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Books to Read Before or During Your Safari

June 12, 2019 East Africa Bush Tails
Soak in some bubbles while soaking in a book you brought along for your trip!
Sasakwa Lodge (Grumeti Reserve, Tanzania)

It’s only a matter of time before the world returns to normalcy, and we’ll all resume going on safari to Africa. But in the meanwhile, we’ve curated a list of books to stoke your passion for Africa. This list includes books covering numerous different settings and genres. And as a friendly reminder, we at the Africa Adventure Company have our own Field Guide: an indispensable introduction to all things safari!

We hope you’ll find these books to be an inspiration for a future safari – or at the very least, be entertaining!

Books for the Continent of Africa

Dark Star Safari – Paul Theroux

For those of you curious about what traveling through Africa was like before the advent of luxury camps and lodges. But more importantly, it’s also an invaluable insight into tourists- and the people whose country they are visiting.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba

Many Africans still live without access to either water or electricity. For those in most destitute countries, it was a luxury that no entrepreneur or government official was willing to provision. But Kamkwamba wasn’t deterred to construct a windmill to provide both – even as his fellow villagers mocked him. For those curious about the daily lives of many Africans or are curious as to how they can help, this success story is a great introduction. There’s a also a picture book version for kids!

The State of Africa: A History of the Continent since Independence – Martin Meredith

Many of your guides are gregarious individuals who love to talk about all things wildlife and nature. A good many of them are also keen to discuss to discuss the history and politics of their own country. This book is divided into country-based chapters and organized in a generally chronological way. Yes, much of African history is tragic; but it’s also a fascinating introduction to a topic many people are not familiar with.

Books for South Africa

The Elephant Whisperer & The Elephant Whisperer (Young Readers Adaptation): My Life with the Herd in the African Wild – Lawrence Anthony

Set in South Africa’s Thula Thula Game Reserve, this is a memoir both tragic and heartwarming. Anthony takes in a family of “rogue elephants” prone to escape. Anthony knew he had to establish an emotional bond quickly; otherwise, they’d escape yet again, and could have been poached. This book is especially appealing to wildlife lovers.

The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay

This semi-autobiographical novel captures the big-dreams and tribulations of growing up during South Africa’s apartheid era. The protagonist endeavors to cross boundaries in his world of prejudice and superstition, but also beauty.

Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela

This autobiography of one of history’s larger-than-life figures is a must-read to understand the improbable story of South Africa’s transformation from apartheid state to multi-racial democracy. But it’s also a personal insight into the adolescence and family-life of one of history’s most “saintly” and admired individuals.

The Covenant – James Michener

For those curious about South Africa before multi-racial democracy and apartheid, Michener’s novel is a great option. Chronicling several generations of two separate branches of a Dutch family in South Africa and their interactions with the Zulu they displaced. Just a heads up: it’s a very long book!

Books for Zimbabwe & Botswana

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood – Alexandra Fuller

For those who like to find the comedy in tragedy, this memoir is for you. Fuller recounts her often unruly, and occasionally dangerous childhood spent in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) with candor, sensitivity, and great humor.

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa – Peter Godwin

The previous memoir’s setting was colonial Zimbabwe; Godwin’s memoir takes place in post-colonial Zimbabwe. He could only observe Zimbabwe’s downward spiral, too preoccupied with taking care of his elderly parents. yet even as the situation verged on collapse, his parents desired to remain in their adoptive country they came to love.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith

For most people, reading this novel was the first time they really learned about the country of Botswana. For those who haven’t read it, you’ll really enjoy it if you’re a fan of mysteries! Beyond that, it’s charmingly witty and pretty darn hilarious!

Books for Kenya & Tanzania

West with the Night – Beryl Markham

Beryl’s memoir is truly fascinating and insightful piece from a bygone era. This is the story of a women living in colonial Kenya’s high society of the 20’s & 30’s, but also of a women extraordinaire: beauty, racehorse trainer and aviator.

Out of Africa – Karen Blixen

Blixen was a contemporary of Markham’s, and like her, she too lived an extraordinary life. Residing on a coffee plantation near the once-sleepy town of Nairobi, this is a memoir of the people she met, European and African alike. This is especially a must-read if you plan on visiting the Karen Blixen Museum while in Nairobi.

Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds – Joy Adamson

For those more drawn to stories of wildlife, this would be an excellent choice. This heartwarming memoir recounts the author’s years raising a lion cub in captivity before releasing back into to the Kenyan wilderness.

Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story – Daphne Sheldrick

Yet another fascinating women in Kenyan history. Sheldrick and her husband were major figures in Kenya’s conservation as wardens for Kenya’s Tsavo National Park during the 50’s to 70’s. But this also an account of their amorous relationship, and how his premature death inspired her to found the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the world-famous Orphans’ Nursery in Nairobi National Park for elephants.

Books for Uganda & Rwanda

A Bend in the River – V.S. Naipaul

No other book better captures the aftermath of Uganda’ independence. This novel explores the kleptocratic and dangerous politics Idi Amin era through the eyes of an Indian merchant.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Came After

There are numerous books that discuss the events that unfolded within and without Rwanda during 1994. But this memoir is different: it follows Rwanda native Wamariya and her family as they fled Rwanda just before the Genocide broke out. Like many Rwandans today, they left family and friends, not knowing if they were alive. And upon their return like so many other Rwandans, they had to rebuild their individual and collective identities after one of history’s most inhumane periods.

Gorillas in the Mist – Diane Fossey

Very lighthearted in comparison to the previous two books, this memoir is a captivating account of Fossey’s years of gorilla field studies at Volcanoes and Virunga National Parks. But its her passion and dedication to the conservation of these incredible primates that is most endearing about this book.

Books for Egypt, Ethiopia & Morocco

Palace Walk – Naguib Mahfouz

For those interested in Egypt post-pharaonic history, this piece of historical fiction is a great gateway. This novel is a great microcosm of a conservative, Islamic Egypt contending with the encroaching elements of modernity through family drama.

The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt – Toby Wilkinson

For those who want to really prepare yourself to be immersed in Egypt’s grand history during your trip, Wilkinson’s in-depth history is for you. It’s also invaluable if you simply want to keep up with all the names, historical events and deities.

Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese

This novel captures a seminal time period in Ethiopia’s history: when the Derg overthrow the centuries-old Solomonid dynasty and erected a Marxist state in its place. But Verghese also pens a tragically human story of brothers abandoned by their father, going to work at a hospital in America, and one brother betraying the other.

The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca – Tahir Shah

Shah, and acclaimed travel writer from England, recalls the year that he and his family moved to live in Casablanca: a place he idolized since his childhood family vacations. Shah writes a memoir that’s both comedic and trenchant: a truly great way to better understand the fascinating, multifaceted country of Morocco.