If you’re planning a trip to Ethiopia, The New York Times picks there three books on the country’s history and culture to read up before you go.

By Concepción de León (The New York Times) |

Ethiopia, which seceded from Eritrea in 1993, is a landlocked country in Africa with one of the fastest growing economies in the world. If you’re planning a trip there, here are three books on the country’s history and culture to pick up & read before you go.

THE EMPEROR
Downfall of an Autocrat

By Ryszard Kapuscinski
Translated by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand
164 pp. A Helen & Kurt Wolff Book. (1983)

This book by a Polish foreign correspondent recreates the fall of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie, covering how he came to power and ruled for 50 years until his removal in 1974. The writer interviewed a score of officials with an insider’s perspective on how the Emperor governed and why his system ultimately failed. Among those interviewed are a man called a “cuckoo,” whose job it was to bow at the top of every hour, and another whose job was to place a pillow under the Emperor’s feet to keep them from dangling when he sat on the throne. The result is what our reviewer called “a strangely absorbing piece of investigation.”

EATING THE FLOWERS OF PARADISE
One Man’s Journey Through Ethiopia and Yemen
By Kevin Rushby
336 pp. St. Martin’s Press. (1999)

The flower in the title refers to khat, a brilliant green psychotropic leaf widely used in Ethiopia. This book is a travel narrative along the khat trail, examining the ways in which the drug has affected the cultures and economies of Ethiopia and Yemen.

Continue reading this story at The New York Times
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