Welcome to the most recent post inside our Africa column by Natasha and Cameron from The World Pursuit. This month they are sharing a common books about the continent that may inspire you to go to!
Whenever we first made a decision to travel around Africa, I called a family group friend from Swaziland. She gave me an hour-long run-down of travel on the continent and threw in a good list of books to learn. The first one I found was The Elephant Whisperer. In a few ways Lawrence Anthony’s story about the bond he forms with a wild elephant herd captures the magic you can only just find in Africa. The sensation is nearly palpable and the air sometimes feels electric.
The diverse continent does not have any shortage of inspiration for stories. It’s supplied us an endless blast of books to take during our travels. Listed below are my 10 favorite books to learn about Africa:
Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee
South African author J. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize for Literature, which beautiful but tragic novel left me traumatized. It’s a dark and disturbing tale of disgrace. A university professor is dismissed from his job after an affair. He escapes to his daughter’s farm in the Eastern Cape and is forced to come quickly to terms with the truth of life after an attack where his daughter is raped and impregnated and he’s brutally beaten. The book is heavy, nonetheless it does an excellent job of depicting the violence of post-apartheid South Africa. This book will elicit a whole lot of heavy emotions.
Out of Africa, by Karen Blixen
I had for a long period defer reading the book, scoffing at the thought of a foreigner writing an evocative novel on Africa. However, when I read an excerpt in the Masai Mara, I changed my mind. What I really like about this book may be the language. Karen was a genuine poet, and her deep affection for the bush and Africa’s people – and writing – cause you to fall in love, too. The book draws you in and enables you to desire to be transported back again to yesteryear and go through the romance of exploration and nature. In lots of ways it portrays what we love about traveling Africa, which in lots of places continues to be untamed. I also found it to be quite spiritual.
NUMBER 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
This long-running series tells the story of a women’s detective agency located in Gaborone, the administrative centre of Botswana. The first book follows Mma Precious Ramotswe as she works to found her own detective agency. I really like the spunk of her character! It’s about bringing girl capacity to photography equipment, where many women remain considered second-class citizens. To visit a woman tackling gender stereotypes in Botswana is exciting.
Humor, adventure, and life fill the pages and make these novels special. Africa could be a dark place in literature sometimes, so whenever a fun and light book comes along, it must be celebrated. Every book in the series is rather short, making them perfect to try the beach or pool, on safari, or into your lodge.
The State of Africa, by Martin Meredith
The book is a bit heavy and factual. However, if you would like to comprehend modern-day Africa and the challenges that the continent faces, there is absolutely no better book. Martin Meredith effectively provides crash course in African politics, you start with the birth of African nations. He offers perspective on the poverty and challenges facing Africa. Regardless of the book’s density, Meredith’s writing keeps the reader’s attention along with his wit and insights. It’s thought provoking and can likely shatter any preconceived notions. I came across the book enlightening and informational, and I really believe that having a deep understanding of the political workings and history of Africa may also result in more in-depth conversations with educated locals.
Half a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This disturbing but engrossing novel takes readers through the Biafran War (Nigerian Civil War) through perspectives of varied characters. The book offers a haunting glimpse in to the brutality of Nigeria’s civil war, portraying the hardships that both sides endured. (Sadly it’s a tale we find all over photography equipment: lines are used the sand and tribalism often result in the clash of neighbors, friends, and even family.) I felt the pain of every side pitted against the other, and sometimes it was hard to tell apart right and wrong. The book will tear at your heart.
The Elephant Whisperer: MY ENTIRE LIFE with the Herd in the African Wild, by Lawrence Anthony
Leave it to a book about elephants to be the happiest upon this list. To conserve a rogue herd from being culled, Lawrence Anthony introduces them to his private game reserve, Thula Thula, in South Africa. What ensues is a heartwarming story that connects the audience with the wonder of the amazing creatures. The bond that Lawrence forms with the matriarch of the herd will transform how you perceive animal intelligence and emotion. (His next book, The Last Rhinos, can be worth reading).
Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds, by Joy Adamson
I had to choose this book up after finishing The Elephant Whisperer. Elsa may be the famous Kenyan lioness who was simply raised by George and Joy Adamson. Both conservationists took on the daring task of raising the cub in captivity after George orphaned her by killing the mother, teaching her to fend for herself in the open. It’s an incredible story about companionship and love in the African bush. I’m a company believer in conservation and that people simply need more folks to value these animals. So books such as this, which bring to light the wonder of the animals we share our world with, are essential.
THE FINISH of the overall game, by Peter Beard
AS THE Elephant Whisperer is heartwarming and beautiful, THE FINISH of the overall game is gut-wrenching. Through the entire ’60s and ’70s, Peter Beard spent a lot of his time working and photographing Tsavo National Park. A drought swept through the park, and the large population of elephants were confined with little water and food. The effect was a mass killing. Beard’s diaries turned coffee table books certainly are a masterpiece of design and sometimes a glimpse in to the mind of a mad genius. He famously used his own blood and animal remains in his journals. He’s also among those legendary artists whose life is hard to trust sometimes. He was married to Cheryl Tiegs and hung out with famous brands Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Truman Capote, and Karen Blixen. Despite being nearly 40 years old, the book accurately portrays the issues facing conservationism in Africa even today.
Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela
“As I finally walked through those gates to enter an automobile on the other hand, I felt – even at age seventy-one – that my entire life was beginning anew. My ten thousand days of imprisonment were over.” What more could be said about Nelson Mandela? He’s possibly the most influential and inspirational Africans to have lived. When he passed on in 2013, it had been a loss to the world. His autobiography – almost mandatory on any set of books about Africa – covers the span of his life until he becomes president of South Africa. His humility, morality, and spirit were never broken. I find his words moving and evocative, and we are able to all find power in his writings.
Palace Walk, by Naguib Mahfouz
This first novel in Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy charts Egypt since it moves into the modern day. Set just after the finish of World War I, this epic follows a Cairo merchant whose family follows strict social and religious rules. The book’s omniscient narrator does a fantastic job of never passing judgment on the characters’ flaws, rather than allowing their actions to speak for themselves. The book gave me a revealing glimpse into North African and Arabic culture. For anyone who is going to North Africa I recommend giving this beautiful novel a read.
There are so many great books about Africa that may provide a better sense of the continent. I really believe exploring literature is simply as important as exploring the world. Every little bit of literature on Africa you read shines a little more light on a location that can be known as the “Dark Continent.”
Natasha and Cameron run your blog The World Pursuit, concentrating on adventure and cultural travel. Each of them met in the film industry before they made a decision to abandon the American lifestyle and travel the world. They’ve been traveling together for 3 years across 55 countries and six continents. They recently bought a 4×4 at the end of Africa and so are traversing the continent while documenting their story on Instagram and Facebook.
If you’d prefer to see a few of the other books I’ve recommended (or are reading), check out this site I created on Amazon that lists all of them!