic, by Fatou Diome

Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, by Rosalind Fredericks

Bradt Travel Guide to Senegal, by Sean Connelly (coming April 2019!)

Any suggestions to share? #dakarreads