books about Malawi

We live in Malawi since 2019 and these are our favorite books. Novels, History books, Biographies, Art, a complete list of books about Malawi to fell in love with the warm heart of Africa.

Malawi is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, home to one the biggest lake in the world, Lake Malawi.

Known as the warm heart of Africa because of its friendly people, not much more is known about this small African country.

With this list of books about Malawi, we hope to bring you a bit of interest in one of the most beautiful countries in Africa.

Disclosure: Some of our articles contain affiliate links (as an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases).

When Animals Sing and Spirits Dance: Gule Wamkulu: the Great Dance of the Chewa People of Malawi

by Claude Boucher and Gary John Morgan, 2012

Gule Wamkulu is an Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity recognized by UNESCO in 2005.

Claude Boucher Chisale lived and studied in Malawi for more than 40 years, documenting the Great Dance of the Chewa people of Malawi.

We personally bought the books at the Mua Mission Museum, a must-visit if you come to Malawi.

The quality of the book is great, filled with hundreds of pictures, probably one of the best anthropological documentation in Southern Africa.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope 

William Kamkwamba, 2009

You have probably already watched the 2019 movie selected for the 92nd Academy Awards, if you haven’t it is available on Netflix.

The book, written in 2009, tells the story of a young Malawian who, at 14 years old, builds a windmill from scrap, saving the lives of many people in his village during one of the most terrible recent famines, in 2002.

The rudimental windmill was able to pump the water from the well so the villagers could plant during the dry season.

It is a powerful story of hope ad the importance of education, especially because it is a true story. Have a look at William’s TED talk here.

From Microsoft to Malawi: Learning on the Front Lines as a Peace Corps Volunteer

by Michael L. Buckler, 2010

Michael L. Buckler tells us his story as a Peace Corps worker and the challenges he encountered trying to help the village he was sent to.

It explores several controversial topics such as over bureaucracy, volunteer use of anti-depressants, he gives a good insight into the real experience one can expect by joining the program.

He talks about the culture of Malawi, the funny cultural exchange, and the struggle. Revelatory, honest, and thoughtful.

All the royalties and donations will be donated.

Malawi A Place Apart

by Asbjørn Eidhammer, 2017

Asbjørn Eidhammer was the Norwegian ambassador to Malawi for almost a decade.

The book talks about Malawi’s recent history, culture, traditions, all connected with the personal experience of the author.

With a focus on the challenges of a fledgling democracy. A good introduction to the country’s past, present, and possible future.

The Warm Heart of Africa: An Outrageous Adventure of Love, Music, and Mishaps in Malawi

Jack Allison, 2020

Jack Allison joined the Peace Corps in 1967, this book is his memoir from his experience in the landlocked country.

He first arrives in Nsiyaludzu Village, where it was assigned to a public health program, he became fluent in Chichewa and start writing songs.

Jack Allison was not a musician but his song “Ufa Wa Mtedza“, the peanut four-song, was a hit in Malawi for several years, you can listen to the song here.

From that moment on he has recorded more than 100 songs and jingles, about nutrition, HIV, and recently Covid 19.

A foreign journalist wrote that he was more famous than President Banda among Malawians.

Banda, the president for life, was not happy about this statement and decided to kick Allison and all the Peace Corps out of the country.

Frustration, hope, music, humor, culture, an incredible story.

A Democracy of Chameleons: Politics and Culture in the New Malawi

by Harri Englund, 2002

This book is a study of the consequences of the Malawi democratic transition that started in 1994.

Poverty, epidemics, social rights, donations, a complete picture of the problems, superficiality, and possibilities.

A History of Malawi: 1859-1966

by John McCracken, 2012

A History of Malawi: 1859-1966 is one of the few books about the colonial time and the tumultuous years that brought Malawi to independence.

John McCracken is an African historian who first visited Nyasaland in 1964, he is probably the unrivaled authority on Malawi history.

Divided in 15 chapters:

  • The Land & the People,
  • Commerce, Christianity & Colonial Conquest
  • The Making of the Colonial Economy 1891–1915
  • Religion, Culture & Society
  • The Chilembwe Rising
  • Malawi & the First World War
  • Planters, Peasants & Migrants The Interwar Years
  • The Great Depression & its Aftermath
  • Contours of Colonialism
  • The Age of Development
  • The Urban Experience
  • Peasants & Politicians 1943–1953
  • The Liberation Struggle 1953–1959
  • The Making of Malawi 1959–1963 
  • Prelude to Independence: Unity & Diversity
  • Revolt & Realignment 1964–1966

A fundamental book to understand the country for those who live or plan to travel here, and for those interested in the history of this part of Africa.

The Jive Talker: An Artist’s Genesis

by Samson Kambalu, 2008

Samson Kambalu is a Malawi-born contemporary artist, one of the most successful conceptual artists, in particular after his “Holy Balls” exhibition.

This autobiographical book tells us about his experience of growing up during dictator Kamuzu Banda years (1964-1996).

The fifth of eight children, Kambalu was born in 1975, in between malaria, HIV, snakes, and numerous accidents he invented his own religion at 11 years old, influenced by Nietzsche, Freud, and the sun worship.

An eclectic read, absolutely recommended to see Malawi from a different perspective.

Archaeology and Oral Tradition in Malawi: Origins and Early History of the Chewa

by Yusuf Juwayeyi, 2020

This book about Malawi’s history is focused on the history of the Chewa people, the largest ethnic group in the country.

It’s one of the very few books that talk about the history of pre-literate Malawi. Written by archeologist Yusef Juwayeyi, who discovered Mankhamba, a late Iron-Age site, the first major Chewa settlement.

Through the artifacts he found, and documents written by Portuguese explorers, he was able to give a chronology to the early history of the Chewa people, how they moved, when, their way of living, and their beliefs.

An historical and anthropological book for those interested in early Malawian history.

Bertha, the Swiss Trader’s Daughter: Love, War, and Conspiracy in the Turbulent Past of Malawi – the little Jewel of Africa

by Eleni Trataris Cotton, 2017

An important historical and human book, telling us first hand the story of two sisters, mixed race, during a period of great change.

Born in Nyasaland in a privileged family, they found themselves in a new society as a mixed-race girls, facing discrimination and racism in a male dominated world.

A fact-fiction novel, the first book of a trilogy that looks a perfect plot for a great movie.

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