Jj Bola Desert Island Book

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The writer, poet and British UNHCR ambassador, JJ bola, born in Kinshasa, has written three books of poetry, a non-fiction book and two novels, the second of which – the Selfless Acts of Breathing – will be published by Hachette in November (or February next year; depending on where you are). He was one of the Spread the Word’s Flight Associates 2017 and Kit de Waal fellow for the Master’s degree in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University. Former refugee, JJ Bola was invited to the Davos Economic Forum 2018 and spoke with Cate Blanchett.


I was thrilled when JJ agreed to participate in my Desert Island Books series, and my recording of my podcast with him was a true reminder of my continued love for both books and the authors behind them.

Tayib Saleh’s Northward Migration Season

The story of a young Sudanese man who returns to a small village after a scholarship to study at a prestigious university. The surreal unraveling of the story that challenges Convention is told through beautiful lyrical prose and existential passion.

We Real Cool (+Will To Change)as made famous by bell hooks

Brazenly, two books sneak into one by the professor, the author and the feminist, writing on the theme of masculinity, patriarchy and society; the latter book on black masculinity. hooks writes with clarity and precision readable by all.

The caterpillar by Eric Carle


A legendary, bright and beautiful children’s picture book, which reminds us all of the joy and fascination of seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

The Damned of this earth by Frantz Fanon

A critical and concise analysis of the legacies and effects of colonialism (and slavery) on oppressed people and their wider social and political implications. Sometimes you wonder why the world is the way it is, This is one of the books that gives a brilliant answer to this question.

Water and the spirit of Malidoma Patrice Some

A book by the West African writer and educator On the history of his life, introduced into the Dagara Tradition. The book addresses African religion and spirituality, rituals and a return home. Sometimes you read it and think, wait, is this a memoir? As in, did these things actually happen? This is a wonderful book that reminds us that there is so much more than what we see and know.

Songs from the river of Anis Mojgani

A magnificent collection of poems by the poet Anis Mojgani. His words touch on a number of topics and transport you through many worlds with such tenderness, imagination and love, gently tearing the seams of your heart and putting them back together.

Basketball (and other things) by Shea Serrano

For all basketball fanatics and enthusiasts. The book is a book of everything about NBA basketball, filled with many fun facts, statistics, anecdotes and debates that the Fan of the game has had at some point. It’s wonderfully illustrated and fun for everyone to read.

Two thousand seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah

Published in 1979 as part of the Heinnemann series Of African writers, this rare gem by the Ghanaian writer describes the fall of a fictional African kingdom and its eventual descent into slavery. A difficult read, the prose is dense with the language, but if I could have written a book, this would be it. Armah is a literary luminary, we can only guess the imagination it took to write this book. Written with such depth and detail, care and compassion, rigor, but also always pointing to the sunset. You are guaranteed to always feel things while reading.

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