Africa reading listing, part 1

If you’re in search of one thing Africa-related to learn, possibly we might help. We questioned which books have impressed or intrigued a number of the writers who’ve contributed to Travel Africa. We’re grateful to all who despatched their suggestions: it’s a extremely different choice, a mixture of well-known and obscure, however all have made an impression. Here’s the primary of what’s going to doubtless be three or 4 lists, which we are going to share with you over the approaching months.

The Sheltering Desert, by Henno Martin.

“It seems relevant in these times as Henno and Hermann go into self-imposed exile in the Namib Desert at the outbreak of the 2nd World War. You can still visit most of the places they live and visit in the book – and planning a Sheltering Desert tour could be a fun way to spend the next weeks or months.”
Recommended by Aulden Harlech-Jones (

Blood River, by Tim Butcher

“Travel books that get deep into the heart of a culture can often plod along or feel rose-tinted but I still get a tingling sensation reading Tim Butcher’s jet-propelled visceral thriller about Africa’s most unpredictable country, Democratic Republic of Congo, in his marvellous Blood River”.
Recommended by Mark Stratton (

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

“This may be a cliché, but Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is my constant go-to book about Africa. Although fictional, this novella is an actual account of the author’s time as a steamboat skipper during the horrors of the early colonial era on the Congo River. The story is timeless as the horrors and latent colonialism still resonate throughout much of the region, but most of all it is written with such mastery and skill that it is easily one of the greatest books ever written. It certainly inspired me to write about Africa’s natural landscapes and wildlife as a journalist, while as an author, my three books have tried to evoke the spirit of African adventure travel, history and lost legends.”
Recommended by Adam Cruise (

“Ever since I read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as a teenager, I have been fascinated by the Congo, so this book—in which the author retraces Stanley’s famous journey down the Congo River—was always going to appeal. The irony that the DRC has had one of the world’s richest supplies of raw materials for decades, yet remains one of the world’s poorest countries, is an undeniably depressing thought which can only partly be explained by a spectacularly cruel period of colonialism. However, if you can look past the poverty, lawlessness and lack of development, the DRC also contains some of the few true wildernesses left in the world where travelling is still akin to exploring. Consequently, this tale should hold sufficient allure to captivate any armchair adventurer.”
Recommended by James Gifford (

The Dark Side of the Kalahari, by Hannes Lochner

“Hannes Lochner’s photographic essay reveals the nocturnal world of our all-time favourite African location, a world few of us are lucky to see. Starring role in the story goes to a female leopard, Luna, and her struggle to raise a cub in this harsh environment. It’s a book that sometimes shakes off the shackles of conventional photographic technique in favour of impressionism, mood and ambience, and breathes passion and love for the Kalahari; something we totally get.”
Recommended by Steve and Ann Toon (

Running with the Kenyans, by Adharanand Finn

“Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, Running with the Kenyans investigates why the Kenyans are such good runners—the author moves himself and his family to Iten (ground zero for world athletic excellence) to try to figure out why the country pumps out so many elite distance runners. I loved this book as not only do I love running, but it’s a celebration of African excellence, a real human story and a wonderful evocation of life in a sleepy backwater town that’s become the unlikely centre of world-class sport.”
Recommended by Sarah Baxter (

The Sacred Combe, by Simon Barnes

“This lyrical prose poem to nature, by the renowned ‘bad birdwatcher’ and sportswriter, combines the best nature writing with a kind of accessible-to-all philosophy. His lifelong love affair with Zambia’s Luangwa Valley is the leaping-off point for ruminations on biophilia, rhino conservation, Tolkien, twitchers and the beauty of cranes—but though Africa is at its heart, his key thesis is that a ‘sacred combe’, where you reconnect with nature, can be wherever you look for it. Reading this book inspired a longing to be back among the puku, leopards and elephant shrews of Africa—but also to wander my local footpaths, admiring Britain’s tamer but no less wondrous wildlife with fresh eyes.”
Recommended by Paul Bloomfield (

1000 Tales of Johannesburg, by Harry Kalmer

This unassuming novel offers a larger understanding (even for me, a lifetime resident of Johannesburg) of the myriad influences and cultures which have flocked to South Africa’s melting-pot (or maybe potjie pot is best) capital. Narrated in opposition to the backdrop of the 2008 xenophobic outbreaks, the story of a returning South African architect highlights the irony of assaults in opposition to ‘aliens’ in a metropolis created by the blood, sweat and careers of migrant employees.
Recommended by Melanie van Zyl (

The Green Hills of Africa, by Ernest Hemingway

Recommended by Jackson Biko (

Circles in a Forest, by Dalene Matthee

“I never go on a trip without field guides for birds, mammals, frogs, snakes, butterflies and trees, which at least for southern Africa now come in convenient App form. As for general reading, I finally had a chance to sit down with Dalene Matthee’s Circles in a Forest over the December holidays. It’s required reading for many school kids across South Africa, but I’d never read it before. I was amazed at how well it evokes the history of the people, elephants and other wildlife and forests of the southern coast around Knysna, but more so how much it resonates with current challenges to conserve dwindling wild places against the momentum of consumptive cultural norms. It’s a beautiful and inspiring read.”
Recommended by Morgan Trimble (

Discovering Southern Africa, by T.V. Bulpin

“This guidebook was first printed in 1970 and I used to be given the second version as a birthday current in 1995 after I began working as a tour information in South Africa. I learn this glorious 900-page information cowl to cowl and saved on referring to it for years to return. Although completely old-fashioned, the e-book has a wealth of background info on nearly each little backwater in South Africa.
Recommended by Ariadne van Zandbergen (

In Ethiopia with a Mule, by Dervla Murphy

“Dervla Murphy, a doughy Irishwoman, sets off on a three-month trek across the Ethiopian Highlands in the 1960s with Jock, a mule named after her publisher, as her only constant companion. Her account is thoroughly straightforward and honest—she sleeps where she stops, complains constantly about a troublesome knee injury and, later, a troublesome mule, and falls prey not once but thrice to armed robbers. Her journey defines what I think travel means to me: casting oneself adrift in a foreign land and surrendering to the kindness of others.”
Recommended by Catrina Stewart (

Recipes for Love and Murder, by Sally Andrews

A contemporary-day detective sequence that makes use of my perfect trifecta of tenderness, recipes and character to trace down unhealthy guys. Tannia Maria is the Karoo’s equal of Botswana’s Mma Ramotswe, from The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency fame. Letters penned to the curvy neighborhood agony aunt illustrate the idiosyncrasy of the Rainbow Nation’s distant outposts and shines a light-weight on the hardships confronted throughout the nation. The tales make for straightforward, however memorable, reading and are positive to encourage a hankering for homecooked farm feasts.
Recommended by Melanie van Zyl (

Remote People, by Evelyn Waugh

The nice English satirical novelist Evelyn Waugh had a long-running fascination with Africa. The continent offers the setting for 2 of his best works—Scoop and Black Mischief—whereas his first-hand account of the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Waugh in Abyssinia, stays a traditional. Less well-known however nonetheless massively pleasing, Remote People describes Waugh’s prolonged African journey of 1930, laced along with his characterically acerbic wit and politically incorrect portraits of human absurdity (the scene the place he’s chucked off a river boat within the Congo for refusing to pay duties on a non-existent motorcycle is especially memorable). Still one of many funniest journey books ever written.
Recommended by Gavin Thomas (

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

I did this e-book as a set e-book in highschool, approach again when, and I can nonetheless recite the opening sentence. If there’s a masterpiece in African literature, then this e-book takes the cake.
Recommended by Josaya Wasonga


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