“There are as many Africas as there are books about Africa — and as many books about it as you could read in a leisurely lifetime. Whoever writes a new one can afford a certain complacency in the knowledge that his is a new picture agreeing with no one else’s, but likely to be haughtily disagreed with by all those who believed in some other Africa. … Being thus all things to all authors, it follows, I suppose, that Africa must be all things to all readers.”
Beryl Markham (British-born Kenyan aviator, adventurer, racehorse trainer and author)
As a child I was a voracious bookworm. I frequented libraries and bookshops and devoured mysteries and fantasies, at every opportunity I got. Then came a few years where books took a backseat as other priorities came forth. I recently started reading again although, the only time I get to read is at night before I sleep. However, reading is now firmly entrenched in my bedtime routine. My reading taste has also changed and I prefer reading books that I can identify with - like books about Africa - instead of stories about vampires and werewolves. (Although I did enjoy the Harry Potter series.)
"Long Walk to Freedom" is the autobiography of our beloved former President Nelson Mandela. It chronicles his life from his childhood in a rural village in the Eastern Cape to his inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. This book gives great insight into what made Madiba the man he became.
This autobiography by South African comedian Trevor Noah (of The Daily Show) is both funny and sad. He was born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father at a time when such a union was punishable by imprisonment for five years. It talks of Trevor’s life as a mischievous boy in apartheid South Africa and the hardships he went through, making his achievements all the more remarkable.
A hyaena snatches a sleeping baby from a tent. A herd of buffalo, a pride of lions and a crocodile scuffle over a buffalo calf. An angry bull elephant flips a car over onto its roof. “101 Kruger Tales” is a compilation of exhilarating real-life safari accounts of unexpected sightings, and encounters that took place in the world-renowned Kruger National Park, as told by the ordinary visitors to the park who had these extraordinary experiences. Reading these short, easy to read tales reminds me how wonderfully unpredictable the bush is and gives me serious bush cravings.
When acclaimed South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of “rogue” wild elephants on his private game reserve in Zululand, his first instinct was to refuse. But the herd would have been killed if he had, so he took them in. It took a while but eventually he created a strong bond with them and became a part of their family. The book tells the story of how this happened.
This is a humorous collection of true stories from a safari guide. I’ve always maintained that safari guides tell the most interesting tales , and this book is great proof of that. Peter Allison is originally from Australia but worked as a top safari guide in the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta in Botswana. He writes about his misadventures with wildlife and the wealthy (but often strange) clients that frequent the private reserves.
See more safari-themed books here.
This is a no-holds barred account of a family trip through Southern Africa with two small children - on a budget. The book talks about the beautiful places they visit as well as the dual challenges of travelling through Africa and travelling with toddlers. It is well-written and punctuated with dry humour.
When travelling through South Africa, I usually carry a copy of this book with me. As we pass through small towns and villages , I look up the history of the area and the places of interest therein. It offers comprehensive information about South African villages, towns and cities, and the intriguing and informative tales they have to tell.
This book is more of a checklist than a storybook but it gives one a great idea of what to see in Southern Africa. Compiled by Getaway Magazine, it covers natural wonders, historical sites, wildlife and much more.
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is a series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith. They are set in Botswana and feature Botswana's leading, and only, female private detective, the feisty Mma Precious Ramotswe. It covers themes pertinent to Africa. The writing style is uniquely entertaining and captures the quirky characters perfectly.
If you enjoyed the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, then you will probably enjoy the Tannie Maria series by Sally Andrews. This series features a middle-aged Afrikaner tannie (auntie) as an unlikely detective. She is also the agony aunt for the local paper and loves cooking. This series blends intrigue, romance and cooking in an entertaining package, complete with some mouth-watering recipes.
I will be adding more books to this list as I discover them. Have you read any of these? What are your favourite books about Africa ?
See my recommended books on India.
See my recommended books for safari addicts.
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What a great list for bookworms. Thank you! I will check out the books.
This is great! We're headed to Africa next year and I love reading about the countries I'll be visiting. Thanks for writing this up.
Such a great post! I've only read Trevor Noah's book, but now I have so many other options.." Born A Crime" is such a good read not only to know about Noah but South Africa as a whole. Perfect!
Wow! I read the first one on the list, and I was so happy to have read that masterpiece by Nelson Mandela.
Some great stories here and a few I haven't read. I especially enjoyed the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and I would add "The Power of One" by Bryce Courtenay to your list as it's a terrific story.
these are great suggestions.
lots of time to read, and I will make use of it to read one of your recommendations!
thanks for sharing!
I dreamed of Africa. Kuki Gallmann
I also love anything African. Also love SA movies.
Thanks for the recommendation, Sandra. I will check it out. What are your favourite South African movies?
Thanks Sara for more great books to read. I haven't read any of these and definitely need to read more. I'm going to read 'Shantaram' and then will have to decide which of what you've suggested I read next.
Hi Cindy. It's a pleasure. It all depends on whether you want light or heavy reading 🙂
Nice! You should also check out the Langbourne series by Alan P. Landau.
Will do. Thanks for the recommendation, Ashley 🙂
Interesting! Thanks a lot for sharing these books!
A great selection of books, some of which I've read and will have to find the others! Here are a few that I've read and found interesting: Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pinnock; Around Africa on my Bicycle by Riaan Manser and Dark Continent My Black Arse by Sihle Khumalo.
Thanks for the recommendations Alma. I read Dark Continent My Black Arse. Will check out the others too 🙂
Hi there! Such a great short article, thanks!
I picked up Trevor Noah's book because I like his comedy- I had no idea I'd learn SO MUCH about South Africa. It really shook me up. The book was both hilarious and incredibly informative.
its great as your other articles : D, appreciate it for posting.
I do some side-work in a library, and I had "Born A Crime" arrive on the desk for shelving - I think I read the entire first chapter before I had to go and do some actual work! Thanks for reminding me to take that one out, and to look up all the others too!
Thanks Nicky. I really enjoyed reading "Born A Crime".