Reading Suggestions for Southern Africa

Reading good books about the areas youÂ’re visiting tends to make your trip much fuller and more rewarding. As weight on light aircraft is limited, you might consider reading the thickest books before you leave for your trip!

The major country-specific guidebooks (i.e., Lonely Planet, Rough Guide) tend to offer a good overview of the country’s history. One of the best resources for travel books is Longitude Books ( They organize books by country/region, which makes it easy to see what is available.

Many books will give you insight into Southern Africa. Here are just a few suggestions:


  • Lauren Van Der Post has written some very good books about the Bushman and the Kalahari. One of his most famous is The Lost World of the Kalahari.
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens.
  • #1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. A series of very popular novels about a Tswani woman who becomes a detective in Botswana.


  • Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin; a geologistÂ’s account of his years living and hiding out in the Namib-Nauklift region during WWII. ItÂ’s difficult to find this book in the U.S. but it is possible. It is more easily available in South Africa.
  • The Bushman Myth: The Making of a Namibia Underclass by Robert Gordon.

South Africa:

  • For those interested in the life of Nelson Mandela and politics, take a look at his book titled The Long Walk to Freedom.


  • Mukiwa by Peter Godwin is an excellent book covering the period from 1960 into the 1980s. It is an enjoyable autobiography that mixes wonderful humor with plenty of historical and cultural information.
  • DonÂ’t LetÂ’s Go to The Dogs Tonight by Alexander Fuller
  • Where We Have Hope- A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Andrew Meldrum
  • Doris Lessing has written several books about Zimbabwe, including African Laughter— Four Visits to Zimbabwe.


  • The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Pakenham. One of the best books to read on Colonial Africa.
    Southern African history:

  • The Covenant by James Michener is a classic. Historical novel. Great overview of the area.
  • The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879 by Donald R. Morris. A great book on the Zulu wars.

Fiction set in Southern African:

  • Wilbur Smith is the most popular writer in this category. He has published many fast-paced adventure novels, some of which include substantial historical information. Some of his books include A Falcon Flies, Men of Men, The Leopard Hunts in Darkness and A Time to Die.
  • The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. This was the authorÂ’s first novel and its a great read. His second book is Tandia and also a good read.


Southern Africa has many unique and beautiful birds and there are some classic books published on birds in this region.

  • One is Robert’s Birds of Southern Africa. A condensed field guide version is also available and perfect for taking with you on safari.
  • Another classic is Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa.



  • The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, and Primates by Richard Estes. Written by a highly qualified expert. It is the first guide to watching and understanding the behaviour of African animals. It is designed for those who are interested in knowing more about the lives and interactions of the magnificent animals you will see on safari.
  • Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa by Chris & Tilde Stuart
  • Elephant Memories- Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family by Cynthia Moss


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