The library and I rekindled our love affair this year. Books, lots of books, free books, English books! On shelves! Organized! And I got a card, which I kept in my wallet, that allowed me access to these books whenever I wanted. This is pretty much heaven to a reading, writing expatriate.

When we moved to Somalia in 2003, I brought three books and cried while I packed the others in boxes or gave them away. Over the years, I accumulated more, but books remain a challenge. They’re heavy and once I get them to Africa, I kind of feel like they should stay. But I also feel like the books I read become a part of me and someone can browse my shelves and learn me so I want to bring them with me to Minnesota too. (Kindles make living overseas a heck of a lot easier.)

Before we moved, I went to the library and checked out every single book I could find about Somalia and devoured them. It didn’t take long. I love that most of the books in the following list have been published in the last decade and that I had to leave many other quality books off the list to keep it down to ten.

Here are 10 books, covering the gamut from fiction to history to by Somalis to about Somalis:

1. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi
2. Warriors by Gerald Hanley
3. Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamad
4. Nomad Diaries by Yasmeen Maxamuud
5. Secrets by Nuruddin Farah
6. Djibouti by Elmore Leonard
7. Desert Flower by Waris Dirie
8. Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
9. Understanding Somalia and Somaliland by I.M. Lewis
10. Getting Somalia Wrong by Mary Harper

I don’t love all the books on the list, in fact I despised one, was shocked by one, bored to the point of throwing it against the wall by one, and laughed out loud while reading one (okay, most). But I figured this list provided a good spectrum and is a good launching point.

Over time and when I am able to not think about packing and able to think about thinking, I plan on discussing the books on this list, or others, and wanted to get the conversation started. If you feel you can’t wait and must know what I think about some of these books, here is a post from my old blog about ‘Djibouti‘ by Elmore Leonard. The one I despised. Partly because it inspired inaccurate and disparaging songs like this. Partly because it was badly written. Mostly because he wrote it without ever going there.

Which of these books have you read? What other books about the region or by Somalis do you recommend?