This selection of books will give you a little inspiration for an Africa trip, help you get your bearings about you before you land, and provide much-needed tips on culture, history, etiquette and so much more.
“Dark Star Safari,” by Paul Theroux
After 40 years away from Malawi, where he once had a successful teaching career, Paul Theroux decides to return to see how the continent has changed. His journey begins in Cairo and ends in Cape Town. What makes Theroux’s journey unique is that it is made entirely on public transportation and provides tons of insightful tips.
“Swahili for the Broken-Hearted,” by Peter Moore
If you’re feeling a little heavy-hearted after reading “Dark Star Safari,” this book will lighten things back up. In spite of what the title might make you think, this story is a comedy full of entertaining travel prose about a travel hobo determined to find solitude in Africa in the midst of a personal crisis.
“One Day I Will Write About This Place,” by Binyavanga Wainaina
This book covers the author’s transformation from a young, East African bookworm to African Caine Prize-winning author, all set to the background of his stomping grounds in Africa. His story is not all about poverty-stricken villages dangerously close to giant wildlife; it’s a portrait of more subtle social inner workings and ambition in unlikely places.
“This Child Will Be Great,” by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
This is the story of Africa’s first (and so far only) female head of state. The autobiography begins with the author as a regular Liberian child, showing you a bit of that culture and climate, and follows her journey through the catastrophic political hurdles she had to overcome on her way up.
“African Diary,” by Bill Bryson
This humble, 66-page book packs in plenty of amusement and information. Author Bill Bryson, after receiving an invitation from CARE International (a charity committed to eradicating poverty), travels to Kenya. Although this seems like a bleak premise, Bryson’s retelling of his experiences in an area full of viruses, insects, reptiles and aggressive mammals all after him (from his perspective) is very funny.
“Kissing Kilimanjaro,” by Daniel Dorr
In an attempt to show off to a love interest and prove to be a “macho,” outdoorsy man, Daniel Dorr travels to Africa to climb its highest mountain. Of course, things do not go as planned but Dorr’s mishaps are entertaining and even motivational.
Around Africa On My Bicycle, Riaan Manser
To call Riaan Manser brave is beyond an understatement. The author traveled 36,500 kilometers through Africa on bicycle. The trip took him two years, two months and 15 days and he paused along the way to record the story.
“Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart,” by Tim Butcher
In this captivating story a British journalist sets out to retrace the steps of a famous British explorer through the Congo. The book goes over important history of the early explorers, hunters, missionaries and even the narrator’s own mother’s Congo trip in 1958.
“Conversations with Myself,” by Nelson Mandela
This is one of those books that you’ll keep with you under your hostel room pillow for moments you’re feeling dull, uninspired or even lonely if you’re a solo traveler. The book is a compilation of essays, speeches and conversations from one of the most inspiring leaders of our time.
“Travels in the White Man’s Grave,” by Donald McIntosh
This is the story of a brave young Scottish forester who accepts a job in Nigeria during a time when the forests were considered very threatening (especially to Caucasians, hence the book’s title). Author and narrator Donald McIntosh spends the following 30 years wandering through some of the most isolated areas of West Africa, recording tales of African hunters, fishermen, chiefs and doctors during his work as a botanist.
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